November 9th, 2006

International Kittens of Mystery

Virtual Book Tour: Jim C. Hines at the Astraldome

Once more the Astraldome has its walls hosed down, the drains unblocked and ... welcomes Goblin Quest author Jim C. Hines.

So, same format as before, with the help of two mediums strapped to a supercomputer we are going to astrally project Jim from his dungeon in Michigan to a place very close to your computer screen. A slight warning: Doris 'internationally renowned medium' Scrote is back on the drink - so there may be some ectoplasm wander. If any gets on your keyboard - don't let your cat lick it up.

Ready? Okay, Windows ESP is loading and the quantum computer is in a state. Now concentrate on Jim's picture below. Will him across the astral plane. And keep concentrating. Hold that image. The astral plane is a slippery place to cross - especially with Doris back on the bottle - Jim's spectral image might snap back.

Can you see it? Jim's spectral form? Then let the interview commence...

Q1. You sold your first pro story to Writers of the Future in 1998. What do you think was different about that story compared to your earlier ones that didn't sell?

Ah, good question. Unlike my earlier, "failed" stories, this one had a magical dagger shaped like a bunny.

Seriously, this was the first story I really had fun with. Up until that point, I had worked very hard on what I thought my stories should be. This time, I just relaxed and wrote what I wanted. My characters bantered back and forth, they played practical jokes in the middle of their adventure, and I had a blast writing it. I'm told that sense of fun really came through in the story.

Still, a knife that can wiggle its nose and bite a disrespectful owner is a strong selling point in my book.

Q2. Goblin Quest is about a goblin who lives in a dungeon, gets press-ganged, forced to fight hobgoblins, carrion worms, zombies and necromancers, and search for hidden treasure. Is it autobiographical?

Jig the goblin is a nearsighted little runt who gets picked on by all the bigger, stronger, popular goblins. I'd like to say for the record that there is absolutely nothing autobiographical about it. Nope, nothing whatsoever.

Fortunately, Jig is also a clever little guy, and a great deal of fun. He's the underdog, and unlike a lot of fantasy quest adventures, he's not "the chosen one" in any way. No special gifts or powers, nothing but his wits and his pet fire-spider. He absolutely hates this whole quest thing, but as it turns out, he's not half bad at it. Better than the real adventurers, at least.

Of course, the adventurers don't appreciate being shown up by a mere goblin, so even Jig's successes come around to bite him. It's rough being a goblin.

Q3. You receive a phone call from a serial killer. He asks you the same question he asked his previous victims. "You have 150 words to sell me your book. 150 words exactly. If I like what you write I'll buy the book. If I don't you die." What would your 150 words be?

Thank God. I was afraid this would be another political call.

As a serial killer, you'll appreciate the goblin mindset. Goblins just want to stay alive. If that means they smile at you, then stick a knife in your back the moment you let down your guard, so be it. That's what you get for turning your back on a goblin. After all, the closest word for "trust" in the goblin tongue is a word that means "gullible" or "dumb as dung," depending on context.

Jig also comes up with some very creative ways to attack his enemies. You need a flaming spider for at least one of them, but I'm sure a clever fellow like you could find a few useful ideas.

And really, who doesn't appreciate good old-fashioned cannibalism jokes?

To close, Wil Wheaton called the book, "too f***ing cool for words." What else is there to say?

A quick pause for a reaction. He's not too happy about being compared to a goblin. But he does have this strange fixation on Wesley Crusher. So ... yes, it's an ectoplasmic f***ing thumbs-up from our serial killer. On with the next question...

Q4. Looking at Goblin Quest I suspect a D&D past. But which role did you prefer - dungeonmaster or adventurer?

Oh, I go both ways. Um, wait . . . can I rephrase that?

I enjoy the storytelling side of running an adventure, and trying to keep up with both the really clever and the really dumb choices my players make. But it's also a great deal of fun for me to be one of those players, being really clever and defeating a room full of manure-wading, methane-generating stink-monsters with a single fire spell, then leaping into a whirlpool in full plate mail the next.

Goblin Quest definitely has its share of gaming humor, for those attuned to catch it. Most of my college friends will recognize a certain dwarf's obsession with mapping, for example. But the story itself and most of the jokes are written for gamers and non-gamers alike.

Q5. I notice on your website it says that you've amassed 500+ rejections. Any really memorable ones? Threats to set the dogs on you if you send any more stories?

My very first rejection letter was from the Clarion Workshop. I applied several times, to both workshops, and never got in. (Though I was an alternate several times.) What makes this one most memorable is the fact that earlier this summer, I was invited to be a guest instructor at Clarion. I've also got a rejection from Marion Zimmer Bradley, asking why I had written this pointless story. I sold her one later, for the very last issue of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine.

Rejection letters can be frustrating, but few things are more satisfying than turning around and blowing that rejection away with a sale to the editor in question. (Or with an invitation to lecture, in the case of Clarion.)

Thank you, Jim. The mediums power down, Doris falls down, and Jim's ghostly presence slithers back along the plane, gnaws at an engine then disappears.

Now for feedback - did anyone see any ectoplasm? Did anyone sober see any ectoplasm? Did Jim's astral form billow out and grasp a pen? And if it did, did it write anything legible? Enquiring minds need to know.

Meanwhile, Goblin Quest can be bought from all good bookshops including Amazon in the US and UK

And details of Jim's book tour across the blogosphere can be found here