Inside Drops of Crimson


Harry Connolly  - Author Interview by Megan MacGregor

Harry Connolly is the author of Child of Fire, A Twenty Palaces Novel. Child of Fire, the first novel in the series, has earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly ”[it] will enthrall readers who like explosive action and magic that comes at a serious cost”

> Can you tell us a little about Child of Fire?

Ray Lilly is an ex-con former car thief who has press-ganged into working for the Twenty Palace Society, a group of sorcerers who hunt and kill other-dimensional "predators" and the sorcerers who summon them. They're ruthless killers, and while Ray is no angel, he's not at all comfortable with the society's "Let God Sort Them Out" methods.

To make matters worse, his boss, Annalise, hates him.  They have a troubled history based on a past betrayal.  Because he's a useful operative, the other peers in the society have forbidden her to kill him outright, but if she manages to get him killed in the course of the mission...

But as awful as the peers of the society are, the people they fight are worse--summoning other-worldly creatures that destroy human lives.  Ray is stuck in the middle--forced to work for the society under threat of death and horrified by the damage the society's enemies cause.

> Any out-takes - A little bit of backstory or point of interest that didn't make it into the book?

Yes, but I hesitate to discuss them much.  Does it matter that, for instance, a couple of the characters are gay men, that I'd written up scenes for their partners but the story never want near them?  It's a part of the character that I recognize, but it's not in the book so in a way it's cheating.

> You don't usually mention music in your blog, did you have a soundtrack for CoF or do you prefer to write in silence? If so, what did you write to? If not, are there a few songs that remind you of Ray or Annalise or the story in general?

I don't talk about music on my blog because I never listen to it.  I shouldn't say "never" I guess, because my wife and son turn off NPR occasionally to play their music, and once a month or so I'll put on a Tom Waits cd or something while I do dishes.

But I don't have a car or an iPod, and I rarely find myself in a position to play music.  Mostly, I listen to news.

Having said that, I do most of my writing at Starbucks, so I write to whatever music they're playing (although I pay zero attention to it.)

I realize that quite a few people out there will think this makes me some kind of alien freak, but I'm used to it.  I'm not all that interested in pets, either.

> I think CoF would be an excellent movie. You paint your world so vividly and your characters are so human and flawed - they're real people in a sense. If CoF were made into a movie, who would you envision as Ray? Annalise? Cynthia? Emmet?

It's funny you should ask this:  I almost never envision my characters as real people--especially not real actors.  In this case, though, I'd imagined a friend of mine as Ray.  He's an actor and, if he'd done Mixed Martial Arts training rather than Bikram Yoga, that would be him.

In fact, I sent his picture to my editor early in the process, and Chris McGrath used his face for the cover.  So, unlike a lot of authors who say "That cover image doesn't look like my character!" I get to point at the front of the book and say "That's him!"

> Tell us a little bit about yourself:
> Where did you grow up?

I grew up in the Philadelphia area, in a little borough called "Yeadon."

> Did you always want to be a writer? How old or young were you when you figured it out?

I was reading at a pretty young age, and once my parents explained that stories came from writers, I knew that was what I wanted to do.  I have a vivid memory of sitting in kindergarten, learning to write a capital M by tracing one over and over, thinking "This is *totally* going to come in handy."

Or, you know, the five-year-old's equivalent.  It was a couple more years after that before I had a concrete idea of what being a writer really entailed, but I've wanted to do this forever.

> Who has inspired you the most as a writer? (you can have more than one!)

I'm a big fan of Ross Macdonald and other mystery novelists, especially ones from a few decades ago.  They write fantastic characters.

> Do you currently have a "muse"?

Can a deadline be a muse?  I have a finished copy of Child of Fire next to me desk, which is pretty inspirational.  Does that count?

> How long did CoF take you to complete? (from first words through query to agent, sale to now)

I started it in the summer of 2005.  The first draft went pretty quickly, and it was finished in six months or less.  I worked on other projects, rewriting and revising the book in between, until the query process started around Labor Day, 2007.  By early December 2007, I had interest from a few agents and I picked my current agent Caitlin Blasdell.  That led to another round of revisions over the holidays and she started submitting in January, 2008.

Del Rey made a preempt offer in Feb 2008 to take the book off the market.  After that, it was another year and a half of more revisions and work on the next book.

> Any advice to the aspiring writers out there?

Read agent blogs.  Read the columns at  Read the Learn Writing with Uncle Jim thread at the forum.

Even better, retype a chapter of your favorite book to analyze it. Write an outline of a great book that's similar to yours.  How many pages for each fight scene?  How many pages between scenes of open conflict?  How many plot reversals?

Next, read recent debut novels in (or near) your own genre.

Next, take ego and self-image out of the picture.  A book is a creation separate from the creator: look for the flaw in your own work and own them.  Accept all rejection and criticism as legitimate, even if it's sometimes wrong.  Acknowledge praise and validation but don't let it get in the way of becoming published--everyone receives praise from readers before they're ready to hit the bookshelves.

Last: persist.

> Can you talk about your family or do you guys want to keep Mango Eater out of it?

I'll talk about it a little bit:  My wife is a painter who does sports massage for her day job, and I have a little boy who's being homeschooled.  They've both been very supportive of me--my seven-year-old wore a tie to my recent book signing event--and I try to return the favor.

> Favorite books:

GO, DOG, GO by P.D. Eastman.  Best ending ever.

Oh, you mean adult books?  You'll probably think this is cheating, but I don't believe in favorites.  Since I mentioned Ross Macdonald above, I guess I'll mention THE GALTON CASE and THE CHILL.

> Reading now:

MARK OF THE DEMON, by Diana Rowland.  It's fun!  I met the author at San Diego Comic Con, and she struck me as being very smart, so I snapped it up.

> To be read:

BONESHAKER, by Cherie Priest (like every other right-thinking person) along with the latest Laundry novel by Charles Stross and the rest of C.C. Finlay's "Patriot Witch" historical fantasy trilogy.  Plus a butt-load of other books.

> Favorite Authors:


> Coffee, tea or 'it's all evil'?

Yes to all three!

I grew up in a family of tea-drinkers, but when I moved to Seattle I decided to learn to drink coffee, and I decided to learn to drink it black.  Now I have two 16 oz cups of Starbucks drip every day while I work.

> List one decadence you absolutely love or can't live without:

Well, my username on LiveJournal is burger_eater, so there's that.

> one vice:

The Internet.

> one virtue:

Salad.  I love salad.

> and something you'd consider a dirty little secret (you don't have to do this one if you don't want to, LOL)

I don't mind.  :)  The truth is, I've had a lot of regret and shame in my life, and I've made some dumb choices.  A few years ago (before I even started writing this book) I reached a point where I decided I wasn't going to have any more regrets.

Part of that is that I just stopped doing things that I would regret later.  Part of that is that I accepted that my bad choices led me to a place where I am terribly happy, and I refuse to be ashamed of a life that has made me into a husband and father.

Although I probably like KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE more than I should.

I look forward to the next round :)

Harry Connolly Official Site

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