Monday, January 23, 2012
Interview with Kat Heckenbach
Kat Heckenbach is the author of Finding Angel and a lot of great short stories. For my review of Finding Angel, go here.
Chapman: In some places you provide scientific explanations for the magic that Angel and Gregor perform, describing the transformations at the molecular level. Most writers leave the nuts and bolts of magic a mystery. Why did you take a different route?
Heckenbach: I suppose the obvious answer is that I'm a science geek (I have a B.S in Biology), so I like scientific explanations for things. However, it's never bothered me that most fantasy novels don't include that stuff. Magic is fun, and it doesn't have to follow rules. I wanted mine to be different, though. I wanted magic to be an innate ability which could truly be extrapolated from what humans are capable of. And each of my characters has a Talent that is a magic power stronger than the rest, with each person's being unique to them. I wanted it obviously representative of our unique talents here in the real world, so I wanted magic in general to be "realistic." Oh, and I'll say more on this when we get to question number five :).
Also, I can't help but mention that your question reminded me of what Professor Snape says in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: "There will be no foolish wand-waving or silly incantations in this class...."
Chapman: Finding Angel contains several mini-chapters interspersed with Angel's narrative. These mini-chapters feature conversations between two scientists who are obviously up to no good. What did you hope to add to the story with these chapters?
Heckenbach: Quite simply, a villain presence. For reasons that become obvious at the end of the book, I can't have the villain make a bunch of face-to-face confrontations with my main characters. Finding Angel is as much a mystery as it is a fantasy. But there needs to be a sense of peril--Angel may not know everything that is going on, but the reader can be clued in to some of it.
Chapman: The novel begins with a wall of fire. I'm reminded of a couple of your short stories, "Fire Wall" and "Prism", which also feature walls of fire and trees, respectively. What do these walls mean to you?
Heckenbach: Oh, wow, psychoanalysis. Eep. It's funny you ask, actually, because I've noticed that I use fire in a lot of my stories and I've spent time trying to figure out exactly why. So far, I've not had any success though. I think it must say something about me! I'd love to hear some hypotheses on what that is :).
The wall part may be a little easier to figure out. It's an obstacle--one that blocks the view of what is on the other side. So, the character doesn't necessarily know what he is in for. In both "Fire Wall" and "Prism" there is a belief that what lies beyond the wall is something terrible--and in both cases it's true for some, but not for others. The outcome relies completely on the character's convictions--and one story shows wrong convictions while the other shows right convictions. Same obstacle, different result. Maybe that is related to the fire--it is something that contains incredible power, both positive and negative depending on how it is used.
Chapman: Angel discovers a prophecy about mid-way through the novel that informs the remainder of the story. Did you come up with the story line and fit the prophecy to it or dream up the prophecy and build the story around it?
Heckenbach: That is actually a harder question to answer than you'd think. Yes, some of the prophecy was written to match plot events I'd already planned out. But some plot events seemed to actually develop naturally to fit the prophecy. I remember having moments when I'd write a scene and it would hit me that I'd just "fulfilled" a line in the prophecy without even realizing it while I was writing!
Chapman: Is there an origin story for the magical people, those with gifts? I suspect it's in some of Gregor's history tomes.
Heckenbach: And now we are back to your first question about science and magic. Yes, there is an origin story. It will be told in the second book! :D It's not the main plot of the next book, but Sir Benjamin will be telling one of the characters the story of how it all happened, so I suppose you'll just have to wait and see. If you're not that patient, I'm sure much of it is in some of Gregor's history tomes...if you can find the island and get your hands on them...
Chapman: Dawric is cast out of the Realm Beyond and swallowed by the earth. What makes him so evil that he is undeserving of forgiveness?
Heckenbach: Now normally, I'd shake a finger at you for giving a spoiler, but really everyone knows bad guys get it in the end, and in some ways this particular thing is incidental to the "real" event happening in this scene (of which I won't give spoilers). And this is a really good question, deserving of an answer.
Dawric is not so evil that he is undeserving of forgiveness--no one is. But he has set his mind to refuse it. You cannot force someone to accept forgiveness.
Chapman: Can you give us a preview of what's coming next for Angel? She has a wish to use. Will she be visiting her adoptive parents again?
Heckenbach: Yes, her wish. Of course that is a big part of the second book. Wishes don't always unfold the way we think they will. It's not like rub a lamp, and poof, you're a prince. The timing is not necessarily immediate, nor is what we wish for always what we expect. And, sometimes you get more than you ask for. (What other cliche shall I add to this list?)
And Angel is going to come face-to-face with some of the consequences of her choices in the first book. You don't just run away and everyone you leave behind is hunky-dory. So yes, her foster family will appear again, but Angel is in for a few surprises there.
A couple of new characters are added to the cast in the second book--which, by the way, is titled Seeking Unseen. And the point of view doesn't stay solely Angel's. There will be a shift, and partway through the book the pov will begin toggling back and forth between Angel and another character.
Seeking Unseen is due out the second half of 2012.