Interview with GINN HALE
Ginn Hale resides in the Pacific Northwest, donates blood as a pastime, and tinkers with things. Her first novel, WICKED GENTLEMEN, won the Spectrum Award for best novel and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. She is also the author of the LORD OF THE WHITE HELL books and the RIFTER series. Her novella, THINGS UNSEEN AND DEADLY, appears in the Shared-world Anthology IRREGULARS.
What are you reading right now?
Right now, I'm reading through CULINARIA GERMANY, which was edited by Christine Metzger. It's an odd hybrid of history book, cookbook, and atlas. Very useful for research, since it directly ties the geography and culture of a place to its traditions and history. Also there are some beautiful pictures and a lovely section on witches!
THE EXTENDED PHENOTYPE by Richard Dawkins is a delight and quite brilliant.
I've also been revisiting BY THE SWORD by Richard Cohen, which is a history of fencing and filled with fascinating information tracing the evolution of swordplay from a necessity of war to a refined almost artistic sport.
What first sparked your interest in writing?
I'm not a natural writer, I don't think. I don't have favorite words or much skill at word-play. But I've always loved stories - stripped down to their core plots they can often be as perfect and precise as really lovely algebraic formulas. It's always been the core of a story - that nifty little plot - that buoys me through the hard work of crafting the individual words that build characters, scenes, and worlds.
What do you love the most about writing? The least?
I think that writing is beautiful in that simple bits of ink can evoke entire worlds - and that the experience of them can be quite real to the reader. I'm also fascinated by the fact that so very much of what an author creates is actually given life by the imagination of a reader. I think it's marvelous that every reader can have his or her own private version of Cadeleon and it's inhabitants.
What I hate about writing is the intense demand of the craft. For me books take years to write because the individual words do not come easily or naturally. But that's the life I've chosen and I've been very lucky to have met a great bunch of readers because of it. I certainly can't complain.
Tell us a little about your writing process.
My process is quite dull. (Sometimes I think I ought to attempt to spice it up, if only to have a better answer to this question during interviews.)
But alas the truth is that I simply read a wide variety of non-fiction and take notes while I'm cogitating upon a plot. Then when I feel like I've got a grasp of the story I want to write I create my outline as well as a rough atlas of the world I'm creating. Then I pick a song to listen to and I start writing. And I just keep writing until the book, novella, or short story is done.
The only remarkable detail of my process might be that I only listen to a single song the entire time that I'm writing a work. There are songs that I've listened to for eight or more hours nearly every day for up to five years.
What are your passions?
I really like science and I am very committed to LGBT rights; I don't, in any way, accept that my marriage to my wife poses a threat to anyone - except maybe the cats who might get bumped off the bed once in a while. And speaking of cats, I also strongly support the work being done by organizations like the Best Friend Animal Society.
What inspires you?
Nearly anything that makes me think is inspiring. That's why I tend to read so much non-fiction, particularly on subjects of biology, technology, and history. But anything can be inspiring to me if I try to find the inspiration in it. To me, that's part of the real beauty of the world: nothing is too small, common, or ordinary not to harbor some spark of interest.
Well, both authors and readers can have quite a bit of fun with fantasy. There aren't many other genres that allow people to fly, animals to speak, and terrible wrongs to be undone with just a kiss. It's also a genre that allows a writer to raise difficult topics - sexuality, religion, social hierarchy, etc. - but removed enough from a real world context not to instantly provoke a knee-jerk reaction from readers.
How were THE LORD OF THE WHITE HELL books born?
I'd just completed the five year project of THE RIFTER, (which required a huge amount of plotting and touched on some rather dark themes), and I wanted to write something more straightforward featuring younger, less hardened characters. A close friend requested a story set in a boys school, another friend asked for horses, and a third friend - the genius whom I based Kiram on - was going through some of the tougher adventure of becoming his own adult and inspired me greatly.
I just went from there and two years later I'd written the books.
Of all your published books, do you have a personal favorite?
I don't have a favorite.
As a rule, the book I've just completed is my least loved work because all the trouble it caused me is still so fresh in my mind.
Right now the LORD OF THE WHITE HELL books and THE RIFTER series are both in the clear; it's my contribution to the IRREGULARS anthology that is my least loved creation at the moment. Though I suppose it will soon be supplanted, since I'm just now starting to write another book set in the Cadeleonian world.
Do you ever plan to return to Kiram and Javier’s story?
I plan to return to their world and I expect to find them there,perhaps not as primary protagonists, but certainly still there.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
I think most authors give the same, good advice: write every day and always with a creative but critical eye.
The only other thing I can think to add is that no matter how precious some ideas or stories might seem, you must be open to abandoning them for the better of the overall work. Sometimes that means abandoning entire novels and moving on to a better, stronger project. Not every idea works out, but every effort is an opportunity to learn and improve. Even failure gives a writer something to consider. That can be an inspiration in itself.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?
Well, I'm not nearly so serious as I may seem in interviews or sitting on some panel fielding questions. In person, I tend to just kid around, tinker with things and talk too much about lichen.
Other bits of trivia: I'm left handed, I nearly live on black coffee, red beans, and rice but haven't manage to develop a taste for chocolate. Oh! And I've been challenged to add noodles into my next novel so there's something to look out for. Elezar Grunito versus noodles!