The Write Stuff – Monday, August 28 – Interview With Christopher Husberg

I first met Titan Books author, Christopher Husberg, at Emerald City Comic Con in March 2017 where we were sold and signed books at Bard’s Tower. The next time I ran into him was at a bookstore in Salem, Oregon. He and author, Dave Butler, whom I interviewed here in January of last year, were on a combined book signing tour. Chris had just completed the second novel in his series, the Chaos Queen Quintet, and having purchased a copy, I thought this might be a good time to feature him, since the quintet it was part of was finally rolling.

Christopher Husberg grew up in Eagle River, Alaska. He now lives in Utah, and spends his time writing, reading, hiking, and playing video games, but mostly hanging out with his wife, Rachel, and daughter, Buffy. He received an MFA in creative writing from Brigham Young University, and an honorary PhD in Buffy the Vampire Slayer from himself. He writes dark epic fantasy novels. The first novel in the Chaos Queen Quintet, Duskfall, was published in 2016. The third installment, Blood Requiem, will be published by Titan Books in 2018. Chris describes Dark Immolation like this:

A new religion is rising, gathering followers drawn by rumors of prophetess Jane Oden. Her sister Cinzia—once a Cantic prieste—is by her side, but fears Jane will lead them to ruin. For both the Church and the Nazaniin assassins are still on their tail, and much worse may come.

Knot, his true nature now revealed if not truly understood, is haunted by his memories, and is not the ally he once was. Astrid travels to Tinska to find answers for her friend, but the child-like vampire has old enemies who have been waiting for her return. And beyond the Blood Gate in the empire of Roden, a tiellan woman finds herself with a new protector: one who wants to use her extraordinary abilities for his own ends…

Please tell us something more about it.

Dark Immolation is book two in the Chaos Queen Quintet, and just came out in June. The CQQ is a dark epic fantasy series, and the first book, Duskfall, came out last June (and we’re planning on producing a book a year, each June, until the fifth and final book comes out in June 2020). While Duskfall was an action-adventure fantasy thriller with hints of horror, Dark Immolation features a somewhat slower burn. It’s slightly more introspective, addressing belief and identity, but has its share of action and intense (and, yes, horrifying—it’s what I do!) scenes as well.

What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book and how did you overcome it?

This may sound strange, but before Dark Immolation I’d never written a sequel! I approached DI with the same process and expectations that I do with any other novel or story, and that was actually a huge mistake (I’m channeling Gob there, obviously). The first draft of DI got out of hand very early because I tried to balance my discovery-writer tendencies to pursue every last tangent I came up with while still trying to follow through with and make good on some promises I made in Duskfall. Well, that was impossible. It was a rough process, and combined with some other things going on in my life at the time (both good and bad, but all distracting), this was a very difficult book to write. Fortunately I have an incredible agent who had a few very helpful conversations with me (basically, he lit a fire under my ass), I had help from some very astute and thorough beta readers, and I have a brilliant editor that helped me tie up many of the loose ends of the novel. I’m incredibly happy with the final version of Dark Immolation. I think it’s a pretty great book, and I’m so happy to have it on shelves. I hope all of you enjoy it, too.

What other novels have you written?

The first novel in the Chaos Queen Quintet, Duskfall, came out last June! Read that one first! This is definitely a series you’ll want to read in order.

Have there been any awards, productions, videos or anything else of interest associated with your work? There is a pretty awesome book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_zxjkHT6uM

And Duskfall has been nominated for the Morningstar Award (the David Gemmell award for Best Debut Fantasy), but unfortunately lost to another fantastic book, Steal the Sky by Megan O’Keefe.

Second place is nothing to be ashamed of, especially when one considers the level of competition in a contest like this. Turning to your life as an author, what is your work schedule like?

Well, it often depends, but here’s the basic rundown of my daily schedule.

5:30 AM – wake up, work out, get ready for the day, etc.

6:30 – write

8:00 – breakfast

8:30 – write

10:30/11:00 – walk

11:30 – write

1:00 PM – put my daughter down for a nap

1:10 – write*

3:30 – wrap things up

* My daughter doesn’t always take a nap, so this segment doesn’t always happen.

