[INTERVIEW] Faith Hunter (Gwen Hunter)

Meet Faith Hunter, author of post-apocalyptic fantasy novels Bloodring, Seraphs and Host (Penguin: 7th November 2006, 1st May 2007 and 6th November 2007 respectively). Let’s learn…

Bloodring
No one thought the apocalypse would be like this. The world didn’t end. And the appearance of seraphs heralded three plagues and a devastating war between the forces of good and evil. Over a hundred years later, the earth has plunged into an ice age, and seraphs and demons fight a never-ending battle while religious strife rages among the surviving humans.

Thorn St. Croix is no ordinary neomage. All the others of her kind, mages who can twist leftover creation energy to their will, were gathered together into Enclaves long ago; and there they live in luxurious confinement, isolated from other humans and exploited for their magic. When her powers nearly drive her insane, she escapes – and now she lives as a fugitive, disguised as a human, channelling her gifts for war into stone-magery and the pacific tasks of jewellery making. But when Thaddeus Bartholomew, a dangerously attractive policeman, shows up on her doorstep and accuses her of kidnapping her ex-husband, she retrieves her weapons and risks revealing her identity to find him. And for Thorn, the punishment for revelation is death…

Seraphs
Living among humans in a post-apocalyptic ice age, neomage Thorn St. Croix has learned to count on her friends, but she’s lost count of her enemies. She is a source of both fear and fascination for the people of Mineral City: Her powers can save them from the forces of evil, but also attract demon spawn and succubae. And fighting on her own turf nearly gets Thorn and those she holds dear killed.

But Thorn’s ultimate test awaits deep under the snow-covered mountains beyond the village, where an imprisoned, fallen seraph desperately needs her help. There, hidden in the hellhole, the armies of Darkness assemble to ensure this subterranean rescue will be Thorn’s final descent.

Host
In a post-apocalyptic ice age, neomage Thorn St. Croix was nearly driven insane by her powers. She lived as a fugitive, disguised as a human and married to a human man, channelling her gifts for war into stone-magery. When she was discovered, her friends and neighbours accepted her, but warily. Not so the mage who arrives from the Council of Seraphs, who could be her greatest ally – or her most dangerous foe. And when it’s revealed that her long-gone sister, Rose, is still alive, Thorn must make a choice – and risk her own life in the process.

Tez Miller: I’ve known of your existence for quite a handful of years now as Gwen Hunter. However, I only found out about your Faith Hunter writings this year. Which of your author personas do readers tend to find first before discovering the other?
Faith Hunter: It depends on which pen name has a recent book. Lately it’s been Gwen, because Mira Books released Sleep Softly in February. I’ve had lots of fan mail, much from new readers, and after they read one book, they want more, which is really nice! Unfortunately, about five or six Gwen books are currently out of print. Makes it hard to keep new fans happy!

I was recommended the DeLande series, but because I read them whenever I found them, they were out of order. I can’t remember the others, but Stolen Children (published in the US as Betrayal) still sticks in my mind. What was your favourite to write in that series?
Wow. That was a trip, writing those books. I had previously written police procedural thrillers (I called them “bang-bang-shoot-’em-ups”) with a co-writer, under the pen name Gary Hunter. I did the writing and he did the plot lines. When I went out on my own, I had no idea how to plot a book. Yikes…

I tell people, when I teach writing, that a writer learns how to write a book by writing a book. There is no other way to do it because it comes from inside and can’t be taught. It’s like learning to walk. You’re this kid who sees everybody else doing it, right? It looks easy. Right? But your brain, while knowing it can be done, in theory, has to figure out how to make it work in practice. And it is like that for every single book. You have to figure out how to make it work. Anyhow – to answer your question, I thought I’d share a bit of the history of my work…

Betrayal was sold at the European Book Festival – held that year in Bohn, I think – to Germany and Holland, based on a thirty-page synopsis and one hundred pages of manuscript. Unfinished. And me not knowing how to plot… More yikes. Then, my agent, confident he had started a huge buzz, took it off the market. He told me I had to finish the book in sixty days… I had to learn how to plot a book while writing Betrayal (Stolen Children), with a sixty-day deadline. I started from scratch. But I did it. Start to finish, Betrayal took three months and two weeks, including a trip to New Orleans to do research. And me working full time.

