Review: Skinwalker Review and Faith Hunter Interview
We have another special treat for you all today. One of the absolute highlights of WorldCon 2008 was our encounter with (actually repeated encounters with…she may have been stalking us) Faith Hunter. She is one of the most down-to-earth, witty, and genuinely warm people we have met. So of course we wanted to keep in touch. When our website went live one of the first things we wanted to do was set up an interview. So, here it is. Enjoy.
Faith: Oh my. Nick. Please don’t loose your will to live or your soul! Get a good book to read and relax a bit! (May I suggest one of mine???) (This in response to Nick mentioning the crushing weight of school and it’s effect on his soul and will to live. Faith’s response was too good to leave out.)
Well, it’s simply a pleasure to talk to you again Faith, thanks for coming to do an interview with us. As you may have noticed from the last time we met, we aren’t burdened by an abundance of humility, and would like you to join us unfettered by it. We know why you’re so great, but want you to tell our readers what makes you so awesome?
Faith: Ummm… me? Awesome? No way. But I am a workaholic, have written as many as 2 books a year for total of 19 books (so far), my books have been sold/published in 25 countries (Russia is the newest!), I have a short story in one anthology, and Role Playing Game still in the works. Oh – and a screenplay that has been in hiatus for 2 years!
Will you tell us a little bit about your writing history, and how you came to be a published author?
Faith: I had no talent when I was growing up, an unhappy tomboy who didn’t fit in anywhere. Couldn’t draw, sing, dance, flirt, and if it had been today, I’d likely have been on antidepressants. And this sounds sooo freaking depressing! I have to say I wasn’t miserable. I had friends and found solace, calm, and joy in the woods out back of my house, near the creek that ran through the most amazing rock formation. I’d hug a tree and talk to it, as if it were God; I was a tree hugger when that wasn’t cool! Trees gave me peace. And then a tenth grade writing teacher told me that I had writing talent and that I should direct my future toward a life as a writer, and my life took a turn that brought a lot more joy than bark under my cheek! No insult to trees, but pouring angst into a story is so much more satisfying.
I wrote from tenth grade through technical school, through several years working in a hospital lab… um… seemed like a long time! But that call… Well, back-story first. I had written a book and shopped it around for years. I had a stack of rejection letters tall enough to paper my bedroom and then some. While shopping that one, I met a cop named Gary in the ER at 2 a.m. He wanted to write, I wasn’t having any luck, so we tried it together. It took us a while to finish that book (hence the time to shop the first one) but when we did it went out to my dream list of editors at 8 different companies on a Monday. Yes, unagented. It was 1989, the last days of the slush-pile reader, and a brand new editor was working in Warner Books. He took it home with a pile of others that Friday. He called me the following Monday morning. Seven days after the novel went out. Yeah. Still is a shock. That doesn’t happen, right? Never has since, but that one time…
I was in bed after working a 16 hour shift (afternoon and graveyard) during the weekend-from-hell at the hospital. I had just gotten to sleep. This man calls and asks if I am Gwen Hunter. I was so rude. Then what he said penetrated my sleep- and stress-clogged brain. He wanted to publish my book. I broke out into a hot sweat. When the call was over I screamed. Then the phone calls started. And *no one answered*. No one! I hopped into my car and raced to moms and stood in the yard jumping up and down like a frog screaming, “I sold a book! An editor called! I sold a book! Come to the house! I have a call in to Gary! Can’t stay. I sold a book!” Still makes me smile. Hugely!
Let’s start with the Rogue Mage series. What challenges did you face in writing a book with so many biblical references? Did you find it limiting or liberating to use that as source material?
Faith: The nice thing about writing fiction, and future fiction at that, is being able to change things from what is to what I want it be for the book’s and story’s sake. Ancient scripture of all religions is *very* vague about the end-times and the *angels*, so it was easier than you think to incorporate the info from Judeo-Christian-Moslem religion and twist it all up into my Rogue Mage world. The hardest thing was finding scripture for Thorn to use as spells to fight and destroy evil! I had to do a lot of research for that.
You have been working on a Rogue Mage RPG. Tell us a little bit about that. What opportunities did that afford you as a writer? What problems, if any, did it present for your writing?
Faith: I can’t say it has opened any doors or provided any opportunities yet, as it has taken waaaay longer than any of us expected to get it finished. I do hope when it is (finally) published that it will provide some benefit to career or pocketbook, but even so, it has been loads of fun writing it. The game creators had questions (thousands of them) that made me rethink the world, the magic, even the races, and that rethinking will be a part of the fourth book, which I hope will be sold in 2011. Fingers crossed that the published will buy it!
So there are plans to return to the Rogue Mage world?
Faith: Yep. Lots! And I am hoping that the pub will be willing to buy that fourth book. It is plotted out but not really started yet. I have all these stories and plot-lines in my brain, I seem to drift off a lot in conversation. It’s *rude* but I can’t help it!
