Interview with Daniel McHugh1. When did you start writing, and was there a significant event that prompted you to do so?
I started writing in college at the University of Illinois. Winters are cold in the Midwest and your alternatives are drinking or television. Since I was usually too broke to afford a round of drinks and not really into soap operas, I found a diversion that suited my imagination and devastated my grades.
2. What inspired you to write THE MERCHANT AND THE MENACE?
In the Spring of 1987 I woke one morning from the most vivid dream I had ever experienced. I lie in bed basking in the pleasure of it. The sense was very much like the feeling you experience after watching a particularly excellent movie. You sit in your theater seat as the credits roll, lost in the story, letting emotions continue to wash across your consciousness.
That morning was the genesis of The Seraphinium. What I experienced was a full-blown movie in my head. As I “watched” that movie, the story completely unfolded. Characters were set. Background for those characters was understood. When a scene played out, I never questioned “Who is that guy?” It was as if I already knew. I had been briefed.
The story wasn’t simple. On the contrary, it was quite complex. A world acted as its canvas and an entire population as its cast of characters. The story encompassed years and dealt with the future of entire races.
I sat up and went to my desk. I wrote. Hasty notes at first, scribbled all across a yellow legal pad. The notes turned into an outline and the outline was stapled to crude drawings of maps and creatures.
For the next decade and a half I would periodically breakout the notebook. It grew. After a few years it turned into a box crammed with poems, prose, drawings, photos, maps and outlines. The box became a blessing. I truly enjoyed cracking it open and touching base with the ideas that had grown so familiar to me. I knew the story in both depth and detail within my head, but looking at it on paper was always a treat.
However, the box also became my albatross. I took it with me when I moved, always stuffing it in some dark closet. It represented something undone. It made me feel as if I’d left a part of my life incomplete. The Book, as I began to call it, needed to be written.
In 2004, my wife Jennifer gave me two gifts for Christmas. I unwrapped the first, a laptop computer. I was puzzled. I didn’t need or ask for a laptop. The second was a colorfully wrapped, large box. I opened it and was even more confused. Before me lay The Box, retrieved from its dark recess.
“Take all of this,” said Jennifer as she pointed at The Box, “and put it in that.” She pointed at the computer.
So for 7 years I have been putting “this” into “that”. The result is The Seraphinium Series.
3. What’s your book about?
The Seraphim. Beings of power, created to guide the world in times of trouble. They live their lives of near immortality in servitude to a lesser creature, man.
One rebelled. Amird, the Hand of the Creator, bridled at the sovereignty of his lord. In defiance he murdered a brother and was cast into the Mists of Chaos.
Millennia passed as the Deceiver plotted his return. Backed by the might of a seemingly unstoppable army of Ulrog Stone Men and their fire-eyed Malveel Lords, Amird plans to wrest control of the world from the Creator and rain violence on the humans he once served.
All that stands between Amird and his triumphant return are the remnants of battered human armies and the hope that Seraphim, loyal to the Creator, still roam this world.
Kael knows little of this struggle. His quiet village lies deep in the Southlands, unchanged and unchallenged by the wars raging in the frozen North. In fact, the boy longs for a bit of adventure and freedom from the boring routine at his father’s inn.
Freedom comes at a cost. Kael’s first journey outside his secluded village results in a tragedy so deep it destroys the boy’s sheltered world and immerses him in the struggle.
Revelations surface. Kael uncovers a past linking him to legends, grapples with a present that resembles nothing he knows, and confronts a future that demands he tap long dormant power and stake a claim in the defense of the human races.
Kael’s first step toward that future lies through the darkness of the Nagur Wood, and rumor has it something prowls the Nagur!
4. Tell us a little about your main character.
Kael is a reluctant hero. In fact, he’s not really a hero at all. He’s a simple man who dreamt of something bigger until that something emerged from the shadows and destroyed his life. In The Merchant and the Menace Kael finds himself trying to reconcile his old dreams of adventure with his new desire to fade back into the obscurity of his bucolic life. His problem becomes the true heroes who have suffered and fought to protect him while he lived a seemingly bland life. These heroes sacrificed rank, stature and in some cases their lives in order to keep the young man far from the eyes of the prowling Malveel. They force him to acknowledge his heritage and take part in the struggles of the Nearing World.
5. What do you enjoy the most about writing?
I enjoy piecing together the puzzle. I love dropping hints to crucial plot twists early in my novels. I delight in unraveling a mystery over time so that the reader suddenly has her eyes opened and smiles with the knowledge that she is “in” on the secret. Nothing can be more complimentary to an author than a reader who smiles, shakes her head and says, “I didn’t see that coming!” I liken it to a magician. Keep the audience’s attention and then spring a gratifying surprise on them. When done properly, both the writer and the reader are satisfied.
6. What was the hardest part about writing your book?
Editing is tedious yet mandatory work. However, the key to editing is releasing control. It is so easy to convince yourself that all of your effort has produced a flawless piece of work. Authors must acknowledge that the brain plays tricks. They must cede control to an outside pair of eyes (or four pairs!). The mistakes will cascade from the editor’s pen and appear obvious once they are pointed out.
7. Where do you get the inspiration to write?
Writing is just part of my day. I have a routine that involves a minimum of three hours of writing per day. I settle down, flick the switch and viola, I’m off and running.
8. Who is your favorite author and why?
It’s constantly changing. However, I believe Jack London to be a writer of ridiculous ability. THE CALL OF THE WILD & WHITE FANG are books of genius storytelling and profound depth. I am also a huge fan of Robert Louis Stevenson. TREASURE ISLAND is the seminal adventure tale. In my own genre, obviously Tolkien looms large. Eddings and Brooks are a road map for Epic Fantasy perfection.
9. What do you like to do when you are not writing? What is your ultimate luxury?
Travel. There’s something to be said for the unintended adventure of it. So often things go wrong and you must adapt and deal. Quite often you learn surprising things about the country you are in when this happens.
10. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
I think readers who enjoy some old fashioned storytelling will find my books a worthy read. Too often new authors spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about cramming their well-crafted plot into a setting or timeframe that just doesn’t work. There exist ample samplings of Urban Fantasy, Steampunk etc. that work and they are fantastic reads. However, in the mad rush to be on the “cutting edge” of Fantasy Lit, we mustn’t forget story. The setting in my books will seem like an old friend, but the story will take you to new places.
Thank you, Anthony, for hosting my interview on Digital Book Today. I really appreciated this opportunity to connect with your readers.
Social media and buy links:
Connect with Daniel McHugh: Blog / Facebook / Twitter
The Merchant and the Menace: Amazon
The Pool and the Pedestal: Amazon
The Trees and the Night: Amazon
The Mirror and the Maelstrom: Amazon