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Interviews With The Fantastic
InterGalactic Interview With Faith Hunter
    by Edmund R. Schubert

Faith Hunter started her career as one half of the author-pseudonym Gary Hunter, writing mysteries and thrillers with a partner. That partner moved on to other projects and she continued writing mysteries and thrillers under the name Gwen Hunter. As the publishing world continued to evolve so did she, branching into urban fantasy under the name Faith Hunter. Her first urban fantasy series, Rogue Mage, has recently been adapted into a role-playing game, and her Jane Yellowrock novels are becoming regulars on the New York Times Best Seller list. Faith is also a founding member of the popular writers assistance website Magicalwords.net, and appears regularly at SF conventions on panels and teaching workshops, demonstrating an ongoing willingness to help up-and-coming writers.

SCHUBERT: I'd like to start by asking you about your start in the mystery and thriller genres and how you came to transition into urban fantasy.

HUNTER: Urban fantasy is the first truly, totally blended new genre. It combines action/adventure, a little romance (okay, sometimes a lot of romance), mystery, suspense, and thriller elements, and sometimes police procedural elements. As Gary Hunter and Gwen Hunter, I wrote some 18 books in most of those genres -- though I'll be the first to admit that I don't write much romance. I had a good career as a midlist mystery writer, but the market is always evolving and it evolved away from mysteries back in the very late nineties and early oughts.

By then, the nascent urban fantasy genre was starting to build and I finally had a chance to bring my action and mystery specialty into the genre. Honestly, I had always wanted to write fantasy, but the genres and subgenres open to me until then had not allowed a lot of genre bending and blending. But urban fantasy was perfect for my authorial voice.

I started with something totally different to the genre with a post-apocalyptic, alternate reality, urban fantasy. It did well enough to net me three books in the series so far -- and yes, for the rabid Rogue Mage fans out there, I plan to write the fourth one in the series in late 2014. And then the Jane Yellowrock series followed, with a nicely growing readership and increasing success.

SCHUBERT: You've recently developed a game based on your Rogue Mage novels. How did that come about? How do you see these kinds of side projects playing into the larger world of a writing career and the evolution of the publishing industry?

HUNTER: A bookstore manager (who later became my marketing director, go figure) introduced me to Christina Stiles, an established game writer, and we talked. She wanted to turn the series into a game, and I wanted to make gaming and fiction go hand-in-hand. It sounded like a possibility. But it took about five times longer than we anticipated, and was five years in the making, followed by a Kickstarter project that is still ongoing. Translating the novels' world and magic system into a usable (read open-licensed) gaming system with an existing fan base (Mutants & Masterminds 2e - with some conversions) took a great deal of time; then playtesting the results took more time; and then editing, art, and layout took even more time . . .

And while Christina, co-author Raven Blackwell, and editor Spike Y Jones were hammering out those details, I was writing fiction for the gaming book - short stories and dozens of short-shorts and vignettes.

It's really been a grueling (but fun) experience, and, as I say, it's still ongoing - we are currently pulling together the last art for the Rogue Mage RPG Game Master's Guide. Then we have to go to layout, and then distribute to our backers. We have released several monster pdfs into the gaming world while we head toward the finish line; and, of course, the main book, The Rogue Mage RPG Player's Guide is out, as well (all via Misfit Studios). Also, the game book has been available on Amazon.com in print for some months. We hope to have a shipping party on the remaining book by the end of the year - the Most High willing. (If you have read the series, this might make you smile.)

In terms of projects like these in the evolution of the publishing world, both Christina and I see them as a way for creative people of different types to cross-market each others' talents. Since fantasy fiction and tabletop gaming truly go hand in hand, it's a way for both of us to garner fans of one type of medium to another. I really like that my fans, who've been waiting for a new Thorn novel, don't have to wait for new stories: really - they have all the tools they need to explore my world, to create heroes to fight against the Darkness, and to spin new tales - stories that I might never have imagined. My world now lives on well beyond the page. How cool is that?