I was a nutcase. Literally. I made myself sick, starting a case of adrenal insufficiency that I battled for over ten years. (I’m better now, by the way!) So Betrayal and False Truths were hard to write. I finally started having fun with Law of the Wild.

Holy Feckington! And really making yourself sick…that’s scary! Glad to know that things are looking up now.

I was thrilled to learn that you wrote medical thrillers, the Dr Rhea Lynch series – love that genre πŸ™‚ And what interested me even more is your work as a Lab Tech (I tend to fangirly over people in the medical industry; sorry if that embarrasses you πŸ˜‰ ). Any chance of you writing more medical thrillers in the future?
Not embarrassed at all. I think hospital-employed nurses and doctors deserve to be paid the highest salaries in the world. They do grueling work, for a mostly ungrateful populace, with horrid hours, and working conditions that no one else would tolerate. Say you work in a bookstore and your boss tells you that today, after lunch, you have to stand close by a customer while that customer throws up his chili-cheese-dog all over your feet. See what I mean? Yuckers. But back to your question, yes, the medical thriller Sleep Softly is out in mass market paperback right now.

Hmm, can’t remember what the last thing I regurgitated was…but it wasn’t chili-cheese-dog, and it was in the privacy of my own bathroom. Haven’t been a patient in the hospital since…as far as I know, my birth. Yay me! πŸ™‚

Whilst reading Shadow Valley, I had two very atmospheric songs running through my head: “Deep Honey” and “Hairy Trees”, both from Goldfrapp’s Black Cherry album. Do you write in silence, or do you need some kind of sound, whether it’s music, TV or otherwise?
Total silence. Even my dogs know they have to be quiet.

Same here! The only way I can hear my brain think.

By the way, Shadow Valley has one of my all-time favourite cover art. I don’t know who did it, but I still love it.
I loved that cover too. It made me want to walk into that forest and stay forever!

Okay, now onto your Faith Hunter works before readers of Urban Fantasy Land start getting narky that we haven’t talked UF yet. Were the plagues in your Rogue Mage novels caused by seraphs, demons or others? And what exactly is a seraph?
Last question first. Most ancient religions mention messengers of Gods(s), winged beings who bring heavenly judgment on humans, help them when they need it, etc. Other religions actually worship the winged beings. In the Judeo/Moslem/Christian religions, as well as old Byzantine religions, the winged beings are called the Seraphim and the Cherubim, messengers between God and humans and the beings who bring God’s judgment on Earth. So…I stole my seraphs and cherubs πŸ™‚

As to the plagues, I never said. I have feelings about who brought them, but I wanted to leave it open for readers to decide for themselves. It’s part of the whole “who is God, and what does he want?” question. To me reading fantasy is all about the discovery of the world. I didn’t want to squelch the reader’s imagination or religious journey, if he/she is on one.

I have neither imagination nor a religious journey – woot! πŸ™‚

When I saw “jewellery making” in the Bloodring copy, I immediately was reminded of your novel Bloodstone. Have other readers picked up on this? Do you make jewellery, and if so where can people go to buy your pieces?
Faith came up with the idea for Bloodring while Gwen was writing Bloodstone. I had this family of Psi users, who were under siege in the real world. It was a fun book to write, but I wanted to do more with the characters. So, Faith took them and changed them and had these characters…but no idea what to do with them.

Then, one day I (Gwen and Faith, the beginning of my schizoid life experience) was/were having tea with Kim Harrison and the prophecy came to mind. You know – A Rose by Any Other Name Will Still Draw Blood. After that it all came together.

