Interview with…FAITH HUNTER

OMG. Peeps. Did I not tell you that I had a super awesome special treat coming up around the end of January/beginning of February? Well, it’s time. Yes, it is. So here. Your surprise:

I am incredibly honored and excited that New York Times bestselling urban fantasy/paranormal author FAITH HUNTER has stopped by to chat with me here at Women and Words. Yes, you read that right. FAITH HUNTER. Do not adjust your screen or clean your contacts, because I am totally not making that up.

See? Told you.

So let’s get rolling, here, because the stoked-ness of my mood right now refuses to end.

First, for those of you who are not familiar with urban fantasy, think of werewolves, vampires, and other paranormal beings interacting with each other and with humans. Here’s a handy definition. And here’s a list of books on Goodreads, so you can go try some more out.

As many of you know, I am constantly trying to get people to read outside their usual genres. If you’re already a spec fic/fantasy fan, then you’ve probably read urban fantasy and enjoyed it. If you’re not, well, how about this? Do you like thrillers? Give urban fantasy a shot. Faith’s work has a bit of romance and flirting in it, too, which adds even more dimensions to the thriller/paranormal aspects of it. So do yourself a favor and get some Faith in this genre. [wink]

Now for a bit of background about Faith Hunter. She’s a Southerner and currently lives in the Carolinas with her husband and doggies and assorted outdoor gear. She’s been doing this here writing thang for over 20 years, so she knows whereof she speaks. And yes, like 99.36675 percent of us who write, she does have a day job and hobbies outside of writing. If you’d like to know more, here.

Hunter is the author of the Jane Yellowrock series and the Rogue Mage series. You can find a list here. The fourth book in the Yellowrock series was just released the beginning of January, 2012. You can purchase Raven Cursed at places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Jane Yellowrock is the tall, motorcycle-ridin’, badass skinwalker of Cherokee descent who has the ability to shift into various animals. She’s also a vampire hunter, but in Skinwalker, the debut novel of this series, Yellowrock has been hired BY vampires in New Orleans to hunt a rogue. And her new employers come with their own set of issues and problems.

source: Faith Hunter

Rogue Mage is Hunter’s post-apocalyptic series, starring witch (neomage) Thorn St. Croix. A hundred years after three plagues and a deadly war, the world is in the throes of an ice age and demons and seraphs battle for supremacy amidst human religious strife. St. Croix is a fugitive, disguised as a human. In the first, BloodRing, her past comes to haunt her when a policeman shows up accusing her of kidnapping her ex-husband. She has to find him, and in doing so, may have to reveal who she really is, though the penalty for that is death. Find it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

source: Fictiondb (resized here)

Get ’em at the big guys, or check out your local indie store. Show ’em some love and buy books like Faith’s there. Find one near you via Indiebound.

Click on for more Faith…

ANDI: Hi, Faith — First, Wow. Double wow. I am super excited and honored that you agreed to this interview. Thank you so much for being so awesome and joining us here at Women and Words. Second, congratulations on the publication of Raven Cursed, the latest book in the Jane Yellowrock series! That just dropped January 3rd, if I’m not mistaken, and it’s already tearing up the bestseller lists. And for good reason. I finished it a few days after its release and thought, “WOW she pulled all of that together AND dropped some new stuff in AND left us with just the right amount of ‘what’s going to happen next’.” So with that in mind. . .

How and where did you meet Jane Yellowrock? I mean, it’s not like she’s the kind of woman who gets lost in a crowd. I have this image in which you stopped at a roadhouse north of New Orleans and there she was, sitting at the bar eating three burgers, two orders of fries, several boudin balls, and drinking iced tea and you asked her where she was from. Am I close?

FAITH: [laughing] I wish it had been that exciting. Instead, my answer is going to make me sound like I need lots of pricy meds and my own straitjacket. I’ve always heard voices. See? What’d I tell you? But I mean the story-telling voices not the other kind. Well, maybe the other kind too.

ANDI: [nods knowingly] I’ll have my voices call your voices. They can do lunch.

FAITH: Anyway, I was sitting with [fellow urban fantasy author] Kim Harrison and we were exploring the idea of new books and series and I bounced this new voice off of her. Then I read the first Temple Grandin book and I was hooked on the animal brain as opposed to the human brain versions. And I began to remember the old Tarzan movies. You know, “Me Tarzan. You Jane.” And Jane was born, with her Beast inside her.

And as to the tall badass part, I am short, kinda plump, not in shape, and hey – Jane is my ideal body shape, the woman I would have been if nature and my own laziness had been more willing.

