Darkstars Fantasy News

14. März 2009

Interview with Jim C. Hines

Category: Interviews – Darkstar – 21:59

The Stepsister SchemeJim C. Hines is mostly known as author of his Goblin-books. At the beginning of this year the first installment of his new fantasy-series hit the shelves: The Stepsister Schemes is said to combine elements from various fairy tales with kick ass-heroines like the famous Charlies Angels.

I am happy that he found time to do that interview.

Interview with Jim C. Hines

Maybe we could start with you introducing yourself in a few sentences?

Let’s see here … I’m 34 years old, and I live in the U.S. with my wife, two children, a dog, and 2.75 cats.  No, wait — literally as I was writing this, my wife walked in with another dog.  So I guess we’ve got two dogs now.  I’ve been writing fantasy for about fourteen years, with four books and 40 or so stories published so far.

In America The Stepsister Scheme just has been released. Please try to give us an idea of what awaits us in it in just one sentence.

The Stepsister Scheme takes several heroines from the old fairy tales and teams them up in a Charlie’s Angels style team against evil witches, fairies, and everything else fantasyland has to throw at them.Hines 01

Any plans for a German translation already?

As a matter of fact, Bastei Lubbe, the publisher who translated my goblin books, has made an offer on The Stepsister Scheme as well.  I don’t have a release date yet, but they did a beautiful job on the goblins, and I can’t wait to see the German edition of Stepsister.

Why did you decide to dive into fairy tale plots to create the story for your new novel (series)?

My daughter inspired the original idea.  She was going through a princess phase — our house was full of princess merchandise, everything from princess movies to princess bedsheets and pajamas to princess lunch boxes … they were everywhere!  I wanted to write a book that gave a different view of these characters, showing them as strong individuals who were fully capable of taking care of themselves.  It will be a few years before my daughter’s ready to read it, but hopefully she’ll enjoy it.

Did writing the novel challenge you in a way that wasn’t the case with your Goblin books?

Definitely!  For one thing, the humor was different.  There’s a certain level of absurdity you can get away with when you’re writing about goblins.  For example, jokes about goblins eating people are funny.  As it turns out, jokes about human princesses eating people don’t work nearly as well.  It was also a challenge trying to stay true to the spirit of the old fairy tales while at the same time making these characters and their stories my own.

Hines 04Who is more fun to write: the hero or the villain? And why?

I think that depends.  I try to keep all of my characters interesting.  If I get bored writing a character, it’s a pretty safe bet that my readers will be bored as well.  I probably have the most fun with characters that blur the line between good and evil.  Jig the goblin is a pretty good example.  He’s no villain, but if you called him a hero he’d probably throw things at you.


Can you rememeber what your first story (or novel) was about? And how did you realize you have a talent for writing?

The first book I ever wrote … was bad.  Really bad.  It was basically a bad novelization about the role-playing game I was playing at the time.  (Yes, I’m a geek.  Is anyone surprised?)  Though a few of the pixies showed up years later in my second goblin book.I don’t think there was a single moment of realization.  It’s mostly been a slow climb, practicing and rewriting and learning how to craft a story.  I think I’m a pretty good writer these days, but there’s always more to learn.  I suspect I’ll be practicing and learning until the day I die.

Hines 03How long did it take you to write both your first book and now your newest one?

The first book I sold was Goblin Quest.  I wrote and revised that one in six weeks.  Of course, I was single, unemployed, and had just moved back home at the time, which meant I did nothing but write the book and send out resumes.  These days I have a family and a full-time job.  As a result, The Stepsister Scheme took about a year to finish, which is average for me now that I’m all responsible and everything.

Do you have one favorite scene in all your books, or one you’re really proud of?

I’m very proud of the scene at the end of first goblin book when Jig thinks he’s lost his pet fire-spider.  I don’t actually like spiders, but I got quite emotional while writing that scene, and I’ve had people tell me they cried at that part.  Being able to make readers cry over a spider?  I figure I wrote that one right.


Maybe you could tell us a little bit about your progress of writing a novel: How’s an ordinary working day like?

