I'm very excited to have one of my favorite writers and online friends back on the blog today. The much beloved and highly esteemed Ginn Hale is here to be teased and tormented. Er...interviewed.
Ginn has a new book out this week--Maze-Born Trouble--which is killing me because it's sitting on my Kindle right this second (I'm afraid to start it until I've hit this next deadline or bye-bye deadline).
Here's the blurb:
A dead girl, a cop he can’t forget, and a price on his head. All on a space station at the edge of a black hole. Just another day’s work for P.I. Lake Harmaa.
P.I. Lake Harmaa escaped the darkness and intense gravity of Sisu Space Station’s Maze Sector by turning traitor and spying for the Feds during the war. He has no intention of risking his neck by going back down into those depths, where there’s a price on his head and more than a few souls who wouldn’t mind him turning up dead.
But when he’s framed for a brutal murder, Lake realizes he must return to the Maze and settle old scores.
And here's the interview!
JL - I'm so excited to read your latest! Here you are right on my own mean streets--only with space stations. Where did you come up with the idea for Maze-Born Trouble? Is this a standalone or the start of a new series?
GH: You’re too kind! Thank you for having me. I’m obviously not a native to noir detective fiction, but I love reading it. (And I have to say tell you Snowball in Hell is a perfect noir detective story in my opinion.) But to answer your question: Maze-Born Trouble shares technology with an other novella of mine, Feral Machines, but the two are both stand-alone publications.
The inspiration for Maze-Born Trouble came from listening to a podcast on disabilities and LGBT romance. The discussion covered a lot of ground; from giving disabled characters conflicts and stories that go beyond their disabilities to subverting tropes and cliches of depicting being disabled as being somehow worse than dying or introducing a disabled character simply to inspire or motivate a non-disabled protagonist. And then one of the commenters—-the wonderful Tracy Timmons-Gray—-started tossing out elements for the sort of story that she wanted. A blind gay detective, who isn’t sweet, chipper or inspiring and who gets into gun fights! On a space station!
JL - GULP
GH: I have to admit that my first thought was, good luck to the author who tries to pull all of that and a romance off in one story.
The idea of gun play on a space station particularly worried me from a practical perspective. The station would have to be engineered in a way that allowed bullets to fly around without breaching the hull or destroying the life support systems.
And then there was the question of how to describe a completely fictional and alien environment clearly enough for gun fights to take place, while still conveying an awareness of the detective’s visual impairment. How to express that the character was disabled without allowing the plot or conflict to hinge on that alone.
I kept thinking about the story all that day and the next. I didn’t believe that I could write it, but I felt that some one—a better author than me—should write it. I thought that this ‘better author’ would probably use a noir tone and story structure to ensure that the detective wouldn’t stray into ‘sweet, chipper or inspiring’ but still retained a core decency that readers could relate to.
I wrote up a quick outline of how I thought this ‘better author’ might structure the scenes. I sketched out a space station and pondered the effects of darkness and gravity on the development of eyesight. I did some quick reading on synthetic suns and black holes. I looked into terraforming and termites.
I got as far as creating the entire back-story of the space station and my detective character, Lake Harmaa, before I allowed myself to admit that I was going to be writing the story. I’d just been so nervous about the challenges as well as the possibility of disappointing readers like Tracy Timmons-Gray that I’d had to trick myself to commit to the story. :)
Now I’m glad that I did because I’m pretty proud of all the work and weirdness that went into it.
JL - I honestly can't wait to read it. BUT YOU KNEW THAT. So... Do you listen to music while you write?
GH: Yes, but not the way I listen to music for enjoyment or to feel inspired.
When writing I’ll play one or two songs non-stop on a continuous loop. I won’t listen to anything else while I’m writing for the entire time that I’m working on a particular project. It becomes a kind of self-conditioning Pavlovian device: This music plays when I’m writing therefore if the music is playing I must keep writing. (It just occurred to me that I play a lot of mind games with myself. :) )
JL - Now see, that's the way I listen to music for enjoyment. ;-D You are one of my absolute favorite writers. And yet I have a confession. I'm not sure I have all your books! How big is your backlist now?
