The Bookpushers are pleased to present an interview with Tanya Huff. She has written 28 novels and numerous short stories available in collections and anthologies. She has been on E’s autobuy list since she first discovered Ms Huff’s works in the early 90s. She also had a TV series based on her Blood series — think vampires, female police detective, and other supernatural beings. Her latest book, The Wild Ways, following after 2009’s The Enchantment Emporium releases November 1st. E’s review of The Enchantment Emporium was posted yesterday here. Ms Huff is also sponsoring a giveaway at the end of this interview so keep reading to find out the details. The winner will be announced on release day 1 November along with a review of The Wild Ways.
BP: Tanya thank you so much for joining us today and sponsoring a giveaway. You have been published in the SF/F field since 1988. What got you started?
Tanya: I’ve always been a story teller. When I was three and my father was at sea, I told my grandmother a long and involved story about a spider in the garden that she wrote down and mailed to him. I have no memory of this, of course – there are weeks I don’t remember Tuesday – but the letter reappeared a few years ago. Apparently, I did the illustrations myself. (they were about what you’d expect from a three year old *g*) Maybe if I hadn’t discovered Heinlein’s young adult fiction I would have become a nature writer, but my school library had a full set of Heinlein’s, everything Andre Norton had written to that point (late ’60s) and a collection of Ace Doubles. From that point on, there was no turning back. I wrote all through high school – I called them books but they were really novellas – and taught my history teacher that yes, I did want to share what I was doing with the class so if he didn’t want me to do it, he shouldn’t have asked me if I wanted to. Finally writing something I thought was good enough to be sent to a publisher was just a natural progression.
BP: I know since I first discovered SF/F I have seen things change as a reader. What changes as a writer do you think have been significant?
Tanya: As a writer, all I can do – all any of us can do – is write the stories we have, write them the best that we can, and hope they find an audience. That hasn’t changed. It never will. If you want to be published, write a good book.
What has changed is the domination of the industry by a few big players. After Lucas proved there was money in SF back in 1977, smaller publishing companies began being bought up by the larger companies then the larger companies were, in turn, bought up by multinational corporations. (The staff at Bakka, NA’s oldest SF book store, called it PacMan publishing as imprint after imprint was devoured.) Add to that the simultaneous condensing of distribution into a few large chains bookstores and the whole industry becomes dependent on only a few players. When the economy tanks, it doesn’t take much to topple the whole house of cards. Border’s bankruptcy will be echoing through the publishing industry for some time. Hopefully, small independent bookstores will move into the places Borders has left vacant. Those small independents, with no shareholders breathing down their necks, will be able to pick up more small press books, hand selling them. The small presses will get bigger…
…and the whole cycle will start again.
As far as content is concerned, at the moment, paranormal romances are hot. Romance readers read a lot more than SF/F readers and in an effort to expand the SF/F market, romance readers are being courted. In a year or two, something else will be hot. As a writer, it all comes back to wring a good book.
BP: Within the big umbrella of SF/F you have works that fall in what is now known as pure fantasy, UF, and military SF with significant characters as varied as gods and goddesses, bards, cats, thieves, witches, vampires, werewolves, aliens, a Gunny Sergeant and most recently Dragons. What drew you to explore these different areas?
Tanya: I just tell the stories I have to tell. That sounds facetious, but it’s the answer. I could have done nothing but write Blood books for the last fifteen years, but I’d said everything I had to say about those characters at novel length with Blood Pact so I wrote “the end” and moved on.
BP: You mentioned in the afterword of the first Valor book, Valor’s Choice, that you took your inspiration from a real against all odds battle. Throughout the entire series you were able to keep an accurate portrayal of the military atmosphere. This is something I have found that a lot of authors struggle with. How were you able to accomplish this?
Tanya: Because I’m just that good. Okay, that was facetious. *g* Part of it probably comes from spending time in the Naval Reserve, part of it may come from my grandfather who was career military, and part of it from researching fewer facts and more first person accounts of what it’s like to be in the military in both war and peace. There are a lot of soldier’s memoirs and blogs out there – the men and women who serve are telling their stories. All I do is listen.
BP: Have you encountered any difficulties using Canadian landscapes as your setting?
