Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Interview with Jim C. Hines

Publisher's Weekly says: Hines sidesteps the main question facing elvers—WWTD, or What would Tolkien do?—with a wink and his usual snort. His goofy elves, orcs, trolls, dwarves, humans and even an evil tree conjure laughter, not screams. Jig Dragonslayer might have a dash of hobbit in him as he reluctantly dashes into his latest adventure (after Goblin Hero): he would much rather stay home in a comfy cave, hanging out with Smudge, his fire-spider, or Relka, a most excellent cook. But alas, they're all pressed into a human/elf war against Billa the Bloody, a monstrous orc who'll do anything to win, even if it means killing her army and human Princess Genevieve's troops fighting for Wendel, king of Adenkar. Luckily, Jig has a secret weapon thanks to Tymalous Shadowstar, a Forgotten God who communicates with him telepathically. Shadowstar would sacrifice himself for his little goblin priest, but Jig's amazing courage may not make that necessary. Readers will need familiarity with earlier books in the series, but Hines's funny bone is sharp and YA-friendly. (Mar.)

Readers have dubbed Jim C. Hines the Goblin King. His third novel Goblin War has just been released in the U.S. His goblins are also showing up in France, Germany, Russia, and several other nations. The books have earned praise from the likes of Julie Czerneda, Ed Greenwood, and even Wil Wheaton, who called Goblin Quest "too f***ing cool for words!"

But here's what he has to say for himself:

What was your inspiration for writing Goblin War?

It's the unwritten law of fantasy. I had written two goblin books, but as a fantasy author, I had no choice. I Must Write Trilogies.

There were things I wanted to accomplish with the third book, of course. In the first two books, Jig is constantly struggling to protect himself from adventurers and heroes, not to mention his fellow goblins. This time, I wanted to bring that struggled to some sort of resolution. This is an all-or-nothing adventure. If Jig succeeds, he'll be able to keep himself and his fellow goblins safe for years. But if he fails, he's going to fail big.

There were other factors as well. Jig' and Smudge are a lot of fun to write about ... my readers enjoy him and wanted more ... perhaps most importantly, DAW was willing to pay me for a third book!

Why did you decide to make Jig a goblin?

I wanted to take on the fantasy genre from the monsters' point of view. I've seen it done a few times before, Shrek being one of the more famous examples, but I never felt like they got it right. Shrek is really just a big, gross, socially awkward human. We never see anything about his family, his culture, or his background, and his motivations are completely human.

I also thought the tougher monsters had it too easy. Sure, anyone can survive an adventure when you're big enough to recycle armored knights and punch dragons in the face. So I decided to go with the underdogs, and you don't get much lower than goblins.

What sort of research did you do to write this book?/What kind of preparation do you do when you are writing?

You wouldn't think a humorous fantasy would require much research. At least, I wouldn't have until I got started. But from day one, I was e-mailing a geologist for information on cave formations, looking up cooking sites to come up with good goblin recipes, double-checking armor and weaponry ... for Goblin War, I spent a fair amount of time trying to make sure my armies were using sensible formations and tactics.

Goblin War also required me to go back and re-read The Giving Tree. And no, I'm not going to explain that one.

Are there any interesting scenes or ideas that didn't make it into the final book?

The biggest thing was a romance between Jig and one of his fellow goblins. I tried ... I really tried to make it work. I think I'm a pretty good writer, but I just couldn't pull it off. Maybe it's self-preservation, but my brain refused to go there. Much to the disappointment of my agent, who was hoping for a fourth book called "Jig gets Jiggy."

The first draft also gave Jig a magical elf cloak, a la Lord of the Rings, but I kept giving myself flashbacks to Harry Potter's invisibility cloak. Besides, invisibility would have made Jig's life far too easy.

Oh, and the scene where we learn that Smudge the fire-spider is gay didn't fly. I guess my publisher doesn't think the world was ready for homosexual spiders.

What are you writing now?

DAW recently bought three more books from me in a new series. The first book is called The Stepsister Scheme, and should show up in January of 2009. I just finished revising that book, and have started on the rewrite of The Mermaid's Madness. The books are basically my response to the overcommercializiation of the fairy tale princess. My princesses come from the older fairy tales, which means these are some very conflicted characters with pretty dark backstories. I basically did a mash-up of those old fairy tales and Charlie's Angels.

Let's just say my version of Sleeping Beauty can kill you with a spoon.

This isn't your first book; tell us a little bit about what else is out there?

There are the first two goblin books, Goblin Quest and Goblin Hero. All three are a lot of fun, particularly if you're a fantasy fan, because you'll catch a lot more of the jokes. I've also written close to 40 short stories. (Well, I've written a lot more than that, but I've sold close to 40. Big difference.) A fair amount of the short fiction is humorous sword and sorcery, but there's some serious stuff as well. I was quite happy to make the preliminary Nebula ballot this year for one of the serious stories, even though I got knocked out of the running for the finals.

Thanks for stopping by, Jim! Your books sound hillarious. I'm truly disappointed the world isn't ready for a gay spider.... I hope the readers of my blog will take this opportunity to check out you and your novels. Good luck!

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