That isn’t always the schedule. When I’m approaching a deadline, it’s a lot more writing and a whole lot less other stuff. Right after I finish a project, there’s a bit more free time in there. But, generally, that’s the schedule I stick with, and it works pretty well for me. While I do enjoy a solid block of writing time when I have the opportunity, I’ve found value in learning to adapt my work schedule to whatever is available, and right now these 1.5-2 hour writing spurts are getting the work done, and that’s all I can ask.

It’s nice to be able to write full time. Not many can manage it. Tell us about your path to publication.

I went the traditional route! While I’ve always been very open to self-publishing, I figured I’d try to go the traditional route first, and it has worked out for me so far—in large part because I landed a phenomenal agent.

Do you create an outline before you write? 

I prefer to say that I structure my story before I write. That means that I look at typical archetypes and story structure tropes, and figure out which of those I’m going to be most in line with while working on any given work. That often changes partway through a project, but I do like to have a general road map. It’s like if I were to take a road trip from NY to LA, and said I’d hit maybe Chicago, Denver, and Las Vegas along the way, but I’d be open to doing whatever worked best in between (and, in truth, to cutting out any of those major milestones and replacing it with a better one, if that’s what the journey called for). I think some people like to plan out their novels the way some people plan out road trips, i.e. every stop and every hour of the day planned, and I don’t generally work that way when it comes to writing. Every writer is different, and for me, part of the fun of writing is letting the story develop into something organically.

At this point, I have to laugh. You see, I use that very analogy myself, but driving from LA to NYC instead. What motivates or inspires you?

I once heard Dan Wells say something along the lines of if he writes for 8 hours straight during a day, he can write 2000 words, but if he plays a video game halfway through the day, he can write 4000. I find that’s true for me. Taking breaks is an essential part of my writing process. I like to take a walk just about every day, and I honestly consider that walk work, even if I’m just listening to music or a podcast. I know my brain is running through ideas and scenarios in the background, and I often come up with some of my greatest ideas while walking.

I also find value in playing a video game partway through the day. (Dota 2 is my game of choice.) This seems to work similarly to the backburner principle I described for my walks. If turn the spotlight away from the creative side of my brain for a while and focus on something else, often when I come back to that creative side, it’s come up with something completely awesome.

What has been your greatest success?

That’s easy. I’d like to say the publication of my first book, but the truth is a lot more simple: a happy marriage to an incredible person, and a delightful child. No matter what the future brings, I can say with confidence that those have been my greatest successes, and I treasure every moment I get to spend with those people.

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

Joss Whedon, and mainly his work on the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I style myself a Buffy scholar; I’ve seen the complete series at least seven or eight times, and seen many episodes upwards of twenty or thirty. I’ve read criticism on the series and the writing, I’ve read philosophical takes on the series, I’ve studied its structure and development and background. I think it’s a phenomenal text that does amazing things, and stories like it are in large part why I write.

Thanks, Chris, for taking the time to chat with us. Before I present my site’s visitors with an excerpt from Dark Immolation, at the end of which I will provide your social links, I’d like to try a Lightning Round. In as few words as possible, please answer the following:

My best friend would tell you I’m… an introvert

The one thing I cannot do without is: My laptop

The one thing I would change about my life: Nothing

My biggest peeve is: People who don’t use turn signals when driving

The person/thing I’m most satisfied with is: Myself! I’m a flawed, broken work in progress, and I think that’s pretty great.

Dark Immolation excerpt:

“My lord, it is time.” Urstadt’s voice was soft but clear from the hallway.

“Just give me a moment,” Daval said, excitement flowing through him. Surely Urstadt would be even more excited than he; this was her plan coming to fruition, after all.

Daval dressed. The large dark-green robe with the oversized hood commanded a different type of respect than his decorated clothing, clothing that befitted his position in a high, noble house. As Lord Amok, Daval had great power and respect. But as the new Tokal-Ceno, Daval had something more.

“My Lord,” Urstadt greeted him as he exited his chamber.

