Over the past few months, I’ve seen an increasing number of articles and reviews for Kevin Hearne’s urban fantasy series, the Iron Druid Chronicles – Hounded, Hexed and Hammered. After reading Hounded in what can only be described as record time (for me), I was pleased to hear the announcement that Orbit Books have picked up the rights to bring Hearne’s series to the UK (one novel a month, in September, October and November 2011). So, I decided to contact Kevin with some questions about writing, urban fantasy, and more.
Your urban fantasy series, The Iron Druid Chronicles, which has recently been picked up by Orbit Books for the UK market, is now three books long. How would you introduce the series and its main character, Atticus, to new readers?
The Iron Druid Chronicles follows the adventures of a 2,100-year old Druid who’s been dodging members of the Tuatha Dé Danann for most of that time. When they find him this time, he’s hiding in modern-day Arizona, and instead of running as he has so many times before, he decides to stay and fight. Everything that happens in the series going forward can be traced back to that one decision.
Your series draws on a lot of varied mythology (Celtic, Norse, and so forth). Where did your interest in such things come from, and how did you go about turning this interest into a series of novels?
I have to teach some of it, but typically all you get in American schools are the Greco-Romans and a wee bit of the Norse if you’re lucky. There’s clearly a world full of mythologies out there that aren’t getting the attention they deserve, and basically I’m just geeking out and having fun trying to update these pantheons for the modern world.
Where else do you draw your inspiration from, generally, and who or what would you say are your biggest influences?
Ken Kesey is my biggest influence — my characters tend to want to Stick It to the Man, and that’s because of him. Also love the work of Neil Gaiman; he showed me how much fun it is to play around with gods as characters.
Well, I love it. Both teaching and publishing have their rewards. In terms of managing it, I'm kind of a slowish writer anyway. If I get 500-1000 words written a day, I’m happy. As long as you’re consistent with that, though, 500 words a day will get you a 90,000 word novel in six months. Usually I can manage 500 words a night after dinner, so it works out. Breaks from school help out quite a bit too, of course.
When did you realise you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?
I wanted to write after reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. Such a brilliant voice in that novel. I tried and failed to write many novels after that. Eventually I finished a couple of books, and then I wrote Hounded. It was nineteen years of trial and error — mostly error — but I look back on all of it fondly because I had to do it to get where I am today. If there’s anything I could say to aspiring writers, it’s learn from your mistakes — even appreciate them! — and don’t give up. Oh, and don't quit your day job.
You were recently at San Diego Comicon. Did you have fun? What’s the best thing about these events, and your opinion of other social networking aspects of being an author?
It was the biggest nerd event ever. Such a positive vibe to the place, you know? Nobody sucked. Everyone was awesome. For me, the best part was meeting some of my literary heroes and just sort of fanboying all over them. I got to meet Patrick Rothfuss, George R.R. Martin, and Jim Butcher, among others. Every single one of them were lovely people. I’m not sure that I really networked with anybody. Probably missed opportunities there — but if I’d been worrying about things like that I wouldn’t have had so much fun. I was as much of a fan as anyone else.
I still think urban fantasy has more going for it than any other genre. The possibilities are endless when you consider that you have the entire modern world to mash up with the entire world’s mythology and folklore. I think it’s probably fair to say the genre is a wee bit stuck in western tradition, but that just means someone with the right story can jump in and contribute something new. That’s what’s exciting to me. As to where I fit in, well, it’s probably best for other people to judge that.
What projects do you have in the pipeline? More Iron Druid Chronicles, any unrelated projects?
Yes, my US publisher, Del Rey, has signed me up for books 4-6 of the Iron Druid Chronicles. I’m finishing up book four right now. It’s called TRICKED, and has a US release date of April 2012. I also have an epic fantasy that’s on the back burner until I can find time to give it some attention.
Who are you reading at the moment (fiction and/or non-fiction)?
I’m not currently allowed to read anything until I finish writing TRICKED. However, once that’s turned in, I’ll be diving into George R.R. Martin’s latest and Jim Butcher’s new book.
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
I used to be a singing waiter in college. I sang show tunes and old standards in front of a roomful of people eating dead cows. It was fun most of the time, but other times it seemed surreal: billions of years of evolution led to this, one biped singing to other bipeds as they calmly consume quadrupeds? But it paid the bills.
What are you most looking forward to in the next year?
Reading my daughter’s comic strips. She’s recently begun to draw them and of course I find them adorable.
* * *