And yes, I think it’s cool when readers notice the similarities between the opening of Bloodstone and the second and third chapters of Bloodring. It was part of my writing life metamorphosis.

Jewellery: I make it for writer friends and for myself, and I charge friends only the cost of the materials. I don’t sell it on the general market, but I do occasionally give it away πŸ™‚ I have a piece to give away at ConCarolinas, May 2008, which will be fun. I’ll also display some of the pieces I made for Thorn. Jewellery making is my relaxing pastime. I love it, love it, love it.

Mineral City: partially based on somewhere real? If so, please dish πŸ˜‰ Or how did it enter your imagination?
Yep, a real place. Sorta. Ren (hubby) and I spent the summer of 2005 in the mountains and I fell in love with Spruce Pine, North Carolina. I did a lot of research there. There is this billboard calling Spruce Pine the Mineral City, because of the gems and quartz that are mined all around in the hills. The town is built exactly like Thorn’s Mineral City, with Upper and Lower streets, and the Toe River bisecting the town. I did give it taller peaks. The town has this mineral and gem show every August and I’ve missed it for the last two years, writing. I hope I make it this year.

“Snow-covered mountains” are mentioned in the Seraphs copy. I’ve never experienced snow, so will you explain the pros and cons of it, please?
Oh…wow. Snow. How do you describe it? At its most basic, it’s frozen precipitation. The Inuits have lots of words for snow, and once you spend a winter in a snowy place, you begin to understand why. The different Inuit terms are a survival part of their language.

Some snow is irregular-shaped and sharp-edged, and when it is caught in a hard wind, it feels like it cuts your skin. Some snow is soft and wet, and it makes soft plops when it lands on the ground or on your face. This kind melts fast. Some kinds are partial sleet, meaning they have a kernel of solid ice at the centre. This kind falls fast and it whispers when it lands. And the strangest kind, in my estimation, is huge and flat, the size of saucers, sometimes, and it floats down in a still air so slowly, twirling. I only saw this kind once in my life, and it was amazing. It was night out, and the moon was a hazy blob in the clouds, the streetlights and house lights casting a glow that went on forever on the snow, reflecting back and forth. And these hand-sized flakes fell, dancing on the air. I’ll never forget it. It was like God giving me a gift, right out of heaven.

It is beautiful. However, it can be deadly because it’s frozen, can be piled up to form potential avalanches, can be slick, crushes beneath tires to form a solid sheet of ice on the roads, drapes on tree limbs, breaking them and causing power shortages, and any other hundred potential problems.

What published works of yours can we look forward to in the future (near and/or far)?
Ashes to Ashes by Gwen Hunter, this summer (June/July/August – Northern Hemisphere’s summer). This will be the first US issue, but it was released in the UK in 1997, I think. Rapid Descent by Gwen Hunter, February 2009. Reissue of the Rogue Mage trilogy in mass market paperback in the US in November 2008, December 2008 and January 2009.

Are you an outliner or seat-of-the-pants writer?
Yes. No, I’m trying to be cheeky. I have done both. Medical thrillers are heavily outlined. Fantasy much less so. Everything else falls somewhere in the middle, outlined more or less.

In which foreign countries/languages would you most like to be published?
I’ve never been published in Spanish or Portuguese, and it would be cool to see that happen.

Thanks for dropping by, and have a lovely day! πŸ™‚
Thanks Tez! This was fun!

Relevant Links
http://faithhunter.net/
http://faithhunter.livejournal.com/
http://www.myspace.com/faithhunterenclave
http://magicalwords.net/
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/the-enclave
http://gwenhunter.com/
http://www.myspace.com/gwenhunter

You can purchase Bloodring online from: Amazon, Amazon CA & Amazon UK.

You can purchase Seraphs online from: Amazon, Amazon CA & Amazon UK.

You can purchase Host online from: Amazon, Amazon CA & Amazon UK.

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