I got an interview with Holly Evans, author of ‘Stolen Ink’!

“Who’s our first client?”

He curled his lip and looked up from his sketchbook. “Some prissy boy in an expensive suit.”

I read Stolen Ink a while ago, and absolutely LOVED it, and I’ve been lucky enough to get an interview with the author, Holly Evans. If you haven’t already, read this book. There will be links at the bottom of the page to the author’s Amazon page and Twitter for anyone interested, and you really should be. I reviewed ‘Stolen Ink’ here. I’m also now reading an ARC of the second book in this series, Blood and Ink, which is shaping up to be as good as the first! (review coming soon). Holly Evans has also written a series called Infernal Hunt, which is on my to-read list! So, without further ado…

1) What influenced and inspired you to write your novels?
Stolen Ink really came from my love of tattoos. I think they’re an incredible art form. I have two at the moment but I have plans for four more.
There are so many subconscious influences and inspirations buried in there. My fae come from the Celtic and Norse mythology, there are twists of course, but I adore the predatory tricksters that they had there. None of the fluffy Disney stuff. The really tight friendship between Dacian and Keirn (also the one between Evie and Elise in the Infernal Hunt books) comes from my friendship with my bestfriend. We’ve been through thick and thin, we’d do anything for each other. The city and setting comes mostly from Prague as I was living there when I wrote the IH books and Stolen Ink. It’s such a gorgeous, multi-faceted city. There are so many layers to explore, it’s hard not be inspired there.
I think one of the big things that influenced the books was the fact that I see a lot of people saying they don’t see enough platonic relationships in books. There’s so much focus on rivalry and romance. I wanted to show the strong familial and friendship bonds. That came through more in the IH books, but there’s plenty of time with Dacian and co. yet.

2) Most writers put themselves into their characters, to an extent. Out of your own characters, were there any in particular that you felt you identify with more than others? Were there any that you found yourself particularly liking or disliking as you wrote them?
I really love Vyx. She’s such a fire-cracker! She’s strong, self-assured, and yet still very definitely feminine. She loves her pretty dresses, she has quite a strong maternal instinct (as can be seen in her cooking for the hopeless boys), but she’ll still stare down an alpha wolf shifter. She isn’t the combat model so to speak, but that doesn’t take away any of her strength or fire, if anything it adds to it. And she doesn’t compensate for her lack of combat effectiveness with feminine wiles or overt sexuality because she’s very much asexual. She’s so much fun to write. Don’t get me wrong, I love kick-ass woman, Evie and co were fantastic to write, and my favourite women in fiction are all kick-ass, but Vyx is wonderful. She makes me smile so much.
As to those that I put myself into… Up until Stolen Ink I made very sure to strip out every scrap of myself from my fiction. I allowed something of myself to creep into Isa though. I have an abusive past and some of that came through with him. I like to hope that I have Isa’s strength. I identify with Dacian a bit as well, that feeling of wanting a quiet life but the gods just won’t quite allow it lol.

3) If you had a day in the world of Stolen Ink, what would you do and where would you go? Who would you be in that world?
That’s so hard!! I’d love to go up into the skies with the knowledge merchants. They enjoy such freedom flying around the world trading information and using their wits and wiles to get all they can from the world. I think I’d like to fly over Northern Africa and some of the magical cities over that with them. To see the cultures that are so different to my day to day life.
4) Are there any bits of worldbuilding that never made it into the book that you’d love to share with everyone? If so, what?
There’s so much! This world is huge. I’m planning another 4+ series in this world so there’s a lot left to explore and share yet. I adore the knowledge merchants, they’ll be shown in Blood & Ink. There’s another branch to the dreamwalkers that’re very cool too, I have a series planned with one of those as a protagonist. Where Ben was very much half in the dream world with his bright colours and vacant expression, the other branch is more military. They’re kick-ass investigators. Oh! And I want to share the non-magic cities where they have magical creatures in zoos to stare at. The ethics and views around that will be fun to look into. To see how they view magic so very differently to Dacian and co. There’s so, so, much left to share! I could go on for pages, but I think it’s best put into the books.

5) If there was something you want people to get from the books above anything else, what would it be?
Hmm. I think it’s probably the importance of your chosen family. The people that you pull around you, that you choose to give your all to. The relationships with those people are so important. As I mentioned above I think those relationships are quite often put aside in fiction, but, as scary as it is to open up to people and establish those bonds, they’re life-savers (literally) when you have them. Dacian has trouble trusting people, but the people around came through for him. When he opens up a bit more he’s so much happier and freer. It’s terrifying to do that, to take the risk, but it’s absolutely worth it. It’s also worth putting our efforts into those bonds and being the best friends that we can be. It makes our lives richer.

