THIEF’S WAR, by Hilari Bell, will be available on March 7!
It is my great pleasure to introduce my fellow inkpot member, the immensely talented Hilari Bell!
I really loved THIEF’S WAR, Hilari. What an exciting adventure! I know it’s the fourth book in the Knight and Rogue Series, but a reader certainly does not need to have read the other three books to enjoy the book. Was it difficult writing a novel that can stand on its own for new readers, while satisfying fans of the series?
It is tricky, though not so much in the story itself—any book that will please old readers should please new ones, and visa versa. The hard part is figuring out how to reveal information the old readers already know (like how the magic system works) without boring them, and also how much of past adventures do you need to bring up again. Interestingly, I’ve found that it’s the people who have read the previous books who’re more likely to want me to remind them about what happened before the current story started. I think new readers just figure I’m telling them all they need to know, while the old readers are the ones saying, “But you’re not telling us enough about ...”
That is interesting! The characters of Fisk and Michael, and their friendship, was one of my favorite things about the book. It was a very close relationship, and yet there was some tension and history between them as well. Was there an inspiration behind either of these very life-like characters?
Some writers always start their books by creating a character, but for me the core idea of the plot usually comes first—and my Knight & Rogue books are the only exception. One day Fisk just popped into my mind, standing in the rain at the foot of a tower and grousing about how much it sucked being squire to a hero—though Fisk put it in better, and in more archaic language. A whole six book series grew out of that moment, but that exact scene is the first paragraph of the first book. It had to be.
I read that you will write three more books in this series. Do you already know where it will end?
It’s actually two more books, for a total of six. And I’ve known the last scene in the last book almost from the start. But that’s not to say I know everything. For the book that follows this one, Scholar’s Plot, I knew it would be a murder mystery at a university, and that it involved Michael’s brother, and a few things that happened in the overarching series plotline—but until the time came to start prewriting, I had no idea who was murdered, why they were murdered, or who murdered them. And for a mystery, that’s a lot not to know.
I read on your website that the first book you sold was the fifth book that you wrote, and when it sold you were working on your thirteenth book! How many books have you published?
This one will bring the total up to twenty, and you’d think that would make your career secure. One tip—if you want career security, don’t become a writer! On the other hand, I’m now writing the first draft of book six, and there’s something so wonderful about writing a first draft. My best friend is a writer too, and whenever one of us is writing a first draft the other one is jealous, because it’s so exhilarating and centering and satisfying.
Twenty books - wow! There is magic in a first draft, when the story comes to life. Do you work on one book at a time, or do you jump around?
One at a time. I’ve heard of people who could work on more than one book at a time, but I can’t imagine doing it. When you’re writing a first draft, you’ve got so much of the story stuck in your head... There’s not room for two at once, and it would take me days, if not weeks, to unload one story and completely reload another.
Your fantasy worlds are so well drawn. I loved the magica and Gifts in this series, it is so unusual and exciting at the same time. Can you describe your world building for us?
I have a ball with world building! I used to dread it, but then I came across a chapbook, Checking on Culture by Lee Killough, that gives you, literally, a culture building checklist. It’s designed for science fiction, so it starts by asking you to figure out your alien’s Habitat, Anatomy and Psychology, and then it gives you categories in alphabetical order: Agriculture, Architecture, Arts... With fantasy some of that stuff doesn’t apply, but most of it does, and I just bop around and work things out so that they work for my plot and characters. Clothing, Commerce, Communication, Cosmetics.... I find that my world building changes my plot, and my plot changes my world building, and this structured checklist creates this wonderful organic process where things start pinging off each other. Machines, Marriage, Math/counting, Medicine, Modesty... It’s a great tool.
Thanks for that tip – I’m definitely going to check that out! Which is your favorite character from this book, and why?
People keep asking me if Fisk is my favorite or Michael—and I honestly don’t have a favorite between the two of them. I love Fisk’s cynicism...but Michael’s craziness makes him a blast to write. Of the minor characters... Atherton Roseman is one of my better villains, if I say so myself, and the mad jeweler’s dialogue was incredibly fun and cool to write. Someone in my critique group asked me how I created dialogue so disjointed and crazy...and I had to admit that it just welled up, completely effortless. Which may say bad thing about the state of my sanity.
What are you working on now (if you want to share!)?
Book six—which is still creatively titled Book Six. I hope something better comes to me soon. And I do have a couple ideas for things I’d like to write after this, but I’m not sure which one I’ll take on.
Do you have any talents besides writing?
Not notably. I might have been talented in some other area, if I’d taken the time and work to develop it. But talent is a dime a dozen kind of thing, except for a rare few—which I’m not.
And now, a few questions for our readers to get to know you better!
Favorite Book: Can I do favorite author instead? Right now Lois McMaster Bujold leads the pack with her Miles Vorkosigan books—though her Sharing Knife books come a close second. She’s fabulous.
Favorite Quote: I don’t have one particular favorite, but Thomas Edison’s statement that “The reason there are so many missed opportunities is that opportunity usually shows up dressed in overalls and looking like hard work” is a goodie.
Favorite Food: Carmel corn or kettle corn. I’m OK with chocolate, but caramel is my favorite—and then add popcorn and salt... Oh my.
Favorite Ice Cream: Actually not that big an ice cream eater—possibly because I have teeth that are sensitive to cold, of all the weird things.
Favorite Place: Camping on the coast, Cape Blanco State Park, in Oregon. Camping is my favorite thing to do, and that’s my favorite place to do it.
Thanks so much, Hilari! If you’d like to read more about Hilari, you can check out her website here - and the link to pre-order the book on Amazon is here
Intrigued by THIEF’S WAR? Read on:
“Who are you? What are you doing here? Where are...?”
A sudden suspicion of the answer stopped my tongue, but they knew what I’d been about to say.
“Yah,” said one-eye. “We’re orfinks, mostly. Those as ain’t, they’s better off here than home.”
I’d heard bits of the Tallowsport accent this week, but never so thick and pure.
“Surely you have kin in this town who’d take you in.”
There was a long silence, then the girl shrugged. “They were chasing him. And it’s not like they don’t know about us.”
The blond boy growled under his breath, and a murmured echo came from the shadows—a feral sound that lifted the hair on the back of my neck.
“That’s how come we’s here,” one-eye said. “It’s the Rose. He says anyone takes us in, they get the same as our famblies got. We’re supposed to be dead, see?”
He said it with a casual acceptance that chilled my blood, even as it broke my heart.
“Who is this Rose?” I demanded.
All of them stopped, staring as if I’d asked why the night was dark.
“The Rose,” said the girl. “Tony Rose. Atherton Roseman. The man who runs this town. The man who owns the six thugs who were about t’ beat the crap out of you!”
Interview conducted by Erin Cashman, author of THE EXCEPTIONALS.