Without spoiling too much, tell us a little bit about your new series that kicked off with SKINWALKER.
Faith: Here’s a version (I changed it a bit) of the back cover.
A year ago Jane nearly lost her life taking down an entire blood family of deadly rogue vampires that preyed on the helpless local populace of an Appalachian town. Now, after months of recuperation, she’s back and ready to fight again. Except this time, she’s hired by those she’s trained to kill—vampires…
Jane Yellowrock is the last of her kind—a skinwalker of Cherokee descent who can turn into any creature she desires and hunts vampires for a living. Back from hiatus, she’s hired by Katherine Fontaneau, one of the oldest vampires in New Orleans and the madam of Katies’s Ladies, to hunt a powerful rogue vampire who’s killing other vamps.
Amidst a bordello full of real “ladies of the night,” a hot Cajun biker with a panther tattoo and a sexy blood-servant who stir her carnal desire, Jane must stay focused and complete her mission—or else the next skin she’ll need to save just may be her own… For an excerpt: Skinwalker excerpt
What ignited the ideas for creating this new series?
Faith: I was having tea with Kim Harrison and the idea came into my mind with the words “Katie’s Ladies.” Within 20 minutes I had the basic format of the character—who she was and what she did for a living. It was wonderful! Fast story-lines don’t happen to me much. It is usually a lot more work!
Do you find your personality coming through while writing your protagonist’s point of view?
Faith: Not so much, and when I do, it’s something I catch pretty quickly. Jane Yellowrock and Thorn St. Croix aren’t much like me. Not in any way! I have way better verbal communication skills. I don’t fight at all. I don’t eat near as much meat as Jane Yellowrock and, unlike Beast, I like it cooked. And I’m not a vegetarian like Thorn St. Croix. Neither are like me at all!
Have you noticed any particular trends in the SF&F genres, and where do you see these genres heading?
Faith: Urban Fantasy is the fastest growing genre, with the foreign markets opening up to it in a big way. My agent just sold Skinwalker to Russia! Also, vamps are on the way out as main characters, with other supes taking the giant’s share. I expect to see a *lot* of weres and witches as main characters with vamps as minor recurring characters.
The Urban Fantasy genre has been dominated by female readers, so that is obviously the target market, but do you do anything specific to draw in male readers for your books?
Faith: (covering eyes and laughing) Lots of fighting, a little sex thrown in, and the covers of Skinwalker and Blood Cross are booblicious. Also I have strong, masculine male secondary characters. I have a lot of gay and lesbian readers who are intrigued with both Jane’s and Thorn’s worlds, and quite a few soldiers off fighting in various wars.
If you had to recommend one Urban Fantasy novel to our readers (aside from your own, of course), which would it be, and why?
Faith: Diana Pharaoh Francis has just started a new series with Bitter Night as the debut novel. I read it in manuscript form and it was splendiferous! Very different, yet appealing to any Urban Fantasy Fan.
Aside from the obvious of purchasing your books, what role do your fans play in your life?
Faith: Fans play a very big part in the picture of my life. I blog 5 times a week or so on my website, where I give snippets of upcoming books—there have been 4 snippets from Blood Cross up there in the last month. I go daily to the yahoo group, and several times a day to FaceBook where I post bits about my life and books. (website info at bottom of interview) My fans knew when my dogs died, when I adopted two new rescue dogs, the state of my writing, my family’s health and my health; I share with them photos of my life, and I answer questions all the time. I have found great new friendships that started out as fans, and have shared time with fans/friends as they went through life crises. Plus they give me suggestions for my characters’ love lives!
How about a quick teaser of what’s to come in BLOOD CROSS, the next Jane Yellowrock novel?
Faith: Ohhhh, fun! How about the first two paras?
Molly and the kids and I were eating lunch when the lightning hit. The bolt slammed into the ground only feet from the house, throwing brilliant light through the windows, shaking the floor beneath us. I grabbed the table and looked up to see Molly questing with her senses to discern if the lightning had harmed her wards. She had inactivated them because lightning and wards don’t play well with each other, but even a quiescent ward can be structurally damaged. She gave me an “it’s fine” look, but I could tell she was uneasy. Without the wards, the house where I lived while I fulfilled my current contract with the New Orleans vamp council was unprotected.
Molly—a powerful earth witch and my best friend—and I are used to the summer storms in the Appalachian Mountains. Though they can be violent and intense, they had nothing on this monster. Outside, Hurricane Ada was pounding New Orleans, the category-two storm bringing with it wind and torrential rain, though none of the might and tidal surge of Katrina and Rita, and much less of the damage. Human memory is short; most of the natives had elected to ride out the storm, dependent on the new levies to hold, and trusting in the improvement in the city’s infrastructure, courtesy of Uncle Sam. The only unanticipated aspect of the storm was the intense lightning and two tornadoes that had set down in the middle of the city’s electric grid, resulting in the loss of power. The wind died for a moment and then slammed the house like a giant fist, the walls quaking. A fresh burst of rain drummed against the windows.
