Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Feature: Interview with Jim C. Hines

Every Tuesday, I'll have a feature article posted.

Author Jim C. Hines, best known for winning the Writers of the Future Award in 1998, his Goblin books, and his LOL covers, is debuting with his latest novel, Goblin War, today! He is also conducting a blog tour so keep an eye out for Jim C. Hines on Google and on your RSS Feeds. You can catch a preview of the book at http://www.sff.net/people/jchines/GW.pdf

Hi! First off, so what made you decide to conduct this blog tour? I'm also impressed with your web presence, especially with your fantasy book cover spoofs.

Thank you! The book covers have been an interesting little phenomenon. I was at a booksigning in Toronto when a woman came up to me and started looking at Goblin Quest. She said, "I've never heard of your books before, but aren't you the guy who does those LOL covers?"

The blog tour is a bit of an experiment. I'm not one of the big bestsellers, so there's a limit to the amount of publicity I get. I figured I'd try the grassroots approach, chatting with folks and hopefully meeting a few new people.

Can you tell us more about yourself? Likes, dislikes, hobbies, day job, etc.

Well, I'm 33 years old, married with two young kids. Favorite color is either blue or purple, depending on my mood. Day job is boring, but it pays the bills. My favorite Christmas present this year was a 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime, because yeah, I'm that kind of geek. (I'm proud to say that my 2-year-old can identify most Autobots and Decepticons on sight.)

In terms of writing, Goblin War will be my third book, and I've got three more under contract with DAW. I've also sold close to 40 short stories since I started back in 1995. One of them is actually on the preliminary Nebula ballot this year, which is a nice treat.

What are some of your upcoming books? Can you tell us more about them?

Goblin War is the third and final (for now) book in my goblin series, which follows a nearsighted goblin runt named Jig. They're fun books that challenge some of the clich├ęs and assumptions of the genre. Jig isn't much of a warrior, so he has to rely on a combination of brains and old-fashioned goblin treachery in order to survive. Well, that and his pet fire-spider, Smudge.

The next book is The Stepsister Scheme, which should be out in January of 2009. That's kind of a mashup of fairy tale princesses and Charlie's Angels. I'm currently working on the second book in the series.

How did you make the transition from living a not-so-ordinary life to full-fledged writer? Do you think winning the Writers of the Future Award helped?

I won Writers of the Future very early in my career ... too early, in some ways. The workshop was a tremendous opportunity, but I didn't know enough to take full advantage of it. I still learned a lot about story structure and self-imposed limits. You assume there's only so much writing you can do in a day, and then you go to the workshop and you're expected to write a complete story in 24 hours. And you actually do it! That blew my mind, and my productivity went up a good deal afterwards.

I didn't really think of myself as a full-fledged writer until probably 2005 or so. That's when I got an agent, and then a year later we sold the first two goblin books to DAW. I'm still adjusting, really. Before, I was writing whatever I wanted, short stories and novels and even the occasional poem. These days I have deadlines and commitments, with editors who expect me to produce good prose on time, and readers who e-mail me asking when the next book will be coming out. It's a lot more pressure, and the writing takes up more of my time these days.

Not that I'm complaining, mind you!

How would you describe your writing? Why the satirical approach?

My books all fall under the "quirky fantasy" label. One of the most important things to me is that the books be fun to read. There are a lot of things I hope readers get out of the books -- a new perspective on heroism and courage, a bit more respect for brains over brawn, a few laughs -- but more than anything else, I want them to enjoy the story. Everything else is frosting.

There's a broader range in my short fiction. I've got everything from a literary WWII tale of love and immortality to a pair of superhero stories to a fairly intense Elizabethan story of a man coming to terms with leprosy. (Did you know that someone who came down with leprosy could be declared legally dead, with a funeral and everything?)

As for the satirical approach, I love fantasy as much as anyone, but some of the genre's cliches and assumptions need a kick in the pants.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

So many authors, so little time. You've got people who are both great writers and really nice human beings, like Janet Kagan or Julie Czerneda. You've got folks I've never met, but who blow me away with their writing, like Ursula le Guin and Neil Gaiman. I write humorous fantasy, so naturally I've got a shelf full of Pratchett. I just picked up my first Charlaine Harris book and very much enjoyed that, so I'll probably be buying more of her work in the future.

Also, Anton Strout. I haven't read his debut novel yet, but if I don't mention his name, he'll come to my house and beat up my cats.

What are some of your favorite games? Have you ever been the Game Master?

I started playing Dungeons & Dragons back when the set still came in a box, and you had to use a white crayon to fill in the numbers on your dice. I've tried a few other systems over the years, and Paranoia is always good for an entertaining afternoon. (Especially when you've got someone who hasn't played before.) But for the most part, I keep coming back to D&D. Even though they keep tormenting us with their updates. I just bought a 3.5 handbook, and now they're throwing 4.0 at us?

I don't run games anymore, though I've done so in the past. I've only got so much time to build worlds and design stories, so I need to concentrate that energy on my fiction.

How do you think your gaming has impacted the way you write? Ever thought of pursuing a gaming-related career?

It was a long time before I even realized you could make a living in gaming. I did think about it at one point, but I'm much happier doing my own fiction.

The gaming influence is definitely there in the goblin books, particularly the first one. It's not a gaming book, but if you've role played a bit, you should get a few extra laughs out of the story.

Any advice for aspiring writers?

The best advice for someone who's serious about writing is to write. Then keep writing. Then write some more. Then submit your writing. You'll probably get rejected, but that's okay -- we all do, especially when we're starting out. Stubbornness and persistence are incredibly important if you really want to break in.

Anything else you'd like to plug?

For anyone who's curious, I've got excerpts of all three goblin books on my web site at http://www.jimchines.com. I also keep a blog at http://jimhines.livejournal.com.

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