To celebrate the US release of his book Blood of Innocents author Mitchell Hogan kindly took time out of his hectic schedule to stop by for a chat. We touched on a variety of things, from writing a sequel to how he would fight Cthulhu. Read on to find out more!
Mitchell Hogan, welcome back to Smash Dragons!
It has been almost a year since you last popped in! I gotta ask, what’s new with you?
A lot has happened, 2015 was a crazy year for me. I’m about two weeks away from daughter number 2 entering the world — so things will be even more hectic for a while. Writing wise, Harper Voyager’s version of A Crucible of Souls was released in August 2015, and Blood of Innocents in December 2015 (the US version of Blood of Innocents was released on February 2nd).
I also managed to self publish a sci-fi space opera novel, Inquisitor, in June 2015, and signed the audio rights to Audible. Right now I’m currently 80,000 words into a new fantasy novel.
So, a very eventful 2015!
You recently released the second volume in your Sorcery Ascendant Sequence, entitled Blood of Innocents. I’m curious, was the process for writing this book any different from the first?
A Crucible of Souls was a sporadic effort over many years, with the first 100 pages written a very long time before I returned to the manuscript with an eye to finishing the first draft. I had no idea what I was doing, and it showed. It took a lot of effort to ‘massage’ it into shape!
Then as I’d learned so much I was more confident in my own abilities. With Blood of Innocents the first draft took around 8 months from start to finish. It still had problems (as almost all first drafts do), but it was in decidedly better shape than I expected.
How have you found working with Harper Voyager different to releasing your books independently?
Harper Voyager has a huge team of specialists and they’ve been fantastic to work with. The first big change which makes a difference straight away is you’re working to someone else’s timetable, rather than having self-imposed deadlines. If you’re used to setting your own schedule you might find this hard to adjust to. For example, instead of getting a structural edit back and being able to take your time to revise a manuscript, I had a 4 week turnaround to get the ms back — which means 4 weeks of 12+ hour days working on it. Another main difference is there are a lot of things out of your control, whereas when you self publish you have complete control. In some ways this is scary, but on the other hand you don’t have to worry about finding and paying for editors, proof-readers, formatters, cover designers, marketing etc.
What is your favourite line in Blood of Innocents? Why?
“It has begun.” — which is the final line of the book. On Caldan’s journey, much has happened up to this point, and while many threads have become clearer for the reader, there’s still quite a lot left to reveal. So for me this line is a promise of what’s to come in the epic finale of A Shattered Empire.
One of the things I love about your work is your heavy emphasis on magic and sorcery. How did you come up with your system and all of its facets? Do you have a favourite magical power from the books?
As with probably every magic system, mine started out small and grew from there. I wanted a design that didn’t just rely on innate talent, but on a physical object which controlled the sorcery. From there I decided the objects should have a limited life, which led to sorcerous power being corrosive. Then of course, you have to think of ways to break your magic system! So I came up with corrosive resistant items I called ‘trinkets’, and finally, a method of circumventing the rules of my system — in a completely logical way — which came to me when I read an article about experimental fusion reactors. From there it’s just a matter of thinking of ways the sorcery could be used, or abused, and the consequences.
My favourite use of sorcery from my books are Caldan’s experiments combining sorcery and clockwork mechanisms/devices to create constructs, or automatons. They’re like golems in a way, however you can also imbue them with sorcerous powers which someone shrewd can use to their advantage—as our hero shows. I could have gone a lot further with these than I did, but perhaps I’ll save that for another series…
Characterisation can be tricky, especially when dealing with a world filled with multiple POVs. How do you stay on top of it all when plotting and writing?
I’ve found the best course of action is to keep character notes, which can be as brief or as detailed as you like. Mine could have more detail, but I’m always eager to get stuck into writing! I also have a chapter breakdown in Excel, and for each chapter I detail the POV’s, word count, a summary of a few sentences, and also colour code a cell to show whether there’s action or a reveal etc — this way you can see at a glance if there’s not enough to keep the pacing up (or a reader interested) over a few chapters, and can easily see dead spots in the story.
How do you think you have improved as a writer since you first self published A Crucible of Souls?
I’m far more organised, which mightn’t seem like a big deal but it is! Plus, I’ve learned a lot about structuring, plot and characters from the various editors I’ve worked with. I judge how I’ve improved by how much I have to cut from my first draft. With A Crucible of Souls I cut around 100,000 words, and with A Shattered Empire I think it was around 15,000 words. That’s not to say I’ll ever end up with a fantastic first draft! When revising I cut a fair bit as well, but not whole chunks of text.
Hypothetical question… if Lovecraft was right and the Ancient Ones do exist, what would be your weapon of choice when defending the Earth from their onslaught?
Hmm… as this is hypothetical, some of the weapons on the Nostalgia for Infinity should do the trick. This spaceship is in Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds, and holds the Cache “Hell Class” Weapons — self-contained and self-propelled, and self-aware, with at least an interplanetary range — they would cope with the threat nicely!
What have you been reading lately? Anything exciting?
My time is severely limited at the moment, but I’ve managed to read Carnifex by D.P Prior which was gritty and really well written, with a brutally tragic ending. And I’ve started on an ARC of D.K. Mok’s latest novel, Squid’s Grief, and so far I’m enjoying it immensely. I always love D.K.’s intelligent characterisation and the wry humour throughout her books.
Can you give us an update on A Shattered Empire? What can we expect from the third book?
The structural/developmental edit of A Shattered Empire is done. Right now the book is being copy edited, and when I get the manuscript back from Harper Voyager it’ll take me 1-2 weeks to go through, and then it’s pretty much out of my hands! The official release date is September 2016 — only 8 months away. Oh, and I’ve seen draft covers, and the final cover will be awesome!
Readers can expect a lot more action as the trilogy comes to a conclusion, plenty of reveals and loose ends tied up, and insane sorcery… I’d love to give more hints but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone!
Will you be attending any conventions this year? Will fans have the opportunity to get their book signed at those conventions?
I'll be at Supanova Gold Coast and Melbourne, if anyone wants to come and hang out. Gold Coast April 8-10, Melbourne April 15-17 www.supanova.com.au
They’ll be my first conventions, and although I don’t have a confirmed schedule I’ll be on a panel or two, and there’ll be plenty of opportunities to have books signed. I hope (fingers crossed) I’ll also be invited to Supanova Sydney in June.
And finally, will we ever see unicorns in your work?
Probably not… though I should never say never. Perhaps my daughters will beg me to write a book with unicorns, and then it’ll have to happen!
Mitchell Hogan, thanks for stopping by!
Always a pleasure Matt! Thanks for your hard work and dedication with reviewing and interviewing Australian authors.
Blood of Innocents is available now from all good book retailers. For more information click on the following links: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Booktopia, and Harper Collins.
Trust me... it is worth the read.
Until next time, be nice to each other, and keep on reading!