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I'm Writing for Dream Theater

The first thing you need to know is that Dream Theater is my favorite band. Ever.

It sounds a bit fanboy to say it like that, but it’s no less true. Now, having said that, it’s also true that my appreciation for metal, rock, jazz, Sinatra, and on and on, are all quite strong. Music has been central for me all my life. So much so that I spent several years in vocal training with Maestro David Kyle, who trained Geoff Tate of Queensryche, Layne Staley of Alice in Chains, Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart . . . you get the idea. And it led me to fronting a number of metal bands on small tours and at festivals in Europe.

All good stuff.

But music hasn’t become my bread and butter ... yet. That’s a familiar story for many.

Which brings me to fiction. Alongside my passion for music is my passion for storytelling. It’s another thing that’s been with me since the beginning. On that front, I’ve had a bit more success. I’ve had dozens of short stories published in professional anthologies. And I have a current epic fantasy series with Tor Books out of New York.

That series is entitled: The Vault of Heaven. I’m writing book three right now, but I recommend new readers start with book two, Trial of Intentions–it’s written as an entry point to the series and it’s my best book.

Unsurprising to anyone who knows me, my series features music prominently. In fact, fantasy writers like Brandon Sanderson and Robin Hobb have been quoted as saying they’ve never seen magic done the way I’m doing it–with music.

All of which brings me to my point. After some number of years, my two great passions have come together in a way I couldn’t have anticipated and about which I couldn’t be more happy.

I’m writing the novel to Dream Theater’s The Astonishing.

A little over a year ago, Dream Theater announced that they’d be doing a big double-CD concept album. Something science-fiction-y. After calming down, since I love DT, concept albums, and science fiction, I shot John Petrucci (Dream Theater guitarist) and Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater keyboardist) an email. Essentially, I pitched them on writing the novel of their concept album.

I was able to shoot these cats an email because I’ve had the good fortune of meeting the band a few times over the years. For a time I did the music marketing at Microsoft/Xbox. And along the way, I developed enough of a rapport with the guys that I could dash off an email when the time was right. I have some other stories about exchanges with James Labrie and Jordan and John. I’ve had the chance to share meals with them. But I’ll save those for another time.

Things proceeded at a slow burn for a few months. There was interest, but much to do. I put together a formal proposal and sent that over. John and I wound up on the phone for a couple of extended conversations. Ultimately, he liked the things I was saying, and invited me to write a sample chapter. An audition of sorts. John is really nice, but he’s sharp and driven. He had lots of options on who would write the book. And I personally know other writers who had made a similar pitch. Not to mention writers John already knew and liked.

So, I jumped at the chance to write a sample chapter.

For those of you who know the core story of The Astonishing, he asked me to write about the events in the song “The Savior in the Square.” I asked him if he wanted me to be slavish to his summary and lyrics. He said no, giving me license to invent things of my own.

So, I did.

New characters, new motives, new technology. All in the over-arching plot, but also introducing new subplots and scenes.

John loved it. When we spoke next, he shared all the things he liked about how I built upon his vision. He was sold.

Then, we set on the arduous journey toward a publisher and contract. We vetted several offers. And once we landed on doing it with the small press I’m a part of, there was the contract, which wasn’t easy. Mostly because there are publishing rights we had to think through.

But neither of us gave up. Because we believed in this book.

And then, just last week, the final executed contract was done, and we could turn toward telling everyone who’d listen that there’s going to be a novel of The Astonishing.

Which is precisely what this blog post is all about.

But let me back up a bit.

One of the hugely awesome elements of this process came after I sent John the sample chapter. He and I then spent seven or eight very long phone conversations crawling through his own written summary of The Astonishing.

He was on the road at the time, so these calls often started very late at night. Even so, they went for hours. John spent time providing context and color to each part of the original story. I asked questions. And then I’d come up with new ideas and rationale for things and run them by him on the spot. More than once we each got those goosebumps at the ways the story was evolving as I pitched him ideas for how the story would grow.

There are dream projects, right? I know writers who would sell their eye-teeth do a Star Wars book. Other writers live to do something with D.C. Comics or Marvel. And I wouldn’t hate doing a book for any of those IPs. But for me, I couldn’t have scripted a better match. I mean, anything music-related would have been awesome. Make it metal, and the awesomeness would triple. But make it Dream Theater, and it’s ALL the awesome!

So, I worked with John on all the cool extras that you get with the Limited Edition, which sold out. And now we're preparing for the more standard editions which should be out soon.

And if you need something to read in the meantime, and you like music, remember my own series has a ton of music in it, including a music magic system–either Trial of Intentions or The Sound of Broken Absolutes would be the place to start. In fact, in some ways, the music in my fiction is part of what helped John decide to give me the gig.

Stay metal!

Your Rock Lord,

Peter Orullian


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