Thursday, June 4, 2009

Interview - Author Tanya Huff

Tanya Huff's newest urban fantasy novel The Enchantment Emporium was just released on Tuesday and I was eager to have Tanya visit and discuss her new book and writing. Luckily she generously agreed to an interview and offered to drop buy to answer reader questions. I only just finished the book and I can tell you it is a terrific treat. You can read my review here.

Please feel free to say hello, comment or leave a question for Tanya.

Tanya Huff Mini-bio from the Book Jacket:
Although she left Nova Scotia at three, and has lived most of her life since in Ontario, Tanya Huff still considers herself a Maritimer. On the way to the idyllic rural existence she shares with her partner Fiona Patton, six cats, and a Chihuahua, she acquired, a degree in Radio and Television Arts from Ryerson Polytechnic—an education she was happy to finally use while writing her recent SMOKE novels. Of her previous novels, the five—BLOOD PRICE, BLOOD TRAIL, BLOOD LINES, BLOOD PACT, BLOOD DEBT—featuring Henry Fitzroy, bastard son of Henry VIII, romance writer, and vampire are among the most popular. In fact these books are so popular that the have become the basis for the TV series, Blood Ties.

Welcome Tanya! And now on with the interview...

Your new urban fantasy novel The Enchantment Emporium has just been released. Tell us a little about the book. How did you come up with the concept and what made you place the story in Calgary?

You know what, I honestly can't remember where this book came from. I suspect it had something to do with thinking about older women and power and grew from there, adding bits and pieces as it rolled around in my head. As for Calgary, it worked best geographically as movement in this country has always been predominantly east to west. If the story begins in Ontario, which it does, then moving west lead to me think of either Winnipeg or Calgary. Vancouver was a little too far west plus, I've already set four books there (the fifth Blood book and all four Smoke books) so it was time for something new. Once I decided on Calgary, certain internal geographical features like Nose Hill Park became intrinsic parts of the story.

You have said on your blog that The Enchantment Emporium is a standalone novel. Do you have any plans for related stories or other new urban fantasy projects you can tell us about?

Not at the moment. I'm currently working on a new Torin Kerr novel -- although it's not exactly part of the Valor series.

Many of the readers here are familiar with your Blood Books on which the popular Blood Ties television series was based, as well as with the spinoff Smoke and Shadows series. Do you have any plans for more stories in either series?

I've just finished writing two new Vicki Nelson short stories -- one for a Canadian anthology from Edge Publishing and one for "Girls, Guns and Monsters" from Tek.No Books, both probably out in 2010 -- and I'll be writing a new Tony story (there's already two in the Smoke-verse) later this summer. Definitely no new Blood novels and very probably no new Smoke novels.

You were writing urban fantasy before there was such a term. Your Vicki Nelson character predates Anita Blake and Buffy by several years and in many ways could be considered the genesis of the current “kickass” heroine who fights the good fight against the paranormal. What are your thoughts about the popularity of the urban fantasy genre, your place in it, and the predominance of empowered female protagonists?

I enjoy reading urban fantasy so I'm very happy that there's so much of out right now. As to my place in it -- I honestly have no idea where that would be. Somewhere under Charlaine Harris that's for sure. She got a second season. *g* As for empowered female protagonists, I'm all for it. I've always said my base line needs for reading are a kick-ass heroine and witty repartee.

You also have an extensive science fiction and fantasy writing background. Your Confederation science fiction series features female Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr, another strong female character. Tell us a little about the series and the character. The series is also coming to audio book and is narrated by the incomparable Marguerite Gavin who does Kim Harrison’s Hollows books and you had a story in last year’s Hotter Than Hell anthology edited by Kim Harrison. Is this a ‘six degrees of separation’ link to urban fantasy, serendipity or something more deliberate?

Answering your last question first, total serendipity.

