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Ami (A): Jordan, thanks for interview with us, Boys in Our Books. I loved Stormhaven, I think it’s my favorite book of the series to date!
Jordan L. Hawk (JLH): Thank you so much for having me here! I’m thrilled you enjoyed Stormhaven. It truly is my goal to make every book I write the best so far. :)
A: So, paranormal historical, huh? Why this genre?
JLH: I can’t imagine writing a story without paranormal elements, but I’ve always been a huge history nerd. I couldn’t resist the temptation to combine the two.
A: But the research into the period!! How much did you actually do to capture the period as well as the paranormal element?
JLH: As much as I can! I have a replica Sears & Roebuck catalog from 1897 so I could figure out what sorts of goods and furnishings an average person in the period would have in their home. And I managed to find plans for middle class homes and hotels of the era online, which was a major boon.
My biggest problems research-wise actually came from the American setting. Casually glancing over the history section, you’d think America in the 1800s was nothing but the Civil War, followed up by the western expansion. At times it wasn’t easy to find out about the day to day life of people living in the northeast, especially if I needed something really specific. Most of the “daily life” books of the period center on Victorian England rather than Gilded Age America, and although there is some overlap, there are a lot of differences beyond drinking coffee versus tea.
A: That is interesting, what you said about the challenge to write about “day to day life”. One of the scenes I found amusing in Stormhaven was Whyborne being grumpy about the introduction of electricity!! It was funny, because electricity has been part of our lives, modern people, but yes, what did people back then thought about it right? And how did it impact with their daily life?
JLH: The scene was inspired by a book called The Age of Edison, which talked about the introduction of electric lighting. The gas companies accused the electric companies of trying to kill everyone with their dangerous product. And they had a point—there were no safety regulations at first, so often times the wires were so low-hanging they killed people riding in carriages. Of course, the electric companies responded by pointing out the dangers of gas; plenty of people died when there was a leak, or when the flame went out and a room filled with gas. The average person didn’t always know what to make of it.
Interestingly, some of the tiny little towns out on the plains installed electric lighting before larger cities in the east. They needed a way to attracted people to their towns, and electricity let them advertise themselves as progressive, thriving communities.
A: Oh, and another thing about the research you did, the portrayal of Stormhaven was vividly creepy!! Did you visit an actual asylum for this story? Because, jeepers creepers!
JLH: Yes, I did! As part of my research, I paid a visit to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. The asylum was built in 1864 on the Kirkbride plan, and remained in operation until 1994! Now it’s run by a historical society who give tours, both historic and paranormal. I went on the historic tour since that’s what I was there for, but I wouldn’t mind going back for one of their ghost tours someday. The place is unimaginably huge—a single building almost a quarter of a mile long—and incredibly fascinating. I highly recommend stopping by if you’re ever in the area!
You can see some of the pictures I took on my blog, where I did a three-part post on my visit to the asylum.
A: You’re brave! Anyway, now let’s talk about the characters in this series. With every author, I always wonder, do you have any inspiration that helps you shape the characters? And which one is your most favorite (please say Whyborne *lol*)
JLH: True story: a few years back, I was listening to the HPPodcraft podcast, and the hosts were covering “The Dunwich Horror.” One of them made an off-hand comment about getting together a “posse of learned men” to go kick the monster’s butt. I got a laugh out of it, and thought, “Haha, I should write a book where the main character is a dork with a book. He’s a bad-ass when it comes to looking shit up in the library.” The thought stuck with me, and before I knew it, I was scribbling the preliminary notes for what became Widdershins.
In truth, Whyborne really is my favorite. He’s awkward and self-conscious and sometimes a bit silly, so it’s extra rewarding to dig down and find that inner core of strength which makes him a hero and not just the comic relief.
A: I’m quite happy with Whyborne continuing to learn about spells from Liber Arcanorum, even if Griffin doesn’t agree. What are you making of this? Are you planning to make Whyborne some sort of great magicians with his knowledge and power of magic? It could come handy …
JLH: I can’t say too much without giving spoilers for the series, but he does keep levelling up, as it were, every book. He certainly finds it handy, and thinks Griffin is absurd to worry about it. Which one of them is right? We’ll just have to wait and see. ;)
A: And regarding Griffin – my heart went out for him with his ordeal in the asylum then later with his family. Was that it? You didn’t plan for them to have some sort of compromise?