In terms of whether or not this is something every fantasy writer should consider doing, I don't know that I'd recommend it for everyone. It is a serious amount of work, and I got asked the most unusual and thorough questions of my life while working this out. Those gamers have to know everything! Writers just have to know enough to tell the story. Anyway, keep an eye out for more Rogue Mage news, as we intend to keep expanding on this co-creation process with new releases. Christina says she's thinking of expanding into some other game systems, like the popular Pathfinder and Savage Worlds games - which Christina assures me are also wonderful systems. We'll see.

SCHUBERT: Jane Yellowrock's other persona, Beast, has become an immensely popular character. Tell us a little about Beast's creation. Did you have any idea how that character would be received? Do you have any crazy Beast-fan stories - because I know they're out there . . .

HUNTER: Jane is a Cherokee Skinwalker - possibly the last of her kind. She is a modern woman who uses tech and rides a vintage Harley. She is a war-woman who accidentally performed black magic once, very long ago, and now has the soul of a mountain lion inside with her - and that puma (panther, screamer cat, mountain lion) has her own voice, too. The two-soul thing makes Jane a complicated character, growing more complicated, and not just because of her coexistence with Beast.

Beast's voice was the most difficult character voice I've ever written. Beast started out with an animal brain and learned the concept of language from Jane. This made her voice primitive and her language skills minimalist at best. And her understanding of social skills . . . well, let's be kind and call them primitive, too (writer rolls eyes). But mostly with Beast, there is her growing (but yet unspoken) fascination with all things that are human, vamp, witchy, or were-creature. She has her own needs and wants, and they are basic - food, a safe place to sleep, a strong mate (or three), and a good den for raising her young. Those needs (sometimes demands) weigh on Jane, pulling her in directions a human might not want to go. But worse, Beast has secrets she has kept from Jane and those secrets make life difficult sometimes.

Beast fans . . . Yes. Lots of Beast fans. They send me emails and Facebook messages to write more Beast, to let Beast have her way on the choosing-a-mate-or-three issue. They have even written to Beast for advice. The Q&A can be highly amusing at times. Beast is so popular that she has her own entire section in the upcoming Jane Yellowrock World Companion e-book (with a novella and two shorts-shorts), due out on December 17, 2013. And frankly, I have more fun writing Beast. She is uncomplicated, demanding, brutal - a force of nature. And she is a character who always surprises me.

SCHUBERT: You've got the game, the on-going novel series, a plan to return to the a fourth book in the Rogue Mage series; Audible bought all your short stories (including one exclusive that you wrote just for them). The Audible compilation Cat O' Nine Tales will be out on November 26, narrated by Khristine Hvam. Kicking It (the antho you edited with Kalayna Price) will be out on December 3. The Jane Yellowrock World Companion (that you co-wrote with Carol Malcolm) will be out on December 17. Black Arts (book 7 in the Jane Yellowrock series) will be out January 7, 2014. My first thought is to ask where you find the energy to work on that many projects, but you obviously do have the energy. So let me ask this: how do you prioritize? How do you decide which of these projects has the most merit, the most potential, the most interest?

HUNTER: Oy . . . First off, all that was both a huge mistake and a stroke of pure luck. I signed a contract in 2011 for a book every six months, planning that I'd be able to get health insurance without my full time job at the hospital lab. Planning on having an extra free 32 hours per week to write (not planning on ObamaCare being such problem in my state) I also initiated the anthology, Kicking It, stretching my editorial wings and trying something new. And I suggested to my editor that we do a world companion book for Jane Yellowrock, which meant writing a novella and some shorts just for it. Because, hey, I thought I'd have the time, right? Wrong.

