Interview With Faith Hunter
July 8, 2009
Today, I present an interview with someone who has become one of my favorite writers, and one of my favorite people, in speculative fiction: Faith Hunter. Faith and I first met a couple of years ago at a writers’ conference. We were both instructors at the conference, and we were introduced to each other by our agent. It was like meeting a long-lost twin. Not that we look alike — she’s much cuter than I am — but we just clicked in every way. Our friendship grew quickly, and before long we had joined forces with fellow fantasy writers Misty Massey and C.E. Murphy to create the Magical Words website, a group blog dedicated to discussions of the craft and business of writing. Between conventions, Magical Words, and an active email correspondence, we have continued to build upon our friendship and our mutual respect for each other’s creativity.
Today, July 8th, marks the release of SKINWALKER, the first volume in Faith’s Jane Yellowrock series. I have heard Faith read from the book at a convention — if the first chapter is any indication, this book is fantastic. I hope you’ll go out and buy a copy; mine’s already on its way. And I also hope you’ll join me in welcoming her to my blog.
DBC: You have a new book coming out July 8th, the first book in a new project. Tell us about SKINWALKER.
FH: I fell in love with this character and this world! Jane Yellowrock is a Cherokee in an alternate reality, current time, in a world with technology and magic, humans and nonhumans, and all the conflict that brings. A strong heroine with unusual talents, Jane is a traveling vamp hunter. She is also the last of her kind—a skinwalker of Cherokee descent who has learned by trial and error how to transform into any creature (if she has sufficient genetic material). However, Jane has a difference never mentioned in the old skinwalker lore of any tribe. She has another soul inside with her, the soul of a Beast who is her friend, and perhaps, also her enemy. Beast has her own motives, memories, and her own agenda. Together, in human and nonhuman form, they hunt rogue vampires for a living
In Skinwalker, the first of the series, Jane is contracted (by the first sane vampire she has ever met) to take out a rogue vamp who is terrorizing the city, killing vamps and tourists, (which is bad for the tourist dollar and human-vampire relations). Authorized by the vampire council of New Orleans to kill one of their own, she discovers that the very ones who hired her may be, not only her employers, but her greatest enemies as well; Jane isn’t completely human, and she elicits a peculiar, and dangerous, reaction in vamps, bringing out their predatory reactions.
She is a singularity in her world, one peopled with blood-sucking predators, some of whom are her employers, some of whom want her dead, and one who is something very different from the creature she thought she would be hunting. Skinwalker is a blend of genres, mixing alternate reality, fantasy, action adventure, and romance against the backdrop of New Orleans. And the secondary characters are fab!
DBC: Are other volumes planned for the series? Can you offer us some tidbits about what Jane will face next?
FH: Jane will be featured in Blood Cross, which will come out in the winter of 09. In Blood Cross, Jane’s contract with the Vampire Council of New Orleans is extended as she hunts for a master vampire who is making new vamps and letting them roam free, insane, violent, seeking blood meals and death. Allowing new vamps to do so is against the Vampire Carta, the rules by which vamps live and die. On the way to finding the guilty vamp, she is helped by Molly, her best friend who is also a witch, the local cops, and the blood servant of the most powerful vamp in the city. There’s a bit of romance, a lot of action, and some humor!
DBC: The protagonist of your most recent series (BLOODRING, SERAPHS, HOST), Thorn St. Croix, is, like Jane Yellowrock, a strong woman with a secret that could get her in a good deal of trouble. It seems you’re drawn to such characters. Can you tell us what it is about them from a writer’s perspective that you like?
FH: Jane Yellowrock and Thorn St. Croix are so very different in physical description, personality, and fantasy worlds, yet they are both hiding something which forces them to make their way in the world, alone, in danger, and seeking a place of safety. However, any time they think they have found that sanctuary, they are yanked back into danger. They kill their own snakes, they are warriors, and they are singularities in their worlds. As a writer, the fact that both are in hiding and neither has a haven of rest is important. It forces them to constantly be in conflict, constantly be on edge, and from a writer’s viewpoint, that is a great character because there is much to work with!