Daval nodded to her, smiling. As always, Urstadt wore her half-armor: steel cuirass and faulds, each plated with a thin layer of rose gold, and matching gauntlets and greaves. She wore a suit of micromail—a recent invention of the imperial smithies, both lighter and stronger than traditional chain—beneath the plate. In one arm she carried her helmet, a barbute of the same rose-gilded steel, etched to make the face of the helm look like a skull, accented by black gems near the eyes. The contrast was odd; Urstadt looked somewhat feminine in her armor, but the skull contrasted sharply against the rose gold. Of course, when Urstadt had been promoted to Daval’s guard captain, he had granted her whichever armor she desired. In fact, since the suit had been finished, Daval couldn’t think of a moment he had seen his guard captain out of armor. She slept in the bloody set for all he knew.

At Urstadt’s waist was a short sword, scabbard and hilt also of rose gold, but her preferred weapon she carried in one hand. Her glaive—a poled weapon with a curved blade on one end— was an inelegant, ugly thing, taller than she was with a dented, dark steel blade and scarred, blackbark handle. Some laughed at and derided Urstadt’s rose-gold armor; but her glaive, and her skill with it, was not something to jest about.

“Tell me everything,” Daval said, as they walked down the hall. “How goes our little example?”

“Well enough,” Urstadt said. “House Farady took the bait.”

Daval nodded. He knew they would. The potential power they might accrue by undermining Daval’s fish trade would have been irresistible. House Amok, of course, was one of the high houses for many reasons, but first and foremost for commerce. Fish and other fruits of the sea had been their specialty for hundreds of years, but as time passed the Amok lords had sought other sources of income, from the marble quarries near the western coast to the logging beastmen on the Cracked Horn, the northeast peninsula of Roden. But, by striking the Amok fishing industry, a tiny house like Farady could shake the very foundation of House Amok.

But a shaken foundation was not a broken one, which was why he and Urstadt had orchestrated the whole thing.

Urstadt led Daval to the cells below the keep. Unlike those in the imperial palace, Castle Amok’s dungeons were very modest: a few cells below ground, near the wine cellars. Not particularly high-security.

They didn’t need to be. They were generally only for holding other nobles, soon to be released on negotiated terms. A certain level of comfort was expected. Daval was not surprised to see Darst Farady lounging on a cot with a smirk on his face in one of the cells. Two other men sat in the cells on either side of Darst, but he was obviously the leader.

“The great Lord Amok himself.” Darst grinned as he saw Daval approach. “I’m honored by your accommodations.”

Daval bowed to Darst, watching the young man through the iron bars. Darst did not move from his lounging position on the cot, one leg up, the other dangling over the edge, one arm curled behind his head in a makeshift pillow.

“I trust you’re being treated fairly?” Daval asked. Despite Darst being only a stripling and of a house significantly less powerful than Amok, Daval wouldn’t skimp on formalities. He must not give any impression of skirting the law.

The young man—perhaps no older than Daval’s daughter— shrugged. “Fairly enough, I suppose. When will I get out of here?” Daval took a deep breath. “I can’t be sure, my Lord. You were caught attempting to set fire to my property.” Darst laughed. “You surely can’t blame me. Given the rumors about your warehouse, you had to expect trouble of some kind.”

Daval sighed. “We did, of course. Which is why you were caught.”

“I don’t think you have any witnesses who actually saw us attempt this alleged arson,” Darst said. “So, considering the fact that no damage was done, I’d think being held a day or two in your cells would be sufficient punishment, wouldn’t you?”

In times of peace, this was often the way light disputes were settled between houses. The offending party was held in the injured house’s dungeons for an agreed-upon amount of time, and then released without further prosecution. If the offense was severe, a formal trial might be held, but such instances were rare. House representatives settled most disputes through informal negotiations.

This was not peacetime, however. Daval could not be so lenient. And, of course, their plan dictated he act otherwise.

Visitors who would like to follow Christopher Husberg online can do so at the following:

Website:         http://christopherhusberg.com

Blog:               http://christopherhusberg.blogspot.com

Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/christopherhusberg/

Twitter:          https://twitter.com/usbergo (@usbergo)

Goodreads:    https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14542821.Christopher_Husberg

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