Today I am pleased to present an interview with Ginn Hale. Her work includes Wicked Gentlemen, the newly released Lord of the White Hell: Book One and the novella Feral Machines. Wicked Gentlemen (review) was one of my favorite books from last year and I enjoyed Lord of the White Hell: Book One (review) even more. For more information about Ginn Hale and her books, visit her website or read her journal.
Fantasy Cafe: Currently, you are working on Lord Foster’s Devils, a sequel to Wicked Gentlemen. How much time has passed since the end of Wicked Gentlemen at the beginning of the new book? Will it also be split into novellas with one from Belimai’s perspective and one from Harper’s third person perspective?
Ginn Hale: It’s always tough to talk about current projects because the stories are still so fluid while they’re being written. I try not to make any promises until the story is done.
That said, what I’ve written so far takes place two years after the end of the first book. Harper’s inheritance of the Foster estate has been contested by a distant relative. He and Belimai return to the capitol to secure their home but soon become entangled in the political maneuvering of ruling powers, blackmailers and prodigal crime lords.
It’s all one story but moves back and forth between Harper and Belimai’s points of view, since they each play separate parts and move in different circles as they attempt to protect each other and themselves.
FC: On your site, you had mentioned that originally the sequel to Wicked Gentlemen was supposed to take place at least 10 years afterward with different main characters before you decided to write a direct sequel instead. Are there still plans to write this book or any others set in the same world without Harper and Belimai as the primary characters?
GH: Yes, my original idea for a sequel followed Nick Sariel and Bastard Jack as they collided and collaborated in Hells Below. It focused quite a lot on arms smuggling and the thin line between crime and freedom fighting.
I very much liked the way the outline came together, so even if the story doesn’t end up being written about Hells Below, I think I will still write it in some form.
FC: After Lord of the White Hell: Book Two is released in September, what is your next story that will be released?
GH: Well, my novella, Feral Machines will be released digitally and be on sale at Weightless Books in the very near future. This novella was originally published in Tangle (Blind Eye Books) but the digital book is a standalone. Then there’s The Rifter, which will also be a Blind Eye Books digital release, also for sale at Weightless Books. It’s a ten book serial fiction that follows two men who are transported from modern America to a theocratic world in the throes of a revolution. There’s lots of witchcraft, battles, forbidden love and snow.
I’ve also been batting around an idea for an urban fantasy anthology of linked stories featuring agents working for the State Department and dealing with a multitude of unearthly, magical realms. Irregulars, is what I call them, because it has a nice euphemistic ring to it. (Also I’m a fan of Sherlock Holmes and like to make references to the stories when I can.)
Anyway, Josh Lanyon, Nicole Kimberling, and Astrid Amara have all expressed interest. So that might be showing up in the next year or so.
FC: Your forthcoming short story “Blood Beneath the Throne” is about escaping a job as an assassin for Shakespearean fairies, which makes me think of nothing more than fairfolk mafiosos. What is it like to work for the fairy mafia and what kind of measures do they take to ensure no one leaves their employ?
GH: Heh. I’m not sure I can answer that question without spoiling the story. I can say that it was inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream wherein Oberon cheats, casts spells and resorts to blackmail to get his hands on an orphaned child. And he’s pretty explicit about what he wants the boy for, “…a little changeling boy to be my henchman.”
I built the story from there, trying to stay true to both fairy lore and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while also bringing something of my own to it. It’s a little odd and at times violent but I’m pretty fond of the story all the same.
I’m hoping Lethe Press will release the anthology that it is in soon.
FC: How is work on The Rifter going? I’m curious about the process of building a serial novel; why did you choose to structure the story in that way?
GH: The serial structure was a result of the story itself. The idea for The Rifter–a story of two people moving back and forth through the timeline of each other’s lives and how, as they alter the past, they draw one another inexorably closer to their fates—came to me about eight years ago. I knew it had to be as vast, dark, and mysterious as the series of dreams that inspired it.
But even as I was visualizing the monasteries of holy assassins and armies of witches and reanimated bones, I realized that the story would be impossible to get published, and nearly impossible to even write. It was just too big.
But then I couldn’t stop thinking about it and dreaming about it.
So, one evening I spread an 18×24 sheet of newsprint across the floor and started laying out the two timelines that make up the plot. Steadily, I refined and tightened the story to ensure that I really knew what I was doing at every point.
