As a 47North author, my books live primarily in the digital realm and exist on digital bookshelves. I rarely see my book stocked in a brick and mortar store. But Brynn Watson, proprietor of the fantastic Otherworlds steampunk store in Edmonds, Washington (http://www.otherworldsstore.com/), an establishment “devoted to fantasy, steampunk, sci-fi and vintage horror,” was kind enough to accept one of my posters and an handful of signed books to display in her store. It is cool to see them on a wooden shelf. Thanks to Brynn and everybody at Otherworlds!
Meet Princess India, a terrier mix in the neighborhood of one year. Rescued from the pound, she is a sweet, gentle little dog. Here’s to the kind government employees who work long hours at the animal rescue shelters, and here’s to all the people I saw there, taking lost dogs and cats of all breeds and ages into their homes.
The following link connects to the English Department Words in Place blog at the University of Waterloo where I earned my BA. Associate Professor Jennifer Harris asked me some questions that might be relevant to students and recent graduates of the department and it was fun to discuss scattered liberal arts career paths and such. http://englishatwaterloo.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/waterloo-to-hollywood-alumnus-author-richard-ellis-preston-jr/
Today I have the honor of introducing fellow 47North author Steve McHugh on the Bag of Good Writing blog. Steve has a double re-release today, September 17th, with his two dark urban fantasy books, Crimes Against Magic (The Hellequin Chronicles: Book 1) and Born of Hatred (The Hellequin Chronicles: Book 2), both following the action-packed journeys of an ancient sorcerer, Nathan Garrett. Steve gives a fantastic interview on his novels, influences and writing methods: check it out!
Q: Steve, welcome to the Bag of Good Writing Blog! It’s a huge month for you! Two books releasing on the same day. Congratulations!
A: Thanks very much. Firstly, thanks for having me on your blog. It’s great to be here. September is a very big month, yeah. Thankfully, as both books have been out for a while and already have people who like them, it’s not quite as nerve wracking as when you first launch your book onto the world.
Q: It’s awesome to have you here! For those who are unfamiliar, could you briefly introduce us to the storyline of the series and the setup of each book?
A: Both books are part of the Hellequin Chronicles, which follows 1600-year-old sorcerer, Nate Garrett. Each book is a completely standalone story, although if you read them in order you’ll get little pieces of info you wouldn’t have otherwise. Crimes Against Magic is about Nate, who can’t remember his past, working as a thief for hire. Unfortunately the people who removed his memories never stopped searching for him and when they catch up to him, Nate has to decide whether to keep the life he’s built for himself or find a way to unlock the one he’s not sure he wants. In Born of Hatred, Nate is hired to help track down and stop a serial killer, but when he discovers that the one responsible is a being of pure malevolence, he fears he’s over matched. But when that evil comes after those he cares about, Nate has to reveal a secret from his past to show his enemies why they should fear him once again.
Q: You previously released both of these books as an independent author. Can you tell us how you ended up with a publisher, 47North, picking up and re-issuing the novels?
A: I got an e-mail back in Feb asking if they could call and discuss working together. I said yes and they rang the next day and offered me a 3 book contact, re-releasing the first 2 books and then publishing book 3, With Silent Screams, next year. That’s the short of it; they asked and made me an offer.
Q: Who are your favorite authors to read? Who are your favorite authors whose styles you sense might influence how you approach your own writing? Are these two lists the same?
A: My favourite authors that I love to read is a huge list that changes daily; Terry Pratchett, Richard Morgan, Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, Neil Gaiman, Kelley Armstrong, Jim Butcher, Alan Moore, Stephen King, Kelly Sue Deconnick, Scott Snyder. The list goes on and on, and encompasses both comics and books. As for those who influence my writing, I think a lot of the names would exist on the same list. I don’t think you can write an Urban Fantasy book and not be influence by the likes of Jim Butcher, Kevin Hearne and Kelley Armstrong. Terry Pratchett showed me that you can have a serious story and still make it funny, and Stephen King showed me that you anything can be terrifying if it’s written well enough. I think the trick is to allow those influences to shape you as a writer while striking your own style.
Q: Please name a few characters from literature and film which you can identify as influences on the characters you have written.
