Welcome Barb Hendee!

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If the Writer Isn’t Having Fun, the Reader Probably Isn’t Having Fun

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So . . . in 2003, JC and I launched a series staring a female vampire hunter—in a dark medieval fantasy setting—and the Noble Dead Saga was born.  I’m the first drafter in our team, and I was having a blast.  I “get” why readers enjoy stories about vampires and about vampire hunters, and I think as a result, the series did well. 

About four years in—and four novels later—we had some other writers over for a dinner party, and one of them was a fairly bitter soul who’d taught creative writing for years and had not managed to land an agent or a publisher.  When everyone at the party went outside to play croquet after dinner, I stayed in to wash the dishes, and this writer stayed behind to talk to me.  I did feel bad for him.  He really had hit that “bitter wall” of wondering if he’d ever find a publisher.

As I was loading the forks into the dishwasher, he said, “Well, I know that if I could just lower myself to writing a series about a vampire hunter, I could have a best selling series too.”

I’d just cooked this guy dinner. 

However, I’m nice, and so I nodded sympathetically.  But on the inside, I was thinking, “Yeah, baby, why don’t you try that and see what happens.”

If he’d tried to launch a series about a vampire hunter, it would have failed miserably because 1) he’d have hated doing it, 2) he wouldn’t have had any fun, and most of all, 3) because he didn’t remotely understand why people love those stories.

Fast forward a few years.  The Noble Dead Saga was still doing fairly well, but JC had taken into it BIG epic fantasy, and I sort of missed the more emotionally intimate dark tales of the first three novels.  Then . . . in a situation far too complicated to explain here, I was offered a chance to write an independent series based on a contemporary vampire novel I’d written back in grad school.  My editor asked me, “Can you slant this into urban fantasy?”  I answered, “Absolutely.”

I mean . . . how hard could it be to write urban fantasy?  I didn’t know anything about urban fantasy or why readers enjoyed it, but I jumped in with both feet.  Good God!  What was I thinking?  I was completely out of my element, and yet, I wrote four more books based on that early work from grad school.  This was the Vampire Memories series.  I had no business writing urban fantasy.  I pulled the plug on that series myself—without waiting for my publisher to do it for me.

Then I started thinking about what I really wanted to do.  I absolutely loved writing Sister of the Dead set in Droevinka, the land of Magiere’s birth, and I often thought that if I had the chance to write a new series, I’d go back there.  I’m drawn to the medieval politics and the warlord princes.  I love the heavy forests and cloudy skies and the traveling gypsies and superstitious villagers and the old stone castles.   I mean . . . who doesn’t love traveling gypsies and old stone castles?

I also remembered how much I enjoyed working with main characters who begin to realize they have more power than they ever could have envisioned.

So, I sat down and wrote a proposal for a series called The Mist-Torn Witches about two sisters, Céline and Amelie Fawe, who start off in one of those grubby little villages in Droevinka, with Céline playing at being a “seer,” and soon, the sisters find themselves rushed into a rapid change of circumstance due to the ambitions of two of those warlord princes, and the sisters begin to discover a good deal more about themselves, their abilities, and their connections to the traveling gypsies . . .

Then I wrote the first three chapters, and I was just having a blast.  I was having soooooooo much fun.  I showed the proposal and sample chapters to my editor at Roc.  She’s no hand-holder, and she pulls no punches, and after reading the submission, she nodded and said, “This is good.”

I’m now back to writing in a setting that I love, working on a series I find extremely fun, and as a result, I think the readers will have fun too.

BarbPortrait

 

 

Barb Hendee is the nationally best-selling co-author of the Noble Dead Saga (along with her husband J.C.).  She is also the author of the Vampire Memories series and the newly launching Mist-Torn Witches series.  She has a master’s degree in English and taught college for twelve years. She was born in the northwest, later migrated to Idaho and then Colorado, but she missed the rain and the moss too much and now lives just south of Portland, Oregon in the Willamette Valley with JC and their two yearling kitties, Ashes and Cinders. Visit her website at: http://www.barbhendee.org/

 

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11 comments to Welcome Barb Hendee!

  • Barb, I had the same problem when I was asked to write romance.
    “Of course I can write romance. How hard can it be?”
    Uh…Pretty hard, actually.
    I think we all have to write what what we love, and breathe into it that part of our souls that brings the story and the characters to life.

  • Faith, I’ve been making jokes lately about writing a paranormal romance in the vein of “demon lover bodice ripper” under the pen name of Desiree Snow. Hah! I’d probably be terrible at this and turn it into a comedy.

  • Barb – Great to see you here on Magical Words! I, too, had that awakening moment when I first started to write category romance. I was fortunate enough to find a handful of that genre that I loved, and they taught me how to do them… And I think you could have great fun with Desiree’s books! Best of luck with MIST-TORN WITCHES!

  • Thank you, Mindy! I really do think having fun is the key–and I can see you having a lot of fun with some types of romance. I might give it a try . . . mmmmmmm?

  • I look forward to reading your Mist-Torn Witches series. Witches are sort of a mystery to me and I find it very hard to write about them, though I include them in almost everything I write as sort of a scenery magic category, if that makes sense. Good luck!!!!

  • Thanks! One of the main characters is skilled in herbology, and I read a book called Brother Cadfael’s Garden that was really helpful in making her more believable.

  • Preach it, sister!

    Seriously, it breaks my heart when I come across people who’ve forgotten that writing needs to be fun. I had a friend some years back who decided she was going to write, and the best route to success was to write for Harlequin. They had a formula, so it was going to be so easy. Or so she thought. When I saw her last, she’d created a whole bunch of spreadsheets. It was an unusual process, so I asked her to tell me about her story. She couldn’t. None of her characters were at all real to her, and she was miserable with what she was doing. Last I heard she’d tossed writing aside for some other pursuit.

    I’d love to have written the Harry Potter books or the Song of Ice and Fire, but maybe the stories inside me will someday be equally successful. If not, at least I had a good time!

  • Misty . . . the “formula” cracks me up. I saw that formula once too (smiles). It reminded me of a recipe for quiche. Hah!

  • While I enjoy Faith’s books, I could never write vampire. In fact, I picked up the first JY book because of MW – I don’t normally read vampire, or urban, although I’ve ventured into the urban reading realm a lot more since being here, too. Again – don’t think I could write urban worth a hoot, either. [shrug] I’m looking forward to reading the Mist-Torn Witches, though. Forests, gypsies, magic, stone fortresses, herbology… those fall right into my cuppa!

    When I write, I have to be fully engaged and able to get lost in the telling, or else I can’t convince myself to keep my BIC.

    Welcome to MW. Hope to see more of your posts!

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  • Late to the party, as usual . . .

    Barb, this is great. Loving what we write is so important on so many levels. In part, it’s just a matter of this being a tough business; if you don’t love what you do, it’s not worth the work, the heartache, the mediocre pay, etc. But more to the point, as you say, is the fact that the joy we feel in writing will shine through in our work. If we love our characters, our worlds, our narratives, it will show in our books. If we’re writing by formula, to make a buck, that will show as well. Great to see you here at MW!