Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Jim Hines Interview

You know him, you love him, and his name is "Jig", and a more pathetic slayer of dragons you'll never see in your life. Also, a funnier slayer of dragons will be hard to find, too.

The Saturday interview (so it's Sunday, and we're a day late...) is with author Jim Hines, who has written a thing or two.

His latest book just came out March 4, 2008, and once again we shall be greeted with more goblin adventures from Jig and company. *link*

You should buy it. It's funny. And exciting.

JMM) When you created your realm of beast and goblin and dragon, did you make a map of any kind? What visual aids did you use? Can you send me pictures of anything cool you used to help build your realm?

Jim Hines: I'd like to say I built a scale model of the whole goblin mountain out of Legos and gaming miniatures, but the reality is messier. Much messier. The map I used when writing Goblin Hero is posted at It was hard to scan, since I did the thing in pencil . . . partly because the details kept changing.

Mapping out your typical fantasy world is hard enough. Mapping out all those tunnels and pits in three dimensions, when nobody digs straight lines or right angles, it starts to hurt your brain after a while. But I'm proud to say that all of the caves, crevasses, tunnels, and pits do line up properly, just the way they're described in the books.

JMM) What is the difference between comedy and bad comedy? Do you have any tips or tricks to help people write as hilariously, knee-slappingly funny as you do?

Jim Hines: First of all, thanks! There are a lot of different styles of humor, and I'm not going to say one is better than another. In my case, I try very hard to make sure the story comes first. I've cut a number of jokes I thought were very entertaining because they didn't move the story along in any way, and I'm not going to add an extra two pages just for the sake of a punchline. That way, if someone's sense of humor doesn't match yours and they don't get the jokes, the story should still be engaging enough to hold their interest.

I also try to let the humor come from the characters. Jig, Grell, Braf, and the rest of the goblins are a lot funnier than I am. A lot of the humor I try to force into the story ends up getting cut in revision, whereas the things that come out of their interactions still makes me laugh.

Remember, when all else fails, have the spider set something on fire.

JMM) What writers do you see as your source for inspiration and what do you think they bring to your authorial palette?

Tough question. I try to learn from whatever I'm reading at the time. I just finished Tobias Buckell's book Crystal Rain, and his Carribean-based cultures gave me some insight into pacing, as well as writing something other than your generic western European-based characters. Peter David has a way of mixing humor with drama, making both more powerful, and I've tried to learn how to do that for myself. I read Diana Pharaoh Francis' wonderful book The Cipher a while back, trying to learn more about writing ocean-based fantasy.

I figure every writer has strengths and weaknesses. I plan to shamelessly steal--I mean, to take inspiration from the strengths of every writer I can find.

JMM) Food plays a prominent role in your Goblin books. Please, share with us a typical goblin feast from your latest book. *Hrk* Cough... Don't mind the vegetarian's stomach turning.

Jim Hines: The feast depends on the occasion. There's not a lot of food inside a mountain, so the goblins make do with whatever they can get. One of the more popular feasts comes with the naming of a new chief.

When the old chief dies, the toughest goblins fight it out to see who will take over. This works really well. The strongest goblin wins, and then the lair feasts on the losers.

Usually Golaka the chef slices one goblin up and cook him or her kabob-style. By this time, the lair is going to be pretty rowdy, so you want something that will cook fast. Chunks of goblin are alternated with mushrooms and maybe a few old roots, then sprinkled with fire-spider eggs for that extra kick. While the lair chomps on those, she'll slow-roast a second goblin, basting the meat with klak beer and blood gravy. Extra goblins are smoked and saved for later.

JMM) What is the future for Jig and Jig-kind? Is this the end of this story, or do you want to continue and create a "Tetralogy"?

Jim Hines: At the moment, there are no plans for a fourth goblin book. It can be easy to start churning out books which are essentially the same story, and I didn't want the series to get repetetive or redundant. I love Jig and his fellow goblins, but it was time to take a break.

Without spoiling anything, book three leaves Jig and company in a very different situation, one which has definite potential for some new stories. However, I'm contracted to write at least three books in a new series, so that's going to keep me busy through mid-2009 at least. (The first of those, The Stepsister Scheme, should be out in January 2009.)

Even if I don't do another book, there's always short fiction. I've written four goblin short stories, and just sold one about Smudge the fire-spider. So I may do a few more, if inspiration strikes. Ask me again a year from now.

Thanks for coming by and talking with us, Jim!

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