What I Don’t Know About Kevin Hearne

Amidst the regular flow of disappointment that is modern life, some pretty cool stuff happened in 2011.  Ashley and I got to see Gang of Four and Arctic Monkeys; we had a fantastic beach vacation with some of the coolest people in the world; Moogfest gave us an even more amazing lineup than the previous year; and three fun and fast-paced books by new Urban Fantasy author Kevin Hearne appeared on bookshelves.

Hounded, Hexed, and Hammered are the first three books in the Iron Druid Chronicles.  They involve Atticus O’Sullivan, the last living Druid who has survived over two thousand years through his special Druidic abilities and (not always) careful living.  Atticus has an Irish wolfhound, Oberon, with whom he communicates telepathically and playfully.  There’s a new wiki that can explain more, but I recommend you just read the books.  Do it.

From the get-go, people were comparing the Iron Druid Chronicles to Jim Butcher and the Dresden Files.  Because they feature male protagonists who work magic, I guess.  There is some similarity in style, too, but Hearne is more comfortable letting things get a little silly, so there’s more humor in his series.  There was, anyway.  With books four and five, Tricked and Trapped respectively, the tone shifts toward seriousness.  Still plenty of very funny lines, though, and Oberon especially provides terrific comic relief.

Personally, I find the Iron Druid Chronicles to have more in common with Neil Gaiman’s American Gods universe.  With more humor.  And more action.  And a more direct narrative.  So maybe they really are only akin to American Gods because of all the dieties and mythological beings doing things in our contemporary world.  Know what though?  The Iron Druid books are really what I secretly hoped American Gods would have been.

Say what you will about judging books by their covers, but it was seeing the outstanding covers of Hounded, Hexed, and Hammered side by side on display that caught my attention.  They looked like something special.  They certainly were.

Kevin Hearne is pretty much the kind of writer I would like to be.  Not only for his boyish (though bearded) good looks, nor for the impressive brogue he can switch on instantly, but for three particular reasons:  he’s smart, he’s prolific, and he’s a totally nice guy.

He produces completely engaging novels and short stories at an unexpected pace, giving his readers a little something to enjoy every few months.  That’s smart and prolific.  The dialogue in the books is clever.  The mythology is well-researched and thoroughly developed, with enough explained to the reader to make everything believable.  The characters and their relationships are also well-formed and delightful.  Smart, smart, smart.

Mr. Hearne shares A LOT with his fans through his blog and social media.  He posts updates on his writing, inside perspectives on getting published, and simply goofy thoughts and memes.  He actually responds to fans.  Online, his personality is always positive.  I was lucky to have Mr. Hearne include Charlotte on his summer book tour, which he arranged and paid for on his own.  He was exceedingly kind in person.  He patiently answered all sorts of questions and frankly explained the work that went in to writing and publishing his books.  He was funny, quick, grateful, and gracious.  Totally nice.

Me and Kevin Hearne at Park Road Books
That’s me with Kevin Hearne, super-cool author of the Iron Druid Chronicles! I should have held the book up so it showed the cover. Guess I was too excited.

Earlier I made my case preferring his work to others; allow me to balance the scales a little.  The IDC are not as literary as Neil Gaiman’s books.  They sure are entertaining, though.  Don’t let anything here mislead you to believe these are silly stories.  Obviously a lot of care goes into crafting the books and the characters.  Perhaps it is his experience as a teacher, but there is a lot to be learned from his books, too, and not only about the various pantheons and cultures.  I find a moral or two or at least some applicable wisdom in each of the Iron Druid books.  That’s smart, prolific, AND nice.

Truth is, it was while reading the first three Iron Druid books that I decided to get serious and write a novel.  I’d been working on an idea for a couple of years, and the Iron Druid Chronicles proved to me a UF series could successfully have the mix of humor, action, emotion and history I wanted to include.  Kevin Hearne continues to be an inspiration, and I thank him for it.

What I Don’t Know About Plotting a Novel

Most of you know I am working on completing my first novel.  Right now I have about 3/4 of the first draft done, and hope to finish it by October.  With my day job and other responsibilities the time I am able to make to work on the book is limited.   My writing process isn’t always as quick as I’d like either. That’s a major reason I haven’t been posting a lot here or in other social media lately.  I figure every minute I spend on blogging is time taken from the book.

Being so close to actually finishing this project feels great.  This book, by my best count, is the ninth I’ve started since about 1993, and will be the first to reach the end.  Of course, once the first draft is complete I’ll still have a lot of work to do, going back and revising.  I already have several things in mind to change, add, and take out.

As I’ve been writing the book, characters have filled out and situations have developed I hadn’t considered originally.  It’s been fun and occasionally puzzling winding the story from one point to the rest.  This morning, while working on the increasingly intense third act, I had an idea to switch something major.  It’s a good idea.  A really good idea.  It makes the story more interesting.  It also means I’ll have more of what I’ve already written to change.

That’s okay.  Since getting serious about this project, I’ve read a lot on the craft of writing for both instruction and inspiration.  It was not exactly news to understand that writers approach their work differently.  Some create detailed outlines before beginning their draft, others simply start writing and let inspiration take them wherever it will.  Some writers, like myself, try a method somewhere in between.

I had a basic premise, a setting, and a title that suggested a story.  I worked to make sure I had a beginning and, most important, an end.  I wanted to believe I could trust luck and talent to create an ending once the story worked itself out, but since my goal was to finally — FINALLY — complete a novel, making sure I had an end relieved some of the anxiety associated with the grand project.  Several important scenes in varying degrees of specificity were imagined to fill out the middle and move the story from the beginning through to the conclusion.  It approached an outline, but was not particularly thorough.

I’ve revised a little bit as I’ve gone along.  Mainly dialogue.  I did restart the novel completely after already writing three chapters.  It was the right thing to do and the book is better for it.  I also removed and reworked a chapter far into the book.  That also made the story stronger.  Most of my revision, though, I am saving until I get the basic story written.

The idea that occurred to me today will change the plot a little.  It will require adapting passages I’ve already spent a lot of time and effort trying to get right already.  Oh, but it really is better than what I originally had planned.  Flexibility, I’ve been reminded many times, is an important quality in many circumstances.  For a writer of fiction, I think it may be necessary.

Hexed by Kevin Hearne

Hexed (Iron Druid Chronicles, #2)Hexed by Kevin Hearne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Even better and more fun than the first Iron Druid book. I like how the author mixes up the action so the story isn’t just following a linear outline from one point to the next. The different episodes could almost be individual short stories, but crafting them together, despite the fantasy setting, make the way things unfold more realistic. Some scenes overlap from the first book, others clearly set things up for future stories, including the next one, obviously. Hearne’s cast of supporting characters is broad and enjoyable, from the old Irish widow to the book store employees to the witches, vampire, werewolves, and gods. I wasn’t sure at first how I felt about Hearne’s including Christian figures like The Virgin as mythical beings, but I believe the point he is making (similar to Neil Gaiman’s) is that it’s the faith of believers that create such beings, and if I as a reader have no issue with a fictional Coyote or Brighid, an educated reader like myself should also appreciate a fictional Virgin or Jesus.

Like others who are speedily discovering this series, I can barely wait to start the next book. I expect it to be fun seeing what Hearne does next with his characters.

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