ANDI: We should all be so lucky to be as bad-ass as Jane! And wow. Temple Grandin, huh? I did not make that connection until you brought it up here. She and her work are amazing. I’m a fan of hers, as well, because I’m a fan of animals and the way she interacts and deals with animals fascinates me. It’s so logical but on such a different level than many of us operate on. Animals have their own cultures, and what I’m a culture junkie. Along those lines, you’ve created — in both the Yellowrock and Rogue Mage series — richly layered and varied cultures, with their own customs, rules, and expectations.

I’m a spec fic reader from way back, and I appreciate world-building done well. I know you research your paranormal/dark fantasy, but can you enlighten our readers a bit about how you conduct your research into the paranormal beings and elements of your work?

FAITH: For the Rogue Mage series, I did a year of steady research into the “messengers with wings” mythology and scripture of the Jews, Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Mayans, Aztecs, the Byzantine empire, and several other ancient peoples and religions, looking for similarities and differences. I also did a good bit of research into the chemical and geological composition of various stones and minerals for the stone-magic part. I added in a bit of genetics research so I could make an educated guess at the results of mating between species. I had to get hardcopies of a lot of things (for instance the Book of Enoch) because it wasn’t available online at that time. That same research would be a lot easier now.

ANDI: I love research, and I just love picking other authors’ brains about their processes. I have this image of you poring over big leather-bound tomes with crazy drawings and diagrams in them. The interwebs just aren’t as geeky-sexy, somehow. But anyway. How about with the Jane Yellowrock books?

FAITH: For the Skinwalker series, I had just discovered that I am part African American (20-ish %), and maybe as much as 40% mixed tribal American Indian, mostly Cherokee and Choctaw. I had already done some research into family history, and it was easy to add in searching for the skinwalker mythos, and its origins. I also know a Cherokee Elder and got a lot of info from her and her books. She was very helpful about the rituals and the “Christian-i-zation” of the Cherokee religion and people.

ANDI: So there’s a deeper personal element to Yellowrock (and not just ’cause she’s in your head talking to you). There are other connections, as well. When I read this series, I think those connections really come out in her character, and I noticed them before I started chatting with you. You have a very different relationship with Thorn St. Croix than with Jane; it feels more visceral, warm, and approachable than Thorn does. Jane feels like a human on many levels who can totally screw up. Not to suggest Thorn is an ice queen. She’s not. She seems more inward-focused, and presents a controlled surface to the world. At least that’s how she strikes me. But because she is operating in a whole different world, she is a reflection of the cold all around her, whether climatic or from the fear and constant fighting within the post-apocalyptic landscape. Please, go on.

FAITH: Add to that the fact that I have been writing for 20+ years in the mystery/thriller genre, as Gwen Hunter, and you have a pretty good picture of my slightly warped brain. As to the fighting parts of the both series, I have 3 black belts in the family to ask questions of, I love to shoot and have two guns of my own for target practice, and I have access to pathologists and forensic pathologists to ask questions about wounds and evidence. Hey – I know people, knowwhatImean?

ANDI: [looks over her shoulder nervously] Um, yeah. Okay. Uh. . . so, readers, I wasn’t going to bring up Faith’s other writing self, but I’m glad she did. She writes thrillers as Gwen Hunter, so check that out.

FAITH: Amusing note – in the downstairs window of the basement entrance door my hubby has taped a man-shaped target, with lots of centered bullet holes. Mine. He didn’t bother with No Trespassing signs or our alarm system notices. When we had the house added on to recently, the workers all noticed the target and laughed, but made the comment that it was an excellent idea and got the point across. LOL.

ANDI: OMG that is the BEST idea! I have a good friend who used to be in New Mexico and is now in Colorado. She’s a gun nut, and has told me that in case of apocalyptic events, she’ll arm me and dig the bunker with me. I’m going to tell her to put one of her target practice thingies on her door, too. Then I’ll tell her it’s because of you, and tell her to buy all your books. 😀

Speaking of apocalyptic events, I want to turn now to your Rogue Mage series. I have my own little apocalyptic streak, and it’s figured in my academic research, so I like reading other writers’ interpretations of it. In yours, the world has descended into an ice age and seraphs and demons battle for supremacy. There’s also religious strife among surviving humans. I’d make a comment here about life imitating art, but I think everyone knows where I’d go with that. So what made you want to write an apocalyptic context, and what in particular drew you to this one?

