Wednesday, April 6, 2011
An Interview with Dark Urban Fantasy Author Erica Hayes
Welcome to Up Around the Corner, Erica. Please, tell us a little about yourself and your writing career thus far.
Hi Terry! Thanks for inviting me. I started writing when I was at high school. I read mostly fantasy – my favorites were Dragonlance and Janny Wurts, I guess that dates me, huh? – so that's what I tried to write. But I didn't get serious about it until many years and several boring jobs later. I finished a few manuscripts, and joined some writers groups, both online and in real life. Swapped some critiques, learned some stuff, got a couple of short stories published. When I first started submitting novels to editors, I got some really constructive rejections that helped me a lot.
So by the time I reached the point where I was submitting to agents, I was pretty confident that my work was good – it was just a matter of finding someone who thought it was commercial. I signed with my agent in mid-2008, and we made my first sale – my Shadowfae series – later that year. Now, I've written four books for that publisher, and I'm working on a few more projects in the background.
You’re more than welcome for the invite. You’ve worked hard to improve your skills and hone your talent so as to find a publisher. Where did you get the idea for the Shadowfae series and how did you design the world created for it?
Melbourne – the setting for the series – is the nearest large city to where I grew up, and it's a place where the murderous clashes between the local gangsters get a lot of publicity. They're front page news, and get TV shows made about them, that kind of thing. I started wondering why these guys would behave like that, and being a fantasy nut, of course I decided it was because they were controlled by warring demons. And that's the basic premise of my series – Melbourne is ruled by a demon lord and his vampire mafiosi, only no one realizes it, because the supernatural creatures hide themselves from human eyes with magical glamour.
After that, designing the world was easy. I knew I wanted it to be a dark and sensual place with very few rules. Most of the locations are real. Only there are insane fairies and vampires and who knows what else lurking on every street corner!
The world of the Shadowfae Chronicles is definitely filled with a variety of magical creatures. If you were destined be such a creature inhabiting that world, which would you choose to be and which type of creature would you definitely not want to be, and why?
Well… all their lives kind of suck, actually :) The demons are the toughest, but they're self-absorbed and lonely, and always under attack from other demons who crave their power. No one messes with vampires, because they're hungry and violent and can kill you without breaking a sweat, but it's not a very nice life. Fairies are cool and funky, and they're mad so they have a lot of fun, but they're mostly poor, because they can't hold down a job, and get pushed around a lot. Maybe I'd be a banshee, like Mina from Poison Kissed. She's tough and pretty and takes no nonsense, and she can kill people with her magical song. That'd be cool!
I’d have voted for a fairy, maybe a water one. But you’re right. They do get pushed around a lot. The world of the Shadowfae Chronicles is dark, filled with sex and violence, with characters plotting--some vying for power or revenge, while others simply struggle to survive or escape. When you write, who do you see as your readers or audience, and does this have any influence on the novels you produce?
Absolutely it does. There's no point in trying to sell a book if you've written something no one will want to read. I'm aiming at readers of dark urban fantasy and romance, because that's what I love to read. But those two groups aren't always the same people!
So for the romance readers, I have to make sure the ending is satisfying, and that the romance part of the plot stays front and center. Romance readers also like a certain kind of romance hero – he's basically a strong, sexy, decent guy, even if he's got a dark and twisted streak. I have to make sure I don't buck those expectations too much, or I'll alienate that audience. Some of my heroes are a bit left-of-center – I've done a snake shapeshifter, for instance, and a serial killer. Not your typical romance heroes! So it's a lot of fun trying to make those characters strong and sexy and desirable, while still staying true to themselves.
Whereas for urban fantasy readers, it's more about the rich world-building, and the heroine, who needs to be a strong, take-charge kind of girl. My heroines tend to be the little people – they’re not the toughest or most powerful character. So it's cool fun bringing out the strength in those characters, even when they think they haven't got any. That's more interesting to me than a heroine who kicks everyone's butt all the time – but again, that's kind of an expectation in that genre. So I stray too far from it at my peril.
When you began writing, what were your goals and where are you at with respect to achieving them? At this stage in your writing career, have you updated and/or established any new goals to shoot for?
Oh, yes. The goal-setting never stops! When I began, I was doing it for fun. I subbed a few short stories to some small e-zines and they got accepted, and I started to think my writing wasn't too bad. Boy, was I wrong :) There's such a big leap in technical skill from almost-there to selling professionally. I mean, it's a subtle leap, but it's huge.
So I decided I wanted a pro sale. I never made one, not in short stories. But by then I was writing novels, which really appealed to me – I'm a strategic, rather than a tactical, thinker. I like the big picture. I decided I needed an agent. Then the goal was to sell a book. Then to sell more books in that series. Now, I want to sell another series, diversify, reach more readers. Win a RITA, make the NYT list… ha ha! One day…
But also personal writing goals. My Shadowfae series has new main characters for each book, but one day I'd really like to write a series with a continuing MC. That's a different challenge.
For those who might not know, the RITA is a major Romance Writers of America award.
Okay, the next question isn’t really writing related. If you could go to lunch with anyone, living or deceased, who would you choose, where would you dine, and what would you hope to discuss?
Well, if God's available, I'd really like to have a chat! We could go to the pub, have a few beers… Or Genghis Khan. He'd have some good stories to tell over a nice roasted pig or something. If I had to pick an author, probably Stephen King, just because I love his books and he seems so weird.
Quite an array of choices, Erica. Each would definitely be interesting. As we’re approaching the end if the interview, is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks for having me as a guest on your blog. It's been great fun!
You’re most welcome!
You can learn more about Erica through the following links:
Erica Hayes: Urban Fantasy Author Website and Blog
Her work can be found in bookstores everywhere as well as online at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com
If you are an author or know one who might be interested in being interviewed for Up Around the Corner, please contact me through my website.