I do most of my writing during my lunch break at work.  That gives me an hour a day, five days a week.  It’s not a lot of time, but I can generally get through a book a year.  The novel usually starts with an idea and a vague outline.  Unfortunately, I’m not that good at outlining, which means I’ll get five chapters in and realize the outline is broken.  I’ll usually throw out three or four outlines and redo them by the time I finish a complete draft.

Hines 06Anything you really loathe during the creation of a novel?

For some reason, every time I get to about 30,000 words in the first draft, everything falls apart.  I lose track of plotlines, or I find that a character isn’t working, or I change my mind about a major element of the book.  One way or another, every book crashes at that spot.  I’m at that point on my current book, and I’m completely lost about where to go next.  The only thing that helps is knowing this is normal for me, and I eventually figure it out and finish the darn thing.

What do you feel is the key element in creating vivid worlds?

Probably just taking the time to ask questions.  I’m working on developing Talia’s home country of Arathea for the third princess book right now.  I started with a big empty map, and I knew it was a desert country, which leads to questions like what do they wear?  Where do they live?  Is water shared among all who need it, or hoarded as a valuable resource?  What are the buildings made from?  What effect does magic have on it all?  How similar or different is it from desert cultures in our own world?

Research is the other piece.  As I’m asking these questions, I’m also reading about how other cultures have adapted to desert conditions.  Quite often, the things I might invent are much less interesting than what people have actually come up with.


Does your publisher ask or even demand that you make rapid changes on your books? Have you ever had to make dramatic changes?

Hines 02So far I haven’t been asked for huge or last-minute changes.  My editor here in the U.S. usually calls me up to talk after I turn each book in.  We’ll spend one or two hours with her asking questions and pointing out all the areas where I might not have thought things through.  (Or where I do something stupid like have the characters eating lunch three times in the same day.)  My editor is good at what she does, and her questions and suggestions help a lot in making the stories stronger.

What else is planned from the author Jim C. Hines?

Right now, I’m contracted to do two more books to follow The Stepsister Scheme.  The Mermaid’s Madness, is already turned in, and I’m currently working on book three, tentatively called Red Hood’s Revenge.  I’d like to write five books in the series, but we’ll see how things go.

[Note: In the meantime Jim Hines announced at his blog that he is already contracted for a fourth book in that series, Secret of the Snow Queen].

What is your personal favorite fairy tale?

I’m afraid I don’t really have a favorite.  Right now, I’m mostly just reading all of them I can get my hands on.

Hines 07Which fairy tale character you’d love to totally mess about with within the next novels?

That’s a good question.  I’ll continue to mess with Snow, Sleeping  Beauty, and Cinderella, of course.  The Little Mermaid gets a turn in book two, and then Red Riding Hood comes along in book three.  I have an idea for book four (assuming the publisher wants further books), but it’s not completely worked out yet.  And book five, if I do it, is completely up in the air right now


Is there a novel (from another author) you wish you had written?

Well, from a greedy, money-making perspective, Twilight and Harry Potter both come to mind.  Good Omens, the collaboration between Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, was brilliant, and I’d love to have the skill to have written it.  Really, I’m always looking for stories and scenes I wish I’d written and trying to figure out how the author pulled it off so that I can accomplish the same thing in my next work.

If you could meet a fictional character from your own work, who should it be and why?

Given what I put my characters through, I suspect the first thing they’d do upon meeting me is punch me square in the face.  So if I was going to meet one from my own work, I’d probably have to pick Danielle from The Stepsister Scheme, because she’s the most forgiving and the least likely to go for the face punch.

Thank you so much for doing that interview, Jim. And of course all the best both for your private and business life!

Jim C. Hines website can be found here!


Ein Kommentar »

  1. […] interview with Jim C. Hines can be found here. Tags: « Jahresvorschau 2011: Claudia […]

    Pingback by Darkstars Fantasy News » Preview 2011: Jim C. Hines on Magic ex Libris | News & Interviews aus der wunderbaren Welt der Fantasy — 28. Dezember 2010 @ 19:16

RSS feed for comments on this post. | TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

XHTML ( You can use these tags): <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong> .