Alongside my review of Tanya Huff’s latest novel A Peace Divided, I was given the chance to submit some interview questions, which I tried, and mostly succeeded to keep on the topic of the Confederacy series and the latest installment of same. But as I’ve been a fan of Huff’s writing for years (Having read 19 of her novels to date) I may have wandered a little further afield for some other questions I’ve wished I could ask. I’m grateful for the chance to have conducted this interview, and definitely recommend the Confederacy series discussed below, which starts with Valor’s Choice published in 2000. For those of a more Fantasy bent than Sci-fi, I also greatly enjoyed the Quarters series which starts with Sing the Four Quarters, published in 1994. That said, lets get to the questions!
1. With the transition from Sh’quo company to the Wardens making the unit more of a peacekeeping/police force, did you find there were any different or additional challenges writing the combat and battle scenes? Was it hard to pull them back from shooting to kill?
The weird thing is, shooting to kill is easier. Bang. Dead body. Deal with the consequences or not — usually *not* in battle scenes. The challenge while writing Torin and her crew as Wardens is that there are situations that could be dealt with significantly faster as a military operation and I have to keep telling myself, nope, can’t do that now. It’s not hard, it’s just constant. This pretty much parallels real life — as police forces become more and more like small military units, they default more and more to the military response which is, at its most basic level, kill the enemy before they kill us. But the police don’t face an “enemy” and their job is always more complex because of that. I want to mirror that complexity in what the strike teams have to do.
2. Since ‘Valor’s Trial’ we’ve been seeing a lot more of the Primacy races, and seeing them in a great deal more depth as well. A lot of SFF involving many races falls afoul of the Star Trek “Humans with funny prosthetics” trap. Sometimes it’s based around there being a grand progenitor race, sometimes it just seems like people find it difficult to write anything TOO non-human. What has been your experience breathing greater life into the Primacy races, several of which are pretty fundamentally different from Humans and most of the other Younger Races of the Confederacy?
I try to begin with making the biology viable — at least on the surface — and work from there. If you have four legs, you don’t use a chair. If you’re an insectoid species, you’re probably communal. At the base, we all, regardless of how alien we appear, have food, shelter, and companionship in common — the fun part comes when you can start playing with where that goes. And I try to always keep in mind that professional soldiers have a common mindset.
3. On the subject of widely different races, over the course of the Confederacy novels, major characters from multiple races have suffered pretty serious trauma. It’s clearly affected more than a few of them, and the ongoing struggle with trauma is a plot point in A Peace Divided as well. How did you approach trying to determine how other species/cultures would react to trauma, and try to deal with it or what failing to deal with it might mean?
That’s actually fairly easy. Other species and cultures react to trauma the way I need them to in order to advance the plot. Then I try to remain consistent.
4. Have you considered writing any other novels or short stories set in the Confederacy maybe going more into the history and society of one of the other Younger Races? Or maybe some parallel novels set in the Primacy?
I have two short stories set in the Confederacy and another on the back burner and the odds are high that although the 8th novel — which I’m working on now — finishes Torin’s story, I’ll return to the Confederation again. I hadn’t thought about novels set in the Primacy — the problem I’d have there is that there’s no Human character so I’d have to do something like what CJ Cherryh did in THE PRIDE OF CHANUR. Oh bother. That gives me an idea…
5. On a similar note, any hints as to whether Peacekeeper#3 will mark a break in Confederacy/Torin novels? Or do we have more to look forward to?
Torin’s story is finished with Peacekeeper #3 and I’ll be leaving her alone to:
a) join a Mictok commune and learn to weave
b) reconcile with the H’san, introducing them to Greek yogurt
c) become the ambassador to the Methane Alliance
d) none of the above
6. I’ve read in some other interviews that you tend to have an opening and closing to a novel and then sort of forge ahead, editing as you go. Have you ever had to scrap an idea in the middle after it has reached the point of the actual writing? How far have you gotten into a work before realizing that the middle might not work to connect the ideas you had?
While I haven’t had the final scene that I’ve been aiming at change, the reason for that ending will change countless times throughout the writing as plot and characters grow and develop. The middle sections are there to reach that end so the trick is not letting them get out of hand.
7. Have you ever considered/would you consider writing collaboratively with your wife?
Oh dear lord no. We did a non fiction thing collaboratively and had to build it out of individual segments – a she said, she said, situation. We approach fiction so differently it just wouldn’t work and I’d like to stay married.
8. As a former Torontonian, I have many fond memories of Bakka-Phoenix. I’m guessing, given publication years, that they probably stocked Child of the Grove and The Last Wizard (Which were also the first of your novels I read, in the Wizard of the Grove omnibus) Any awesome stories of selling your own book to people, or people coming in looking for it and realizing the author was the one helping them?
I was once handed a copy of Child of the Grove and asked if it was any good. I said it was. They asked if I’d read it. I told them I’d written it. I suspect they only bought it because they were so embarrassed.
With Gate of Darkness, Circle of Light, I had a reader come into the store and tell me how much they liked it except for how my police officers swore too much. Not even an hour later, I had a police officer come in and tell me how much he’d liked it (he’d bought it because of the Metro Police cruiser on the cover) but he thought my police officers didn’t swear enough.
Other than that, unless I said something — or more likely Michelle said something — I was pretty invisible.
9. I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to ask you some questions, I’ve been a fan for a lot of years, and the Confederacy novels are among my favourite series. I look forward to Peacekeeper #3 and definitely suggest that any readers who’ve found these answers engaging, to go pick up a copy of Valor’s Choice, the first of the novels of The Confederacy
You’re welcome. And thank YOU.