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[SFFWRTCHT] A Chat With Author Faith Hunter

Faith Hunter writes two series for Penguin USA, the Rogue Mage and Jane Yellowrock novels. Born in Louisiana, raised all over the South, using the pen name Gwen Hunter, she writes action-adventure, mysteries, and thrillers. After falling in love with reading in 5th grade, particularly Science Fiiction, Fantasy, and Gothic, she decided to become a writer in high school. Her passions include whitewater kayacking, jewelry making and travel. She works full time in a hospital lab while trying to keep house between trips with her Renaissance man and their dogs to whitewater rivers all over the Southeast. She can be found online as @hunterfaith  on Twitter, via Facebook or her website at

SFFWRTCHT: Where’d your interest in science fiction and fantasy come from?

Faith Hunter:  I fell in love with Anne McCaffrey’s and Anne Rice’s books. Wanted to write those genres, but never found the voice. Till now.

SFFWRTCHT: Obviously you’ve already mentioned two, but who were some of your favorite authors and books?

FH: As a kid I read through the kids library and then the adult’s. Romance, mystery, thrillers, fantasy until finding McCaffery. I love any writer of any genre who can tell a great tale about a flawed character.

SFFWRTCHT: Interesting. Adult romances in grade school? That must have been an awakening.

FH: Back then, adult romances in the public library were mostly clean stuff. I had a romantic heart back then. Now I am with my soulmate so it musta worked.

SFFWRTCHT: When did you develop an interest in writing and how did you pursue that? Classes? Workshops? Learn on your own?

FH: My 5th grade teacher told me I was talented and should write for a living. I believed her. Solo studying followed. Hard solo studying.

SFFWRTCHT: Were you involved in Cons or CoSplay/costuming as a kid?

FH: Nope. Nothing. Just a vivid (read weird) imagination.

SFFWRTCHT: How long did you write before making your first sale? Did you start with shorts or novels? 

FH: Eight years from 10th grade to first award and sale – a short in a small literary mag. Don’t remember the name. I made $100 and got published.

SFFWRTCHT: What drew you to urban fantasy, not sure where you’d classify this?

FH: Urban Fantasy, yes! I loved early Anita Blake. Loved loved loved. Still read her stories, but the early Anita hooked me.

SFFWRWTCHT: What, to your mind are the core elements of good urban fantasy?

FH: Good Urban Fantasy is a good mystery with danger to the main character or people the main character loves. Danger and mystery.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you usually start with characters or plot?

FH: Character and a conflict idea, both together.

SFFWRTCHT: Your protagonist is unique. Where’d the idea for Jane Yellowrock come from?

FH: I do not have a real life inspiration for Jane. She is unique. As for the idea, I discovered I am not white, but 20% AA, 40% mixed tribal American, Choctaw and Cherokee. I wanted to explore this new part of my heritage. Jane came out of that interest. I met a Cherokee elder, whose father was a shaman. She told me stories. And Jane came from that. But learning my tribal roots has been difficult. So many records were lost or were never compiled.

SFFWRTCHT: Your Rogue Mage and Yellowrock books use 1st person point of view. Is it a favorite? Do you always use 1st person? What made you chose 1st person POV for the Yellowrock novels?

FH: As Gary Hunter, Gwen Hunter, and now Faith Hunter, I’ve written in 1st POV and 3rd. First offers an immediacy that 3rd doesn’t. So yes, I like first. But I have a new series to pitch and I’ll use 3rd. But I’ve recently used 3rd in a few shorts and I am getting back into it!

SFFWRTCHT: I’ve heard that women writers often use first person more than males. Do you think it has to do with intimacy and the way they process emotions?

FH: I don’t know but it feels right. There is a tension with 1st person POV, an immediacy.

SFFWRTCHT: Vampires, New Orleans. It’s been done before. How do you keep it fresh?

FH: New Orleans is amazing. Every time I drive through I see something new that has been there all along. I literally ride with my head hanging out the window to capture the sights and smells, camera in hand. (rolls eyes) How can anyone not love NOLA? It is amazing! And it reinvents itself yearly, so fresh is easy.

SFFWRTCHT: Jane Yellowrock is a Christian who prays and regularly attends church. Has her Christianity troubled readers in the genre?

