Author Interview: Jessica McHugh

The Books

3983873Jessica McHugh
1. The Sky: The World
2. The Tales of Dominhydor
3. Song of Eidolons
4. A Touch of Scarlet
5. Camelot Lost | See my review
6. Rabbits in the Garden | See my review

Arthur Pendragon’s ascension to High King of Britain lays a doting world at his feet, but when the death of his sister, Morgaine, sends him into a downward spiral of destruction, his sons, Mordred and Amr, emerge from the shadows to assume control of his mind and, eventually, his throne. Camelot Lost delves deeper into the legend of Camelot than ever before, pitting father against son, husband against wife, and brother against sister. The raw qualities of love, war, and the passionate deceptions that inspire them are thoroughly explored through the relationships of the chosen, and for the first time ever, the story of Arthur’s lesser-known son, Amr Pendragon, is finally revealed. Spellbinding in its sensuality and vehemence, Camelot Lost passionately explores a timeless tale and introduces a vivid array of characters and conflicts that are sure to captivate readers and challenge all preconceived notions of the Arthurian legend.

The Interview

1) Hey Jessica! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my interview questions. Let me start with an easy one: when did you know you wanted to become an author?

-First off, thank you for having me, Majanka!
I always enjoyed making up stories, but I never developed a serious passion for it until I was 19, working in a mall perfume kiosk for 11 hours a day. I hardly sold any perfume, so I spent most of my time reading. I devoured The Vampire Chronicles, The Lord of the Rings, and several other series, but I mostly read short story collections, notably Roald Dahl and HP Lovecraft. I always had a fondness for the macabre twists, and started writing some of my own. A lot of them were derivative, especially of Lovecraft. “I’m interested in crazy stuff, I saw crazy stuff, and now I’m crazy” type stories, but some of them had enough potential to keep me going. Eventually, I started writing “Maladrid” which would become the first book in my “Tales of Dominhydor” fantasy series. I spent hours devising the Dominhydor language as well as the history of the world. Those short stories and “Maladrid” were the sparks that grew into a blazing fire that hasn’t dimmed since.

2) How does the writing process work for you? Does an idea just pop up in your head, and you can start writing from scratch, or do you first write a short summary, or…? And is the writing process pretty much the same with every novel you write, or is it different every time?

-Most of the time, I just get an idea and start writing. But yes, the process varies from novel to novel. I wrote “The Sky: The World” completely out of order while “Rabbits in the Garden” was written straight through without a hint of an outline. “Verses of Villainy”, my historical fiction about Christopher Marlowe, had to be extremely researched before I wrote a single word. Most of the time, I end up writing several chapters before I’m forced to stop and outline, usually because I know what I want to happen in the novel, but only up to a certain point. Then, I stop and think, “Okay, how is this novel going to end and what avenues do I want the characters to explore before they reach the end?”

3) Your first published novel was Camelot Lost. I had the pleasure of reading it, and I must say that I absolutely loved it. Then again, I’ve always been a big fan of the Arthurian Legend. Why did you decide to write about this topic?

-I always loved Arthurian Legend myself, but I kept brushing off the desire to write an Arthurian book because there were already so many. The last thing I wanted was to tell a story that already been told a thousand times. If I was going to write it, I had to find an original hook first. So, I did a little research just to see if it was possible, and I found it on Wikipedia. While researching the character of Mordred, I learned about King Arthur’s rarely mentioned son Amr, and it said something along the lines of “the connection between Mordred and Amr has never been adequately explained”. I remember sitting next to my husband (before he was my husband), reading that statement, and saying, “That’s it. That’s my story.”

4) My favorite character in the legend of King Arthur, not just in your book, but in every book and series I’ve ever read or watched about the subject, is Morgaine/Morgan, Arthur’s “evil” sister. Who is your favorite character in the Arthurian Legend? And who was your favorite character to write about?

-I really love Mordred. But since he’s evil so often in the stories I’d read, I didn’t want that for the character in “Camelot Lost“. In fact, I didn’t want any of my characters to be either evil or good. I wanted everyone to have their moments of good and evil. Even when they’re being “evil”, it’s all so subjective anyway. But since I have such a love for Mordred, I wanted him to feel the love and not just be some mindless brute.

5) How was your first publishing experience? Was it like you had hoped for, and not entirely?

-“Camelot Lost” was a really tough sell. I had been writing non-stop since I was 19, and at 25, I was trying to get published for the first time with a story that had been seemingly done to death. I received rejection after rejection stating that I’d just rewritten “Mists of Avalon”, which is completely untrue, so I figured they didn’t even bother reading it. Eventually, I submitted it to PublishAmerica, which doesn’t have the best reputation as a publisher. However, I found my experience quite pleasant. I did my own editing, which is why there are a few errors sprinkled throughout and I’m not certain the cover really embodies the story, but on the whole, I’m very happy with the book. Plus, I believe having the publishing credit helped me get others stories published.

