Infamous Reign: a New Hellequin Novella from author Steve McHugh

Hello, everyone!  Today I’m honored to host a visit from author Steve McHugh.  He has Infamous Reigndropped by to discuss his new novella Infamous Reign, the latest addition to his Hellequin Chronicles urban fantasy series.  I did a little Q&A with him and his answers are fun and illuminating.  The first two full-length novels in his series are Crimes Against Magic and Born of Hatred.  Enter Steve McHugh!

Q: Welcome to the A Bag of Good Writing blog, Steve McHugh!  Please tell us something odd about the town you live in.

A: There’s a 12th century pub in town (The Red Lion) that was the point where the ringleaders of a plot to overthrow King Henry V in 1415. They were tried in the pub and taken to the Bargate (a huge Norman built fortified wall) and hung.


 Q: 1) What is your favorite local bookstore?  2) Do you have a favorite pub?  3) What’s your favorite drink?

A: 1) I don’t really have a favourite book store, as I buy most of my books as e-books these days to save space on my already full bookshelves. 2) The Hobbit is the best pub in Southampton, it’s awesome and I’ve always enjoyed going there.  3) Whiskey.  More specifically, Scotch, but I do love Japanese whiskey too. Neat or with a little water.  I once had a friend who ordered a Scotch and then poured Cola into it… it was a sad day all round.

Q: If I was new to the Hellequin series but interested in starting with Infamous Reign: A Hellequin Novella, would that work?  Does it stand alone?  If so, please pitch it to me.

A: It does stand alone, you don’t need to have read either of the other books to understand what’s going on. Obviously if you’ve read them, then you’ll feel more of an affinity for Nate or Tommy, but everything you need to know I tell you in the novella.

Q: If I was already a fan/reader of your Hellequin series, please pitch Infamous Reign to me.

A: If you liked the previous Hellequin Chronicles books, you’ll like Infamous Reign. More Nate, more Tommy, more monster and magic and action. Oh, and much more Mordred.

Q: Other than being shorter than a novel, what else was different about building Infamous Reign as opposed to the previous two full-length books?

Author Steve McHugh

Author Steve McHugh

A: When you’ve got 120ish thousand words to deal with you can do a lot more with characters and little side-stories along the way, I needed to condense all of that into 20K. Unlike the main books, I couldn’t have little bits that were hinted in chapter 1 or 2 pay off 350 pages later. The story had to be complex enough to be fun and exciting, but with a much quicker turnover of reveals and surprises.

Fortunately, because I write a flash-back sequence in every book, I just did something similar to when I write them (they’re about the same length), but with more of a self-contained feel to it.

Q: What was the genesis of Infamous Reign

A: I wanted to tell a Richard III of England story. That was basically the idea. I was never fond of this notion of him as being some evil git who executed his nephews. The history that painted him as such appeared to have been written by people who had reason to hate him, so I wanted to chance to write him as a king who thinks he’s doing the best for his country.

I also wanted to write a story with monsters from Japan. So I picked the most horrible one I could find and went from there. It eventually evolved to the story that came to pass.

Q: What is it about Nathanial Garrett that keeps him fascinating for you (and thus for us) in this continuing series?

Crimes Against Magic by Steve McHugh

Crimes Against Magic by Steve McHugh

A: I find the fact that he’s so fun to write comes across in his character. He’s very much a character of two distinct half’s. On one hand; he’s kind and funny and loves his friends like they are the most important people in the world to him (which they are), but on the other; he’s calculating, mean and is capable of exceptional violence and destruction. And he’s the good-guy.

Q: Is your character of Merlin the one we know well from Arthurian lore or do you put a spin on him for Hellequin?

A: He’s the same Merlin as the character in the stories, but he’s more the manipulative, twisted bastard version, and he’s certainly not the good guy. He spends most of his time keeping Arthur alive to an almost obsessive level, thus ignoring most of his duties when it comes to running Avalon. There was a time when Nate and Merlin had a similar view point on the world, but just before Nate quit, he discovered something so terrible that he could no longer work for Merlin.

As I don’t believe in dragging things out for no reason, book 5 is when we’ll first meet Merlin and learn exactly what happened.

Born of Hatred by Steve McHugh

Born of Hatred by Steve McHugh

Q: Can you give us a little teaser on the upcoming books in the Hellequin series?

A: Book 3, With Silent Screams, introduces a few new characters who will go on to be major players as the series progresses.

Book 4, Prison of Hope, is the big mythology heavy book. There’s going to be a lot of members of Greek mythology, including Hera, Pandora and Selene. I’ve just started writing that book and it’s going well so far.

Book 5 – That’s the first time we meet Merlin. I’ll say no more.

Q: If you had to inscribe a line from your Hellequin series on your gravestone, what would it be?

A: I’m going to go with a line that Nate says to Olivia in Born of Hatred. “I’m an enigma wrapped inside a riddle, all bundled in something quite wonderful.” Or maybe, “sometimes the dead really don’t want to stay that way.”


BIO: Steve’s been writing from an early age, his first completed story was done in an English lesson. Unfortunately, after the teacher read it, he had to have a chat with the head of the year about the violent content and bad language. The follow up ‘One boy and his frog’ was less concerning to his teachers and got him an A.

It wasn’t for another decade that he would start work on a full length novel that was publishable, the results of which was the action-packed Urban Fantasy, Crimes Against Magic.

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.




Infamous ReignIn late 15th century England, two young princes are given over by Merlin to the protection of their uncle, King Richard III. They soon vanish from sight, igniting tales of their demise at Richard’s hand and breeding unrest throughout the land.

Nathanial Garrett, also known as Hellequin, is sent to London to decipher fact from rumor and uncovers a plot to replace the king. But his investigation quickly becomes personal when he learns that an old nemesis is involved. He soon finds himself racing against time to rescue the boys before their fate, and the fate of all England, is sealed in blood.

Infamous Reign is a novella in the Bestselling Hellequin Chronicles series, mixing gritty and action-packed historical fantasy with ancient mythology.

Author Steve McHugh Interview on his Double-Release Day!

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.

Crimes Against Magic by Steve McHugh

Crimes Against Magic by Steve McHugh

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.

Born of Hatred by Steve McHugh

Born of Hatred by Steve McHugh

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.

Author Steve McHugh

Author Steve McHugh

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:
Born of Hatred: