Book Signing: Kevin Hearne, Author of the Iron Druid series

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a signing on one of the stops for Kevin Hearne’s book tour for the latest in his Iron Druid series, Trapped. Amidst much laughter, discussion, and fangirling (or fanboying, as the case may be) about certain fantasy authors, Hearne had some rather interesting things to say about the develpment and future of his series, his thoughts on urban fantasy today, and the importance of being a geek.

Despite the warning not to judge a book by its cover, I’ve always been somthing of a cover art nerd, so it was fascinating to hear Hearne speak a little bit about the evolution of the Iron Druid series’s cover art. As part of his research regarding the Native American mythology that features in Tricked, Hearne traveled to the Navajo nation to get a good look at the land where his story would be set. He wanted to take pictures of where everything would be to get the feel, the sound, and the smell of the locale. “There’s a lot to the white noise you would get in a place,” he says, before going on to describe the sights he encountered on his trip. Amidst precariously maintained roads flanked by mounds of shredded tires that couldn’t endure the journey, Hearne was particularly struck by what he described as jagged rocks covered with sand that sat in the distance. He took pictures of said rocks, sent them to his editor with fingers crossed that they would eventually make their way to the cover artist, and lo and behold, the silhouette of his picture can be seen on Tricked‘s cover. “I am so excited,” he exclaims before stating that, since they put the cover blurb over the silhouette, you can’t actually see it, but rest assured that it’s there. “That shadow there; that’s me.”

Another aspect of cover art today, urban fantasy in particular, that Hearne finds troublesome is the prevalence of unrealistic body types depicting female characters. As the upcoming Trapped is the first in the series to feature Atticus’s protoge Granuaile on the cover, Hearne felt it was very important to portray her as a normal human being. Unfortunately, despite explicitly asking for modest attire and no cleavage, the first draft looked more like what most urban fantasy seems conditioned to provide: leather and comic book boobs. “Dang near poked me in the eye,” he jokes. Luckily, the final draft features a decidedly more normal Granuaile.

Regarding the future direction of the series, Hearne says that we should expect to see further incorporation of Greco-Roman mythology. He laments that they only teach the boring parts in school, and that there’s some twisted stuff that many people haven’t heard before. He teases that we should keep our eyes out for the upcoming Hunted (“Hunted; goddeses of the hunt”). Hearne also alerts readers to some stories that we might not be aware of yet that help to fill in the gaps in the Iron Druid timeline. The novella Two Ravens and One Crow, due out the 15th in electronic format only, takes place six years after Tricked and six years after Trapped, and it resolves some issues left hanging after Hammered regarding Thor’s, well, hammer. Hearne jokes that he was persuaded to write the novella after receiving numerous requests from fans wanting to know why the hammer hasn’t played more of a role in recent books. “Just step away from the World of Warcraft,” Hearne jokes, stating that the novella will clarify why Atticus hasn’t used the hammer more extensively. In addition, the novella A Test of Mettle, formerly available only with the ebook version of Hammered, is now available on Hearne’s website for all to read (just scroll to the bottom of the “Goodies” page).

As far as timelines go, Hearne clarifies that there will be nine in the series, consistent with Irish mythology in which cycles are told in series of nine. “Three times three nights he labored…” and so on, nine is a constant. As far as the twelve-year gap between Tricked and Trapped goes, Hearne explains that he made the decision mainly in order to cut out the boring bits as Granuaile progresses in her training. He says that as it’s mainly a magical rather than a technological issue, hopefully the technology will hold up and we won’t have subthermal implants in eight years’ time. As long as Atticus can still refer to a cell phone, he thinks the chronological jump will withstand the test of time.

Perhaps one of the more interesting discussions of the evening involved Hearne’s explanation that, while he writes his series mainly to provide entertainment, the books do actually hold an important message: that of religious tolerance. Atticus is the last living practitioner of his faith. He doesn’t have a choice; he must be tolerant. “Are you going to hate everyone?” Hearne recounted a conflict he had with his copy editor regarding the lowercase pronoun “he” in reference to Jesus. Hearne explained that while Atticus knows Jesus is a deity, he’s not Atticus’s deity, thus the lowercase pronoun made sense, but the copy editor merely referred to standards in the industry and audience expectations. Hearne’s response? He rewrote the sentence to get rid of the pronoun.

Other fun facts we found out that night:
  • Hearne is a professed Patrick Rothfuss fanboy, claiming that, upon meeting the author at San Diego ComicCon, he lost his cool. He also suspects that Rothfuss’s beard has layers and depth and may involve another dimension. One of his favorite moments at a signing thus far involved being asked to sign a sword (by a fan named Kodiac, no less) previously signed by Neil Gaiman, Patrick Rothfuss, George R.R. Martin, and R.A. Salvatore.
  • Hearne loves the audiobook versions of his series and laughs at his own jokes not because he thinks they’re so funny, but because the way the reader delivers the lines is so awesome.
  • The idea for the series began as Atticus and Oberon the comic book (for a DC Comics-sponsored contest). While he writes, Hearne continues to see his story as comic book panels.
  • Regarding his stance on fanfiction, Hearne says “my feeling is that fans are awesome and so is fiction…I’m not gonna say ‘how dare you like my stuff.”‘
  • While Hearne features real locations in his stories, he sometimes changes the names. “Whenever there’s a vast slaughter of people, I change the names to protect the business.”

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