Tanya: No. I had to explain what a twonie was (it’s a two dollar coin) but other than that I’ve had free reign. My editor told me once that American readers consider Canada an exotic local. I wish I didn’t have to lose my u’s but it’s been so long now, I’ve learned to cope…
BP: You live in Canada, a country that has moved forward past the US regarding certain rights, have you had to deal with any backlash regarding the relationships you include in your work from your US audience?
Tanya: If I have, it’s been stopped at the publisher and hasn’t reached me. I had a reader worried about the pre-martial sex in Blood Ties and I got called a war pornographer by a (very minor) US reviewer when Valor’s Choice came out. The Smoke books, (Smoke and Shadows, Smoke and Mirrors, Smoke and Ashes) which have a gay protagonist haven’t done as well as my other books, but there’s no way of determining exactly why.
BP: Out of your varied works which is your favorite and why?
Tanya: I love everything I’ve ever written. Unlike some authors, I can happily go back and reread my old stuff. I honestly don’t have a favourite.
BP: Who is your favorite character and why?
Tanya: Vicki, [Blood series], is the character most like me but again, I don’t have a favorite. That’s a bit like asking who’s my favorite child. While I’m writing them, that character – those characters – are my favourites. Right now, I’m very fond of a stubbornly logical mage and an annoyingly teenage werewolf.
(E: Sounds good…)
BP: The Enchantment Emporium introduced us to the “family”, dragons (yes E has a weak spot for them) and what could be called a jumble shop. Where did you get the inspiration for this family?
Tanya: I’m not entirely sure… I know I wanted to write something where the power was with the women and the real power with the older women. Probably because I’m becoming an older woman and I wanted the characters I identify with in real life to be the ones kicking ass. (In The Night Watch, Terry Pratchett has this wonderful bit about putting the Grannies on the barricades and I may have found inspiration there.)
I do find it kind of funny how people miss things that are right there in the text about the Gales. Everything the antagonist says about the family, about the women in the family, is absolutely true. I like to think that text makes it very obvious that “you can’t say no to a Gale boy” is about equivalent to “you can’t say no to a kitten” and when Dmitri is in the haymow with half a dozen girls – you should be feeling sorry for Dmitri.
My personal cutline for the book is: It’s HARVEST HOME, with a laugh track.
BP: Did you always plan to write about Charlie in The Wild Ways or did that develop as the previous book moved along?
Tanya: The Enchantment Emporium was absolutely, positively, without question going to be a stand alone book. There was only ever going to be one. No more. Nada. And then, as I was working on the not!Napoleonic werewolf story, I kept thinking about Charlie. About how easy it would be to write a book with her as the protagonist because she has so much more freedom than the rest of the Gales. About how much I really liked writing the Gale family and didn’t want to stop. And then, I heard Heather Dale sing about Selkies and that started me thinking and the next thing I knew I was up to my elbows in The Wild Ways. It kind of took me by surprise, actually.
BP: Do you have any more stories planned in this particular world?
Tanya: Two books. That’s it. Just two books in this world. It’s not a series. I was standing firm. And then I was talking to my editor about one of the things that came up in The Wild Ways and I said, “Well, they can’t…” and she said, “But you already have…” and I said, “I suppose I could…” and she said, “What if you…” and I said, “That would work.”
And then I said, “Okay fine. I’ll write a third book but that’s it. Just one more…”
BP: ok I can’t wait for the third book and I really hope this trend of “just one more…” continues. Thank you for your answers Tanya. Now for the readers out there Tanya is graciously sponsoring a contest that is open worldwide. To enter leave a comment mentioning what author or story got you started reading SF/F. Good luck.
62 thoughts on “Interview & Giveaway with Tanya Huff”
IIRC, it was the Edgar Rice Burroughs “John Carter of Mars” series, when I was about 8. by the time I was teen, I had gobbled up every SF/F book I could get my hands on. Clarke, Heinlein, Asimov, LeGuin, Tolkien, Van Vogt – it didn’t matter, I read it all.
As I got older, and my reading time evaporated, I strayed away from “hard” sci-fi and more into fanatasy and “speculative” fiction. (I love all the different name that are invented for storytelling.) The “Valor” series, which I consumed on audiobooks, was the first “space battle” series I really enjoyed. Somehow, Tanya Huff wove in enough engaging characters to keep me from pondering the science too much – which is why I usually stay away from sci-fi and stay on the fantasy side. It sucks to be reading and all of a sudden be thrown out of the willing suspension of disbelief by bad science.