FAITH: A lot of things went into my writing in this odd, sometimes whacky genre. First, I adore stories of fantasy, magic, swords-&-sorcery, quests and paranormal power! Second, I was raised Christian, and I found the end of the world scenarios fascinating. My church didn’t spend a lot of time teaching about them, so studying was always on my own time and my resources were limited. I had also read Lucifer’s Hammer, the best apocalyptic book ever written. [Note to readers: That’s by author Larry Niven]. It had simmered in the back of my brain for decades. Then came the Internet and all sorts of worlds were open to me! I discovered that other cultures and religions had similar end-of-the-world prophecies. Long before the current 2012 fears and near-panic, I had chosen that year because of the Mayan Calendar of endings and change and new beginnings.

Writing is a lot about what-ifs. What would happen if. . . What would I do if. . .And the biggest “what if” is the end of the world. 🙂

ANDI: That’s the truth. I grew up at a time when a lot of people — left-leaning, especially — were “going back to the land” to avoid the aftermath of economic and social collapse in urban areas. So that kind of ideology and rhetoric permeated my childhood and I think contributed to my fascination with “the end.” (DUH! Heh.)

Back to Rogue Mage. You’ve got a big project launched at Kickstarter, which is a platform for funding creative projects. You’re in the process of raising funds for a roleplaying game based on the Rogue Mage series. Neat-o! Can you tell us how that idea came about and a bit about what’s involved in turning a book into a game?

FAITH: You’re talking about the Rogue Mage World Book and Role Playing Game. Wow. If I had known what I was getting into four-and-a-half years ago when the idea was first proposed to me, I’d never have done it. It has been a massive project.

I had met Mike Pruette, who manages a local indie bookstore. Mike wanted to do a signing for BloodRing (the first Rogue Mage book). He loved the series, thinking it was the most original concept he had ever read. Mike was a gamer from way back, and broached the idea of turning the series into a game to me, then introduced me to Christina Stiles, a game adventure writer. I had already met Raven Blackwell, a game-writer, and I introduced the two women.

ANDI: Okay, so you’ve got a really good mix right there. People from gaming, books, and writing. So what happened next?

FAITH: We three women agree to try to make a game, with Christina and Raven turning the magic system into something that could be reduced to rules and chance (with a roll of a 20-sided-die adding to the possibility of any results).

ANDI: I’m liking that concept. Sort of allegorical, too. “A roll of the die” can take you anywhere in life, and anywhere in this game. Nice.

FAITH: We wanted the game to be easy to learn and play, but we wanted the book itself to be different from anything out there. With that in mind, I wrote a massive amount of fiction set in the world, lots featuring Thorn St. Croix, my main character from the series. Over four years later, we have a two-part game, and are kicking it off with Kickstarter to fund the final phases of the project.

ANDI: So readers, if you’re into this project, click the link and offer some financial love. Great stuff. And readers, as you can see, writers these days wear tons of different hats, assorted outfits, and do a whole bunch of different things. You’re no exception, Faith.

You’ve also collaborated with fellow urban fantasy author C.E. Murphy, who writes the Joanne Walker series. The two of you are offering a mash-up, if you will, called Easy Pickings, in which Jane Yellowrock and Joanne Walker end up together in a world “not quite like either of their own.” They have to figure out a way to get back to their respective worlds. It’s available as an ebook on your website at the link above and at Amazon and Barnes & Noble for Kindle and Nook. Is this a self-publishing venture that you and C.E. are doing? If so, how did that come about and do you see yourself doing collaborations like this with other writers, as well? Who? (hee hee)

FAITH: As with most things in my life, nothing moved in a linear fashion. I had been a huge fan of Catie (CE) Murphy’s work for years. When David B. Coe [Note to some readers: Coe writes fantasy] and I decided to *do something together* and settled on a writing site for the fantasy genre (see www.magicalwords.net hereinafter called MW), the first person I brought in was Misty Massey, writer of Mad Kestrel. And the second person I approached was Catie. The fact that she said yes to joining us is still one of the highlights of my writing life.

ANDI: Super awesome group and site.

FAITH: Like every fangirl’s dream, we clicked and we worked well on the MW site. Several years later Skinwalker was published and Catie fell in love with Jane. Catie liked my Cherokee skinwalker character so much that she sat down and wrote several thousand words on a crossover short story. Then presented the idea to me. I adored what she had done. Easy Pickings was born, and turned into a novella. For a more full version of the creation story, here is a link to a post on MW.

As to who I’d like to collaborate with. . . [Drums fingers on table] David B. Coe. I think it would be huge fun! He’s like the third brother I never had.

ANDI: And I, for one, am so looking forward to that collaboration. David? Are you listening? Nudge nudge. 😀

All right. Now let’s talk a bit about craft. I’m always interested in process and personal approach to what a writer does. What drew you to the urban fantasy/paranormal genre and what trends do you see in the future for it?