6) What’s your next step? Tell us a little about the next thing you are planning to work on.
I’m currently writing Ink Bound (Ink Born 3). That continues Dacian’s story. After that I’m starting a new series, Hidden Alchemy. That follows the bisexual treasure-hunting alchemist Kaitlyn Felis. That’s set in the same world as Dacian and there will be a couple of cameos from Kaitlyn in Dacian’s books and vice versa. That’s far more an Indiana Jones type of book. I want to capture the adventure that I feel in the Stardust movie. Once those two series are established I’ll start my next series in the ink world. There are a few options for that, the dreamwalker I mentioned above, a blood magician, and there’s an air elemental that’s been calling to me for a while too. We’ll see what happens!

So, thank you to the wonderful Holly Evans for the interview, and for anyone who wants links to her work, here you go!
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Holly-Evans/e/B01ESEZALC
Twitter: Http://twitter.com/KhaosFoxe
-K Hart

 

I managed to get an email interview with LEV GROSSMAN, author of THE MAGICIANS

“Hello,” he said, not missing a beat. “Glad you could make it. Alice, I understand you burned our door in half.”  “Quentin helped.” – Lev Grossman, The Magicians.

 

So as well as being my first interview on here, this is pretty special for me for other reasons. Lev Grossman has been my favourite writer since I first picked up ‘The Magicians’ shortly after it was released, and so the interview is hugely exciting and I’m very happy to get it out there.

First things first: This guy is amazing, and his work is completely worth reading. ‘The Magicians’ is the first in a series of three. ‘The Magician King’, the second book, has already been released, and ‘The Magician’s Land’, the final book in the trilogy, is due out on 5TH AUGUST. If you haven’t already, just read them. Buy them. Borrow them from a library. His books can be found in most retailers, so there really is no excuse… (I’ve even been nice and put Amazon links at the bottom of this page!)

But why, you ask?… I know that what spoke to me the most about ‘The Magicians’ was that it was fantasy and offered that same wonder I’d come to expect from the genre, and yet it was hugely REAL. The characters, as they grow up from wide-eyed new student to disenchanted graduate, and then to further their lives in the world, experience so many of the problems that real adults and young adults face.

“He wasn’t in a safe little story where wrongs were automatically righted; he was still in the real world, where bad bitter things happened for no reason, and people paid for things that weren’t their fault.”   – Lev Grossman, The Magicians

I could go on for hours about these books (and seriously, if you give me any kind of prompting, I will…), but the simple fact is that they should be read. Life philosophies, depth, passion, and a tale that takes influences from all across the board and turns them into something new and unique. Lev Grossman once said about fanfiction that it is almost a form of literary criticism, pointing out gaps in the original tale. His work does exactly the same, and the way it fills them… well, I’m impressed anyway!

And now I’m done blathering on, here is the man himself answering some of the questions I had to ask.

 

1)      You’ve cited many influences for the novels, and you reference a lot of different things within them: gaming references, books, classical references. So, this sounds like it’s going to be the tried-and-tested normal first question: where did ‘The Magicians’ come from? … But I guess what I’m actually asking is: what was it about these works that inspired you?

There’s a lot of ways I could frame that answer. I guess one of them was that I felt that I wanted to talk back to some of these writers: to CS Lewis, in particular, but also JK Rowling and TH White and any number of others. I felt like I wanted to talk to them about how much their work said about my life, and also about how much it didn’t say—about what was missing. The Magicians was my way of having that conversation.

 

2)      When you first started writing the first book, The Magicians, were there any major changes to the plot that particularly stand out to you? Was there anything you look back on now and would have kept in, or done differently?

There were plot changes. I’m not sure how specific to be in my answers, since it’s a somewhat spoiler-y topic, but it took me a couple of tries before I hit on the Beast’s real identity. And I changed my mind twice about which of the main characters should die at the end. And there was a scene with a dragon that I had to cut. Fortunately I was able to work that back into The Magician King.

 

3)      In The Magicians and The Magician King, there seems to be a huge sense that the fantasy world poses the same problems as the real life one. As this was one of the things I really loved about the novels, I have to ask: why was it that you do this?