I’m really looking forward to finding out more about the Gales!
Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonflight. I think. I was maybe ten?
It was so long ago I can’t remember…I do know the first spec fic movie that inspired me was Star Wars, allowed to slip past the Catholic Homeschooling barrier because of its strong good-versus-evil plot. So, probably the Star Wars novels by Timothy Zahn were my first spec fic books.
It surprised me to realize that I can’t remember what the early SF/F books that got me hooked were. I didn’t read some books, like “A Wrinkle in Time,” until I was an adult. Now that I am thinking about it, some of the things I read early on are coming to mind. I don’t remember which ones I read first, just that I think they were early.
I am thinking that I may have read “A Wizard of Earthsea,” by Ursula LeGuin, before I read McCaffrey.
As the years have gone by, great books by Huff, McIntyre, Melissa Scott, Lisle, Lackey, Zimmer Bradley, Norton, Armstrong, Harrison, Sagara, Briggs, Andrews, Singh, Leigh, Knight, Sinclair, Gilman, Brook, James, Marjorie Liu, and so many others have kept me reading. There are a lot of authors/books mentioned in comments here that I haven’t read yet. I need to make a list. So many books, so little time.
To be honest, I don’t recall at all. I was into mythology by the time I was in kindergarten (earlier if you count invented mythology), my trifecta of writers to watch out for as a child were Lewis, Tolkien and Alexander, but I’m not sure I really thought of specfic as something different until much, much later, by which time I was sufficiently hooked that it really didn’t matter. (Though I can tell you that my first clumsy attempt at a story, when I was five or so, was a messy scifi/fantasy blend even if I didn’t know it yet.) I do know that when I’m looking for something to try to sell my library patrons on SF/F, I hand them one of Lois McMaster Bujold’s books, or if they’re the type to give graphic novels a chance I link them to Ursula Vernon’s “Digger”. (The latter worked extremely well with one of my coworkers.)
Hmm, the first SF book I recall reading was “My Teacher is an Alien” by Bruce Coville. The first book that got me into classic SF was “Rendezvous with Rama” by Arthur C. Clarke. But the book that got me hard core hooked into SF/F was “Dragon Prince” by Melanie Rawn. I really enjoyed the unique magic system and, though I know I didn’t understand it at the time, the strong female characters.
It’s had to define what book got me interested because I was brought up with the classics – Tolkien, Lewis, Carroll, Garner etc. My parents would read a chapter a night to me and in the case of the Hobbit started recording these sessions for I could relisten to it it later (sadly this ceased when one side a of a cassette was rerecorded over losing the previously recorded section and breaking the chain).
Of those books that I read (or was read) when I was little it was probably Tolkien – both the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings (book and BBC radio drama) – that has been my abiding love and whether it was that which lead to me interest in mythology or whether my interest in mythology came from another source it was the combination of Tolkien and myths that really got me into SF/F because I loved the way that they drew on folklore and mythology and wove them into new tales… even if I tended to complain that it was always the guys who got to save the world (although due to a slight mishearing of the LotR radio play I did for a long while think one of the hobbits was called Mary…)
For me it was Robert Heinlein’s SF for teens. My local library had most everything he’d published, and it was easy as a young teen to drift over to the adult section and start checking that out, too. And from there to Asimov and Andre Norton etc. etc. etc.
‘Have Spacesuit Will Travel’ by Robert Heinlein … and I never looked back!
First story I can remember reading that was fantasy was Mercedes Lackey- Arrows of the Queen series. The main character was the same age as me (13) when I started reading it, and I absolutely fell in love with her. Got me hooked on the genre, and got me started reading as an escape from life.
Wow…. tough question. Honest answer? Really can’t remember but one of my early reads was Lirael (by Garth Nix) and just gone on from there. Fun times!
A copy of Zenna Henderson’s book of short stories about ‘the people’ was in my third grade classroom. This may have been the first sci-fi I read. Or perhaps Andre norton’s ‘star cat.’ can’t remember. Ms Huff, your books are marvelous. I think I’ve read them all. Thank you for many hours of enjoyment.