JLH: Family is sort of the big theme of the W&G series, to me anyway, but I wanted to explore it in a nuanced way. Except for his mother, Whyborne’s family is awful. I would not want to have Thanksgiving dinner with these people. Still, I’d say they all pretty obviously know Whyborne is gay, and even if his father sees it as one more in a long string of disappointments concerning Whyborne, it’s no reason to cut off contact. In Threshold, when Niles hires Griffin, he goes so far as to invite them both to dinner instead of just having a typical business meeting with Griffin, as he would have with any other private investigator. So he acknowledges, grudgingly and indirectly, that Griffin has a special place in Whyborne’s life.
I really wanted this to stand in contrast with Griffin’s family, who are warm, generous, and caring people. You just know Thanksgiving dinner with them would be terrific. They’re the sort of kindly people who would adopt an orphan truly out of the goodness of their hearts. When they originally sent Griffin away when he was caught kissing another man, they thought they were doing the right thing. In their minds, it’s a “love the sinner, hate the sin,” situation, except of course in this case the “sin” is Griffin being true to himself. I think Griffin has spent most of his life comprising his true self in the hopes of being loved, but there’s a point beyond which he cannot go.
A: You are right, I didn’t think it that way. Whyborne’s family is awful but they still keep contact with him, despite of Whyborne being gay. That is a wonderful nuance you have going there.
JLH: Thank you! :)
A: Will we see Ruth again in the next book? You know, to become Christine’s apprentice or something *grin*
JLH: I wouldn’t mind bringing Ruth back some time! I don’t have any plans for her in the next book, but I won’t rule out seeing her again.
A: By the way, how many books are you planning with this series? Are the mystery that start in book 1 (about The Brotherhood) will be part of an arc with the next books?
JLH: As of now, I have five books planned. There are a lot of little arcs which tie them together and continue on, Whyborne’s problems with his family (two of whom were in the Brotherhood) being an obvious example.
A: Aside from Whyborne and Griffin, you also have another series going, SPECTR. What was the different challenge of writing both series? Oh, and will there be a sequel for Hainted?
JLH: I envisioned SPECTR as similar to a season of TV. You have a bunch of monster of the week stories, with the big story arc hinted at throughout, up until the last couple of episodes where the Big Bad takes center stage. So I had to lay out the overall storyline very early on the process, in order to keep track of what major events needed to happen in each novella. The W&G books, although there is an arc to them, aren’t as tightly interwoven.
I’d love to do a sequel to Hainted someday. The right story hasn’t presented itself to me yet, though.
A: If the Whyborne and Griffin series was made into TV series, who do you imagine playing the characters?
JLH: I really don’t know! It’s funny, but my characters are so vivid to me it’s difficult to imagine anyone in their places. That said, I’m sure if it did ever happen, I’d be delighted to see an actor’s interpretation.
A: Off-topic a little bit … how was your experience at Gay Rom-Lit 2013? Was it your first time? Did you have great time? What was your favorite session?
JLH: My first GRL was in Albuquerque, as a reader. Hainted had just come out and I didn’t know anyone when I arrived. I had a blast and left with a lot of new friends. Atlanta was all of that times ten. Just amazing.
I really love going to author readings. It’s a terrific way to find new books to add to my TBR mountain.
A: Are you planning to go to more events like this? You know, like the UK Meet in Bristol next year?
JLH: Right now, I’m planning on going to RainbowCon, RT, and GRL. I’d like to go to BentCon as well if I can make it out there. And I’d love to go to the UK Meet some year.
A: Okay, last question, 2013 is almost over. What satisfied you the most about this year, in terms of your writing career? And what is your plan for 2014?
JLH: 2013 has been an amazing year for me in all ways. The best thing has been all the wonderful people I’ve met, either online or in person. I truly have the greatest readers in the world.
2014 will see the last two books in the SPECTR series and two more W&G books. I’ve also got some secret plans I can’t talk about yet. ;)
A: Well, I can’t wait for you to unveil your secret plans then. Thank you so much for the opportunity, Jordan.
JLH: Thank you for having me!
Ami’s pre-release review of “Stormhaven” can be found HERE.
For more on Jordan L. Hawk, check out her website HERE.