FAITH: I always wanted to write fantasy, but I couldn’t find the voice. As Gwen Hunter, I wrote mysteries and thrillers and suspense. Urban fantasy is all of that along with vamps and weres and witches. Such fun adding the twists and story arcs with magic in them.

The future is, as always, seen through a glass, darkly, but I’ll take a shot. I think people in general are very frustrated, so I foresee a lot more fighting and violence in the genre. I predict a new version of vampire, something not done before. I see a lot more historical settings and time periods emerging. And, because people are angry, lonely, and searching, I expect a lot more religion crossover novels. Ex: A character who is both Hindu and Orthodox Christian, and has no problem with the crossover religion, who brings his religion into the story, and the mythos of both affect the storyline and the character’s growth.

ANDI: I agree, there’s a ton of frustration out there about a whole bunch of different things, and I’m seeing it reflected in writing, especially in certain genres. I think you’re absolutely correct — religion crossover is already something that I’m seeing reflected in some genres. It’s that unease about where we’re going as a world, a culture, and society, and tensions on local, national, and global scales that I think will help drive shifts in the genre. Not just this one, but others, as well. Should make for some interesting reading in the future.

Nuts and bolts, now. You write Jane Yellowrock in first-person point-of-view (POV), and Thorn St. Croix, as well, is a first-person POV, though I will say that you do write some 3rd-person POV in that series, as well, of secondary characters. Regardless, I’ve noticed several writers of urban fantasy write their main characters in 1st person, and that it does seem to be almost a requirement of the genre. Why did you, personally, make the decision to write that POV and what advantages do you think it gives you in this genre? What disadvantages?

FAITH: I’ve written in first and third person POV during my 20+ year writing career and I claim that I don’t have a favorite POV. Subconsciously, however, I usually choose first person. Oddly enough, I started writing Skinwalker in third person POV, and that subconscious editor forced me to switch over to first.

There is an immediacy a writer achieves in first person POV, and an intense suspense. It isn’t impossible to achieve immediacy, intensity, and suspense in limited third person, but it is harder. The advantages of first person POV are feeling what the character feels with a closeness not as easy to attain in third, and knowing exactly what the character knows. The biggest disadvantage is knowing only what the character knows. Sometimes a writer needs to let the reader know something that the character doesn’t and there is no way to tell or show this info. And worse, sometimes a writer needs to keep something from the reader to build suspense, and it comes across cheesy to not tell. This is much easier to achieve in limited third. So both POVs have positives and negatives in the usage. A writer has to decide which to use, and then not get wishy-washy.

ANDI: That’s something I tell writers just starting out, when I coach/edit. The POV is a vehicle that does drive your story and your narrative. You’re limited to certain things depending on which one you choose, and it’s important to choose the right one for the type of story it is. Writing is about instinct, too, and your internal editors, as you note, will point out when something’s not quite right. I write both 1st and 3rd in my novels and short stories, and the process is different for each, but I feel like I learn a lot with each story and character.

Readers (and other writers, natch) are curious about an author’s process. What’s yours? That is, I know you have a set number of pages you do per day (about what word count is that?). Do you have a set writing space? Do you have some rituals you go through before you sit down and start working on that document? Do you listen to music? If so, what kind(s)?

FAITH: I dress, walk down the stairs, feed the dogs if the hubby hasn’t already done that, pour a glass of iced tea (or brew a pot of hot tea if it’s cold outside) and do the business part of writing. I answer email and do PR stuff, like this interview. Then I start to write.

ANDI: So mysterious! LOL

FAITH: During the creative part of writing — the first draft and the first and second rewrites — I write Monday through Friday, until I get 10 pages done. My writing has gotten faster and where that used to say 5 pages, yep, now it’s up to 10. That’s at 275 words per page. If I get 40 pages done before Friday, I get a day off! When I am in copy edits and line edits, I work 8 to 12 hours a day.

ANDI: You GO, girl. A disciplined writer is a productive writer. [looks sternly at fellow writers, then looks in the mirror and kicks herself in the butt]

FAITH: My desk is set up in my writing room, on the second story of my home. The lot is sloping so I am up in the trees, overlooking a creek. It is a wonderful place to write, though I often turn my back to the window while actually pounding away, to keep from being distracted by the hunting hawks and feral cats and the antics of the squirrels.

No music, unless I am writing a sweat-house scene where Jane’s Cherokee Elder friend leads her back to her broken and mostly-forgotten youth. At those scenes, I listen to American Indian flute and drum music.

ANDI: So that’s your week. How about weekends?