FH: Jane is non-confrontational, nonjudgmental, non-preachy. She is searching for her past and her Cherokee spirituality. I think her religion is one reason the publisher didn’t think the series would sell well. True dat. They didn’t. But actually no problems at all. And frankly I am surprised by the lack of negative knee-jerk comments too. I get fan mail from Christians thanking me for making Jane searching, fallible, spiritually open to new experiences. I haven’t found anyone hating Jane’s religion, because she is still searching. Not demanding others join her. Jane is filled with undeserved guilt, however, and fans complained about it, but guilt is part of her personality and past. The reason for the guilt is revealed in Death’s Rival. Coming in October 2012. My agent and editor were blown away!

SFFWRTCHT: How does her Cherokee spirituality clash with her Christianity or affect it?

FH: No, because Jane is not closed off or afraid of her Cherokee spiritual roots.

SFFWRTCHT: You have graphic violence, but avoid graphic sex and cursing, an unusual choice that makes the books widely accessible. Why?

FH: Emotional, but also physical violence, were part of my young home life. Dad taught me to shoot guns at age twelve in an outbreak of rabies in our rural county. As eldest I had to protect my brothers. I was bullied in school because I was a Christian and chose to stand up, without violence, to the bullies. I have internal demons (my own evil Beast) that I want to kill, and I kill it over and over on the page. As to sex? Laurel K. Hamilton writes great sex. Never boring. Most written sex is boring after a while, in my opinion. When I write sex it makes me laugh. Not what I wanted. I do however write good sexual tension. Language is a tool. If it brings in more readers then it is good tool. If it pushes away one reader then it is a bad tool. I can just as easily say, she cursed, or she swore. As long as I don’t overdo, no one misses the actual cuss words. And readers who would be offended by the words themselves are not offended and buy my books. It’s good business. And yes, I do cuss myself. But I am sparing with the use. It’s a tool to be wielded, not a crutch.

SFFWRTCHT: That’s what I do too. They fill in their favorite four letter word mentally and never notice. Which vampire mythos did you follow to dictate the rules for your vamps or did you do your own thing? How much did you research?

FH: I did my own thing. Vamps are part of culture, so I took what I wanted from accepted norm and modified to suit my world. World building is the best part of Fantasy!

SFFWRTCHT: Raven Cursed, the 4th Jane book, came out earlier this year and the 5th is coming this fall. How many more do you plan to write?

FH: I can go ten easily and maybe fifteen. Then I’d like to do a few standalone spinoffs.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you ever have difficulties switching hats between Gwen and Faith, your noms de plume? 

FH: Gwen and Faith different brains so they clearly must have different heads for the different hats.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you think you’ll ever enter the YA market?

FH:  Not any time soon. I have to find the voice. It took me twenty years to find Fantasy voice.

SFFWRTCHT: Do you outline or pants it? Do you use Scrivener or other “writing software tools”? Write to music? Any rituals?

FH: I outline while wearing pants.

SFFWRTCHT: LOL Good choice.

FH: I outline the plot points of every book. I pants the character’s emotional reactions to everything. For software, just Windows Word. Total silence. Nothing but tea. Iced tea in summer, hot tea in winter. Right now I am drinking iced Golden Monkey tea I order from an ebay store. I am an addict.

SFFWRTCHT: What’s your writing time look like-specific block? Write til you reach word count? Grab it when you can?

FH: I sit down and I write till my legs start hurting and I have to stop. I aim for ten pages a day at 300 words per page. I am sometimes willing to stop after 5 pages if the day isn’t going well or I have to buy groceries or whatever.

SFFWRTCHT: You’re one of the founders of Magical Words. Tell us how that came about and what it is please?

FH: I met David B. Coe / D.B.Jackson (whose Thieftaker is out in July and an excellent book) at a writing con, and we clicked. Instantly, totally. We became family. It was so instantaneous that it was weird. We wanted to do something together PR wise and came up with a fantasy writing site that would cover everything—writing, plot, blocks, muses, characters, character development, good writing chairs, good tea, PR. Everything. I brought Misty Massey in and we three fit nicely together. And the site was born.

SFFWRTCHT: And it’s been a big hit. I have your Magical Words book, in fact. Last question, What future projects are you working on that we can look forward to?

FH: I am on panels at ConCarolinas, Dragon*Con, and the Dahlonega (sp) book festival this year. Already did two others. My pub asked me to write some Jane Yellowrock short stories for an e-release in September. I am working on a JY spinoff to pitch to my publisher in the spring. Death’s Rival comes out in October. Blood Trade in summer 2013. Both Jane Yellowrock books.

SFFWRTCHT: You can find SKINWALKER, the first Jane Yellowrock by Faith at Amazon.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011  Honorable Mention, and The Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and several short stories featured  in anthologies and magazines.  He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction.  He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter under the hashtag #sffwrtcht. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.