When do our cameo characters appear in the Jane Yellowrock series? We are waiting with bated breath!
Faith: How about Mercy Blade, the 3rd book in the series? But you’ll have to remind me what they are. I’m having a blond moment. Did I tell you I died my hair to reflect my true nature, blond moments and all? It’s true! Really!
Thanks again for chatting with us, Faith. Do you have any parting words, or anything you would like to add?
Faith: Nick, it’s been fun being here with you! Thank you for having me (waves to fans!). Parting words are twofold.
1.Remember, it’s only fiction, except when it ain’t.
2.Have stakes will travel!
http://www.magicalwords.net/ (for writers of fantasy)
BLOOD CROSS (With Amazon) only a couple of months away we wanted to give our readers a glimpse of the Jane Yellowrock series. It opened up a few months ago with SKINWALKER (Amazon). As Faith said above, the story follows a unique vampire-hunter’s exploits.
As an entry into the hugely popular Urban Fantasy genre we had to ask ourselves, after finishing SKINWALKER, what made this book worth reading instead of the hundreds of others. Since we know you are probably holding your breath waiting for that answer… we decided not to give it. OK fine. You win. Here we go.
The mystery isn’t solved immediately! The plot moves for quite some time before we, as readers, can solve the mystery. Which is fun, because we are tired of thrillers or mysteries being solvable 20 pages into a book (As the resident reader of mystery novels, this is Steve’s big pet-peeve. Look at Michael Connelly’s SCARECROW for an example of this done poorly.). Not to mention the way Jane Yellowrock goes about hunting and solving the mystery, using her unique set of skills, is entertaining. Hunting vampires is fun, engaging, and stylish when Jane Yellowrock shows up. A HUGE part of the draw is the power balance of Jane’s abilities and how they work. Without spoiling anything, it made us both think of how we would handle situations if we had a shape-changing ability like Jane’s.
We have agreed that one of Faith’s strongest traits in her writing is her ability for description. The imagination doesn’t have to work too hard to see when Faith is describing for us. The words are vivid and immediately come to life. From detailing equipment, to Jane’s surroundings, Faith paints a very visible picture. Faith has created a believable world in which Vampires and Humans coexist, and not in any hokey or cheesy way. It has a structure to it, with politics, culture, and society that lend this fictitious world credit. We have seen this idea before, a lot, but Faith gives it dimension with the interactions between human and vampire that are pretty cool.
We were initially disappointed in the fact that Jane has an unknown past with lots of blanks she desperately wants to fill in. Its not an original idea in the slightest and is getting kind of boring, in general. Relief flooded us when we saw that Faith handled it well, made Jane an interesting character without the unknown history. Which makes those blanks in her history even more interesting. Jane is a likable protagonist, though we can’t really say the same for Beast. Beast is… fun, but kind of a pain to read because of the way that point of view is written.
Our biggest complaint was with some of the real world stuff in the book actually. Mainly the science used for certain aspects of the story. Urban fantasy can use real world knowledge to great effect, and using science to explain the paranormal is a cool mechanism if done well. But, sadly, we think SKINWALKER needed a little bit research done for the science used. There are multiple instances of real world stuff being slightly wrong, and is distracting for those of us with some knowledge in that area. However, if you don’t know about it, then it isn’t a big deal at all so its hard to subtract too many points here. We aren’t going to go into specifics, because if you don’t notice it, we don’t want to spoil that section of the novel for you. Yep, we are extremely considerate to you, the reader.
It also has to be mentioned, that this is the exposition novel for a new series. Which means, as we have all come to expect, there is… uh… exposition. While the book is fast-paced, there is some slow down for the introduction of the world, culture, and setting. We think this is more than OK. The plot still moves at a rapid pace, and we aren’t bogged down by world-building or info dumping. The book succeeds in great measure as setting up a foundation for a very cool, very suave, new Urban Fantasy series. The level of action, violence, and gore in this novel was pretty surprising. The novel had a surprising lack of sex and abundance of violence. Urban Fantasy is a hugely popular genre, but it also has the stigma and reputation for being fairly sexually charged. SKINWALKER doesn’t follow that model very closely. While, yes, there is some sexual content, it wasn’t near as much as we had thought (especially after reading the Rogue Mage series by Faith, in which the main character was in heat for the bulk of the story) and it was a lot bloodier than we surmised. As you have come to expect, Steve was excited about this.
All in all, SKINWALKER is a fun vampire-hunting, paranormal mystery romp. Fun filled, with a few flaws. While it feels geared towards the female audience, it is worth a read for anyone looking for something in the vein of the Mercy Thompson or Anita Blake series but with Faith’s unique spin on the genre.
- Recommended Age: 16+. The violence is very graphic.
- Language: Holy crap yes. Grisly, gruesome, and gory.
- Violence: Nothing in memory that is explicit
- Sex: Innuendo and such. Mention of acts, sometimes in some detail. Nothing near as graphic as we expected.