Harry Connolly is making waves with his debut novel Child of Fire, the start of a new urban fantasy series that mixes explosive action with magic. Harry was kind enough to share some insights with Sci Fi Bookshelf about dark heroes, inspiration and the fatal mistake made by most aspiring writers.
Sci Fi Bookshelf: For someone who hasn’t picked up Child of Fire yet, how would you describe it?
Harry Connolly: I call it a dark supernatural crime novel about a guy forced to help a powerful, dangerous sorcerer hunt down and kill someone even worse.
SFB: The main character is a convicted felon. Was it hard to write a story from that perspective, and make him a hero the reader could root for?
HC: It wasn’t hard to write a character from that perspective, once I’d done a little research. The important thing is that, however compromised he might be, the people he’s up against are even worse. That’s a general rule for anti-heroes–not that I consider my protagonist, Ray Lilly, an anti-hero. I’m just saying.
SFB: What inspired you to write Child of Fire? Was it a particular experience or idea?
HC: I read and loved Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest and spent weeks figuring out how to adapt that feeling, of one man pitted against an entire community, to a story with supernatural elements in it. It wasn’t as easy as “The Crime Lord Is A Vampire!”–fantasy elements have to be restricted in specific ways to make a mystery plot really work, and vice versa.
HC: Sure. It’s darker than Child of Fire and has a touch of tragedy to it. Ray is press ganged into an emergency job for the Twenty Palace Society. He has to investigate an auction for a supernatural predator in a remote corner of the state. Once he arrives, though, he discovers that things are much worse than he expected, and he has to deal with several very dangerous threats.
SFB: What’s the best book you’ve read lately?
HC: Probably The Galton Case by Ross Macdonald. Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker is also terrific, and so are the first two volumes of Joe Hill’s Locke and Key.
SFB: Do you have any advice for new writers trying to break into the market today?
HC: My advice is simple: Writers should treat every rejection as though it was their own fault. Even if it’s not true (and it isn’t always true–sometimes rejection is about the buyer having a similar story in inventory, or a deep hatred of some story element, like cannibalism) assume that it is. The reason I say this is that the biggest stumbling block to most writers is the book they write. It is on the writer to improve, to change, to strive. As soon as a writer starts thinking “They just don’t understand me” or “NY publishing only wants best-sellers” or “Editors only want to publish their friends” or any of the other ways people push blame onto others, they lose the power to reach their own goals. Actually, they give that power away to figments of their imagination. Keep the responsibility for your success for yourself, the good parts and the bad.
SFB: Harry, thank you for your time!
HC: Thanks so much.