The Valor books were never intended to be a series. When I sold "Valor's Choice" it was as a standalone novel and the pitch was "space marines and giant, evolved lizards do Rorke's Drift" but I had so much fun writing it that I just kept going. The second book, "The Better Part of Valor" had its genesis in a Star Trek pitch I made way, way back when that Pocket Books rejected as not being Star Trek enough. Torin, who started out as a Staff Sergeant and was then promoted to Gunnery Sergeant with book three, "The Heart of Valor" was a case of me writing what I knew. I come from a multi-generational military family and we've never produced a commissioned officer. Our current total runs to: three petty officers, a chief petty officer, a master corporal, and a Regimental Sergeant Major.

It was fascinating going over the alien vocabulary with Marguerite (who has done an incredible job!). Discussions of glottal stops only really occur in an audio book situation.

Henry Fitzroy recently won the honour of the sexiest vampire in Vampire Wire’s Ultimate Hawt Vampire Poll of screen vampires (for which congratulations are in order). Who is your favourite screen vampire? I understand you are a fan of the show Supernatural and contributed an essay to a recent book about the show. Tell us a bit about that. Is there an urban fantasy book or series that you would love to see adapted for television?

I think, in all modesty, I'd have to say Henry. Kyle Schmid did such an amazing job bringing him to life that as far as I'm concerned, he's always been Henry -- in spite of Kyle only having been seven when the first book (Blood Price) came out.

As for Supernatural, well, as I've said on a number of occasions, I'd give a kidney to write for that show. Mostly because I'm a member of the WGC and know what I'd have to do and giving up a kidney would be significantly easier.

If there's a producer out there looking for a new property to develop, the Smoke books are available and, given that at least half the action takes place on a television soundstage, they'd certainly be easy to build sets for.

Here’s a multi-part reading question. Do you have a favourite genre that you read? What are you reading now? Do you have a favourite author or authors that inspire you?

If you held me down and forced me to chose just one genre as a favorite -- and I'm assuming we're dividing sf & f into its component sub-genres -- I'd have to say that probably urban fantasy although only by a very small margin.

I just finished Wen Spencer's "Tinker" and "Wolf Who Rules". When I'm writing in a genre I don't read in it but I'm back writing space opera, I have some urban fantasy to catch up on.

As for favourite authors, I have loved everything Terry Pratchett has ever written. Well, maybe not some of his early newspaper columns but, I suspect, only because I haven't read them. I think he's an amazing writer and an enthralling story teller. His command of language is awe inspiring and he has the most insight into human behavior of anyone writing today.

Can you tell us a little about your writing process and routine (where do you feel most comfortable writing, do you set targets for yourself, do you work from an outline or let the story go where it takes you). How do you choose what type of project to work on, i.e., science fiction vs fantasy vs urban fantasy?

Because I've written twenty-four books for the same editor, I'm able to take a few short cuts that others might not. Once I know what I want to write -- what story out of the dozens hanging about in my head at any one time is ready to be written (and that's how I chose, I just write what's ready) -- I write a short proposal, anything from a paragraph to a page. This is pretty much all the overall outlining that gets done although I may later outline specific scenes or action sequences if there's a lot going on.

I usually research for three to five weeks before I start a book.

I sit down in my office every afternoon at one (ish) and write until six (ish) where writing also involves playing spider solitaire, hanging around online, and occasionally practicing the guitar. I can't have music while I'm writing and I drink a lot of green tea and go through a lot of sugarless gum. Because I have high speed internet, I can do spot researching as I need to even if that just means ordering the book with the information I need.

I write like a bricklayer -- each brick has to be in the right place before I can go on. I try for a 1,000 publishable words a day but as I'm clearly not producing 354,000 words a year, that's more of a guideline than an actual rule. Because I edit so extensively as I write, once I finish I generally have to do nothing more than polish before sending the file off to my editor.

Tell us what it was like when you sold your first novel. What was your reaction when you heard the news?

After I hung up, I bounced down the hall making squeaky noises. Fortunately, I was home alone. I'd sold three short stories previously and I'm pretty sure I did the same bounce for the first of them.

This one is for our urban fantasy and paranormal readers. If you could be any paranormal creature which one would you be and why?

Hmmmm, tricky. I think if we stipulate that the change is not determined by the moon and that the intelligence/personality doesn't change with the form, I'd chose werewolf. Say one of Patricia Briggs' werewolves.