Instead, I had to renegotiate all my contracts when my mom fell and broke her back and had a concussion. Then my mother-in-law fell ill, spent 76 days in hospital before passing away. 2012 kinda sucked. And I didn't get much done on long-term, novel-length writing, hence the renegotiation. My publisher was very understanding and the new due-dates for the novels have been much easier to fulfill. What I was able to do while caring for family, was shorts. The novella that fit into the idea of the world companion book was easy. The short story and editing other people's work for the anthology Kicking It could be done in spurts and even at bedside if needed. I was able to crank out a novel between January 2013 and June to meet the new contract. The Audible exclusive short story was done in a two-week break between novels this summer, and that scheduled break meant I happened to get the short story "Black Water" in to my Audible editor about 45 days early. Audible decided to rush it into production to get it out before Black Arts comes out in January. That making-it-all-work in the midst of the family difficulties was the tough part of it.

The luck part was that it all came together. I have to say that my publisher, ROC, my editors there, Jessica Wade and Jesse Feldman, and my editor at Audible, Steve Feldberg, are the ones who made all that luck come together for a closely batched set of publication dates that will make promo very easy! They made my life bearable by working so kindly with me.

SCHUBERT: You and I worked together on the Magical Words website for about a year and half, including turning some of that material into a book, How To Write Magical Words. Talk a little about how that website came together in the first place, and also why you keep at it after so many years. Any notable success stories that come out of visitors/students to Magical Words?

HUNTER: Magicalwords.net came together when I met David B. Coe at a writing conference. We clicked and wanted to do something together. When my old pal Misty Massy joined in the conversation, the brainstorming started, and out of that conference (call it networking!) MagicalWords was created.

The question of why we keep it going after so many years is tougher. It's demanding, trying, and tiring to keep it up, and a lot of that day-to-day work falls on Misty's shoulders. It's difficult to come up with a post about writing so very often without repeating ourselves. And actually, right now, we are working on ways to re-invent the site so it isn't so much work on any of us, but still fills the needs of our subscribers and readers. We have 35,000 regular readers, not counting the readers who follow us on formats not so easily traceable. How can we disappoint them? We have to find ways of keeping it fresh, and we are working on that now.

Success stories, a few. We have several people who have successfully sold short stories and novellas. And one who just sold a fantasy YA to a small press. I'm proud of each and every one of them!

SCHUBERT: In addition to everything else, you're also a passionate kayaker (is that even a word? Kayaker?). When you're out running rapids, do Jane or Beast or any of your other characters come to mind? Do you look around your surroundings and see scenes playing out? Or is the kayaking a complete and necessary escape?

HUNTER: Yes, kayaking is a word. To kayakers. And it is a total escape for me. I let my mind go, empty out, and focus on the water and the scenery and drop into nature. I've had some amazingly spiritual experiences on the water, when nature herself seems to speak to me. As to the writing, there is nothing on a conscious level, but I admit that the scenery shows up all the time afterward. Once, when I was writing a story from Beast's point of view, I was paddling along sheer cliffs. Up high, maybe thirty feet overhead, I saw a narrow ledge with a dark opening. In my mind I saw it opening inside the cliff wall to a tiny, cozy cave, one where leaves had blown in, perfect for Beast to make a nest for her kits. That cave is in a short story entitled "WeSa and the Lumber King," which was published in the compilation Have Stakes Will Travel, and will appear in the Audible Cat O'Nine Tales. So it isn't conscious, but my kayaking is definitely a part of my Jane world!

Faith Hunter has written the Jane Yellowrock series and the Rogue Mage series, as well as the RPG Rogue Mage. Several of her novels have appeared on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists, and she has two new books under contract. Under the pen name Gwen Hunter, she has written action adventure, mysteries, and thrillers. By January 2014, under all her pen names, she will have 30 books in print in 29 countries.

Faith writes full-time and works full-time in a hospital (for the benefits). She's a workaholic and playaholic who makes jewelry, collects orchids and bones, travels in her RV with her hubby and two dogs, and white-water kayaks. She also tries to keep house and cook, but since she started writing two books a year, she may have forgotten how to turn on the appliances.

Websites: http://faithhunter.net,   https://www.facebook.com/official.faith.hunter

Also visit: MagicalWords.net

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