One timeline followed John, (the modern American ecologist who discovers that in another world he’s the destroyer incarnation of a god), and the other followed Kahlil, (the holy assassin who’s hunting John). I worked out a cast of secondary characters who would link up both timelines and become pivotal when the two lines converge at the end.
Once I had the entire plot completely nailed down I broke it into smaller story arcs, each of which had its own sub-plot that moved the overall story closer to the conclusion. Then I cut those apart and pasted them down so that the two timelines would play off each other and keep the reader entertained and informed.
And then I spent five years writing the entire thing.
Amazingly, it only took a couple years to find a publisher and I’m now in the midst of edits.
FC: Which of your characters do you empathize with the most and why?
GH: I try to empathize with them all to some extent just so I don’t create villains and secondary characters who act like they know they’re bits of fiction in a book that isn’t about them. I like background characters with their own plans and desires—even it they aren’t touched upon in the course of the story.
But as for the main characters I empathize with most, that’s hard to really say, because it changes with each project. I try not to get fixated upon any one character after a book is done. I do sometimes wonder what Belimai’s paintings look like. And it makes me smile to myself to think of how excited Kiram might be after constructing a vacuum pump. He’d be beaming.
FC: You have written a lot of short form science fiction but your longer work has been fantasy. Is that for a particular reason or it just how things have happened? Have you ever thought about writing a science fiction novel?
GH: I hadn’t noticed that before, but you’re right.
Maybe it’s because most of my thoughts about science fiction center on a technology (such as the idents in Feral Machines) that lends itself to a simple single conflict. When I write a fantasy novel I’m usually pondering social dynamics and those generally require a longer form to fully explore the variety of conflicts involved.
FC: Which author do you admire so greatly that praise from them about your book would keep you sleepless with excitement for weeks?
GH: Honestly, I’ve been stunned and flattered to receive praise from every author who has been kind enough to write to me. I’m always surprised at how generous these people can be. Lynn Flewelling, Marjorie M. Liu and Josh Lanyon were all incredibly encouraging to me. Both Nicole Kimberling and Astrid Amara are writers whom I admire and they were immensely supportive when we worked together on the Hell Cop anthologies.
But I have to admit that even as giddy as I felt after being contacted by each of those authors, I did eventually fall asleep.
Hmmm. I haven’t quite answered your question, have I?
If Mary Renault—who passed away in 1983— were to rise up from the shadows of my bookshelf and place her misty, cold hand on my heart and then tell me that she had been reading my work and enjoyed it, that would certainly keep me up for days, even weeks. That might freak me out too much to ever sleep again… Though I think eventually I might start badgering her ghost to write another book like The Charioteer, or at least autograph my copy.
FC: Which book do you remember most fondly as being the one that made you a reader and why?
GH: I had very few books available to me as a child. The ones I remember most clearly are The Riverside Shakespeare, an I Ching, the tattered paperback copies of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and a battered dictionary.
If I had to say which one really made me a life long reader I’d have to honestly say it was the dictionary.
I can still remember pouring over the entries and simply loving the sensation of all that information unfolding from black letters and lighting up my mind. That was my first real awareness of how powerful reading could be. It felt like magic.
FC: Maybe it’s just me, but I kept wondering: why is the white hell a specific color? Are there hells of different colors other than white? What do the other hells do that is different?
GH: Good question. I wasn’t sure if anyone would notice that or not.
The multiple hells in Cadeleonian theology are a Cadeleonian re-interpretations of older religions that are foreign to them. The red hell, for example, is a Mirogoth Witch’s Forge, which produces a blood red flash when it is passed from one witch to another.
I chose the color white for Javier’s hell, (which is really a Bahiim shajdi), because I wanted to evoke a luminous purity existing between life and death. I also wanted it to be a color that is powerful but also readily polluted, something that could represent Javier himself at his best and worst.
FC: In both Wicked Gentlemen and Lord of the White Hell, it seems like you set up a pair of opposing monocultures and then look at how they collide. Is your intention to focus on those societies, or are the societies intended to be tools used to create certain characters?
GH: As a rule I begin with the major social structures that will be in conflict in my novels and then ask myself who, within these societies, would be the most interesting to follow. Who would cross lines and stir up the kind of trouble that makes for an exciting book?
Thank you so much for sharing your questions. I hope my responses didn’t ramble on too long.
FC: No, not at all – I found your answers very interesting. Thank you very much for taking the time to answer a few questions!