Thank you Tanya for visiting and sharing your time and thoughts! And to all my visitors, I encourage you to add The Enchantment Emporium to your TBR list, you won't be disappointed.


  1. Thanks for the great interview. I was very excited to hear that Ms Huff had a new book coming out :).

    Ms Huff, I am happy to hear that you are writing another Torin Kerr novel. I think she is one of my favorite characters and your previous Valor books are frequent re-reads.

  2. Great, great interview. I love Wen Spencer's works and am so glad to see her mentioned.

    I'm especially appreciative of getting a peek into your writing process and routine. It's similar to my own, though substitute treadmilling for guitar playing, and backgammon for spider solitaire. It's a relief knowing that long term success in NY publishing isn't dependant on being able to produce 3-5,000 words a day, which so many of the popular authors today seem to be able to do.

    Looking forward to reading The Enchantment Emporium. Glad to see it out in Kindle format.

  3. e_booklover -- I'm so glad to hear you enjoy the Torin books. This new one isn't exactly a Valor book, but I'm having fun writing it.

    Jory Strong -- Sometimes, when I'm feeling particulary masochistic, I substitute hearts for spider solitaire. And if I were writing 3-5,000 words a day, I'd be bleeding from the ears!

  4. I about freaked when I read that you had 2 "Tony Tales" out there and were planning to do another. Would you please tell me where I can find these babies as I seriously could use another Tony fix.

    The day you announce you are writing another Smoke book I can pretty much guarantee you'll hear my squeal of delight from way down here in the States!

  5. shawna -- "After School Special" was in MAIDEN, MATRON, CRONE and "Blood Wrapped" was in MANY BLOODY RETURNS. I don't actually know the title of the anthology the new one is going into but I'll post it in lj when I do! Promise!

  6. I really enjoyed the interview. I'm a big fan of yours, Ms. Huff, and I loved "Blood Ties" and still miss it.

    I'm a "Supernatural" fangirl too. :) I would LOVE to see you write for the show.

    I can't wait to read ENCHANTMENT EMPORIUM!

  7. Karen W -- I miss Blood Ties too! We had the most amazing group of talented people working on that show.

    About Supernatural; from your mouth to Kripke's ears! *g*

  8. I'm going to second what Shawna said--I'd love to read the new short story, can't wait to see it!

    Also seconding that I would love to see you write for Supernatural. (Ooh...the fangirl in me just had an image of a Supernatural/Smoke crossover...)

    And another second to Jory--I've been working on my own novels for a while, but word count is hard to get between work and school. I'm glad I'm not alone. :)


  9. Thanks to everyone that left a comment and special thanks thanks to you Tanya for dropping by and sharing. I really hope you bring Alysha and the Aunties back for another tale sometime!

  10. A little late to the interview festivities, but what a wonderful interview! I'm so looking forward to reading Enchantment Emporium, and I loved the Blood and Smoke series! I loved seeing Tony's character growth throughout both series.

    I'm interested to hear that the Valor series is available on audiobook. I love Marguerite Gavin's work on the Hollow's series, and will have to look for the Valor series over at Audible.

  11. Hi Doug!

    Sorry, late to the party!

    Great interview! I love to hear how an author writes. What it takes to put those words on to the page. I just finished one of Ms. Huff's shorts and it was fantastic, can't wait to try more!

    Dottie :)

  12. @ScifiGuy - re: Thank you comment on my blog - It is/was my pleasure to mention it.
    Also, FYI -I've also just created a Twitter page for my VampirePhile blog
    With, your interview as the 1st mention! ;)

  13. Renee I am listening to Heart of Valor on audio book now and really enjoying it.

    Dottie this one is really great fun. If it was Florida it would be called Witches Gone Wild :)

    Soni thanks for the mention, I have a Twitter account but just haven't found the time to use it yet. Getting there though.

  14. Great interview! I have yet to read one of Ms. Huff's books but I just adored the show Blood Ties so I really do have to read something by her soon!

  15. Lady_tink she writes across many genres so there is a little something for everyone's tastes.

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