DBC: Before you began writing fantasy you wrote thrillers and mysteries
quite successfully. What have you found to be the biggest differences
among the various genres? Is writing a book the same no matter where
it’s shelved, or do you have to take a different approach with each
type of book?
FH: David, I feel so different when I write fantasy. I mean literally, while I am writing a fantasy scene, I have different emotions from when I turn on Gwen and write a mystery scene. When I write mystery, I outline extensively, I plan ahead, I work to keep it all lined up and neat. I am more analytical and poised and thorough. When I write fantasy, I plow through it more, like a bull with his head down, or maybe a lion in a feeding frenzy, claws out and attacking. I am full of angst and a wildness that I can’t explain, except to say that the work seems to possess me as opposed to my possessing the work. Not to say that my emotions totally take me away, no. But the story and the characters take me away. It is liberating in so many ways!
DBC: When you’re not writing you like to make jewelry and paddle down whitewater rivers. These activities seem to show up in your books with some frequency. How much of you and your own experiences do you put into your lead characters?
FH: (laughing) Not as much as you might think. My characters are fighters, warriors, and in danger constantly. I am pretty…well…not any of that. Though I admit I’d like to create a character in Thorn’s world who is a river mage and gathers energy by kayaking down snow-melt rivers! Whoowhoo!
Early on in my career I put more of me into my books, more of my soul. Now the characters exist outside of me, outside of who I am, and where I came from. They often like to do the things I like to do, but they are very different people from me! In fact, I have been known to channel my characters in stressful situations. I wrote and lived with an ER doctor character in my head for four years. In difficult medical situations she seems to rise up through me and take over. I know. Weird.
DBC: Many of us who write have trouble reading fiction, generally or in our
specific genre, when we’re writing. Do you find this to be true? If
not, what are you reading now? And if so, what books do you have on
your “To read” list for when you’re ready to read again?
FH: I can’t read urban fantasy when I’m writing it, and I can’t read thrillers when I’m writing that, for fear the books I read will unconsciously guide my mind into paths contrary to my character or my fictional world. I am between books right now and am cramming urban fantasy! I am reading Turn Coat by Jim Butcher, Dead and Gone by Charlaine Harris, Hands of Flame by CE Murphy, and Blood Noir by Laurell K Hamilton. But not all at once…(grins) I just finished several more. Today I put the books down and start rewrite on Blood Cross. I have until July 17 to get it done. Ick!
DBC: If your Skinwalker / Jane Yellowrock series had a theme song, what would it be?
FH: The drum solo WipeOut (she said with a cheeky grin) with an AmIn flute playing in the background.
DBC: Ok, to close how about a few character name/word associations?
FH: Suuweeeet! (rubs hands together in expectation) But I have to do more than one word for each. Hey, I’m a novelist, not a poet! Go!
DBC: Jane Yellowrock.
FH: Conflicted. Lonely. Stubborn. Violent. Determined. Gritty. Loyal. Tall. Dude, she’s six feet tall!
FH: The one place I’m free. (I kayak Class IIs and IIIs and spend my limited free time on rivers and big creeks. Have I said that yet?)
DBC: Magical Words.
FH: The best webblog for writers and readers of fantasy—www.magicalwords.net. Check it out!
DBC: Molly Trueblood.
FH: Fierce. Indomitable. Steady. Motherly. I love her!
FH: Snob. I adore teas and cannot live (or write) without them. Jane Yellowrock is a tea snob. Which is very convenient for researching her hobbies.
FH: Addictive. Did you know that there are lovely, chocolate-flavored teas? Not with additive flavor, with the scent/taste in the leaves themselves. Happy sigh…
FH: Writing. Reading. My hubby. Tea. Friends. Whitewater. Kayaking. History. Ancient writings. Prophecy. People watching. Beer. I could go on (she said with a cheeky grin.)
FH: Unlimited. Looking for a bestseller. I have a feeling that Skinwalker might be the one!
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