A: Sherlock Holmes was a big influence. I love Sherlock Holmes; he’s one of the truly great literary creations. His rivalry with Moriarty was something is one of those great clashes. Hopefully that’s something I can give Nate as the books go on. Han Solo was also an influence on Nate. The hero who doesn’t always act like a hero. Nate’s quite dark at times and he has a different set of moral values to most good-guys. The same could be said of characters like Daredevil and Wolverine. That grey area good-guy. I think piece of characters I’ve written have influences from other places. Some of Nate’s uses of magic is influenced by what I’ve seen in anime, which has some incredibly inventive uses of powers and abilities.
Q: Are you a plotter or a Top Gun pantser?
A: Bit of both. I know the beginning and end. I know what characters do what and roughly who ends up where, but the actual meat of the book is written as I go along. I usually know how I want each chapter to start and end, but if I mapped it out more than that I’d go mad.
Q: I find that dark characters can often be the most fun to write. Do you agree? Why do you think that is?
A: I love dark characters, I write quite a few so I must do. I find them very interesting to write. They have a different set of morals to most people and are willing to go places a lot of us won’t. They’re usually more flawed than the whiter-than-white good guys or straight up baddies. I think they’re a bit of a thrill to write, they do stuff we’d never do, never even think about. And when you have a hero who uses shocking methods, the villain has to be worse. And I really enjoy writing a good villain.
Q: Can you tell us a little about the genesis of your lead character, Nathan Garrett? He has amnesia regarding his past … is he often shocked by what he discovers as he learns more about himself and his earlier life?
A: At the start of Crimes Against Magic, Nate’s aware of the fact that he’s not human, but that’s it. It quite quickly starts to unravel for him as he finds himself in a violent situation that he knows should bother him, but doesn’t. I knew I wanted Nate to go through the idea from being shocked at what he’s capable of, to enough of his old self-leaking through that he begins to be okay with it, which shocks him even more.
Q: Both books are anchored in modern-day London but Crimes against Magic has flashbacks to Nate back in 15th century France and Born of Hatred visits late 19th century Montana. Can you tell the readers about some of the thrills and challenges working in a flashback environment with two distinct time periods and geographies involved in each book?
A: I find the flashbacks a lot of fun to write. The researching of different time periods, their clothes, language, weapons and the like is something I love doing. When it comes to plotting the book I map out what I want to do in the present and then try to figure out where the flashback will take place. I’ll have an idea for a time and date well before it gets that far, and the challenge comes from once I have both the current story and flashback plotted out. Once I’ve got everything, I figure out where the various flashback sequences go. I use the flashbacks as a way to give information on characters and their relationships without having it be dry and boring. So, the Crimes Against Magic flashbacks explain magic and introduce a lot of species and concepts that present Nate would have no idea about. That’s quite hard, getting it right so that you jump from the present to the past at the right time and then jump back too. It can be need a bit of shuffling around to make sure they fit. And occasionally I wonder why I’m torturing myself so much and then realize I like what I’m doing and think I’m going crazy. So far it’s all worked out okay.
Q: What’s next?
A: Ah next. Well, book 3, With Silent Screams is written and awaiting publishing next Feb. I’m writing a novella to publish before then where Nate is in 15th Century England. I’m also plotting out books 4 and 5 before I start writing. Oh and I have a few other stories in other genre’s I’d like to write. I think it’s safe to say I’m going to be busy for a while.
In conclusion: thanks for taking the time to visit, Steve. It has been a blast. And best of luck with the first two books in The Hellequin Chronicles!
Want to know more about the brilliant Steve McHugh?
Bio: Steve McHugh lives in Southampton on the south coast of England with his wife and three young daughters. When not writing or spending time with his kids, he enjoys watching movies, reading books and comics, and playing video games.
Crimes Against Magic: http://www.amazon.com/Crimes-Against-Hellequin-Chronicles-ebook/dp/B00CX5BYCI/ref=tmm_kin_title_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1378489488&sr=8-4
Born of Hatred: http://www.amazon.com/Born-Hatred-Hellequin-Chronicles-Book/dp/1477848096/ref=sr_sp-atf_title_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1379439048&sr=1-2