Now for the interview:
First things first: what drew you into writing in the first place, and why fantasy in particular?
I was drawn into writing by One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey. Chief's voice is so well done and I wanted to be able to grab somebody the way that book grabbed me. I wound up writing
fantasy mostly because that's what I enjoy reading more than anything else.
Part of this comes from my loathing for Disney and what they were doing to "fairies." My daughter thought fairies were cute and helpful and delicate and it was driving me nuts. But then I realized it wasn't just Disney -- there were any number of other sources that had strayed quite far from the original Irish roots of the Sidhe. I'm an Irish/English mutt, so the focus on the lore was naturally interesting to me. For others, I'd think the mythology would be interesting in its own right, since the Irish didn't follow the same patterns as others. Most cultures have goddesses of love, not gods, for example, and the Irish god of love, Aenghus Óg, was kind of a dick.
An interesting aspect of your novel is that it places limits on the various religious deities and figures. Gods, we learn, can be killed. Every "faith" has a magic system unique to it, which has weaknesses or strengths in relation to other magic systems. How did this world in which practically every deity that ever "lived" actually exists come to be?
I asked myself why only the Irish pantheon would still be alive and well in the present day when there were so many other great traditions out there. And what it all came down to was that I couldn't come up with a reason to make the Irish the "one true faith." The great truth is that we all construct our own truths in our efforts to improve ourselves, and besides, it turned out to be much more fun to write with an inclusive view of the world than an exclusive one.
Were you at all concerned that your audience would be too unfamiliar with the various mythologies Hexed plays with? Atticus does, after all, explain a great deal of things, but it's obvious that he can't explain it all.
No concerns at all. I respect the readers. Fantasy readers in general have some pretty good brains, and if they want to know more about something, they'll go learn. As a reader myself, I love it when I find books that teach me something and spark a little personal investigation.
I'm certainly a dog person, but the number of canine characters in this particular book is a coincidence. I didn't have any particular point to make with them. But I can say this series was spawned around the characters of Atticus and Oberon—it was always a story about a man and his dog. All the rest of it came later: those two characters are the core.
One of your main villains, the Bacchants, could be described as the moral antithesis of civilized society. Hexed walks a fine line in regards to their conduct, since a lot of what you describe as their modus operandi is sexual in nature. Were you concerned while writing the Bacchants that you might cross a line for many readers?
Yeah, I'm not really one who appreciates play-by-play accounts of sexual encounters, because if I wanted that, I could go grab something out of the erotica section. I'm assuming that my readers would similarly appreciate a couple of sentences to paint a broad picture and then just leave it at that.
Challenging, sure. But completely and utterly fun. By choosing to be inclusive (the Jewish faith, which is very much alive, is also featured prominently), I'm also choosing to be respectful of all those various faiths. Every one is portrayed as puissant and vital to those who believe in them. I don't go around dissing anyone, with the possible exception of Thor. So the only bone of contention I've heard is from people who are offended that I'm treating all religions with respect, as if their religion is the only one that matters. You can imagine how much I care for the opinions of such arrogant people.
The benefits greatly outweigh the pitfalls. I got plenty of attention and lots of fans who jumped into the series rather than waiting for it to end. In terms of pitfalls, the only downside is that I couldn't keep up with the publicity side of things; I couldn't write enough guest blogs and so on to keep up, and I was exhausted. Still, it was a good exhaustion, because everything I managed to find time to do paid some sort of dividend. And now I have practically no publicity going on, but the books are still doing well on word of mouth—which is the best publicity anyway.
What single piece of writing advice would you give to budding writers out there? What's your magic "secret"?
Don't give up. If you have stories inside that need to get out, then keep writing them down until you write one the market is ready for. It took me 19 years of trying before I got published. Don't give up.
And, finally, a silly question: if you could hang out with any non-Abrahamic-religious-figure (no Jesus, God, etc.), who would you hang out with and why?
Goibhniu, one of the Tuatha Dé Danann. He brews an ale that keeps you young and healthy. I want to have a beer with THAT guy.