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Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Hell For Hire Interview with Rachel Aaron (interviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)

(Author picture courtesy of Oscar C. & Rachel Aaron)

Official Rachel Aaron Website
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Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of Hell For Hire
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of The Last Stand Of Mary Good Crow 
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Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Nice Dragons Finish Last"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "One Good Dragon Deserves Another"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "A Dragon Of A Different Color"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Last Dragon Standing"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Minimum Wage Magic"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Part-Time Gods"
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of “Night Shift Dragons” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic’s review of “By A Silver Thread”                               
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "The Spirit Thief
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit Rebellion” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit Eater” & “Spirit’s Oath” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of “The Spirit War” 
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Spirit's End"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Fortune's Pawn"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Honor's Knight"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of "Heaven's Queen"
Read Fantasy Book Critic's joint interview with Rachel Aaron & Travis Bach
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Rachel Aaron
Read Eli Monpress series completion interview with Rachel Aaron
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Interview with Rachel Bach
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Heartstrikers interview with Rachel Aaron
Read Fantasy Book Critic's Second Heartstrikers interview with Rachel Aaron
Read "Why A Nice Dragon" by Rachel Aaron (Guest post)

Q] Welcome back Rachel, thank you for your time and for joining us back at Fantasy Book Critic. How have you been since the pandemic?

RA: Thanks for having me back! The pandemic was rough, but I think I’ve finally managed to dig myself out creatively and get back to what I love most: writing tons of books!

Q] TEAR DOWN HEAVEN is the new series which you are giving your fans a peak into on June 4th. Can you tell us more about the inception about this world?

RA: As I’m sure will become immediately obvious to anyone who reads it, I got the idea for Bex and her crew when we took a family vacation to Seattle. I’d written about Detroit (or at least the future, dragon-filled version of Detroit) for so long, I’d kind of forgotten there were other American cities I could write about, but the moment I got to Seattle, I knew I wanted to set something there.

I also had this male witch character kicking around from a novel I never finished, so I pulled him out, stuck him in Seattle, and started looking for some problems. Once the ground was prepared, so to speak, Bex and her crew just kind of exploded into my head, and it all came together.

Q] With the Heartstrikers series, you put a special spin on dragons. Previously you have cast a spotlight on mercenaries and thieves. Now with this series, you seem to be putting a spotlight on witches and demons both. Am I correct in my assumption?

RA: Yep! I have a huuuuuge soft spot in my heart for “evil” creatures. I’m a firm believer that no one is born bad, so when I think about traditional monsters like dragons, demons, witches, and so forth, my first instinct is to ask “why do they act this way? What societal or magical forces generate this behavior? How are they suffering, and what kind of personalities does that produce? What happens when a dragon/demon/witch wants to be good?”

I did the same thing with thieves in Eli and mercenaries for FORTUNE’S PAWN. I just love my outsider characters!

Q] Let’s talk about the main villain the immortal king Gilgamesh. Now this was such an interesting twist. Can you talk about how and why did you choose Sumerian mythology to be the underlying mythological focus?

RA: I’ve always been fascinated by the really, really old mythologies, because stuff gets weird the farther you go back. I also loved that it wasn’t a mythology I’d seen other authors pull from, meaning the toybox was new and exciting! Finally, many of the Sumerian gods are traditionally depicted with horns, which fit what I was trying to do perfectly since I already knew I was writing about demons at this point. Match made in Paradise!

I also knew right off the bat that I wanted a golden king of Heaven who used to be mortal, and when I poked around for likely candidates with names modern readers would recognize, Gilgamesh was the best choice by far. The stars truly did align for my world building this time around!

Q] Bex and Adrian are such fantastically sympathetic characters. But between the both of them, they have some dark shades to themselves. What sort of heroes are they?

RA: Adrian is your classic too-smart-for-his-own-good character. He’s never met a problem he doesn’t think he can solve, which is a fantastic trait in a main character since he’ll throw himself into trouble, no plot pressure needed. He’s got a great heart, but the same overconfidence and pride that allow him to challenge the status quo of his world are also massive character flaws that get him into loads of trouble, which is a very fun combination.

As for Bex, she’s an answer to one of my favorite philosophical questions, which is what happens when a person is born into a role they’re not suited for. In Bex’s case, she’s what happens when a naturally shy person is born into the role of a larger-than-life leader:
-How does she live up to those expectations?
- How does she fail to live up to them?
- What pressures does this role put on her?
- And how (healthily or unhealthily) does she cope with that?

I love questions like this. They always make such fascinating and fun people!
Q] How many books are you planning for this series to be?

RA: Five! I wanted to write something epic again, and I think five books is the perfect length for taking readers on an epic journey without dragging things on too long. I also knew that it was going to take me several books to work my way up to the final conflict. When you’re challenging the Eternal King of Heaven, you’re in for a long climb!

Q] While the start of the series was a bit of comedic turn to it. It seems that this series might take some darker turns in the future? Will it follow the Eli Monpress books or be more like the Heartstrikers saga?