6) I’ve also read and reviewed another one of your novel, Rabbits in the Garden. I loved that book as well and I thought it was pretty brilliant, although it’s an entirely different genre than Camelot Lost. What was your favorite genre to write so far?

-I never actually set out to write any genre. What comes out, comes out, and that’s why so many of my books are completely different shades of speculative fiction: suspense, steampunk, dystopian, epic fantasy, etc. But I do have an affinity for horror. I love writing scenes that terrify me. Dripping blood, sloughing flesh…it’s just fun to write.

7) Rabbits in the Garden is psychological horror about a girl named Avery Norton. Avery’s mother seems odd from the start, but eventually it turns out that she’s actually a cold-blooded murderer. And on top of that, she frames Avery for the murders, which results in the latter having to stay in a mental asylum. Where did you get your inspiration for this book?

-Much of this story came from a dream. It was one of those magical dreams that had a beginning, middle, and end. Except for a few nonsensical events and older Avery being played by Angelina Jolie, the only thing I added was the beginning of a story I started years before. That’s where “Rabbits in the Garden” got it’s true brutality. The story “The Garden” was one I’d abandoned because it was starting to really freak me out, but elements of it really fit with the dream. It was a pretty seamless integration and it really worked. The dream had a 1940s/50s setting, but I chose Martha’s Vineyard because my mom grew up there. I knew I’d be able to get a lot of really cool accounts of life growing on the island.

8 ) Of all the books you wrote so far, which book did you find the most difficult to write? And which one did you find the easiest?

-“Palaplia“, the 3rd book in my “Tales of Dominhydor” series was the hardest to write because I had to do a complete rewrite. I started editing it for publication with Double Dragon eBooks, and a chapter in I had to stop and accept the fact that editing wasn’t going to fix it. I scrapped the entire manuscript, wrote a detailed outline using elements of the original story, and started over.

The easiest one to write was “Song of Eidolons“. The story came organically and everything just fell into place. It was an absolute delight to write, and while there are things I’d elaborate upon in other stories if I had the chance, I wouldn’t change a single thing in “Song of Eidolons“.

9) I really enjoyed both Rabbits in the Garden and Camelot Lost , but if I was forced to choose between either of those, I would have to admit that I liked Camelot Lost best. In my opinion, it’s even more brilliant than Rabbits in the Garden. Now I have a VERY difficult question for you. Of all the books you’ve written so far, which one is your favorite?

-Actually, “Song of Eidolons” is my favorite book. I love the story and characters so much, especially the relationship between Delaney and her grandfather, Dags. Plus, it was incredibly fun connecting the Philosopher’s Stone and the Fountain of Youth using the Mutus Liber, bible verses, etc…

Danny Marble & the Application for Non-Scary Things“, coming from Reliquary Press in September 2011, is a very close second. Especially since my husband did the amazing illustrations.

10) Are you currently working on something? If so, can you tell us something about it?

I’m editing and extending the last book in the Dominhydor series, but I can’t say much about it without giving away huge plot points, so I’ll talk about “PINS” which I’m also working on currently. I started it last year but had to stop to revise the Dominhydor books, and I’m just now getting back to it, which I couldn’t be happier about. I love this story and I’m having an absolute blast writing it. It will be my first book written in the first-person since “A Touch of Scarlet” and it is definitely the most graphic story I’ve ever written as far as language and content. Testing my limits of decency and then bulldozing right over them has been a really exciting experience. I’ve included a blurb below:

Telemarketing is a drag and serving jobs are exhausting. Luckily, strip clubs are always looking for new blood. Eva “Birdie” Finch is fed up with the slim pickings in local employment, and PINS, a gentlemen’s club/ bowling alley, seems to be the only option left. But learning how to strip for strangers isn’t Birdie’s only obstacle, especially when fellow dancers start turning up dead.

From Jessica McHugh, the author of the steampunk adventure The Sky: The World and the psychological thriller Rabbits in the Garden, PINS is certain to titillate as much as terrify with a candid look at a dancer trying to keep her footing on a blood-drenched stage.

It’s definitely been a fun story to write, but I hope my parents never read it. 😉

The Author

Jessica McHugh is an author of speculative fiction that spans the genre from horror and alternate history to epic fantasy. A prolific writer, she has devoted herself to novels, short stories, novellas, and even playwriting. She has had eight books published in three years, including “Song of Eidolons”, “The Sky: The World”, “Rabbits in the Garden”, and the first two installments in her “Tales of Dominhydor” series.
Visit her website.

Speak Your Mind