FAITH: Weekends are vastly different. I work at a local hospital 17 hours a day on Saturday and 17 on Sunday. When I take a weekend off, it is to attend a Con, and this year I am doing 4 or 5: MystiCon, MarCon, ConCarolinas, Dragon*Con, and possibly the Book Festival in South Carolina.

ANDI: Got that, readers and writers? If you’re in the neighborhood of any of those, give ’em a look. Authors, books, readers, fun. Conferences like that are excellent resources, and offer excellent networking opportunities, whether you’re a reader or writer. Definitely do conferences when you can.

FAITH: I did take one weekend in 2011 to make a research trip and a teach a writing seminar in Shreveport La. The hubby and I paddled two rivers over 3 days on that trip and it was fabulous!

[frowns as I read back over this] I think all this makes me a workaholic. [sigh. . .] And here I was thinking I was resting more. Not.

ANDI: What is this thing, called “rest”? [laughs] Seems you find a balance between writing and non-writing life, because you’ve got hobbies that you enjoy that do end up in your books (or vice-versa), but because you enjoy these things outside of writing, you thus enjoy the work of writing, too. So “work” perhaps isn’t really “work” after all, though call me when I’m slogging through edits to remind me that I said that. . .

Basically, writers are people, too! To that end, we all have hobbies and things we do outside writing, as I brought up. Two of yours are making jewelry (natural things, you’ve said) and kayaking. You often give stones away at book signings as part of your penchant for natural-ish jewelry and you’re quite the paddler. Class III, right? How did you get into those particular hobbies?

FAITH: Writing.

ANDI: Uh-huh! See? Interlinking enjoyment factor!

FAITH: Or, more exactly, researching for writing. I learned about stones and jewelry making when writing Bloodstone (by Gwen Hunter) and then got more deeply into the craft when I wrote BloodRing (by Faith).

The paddling came about as part of research for Rapid Descent (by Gwen). I took lessons from David Crawford of Rapid Expeditions, in the Appalachian Mountains, in Hartford Tennessee. I was hooked. Yes, I paddled Class III, and then I hurt my hip and back. Now it’s been 6 months since I’ve been on the water. We are going today to paddle a little Class I and a half, to see how my bod holds up. I hope I am healed enough to make the short run. I miss it!

ANDI: Nice! I grew up in the Rocky Mountains, along some premiere whitewater. Did a lot of rafting and then a couple summers ago I finally tried kayaking. Definitely a novice, still, and currently recuperating from a back injury [I so feel your pain], so I’m finding other ways to get my outdoor ya-yas out.

See that, readers? Writers do get into their work more than just the ol’ butt-applied-to-chair adage!

So what’s next for you? Can readers expect another Yellowrock and/or Rogue Mage? Do you have something else in the genre percolating in the Faith Hunter pot? And what other projects in conjunction with your current series might you have in the hopper? Inquiring minds want to know. . .

FAITH: Death’s Rival [NOTE: that’s the Yellowrock series] will be out in October 2012, and the Rogue Mage World Book and Role Playing Game is being Kickstarted right now. I have 2 more Jane Yellowrock books to write, and then I have nothing. No contracts. But I want to do a few more Jane books, and maybe a couple of standalone spinoffs, one with Rick LaFleur as main character and one with Molly Everhart’s witch family. If I can find a publisher for them. The market trends will guide that, of course.

ANDI: Full plate, I see. Readers, if you haven’t already, you’ll meet Rick in Skinwalker and he’s a recurring character throughout. I think you’ll like him. Molly Everhart you’ll meet in Skinwalker, as well, and she and members of her family are also recurring characters in the Yellowrock series. So if Faith can get those spin-offs into a publisher’s hands, you are in for a treat, no doubt.

All right, Faith. Thanks so much for stopping by Women and Words and hanging out for a bit with me. I know you’re super-busy, and I am really honored that you took the time. Good luck with your writing and events this year, and I hope you’re all healed up for some paddling! Take care and stop by any time!

Readers: You can find Faith at her website, on Facebook, Twitter, and she blogs regularly at Magical Words. To find out where she’s appearing or guest-blogging/being interviewed, go to the Events page at her site, here.

Thanks for hanging out with us! Happy reading, happy writing!

6 comments

  1. Faith Hunter is AWESOME! The Jane Yellowrock series is one of my all time favorite. Every book is as good or better than the first one and I find that to be very unusual for a series. If you haven’t read any of her books, you need to, you’ll love them.

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  2. RIGHT???? Yellowrock is truly one of the most memorable female characters I’ve read in a long time. She’s sort of like a superhero but with vulnerabiities. And the way Hunter writes the Beast spirit within her–when we’re in that POV with her–really intriguing. Draws you right into her shifting.

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