GH: Hang on, let me get a ruler… Only 12 inches but it’s a thick 12 inches. ;) (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
Lord of the White Hell book 1
Lord of the White Hell book 2
Champion of the Scarlet Wolf book 1
Champion of the Scarlet Wolf book 2
The Shattered Gates (Rifter series book1)
The Holy Road (Rifter series book 2)
His Sacred Bones (Rifter series book 3)
(In digital formats the Rifter series was published in ten novella length volumes.)
JL - Jumping in to say if you haven't read the Rifter series, it's shatteringly good. AND it turns out I don't have all your backlist. Which will soon be remedied.
Swift & the Black Dog
Get Lucky (Once Upon a Time in the Weird West anthology)
The Hollow History of Professor Perfectus (Magic & Mayhem anthology)
Things Deadly and Unseen (Irregulars anthology)
Such Heights (Hell Cop 2 anthology)
Touching Sparks (Hell Cop anthology)
"Blood Beneath the Throne"
On my website, ginnhale.com, there are also a number of free holiday & anniversary stories featuring characters from my novels.
JL - Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever had a ghostly encounter? How about goblins?
GH: Nope. I’m pretty much a dull atheist. That said, I love fantastical and supernatural fiction no end.
JL - Uh huh. Do you prefer writing series to standalones? Support your answer.
GH: I’m going to go with standalones for the following reasons:
1-I like how the term sounds, evoking both “last man standing” and “lone wolf.” It makes the books seem like tough underdogs with troubled pasts.
2-When writing a standalone story, I only have to remember the complicated history, weird habits, physical traits and various pets of a cast of characters for the duration of a single book. Penning a series I inevitably end up flipping back through hundreds of pages(often written years ago) in an attempt to recall if I actually gave one of the side characters a pet parrot, named Sgt. Squawky or if that never made it into the final version of the book.
3-By the third book the weight of exposition—all the information about EVERYTHING that happened back in the previous books- can become enormous. It’s particularly cumbersome in fantasy or alternate-reality worlds because the story already requires so much exposition to just set up the reality of the place as well as who the characters are.
Now having said that,I just noticed that 13 of the 18 publications I listed in the previous answer are either part of a series or share a world and timeline. (Maze-Born Trouble is set in the universe of Feral Machines, while Get Lucky and The Hollow History of Professor Perfectus share the same weird west, steampunk world.) That comes out to something like 72.22% of my work… So either I’m a masochist or I can’t hate working on a series all that much.:)
JL - ME TOO. For all the reasons you've listed. Even the ones I didn't understand. Next! What do you love most about writing? What do you like least?
GH: What I love—or at least strive for— is to create worlds and characters that are so fascinating or fun that all the clockwork and machinery underlying the plot just disappears. The book ceases to be a collection of letters, strung out into sentences and actually comes alive in a reader’s imagination. That’s when reading becomes almost magical and why writing is worth all the effort, as far as I’m concerned.
What I like least is the struggle to build complex environments and nuanced characters out of those long strings of letters. The structural limitations of words and sentences can frustrate me and make me feel like I’m trying to build a palace out of spare parts from an abandoned car dealership. All headlights and hood ornaments but nothing else.
JL - What are the elements that make a Ginn Hale book unique? What do you consider your strengths as a writer?
GH: I’m not sure what elements make my books unique. I hope that it’s my affection for my fellow human beings somehow permitting the text… but I worry that it might just be my fascination with the more odd corners of our natural world. I might put more insects and snails in my books than most right-thinking authors would. :)
As far as strengths go I suppose mine is just not giving up. I write the way rust chews through a lock—slowly and relentlessly.
JL - What's next for you? What can readers look forward to?
My novella "Get Lucky" will appear in the Once Upon a Time in the Weird West anthology this December. The Long Past, a complete collection of my newest steam-punk novellas will be released in January 2018. Right now I’m working on the third set of books in the ‘Hellions’ series.
JL - How ruthless are you as a writer? What makes you decide to kill a character off?