It was out of a complicated mixture of love and frustration. I’ve always loved the Narnia books, and the books that came after in that tradition: Pern, Xanth, Earthsea, His Dark Materials, Harry Potter. But the older I got the more keenly aware I felt that as much as I loved them, they didn’t speak directly to the hardest parts of my adult life, the ones I needed books to help me with. So I wrote the books I felt I needed.

 

4)      One idea within The Magician King that really caught my attention was Free Trader Beowulf – not just the magic user group, but the support forum too. I actually deal daily with a lot of people with depression, and have regularly wished for something exactly like that. Magic aside, do you think something like that would be possible to create?

I wonder. There have been times in my life when I could have used Free Trader Beowulf. Would it work? It would take someone very good at that particular kind of social engineering. I bet someone could do it. But I never could.

 

5)      I also have to admit – I love the Physical Kids. The way they grew up throughout the first novel, and even throughout the second, mirrors a lot of people’s experiences as they leave education and move out into the real world. Was this dissatisfaction and aimlessness something you felt, or were you one of the lucky people who already seem to have a set path?

I didn’t have a set path. Very much didn’t. My entire 20s are a trackless waste of pathless wandering. That was a hard time in my life. I wouldn’t relive it for anything.

 

6)      This one’s a question that a friend reminded me of. We both fell instantly in love with Eliot, and want to know – is he based on a real person? His character seems so complex that it’s impressive either way.

Eliot is an amalgam of two people. One is my roommate in college, who was a very dear friend, and whom I fell for in kind of the same way Quentin falls for Eliot. The other, strange to say, is the adolescent John Lennon, who was by all accounts a very funny, very wounded, very angry person. I was reading a biography of him at the time and I thought: yes. He needs to be in the book.

 

7)      Most writers put themselves into their characters, to an extent. Out of your own characters, were there any in particular that you felt you identify with more than others? Were there any that you found yourself particularly liking or disliking as you wrote them?

At first I identified most with Quentin, who is essentially the same person I was at 17 (except taller and better at math). Then it became Julia. She’s more like who I am now.

The character I like the most is probably Janet. She’s who I aspire to be.

 

8)      If there was something you want people to get from the books above anything else, what would it be?

It’s spelled out, more or less, in the last chapter of The Magician’s Land, but put crudely: the world is grotesquely awful place, but you can love it. It’s not easy but it can be done.

 

9)      I’m almost done, but here are some practical writing questions. You work for Time, you have a family, and you have your own life outside of writing. Do you think that makes it harder for you than for say, someone who can devote their full time to writing a novel? Is there anything you found helped you to engage with your writing?

Balancing them is hard. If I had made different choices in my life – if I didn’t have a family, if I didn’t live in New York, if I hadn’t made a bad marriage early on– I could write fiction all the time, which is what I truly want. Sometimes, often, I dream of being to write fiction full-time. But I also know that my fiction might not be as interesting if I hadn’t done all those things.

Certainly having a job helps me to engage intensely with my writing. When you know that eight hours of your day will be spent at work, and two hours with your kids, you come to that one hour you can spend on fiction with a lot of emotion. It gives you a certain urgency.

10)  Finally, The Magician’s Land is in the works, so to speak. Due out on August 5th this year. Once that’s over, what’s your plan? Is it time to focus on your work at Time and some rest, or are there other stories that don’t want to stay quiet?

More stories. I’m about halfway through a new novel. I’m not one of these writers who gets a good idea every day, I get one maybe every couple of years, but I’ve been working on the Magicians books since—according to the original Word file—June 19, 2004. So I’ve got a few good ones cued up.

 

I think a lot of that says it all, and more than I ever could. Thank you to Lev Grossman for agreeing to this, and even more for writing the novels in the first place. Lev Grossman uses several works I love as sources of inspiration for his writing. On the subject of inspiration, I am proud to say that his work, and his attitude to writing, too, is one of mine.

Lev Grossman’s site is right here: http://levgrossman.com/

 

The Amazon listing for The Magicians: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Magicians-Lev-Grossman-ebook/dp/B0031RS98E/ref=la_B001HD42SA_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1399089756&sr=1-2

… For The Magician King: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Magician-King-Lev-Grossman-ebook/dp/B005L18C44/ref=la_B001HD42SA_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1399089756&sr=1-3

… And the pre-order for The Magician’s Land: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Magicians-Land-Trilogy/dp/0670015679/ref=la_B001HD42SA_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1399089756&sr=1-5