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
> 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
> 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
occasionally to play their music, and once a month
or so I'll put on a
Waits cd or something while I do dishes.
But I don't have a car or an
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
> 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
Mixed Martial Arts training rather than
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
> 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
> 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
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
wordplayer.com. Read the Learn Writing
with Uncle Jim thread at the
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
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.
> 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
Diego Comic Con, and she struck me as being
very smart, so I snapped it up.
> To be read:
Cherie Priest (like every other
right-thinking person) along with the latest Laundry
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
Well, my username on
LiveJournal is burger_eater, so there's that.
> one vice:
> 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,
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