RA: You hit it on the nose. My work has been drifting darker after the pandemic since all art is a reflection of the times and the world is a darker place these days. I really wanted to stop that trend because I’m not a dark person. I wanted to get back to the fun I was having before life got so heavy, so I specifically set out to do a series that was in the spirit of Heartstrikers and Eli Monpress.

That said, I think it’s pretty obvious that the shadow of fascism was weighing on me when I wrote this. It’s also a rebellion story, which brings an inherent desperation. Eli and Julius had their fair share of dark moments too, but the joy of Fantasy is seeing good people overcome terrible situations and change the world, and that’s what I’m aiming for in TEAR DOWN HEAVEN.

Q] With a talking sword and a Boston accented cat, your side character cast is a special joy to behold. How did these two characters come about?

RA: Boston was the second character I came up with after Adrian! Obviously, every witch needs a black cat, and since Adrian is such a “damn the torpedoes” character, he needed a stuffy foil to remind him of proper procedure, and who’s more stuffy and dignified than a big fluffy cat?

Bex’s sword came about the same way. I knew I wanted her to have a confidant/mentor because she’s a character full of secrets, and having someone in the know whom she can talk about those secrets with is a fantastic authorial trick for informing the reader. 

Once I’d established that need, a talking sword was the obvious solution because:
 a) talking swords are awesome, and
 b) it gave Bex a partner who would pushed her toward her destiny even when she really didn’t want to go. 

Having a sword character also made Bex’s combat sequences super exciting and dramatic, which is never a bad thing.

Q] You have had some real spectacular cover for your previous series but the Hell For Hire one is probably one of the best I’ve seen. How did Luisa Preissler & you concoct this one?

RA: This was a super fun process! I knew from the start that I wanted a cover that looked very different from my DFZ covers so that readers could tell in one glance that this was a different series. We decided to go with a more comic book-style cover because the characters in this story are extremely heroic and the fight scenes are big and showy.

The single-character-on-a-colored-background style also helped differentiate my cover, because let’s face it: Bex is a badass lady with a sword who wears black leather. If I’d gone with a standard “character standing in the setting” shot, she’d look like every other badass-lady-with-sword cover that’s dominated Urban Fantasy since the 90s. I really didn’t want that, so my answer was to make the cover screaming yellow.

I also picked yellow because when you look at the Urban Fantasy shelf in a bookstore or browse the category on Amazon, the overwhelmingly dominate colors are black, purple, green, and blue. Warm orangey-yellow is opposite those colors on the color wheel, which means my cover pops out of the crowd like the yellow center of a purple flower.

It’s a great trick that makes sure my cover is the first thing people see. Color theory is power! Plus, yellow is just fun.

Q] Even though Adrian is the main protagonist of the story, I couldn’t help but be enamoured by Bex & her team of demons. Bex especially was my favourite character, with her self-discipline & pathos. Will she be becoming a central protagonist as the series progresses?

RA: Absolutely. This is a dual story. Neither Bex nor Adrian could progress without the other’s help. Adrian dominates the first book because his stuff happens in the front story while Bex is shrouded in secrets, which makes it hard for her to take center stage.

Adrian is also a talkative, outgoing character, which makes it easy for him to take over. Bex is quieter, but she’s got a core of iron, and her story is the key to the metaplot of the series.

Bex’s story in book 1 is mostly revealing her secrets, but her arc is the main driver in book 2 and much of the action past that point. We’re just getting going here, and there will be a lot more demon-crew action as the books progress and our rebellion picks up steam.

Q] I read online that the sequel might be releasing later in the fall/winter season. Is that correct? When will you be revealing the title for it?

RA: Yes! Book 2 is totally written, it’s called HELL TO COME, and it should be coming out in October of 2024. I’m writing book 3 right now, and unless I totally botch it, it should be coming out in early 2024. I’m hoping to have the whole series released by next year, but it depends on the books. Nothing comes out until it’s good!


Q] As much joy the DFZ world has given us readers, I’m thrilled that you are focusing on a new world and a new location (the Pacific Northwest). Was this a conscious choice?

RA: Yes. I love the DFZ to pieces, but I’ve been writing in Detroit for over 10 years now. I really wanted to get into a different setting and magical system, and when I took a vacation to Seattle and got on that ferry to Bainbridge, I knew this was the vibe I wanted to write. It’s cozy but still exciting, verdant and green—which is a great change after the DFZ’s relentless urbanization—but most of all, it’s just fun to be somewhere new. A new toybox is always an exciting prospect!

Q] This book mentions a lot of past events that have affected the plot in the current. Will you be writing/showcasing any prequels/short stories in the future to supplement the main books?

RA: I hadn’t considered this but now that you mention it, it might be kind of cool! Mark me down as prequel curious, though I will definitely be finishing the main story first. Gotta keep that sword sharp.

Q] Thank you for your amazing books and for your time Rachel. I can’t wait to read the sequel and the remaining books in the TDH series. Any parting words for your fans?

RA: Just the world’s biggest Thank You. I’ve wanted to be a storyteller since I was a kid, and there’s a huge part of me that still can’t believe I get to do this for a living. The fact that I get to live my dream is entirely due to my amazing fans and readers, and I cannot say thank you enough. You folks are why I write, and every single one of my books is dedicated to you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’ll do my best to make you proud!


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