GH: I’m as ruthless or merciful as my outline requires me to be. :) I don’t kill characters wantonly or without their deaths serving a purpose, but sometimes the ax has just got to fall for the greater good of the story. And no matter how bleak one of my books may seem, things will work out in the end. I will not write LGBTQ tragedies. That isn’t what any of us need.
JL - How did you and the Missus meet?
GH: My wife and I first met in middle school, believe it or not. Her family left town a year later but we kept in touch, writing, calling and visiting each other. By the time we officially became a couple in college we’d already known each other and been best friends for five years. This January we’ll celebrate our 30th anniversary.
JL - Aww! That's so lovely! And on the topic of romance, do you think poison is a woman's weapon? What's your weapon of choice?
GH: This is a tricky question. In one sense, I have to say yes, since women can take credit for only about 10-14% of all annual homicides in the USA, but are we are still 5 times more likely than men to use poison. That said, men do kill with poisons and because they murder at such a prolific rate the number of male poisoners still outnumbers women: approximately 641 men to 164 women. So, no matter what method was used to commit a murder the likelihood that a man is responsible is statistically overwhelming. (At least that’s in the real world; in crime fiction the sexes seem nearly equally as fat as lethal intent goes.)
I suspect that the association of women with poison has more to do with how women’s roles have been historically constrained. Traditionally women have been in positions where they prepare meals and administer medications—as wives, mothers, cooks, nannies, and nurses- so the opportunity to exploit poisons is almost intrinsic. Once a woman has a motive for murder then poison may simply present her with a ready means and the most opportunities.
My own weapon of choice is way more data than anyone wants to hear.
JL - Fashion magazines always ask this question: What is the one cosmetic or grooming tool you cannot live without? And do you have any idea why all these fashion models are always pretending the one tool they can't live without is their EYEBROW GROOMER?
GH: Hmmm. Can’t live without…? Does oxygen count? It is pretty vital to looking fresh and not dead. I’m going with oxygen.
I’m not sure what fashion models know about eyebrow grooming that you and I clearly don’t. But I now worry that we’ll both be killed in the night by our wildly unkempt eyebrows.
JL - IS revenge best served cold or do you prefer room temperature?
GH: Depends on what drink it’s being paired with. :)
Actually, while writing Maze-Born Trouble I felt particularly aware of how damaging it can be when someone is deeply wronged and unable to escape their own rage or it. Living with anger and remaining raw, so that you never forget but you also never heal or move on can almost destroy a person, I think. (I come from a family of amazing grudge-holders, including a great-aunt who would fly into a fury over the wrongs done by William of Orange, despite the fact that the man has been dead since 1702.)
So I guess a long, cold revenge can be fantastic for fiction, where it can only hurt fictional characters, but in real life, I’d pass on revenge no matter what the temperature. :)
JL - Very wise. (And I mean that sincerely, also coming from a family of long grudge-holders.) Are you a full-time writer?
GH: Yes. I often put in overtime and work holidays, but thankfully I’m not burdened with any benefits packages or insurance policies! :)
JL - Yeah, she travels lightest who knows she can't afford to get sick. Tell us something surprising. Anything. Go on. Surprise us!
GH: I’m not sure what can surprise people just now…. Except maybe tardigrades! They’re micro animals, also called water bears and moss piglets, that can survive nearly anything, including being exposed to the radiation, near zero-temperatures, and total lack of atmosphere of space! Seriously, they’re just clinging to the outside of rocket, kicking back and chilling while hurling through space.
They shrug off boiling temperatures and pressures that will crush a tank. They can go ten years without water or food, can be dedicated to a mere 3% of their body moisture and then simply rehydrate. That’s like you or me turning to dust and then coming back as soon as it rains—like cup noodles! And on top of all that, even though they are animals, their genomes include large portions swiped from plants, bacteria and fungi.
And if that doesn’t amaze and surprise anyone there’s also the fact that I don’t like chocolate.
JL - HA. You used the chocolate one the last time you were on the blog. I refuse to let that continue to hurt me as you so obviously intend. The micro-animals clinging to the spaceship? I think you just scored Lifetime Most Surprising Comment on JL's Blog Award. :-)