March 4th, 2008

Jin Shei Cover from sgreer

March Madness #4 - Jim Hines, "Goblin War"

My friend and SFNovelists colleague Jim Hines clebrates a book birthday today - his latest, "Goblin War", has just been released.

In celebration of this happy occasion, I give you... Jim Hines.

Good luck, Jig!

Readers have dubbed Jim C. Hines the Goblin King. His third novel Goblin War has just been released in the U.S. His goblins are also showing up in France, Germany, Russia, and several other nations. The books have earned praise from the likes of Julie Czerneda, Ed Greenwood, and even Wil Wheaton, who called Goblin Quest "too f***ing cool for words!"

Q) What was your inspiration for writing Goblin War?

A) It's the unwritten law of fantasy. I had written two goblin books, but as a fantasy author, I had no choice. I Must Write Trilogies.

There were things I wanted to accomplish with the third book, of course. In the first two books, Jig is constantly struggling to protect himself from adventurers and heroes, not to mention his fellow goblins. This time, I wanted to bring that struggled to some sort of resolution. This is an all-or-nothing adventure. If Jig succeeds, he'll be able to keep himself and his fellow goblins safe for years. But if he fails, he's going to fail big.

There were other factors as well. Jig' and Smudge are a lot of fun to write about ... my readers enjoy him and wanted more ... perhaps most importantly, DAW was willing to pay me for a third book!

Q) Why did you decide to make Jig a goblin?

A) I wanted to take on the fantasy genre from the monsters' point of view. I've seen it done a few times before, Shrek being one of the more famous examples, but I never felt like they got it right. Shrek is really just a big, gross, socially awkward human. We never see anything about his family, his culture, or his background, and his motivations are completely human.

I also thought the tougher monsters had it too easy. Sure, anyone can survive an adventure when you're big enough to recycle armored knights and punch dragons in the face. So I decided to go with the underdogs, and you don't get much lower than goblins.

Q) What sort of research did you do to write this book?/What kind of preparation do you do when you are writing?

A) You wouldn't think a humorous fantasy would require much research. At least, I wouldn't have until I got started. But from day one, I was e-mailing a geologist for information on cave formations, looking up cooking sites to come up with good goblin recipes, double-checking armor and weaponry ... for Goblin War, I spent a fair amount of time trying to make sure my armies were using sensible formations and tactics.

Goblin War also required me to go back and re-read The Giving Tree. And no, I'm not going to explain that one.

Q) Are there any interesting scenes or ideas that didn't make it into the final book?

A) The biggest thing was a romance between Jig and one of his fellow goblins. I tried ... I really tried to make it work. I think I'm a pretty good writer, but I just couldn't pull it off. Maybe it's self-preservation, but my brain refused to go there. Much to the disappointment of my agent, who was hoping for a fourth book called "Jig gets Jiggy."

The first draft also gave Jig a magical elf cloak, a la Lord of the Rings, but I kept giving myself flashbacks to Harry Potter's invisibility cloak. Besides, invisibility would have made Jig's life far too easy.

Oh, and the scene where we learn that Smudge the fire-spider is gay didn't fly. I guess my publisher doesn't think the world was ready for homosexual spiders.

Q) What are you writing now?

A) DAW recently bought three more books from me in a new series. The first book is called The Stepsister Scheme, and should show up in January of 2009. I just finished revising that book, and have started on the rewrite of The Mermaid's Madness. The books are basically my response to the overcommercializiation of the fairy tale princess. My princesses come from the older fairy tales, which means these are some very conflicted characters with pretty dark backstories. I basically did a mash-up of those old fairy tales and Charlie's Angels.

Let's just say my version of Sleeping Beauty can kill you with a spoon.

Q) What does a typical writing day look like for you? How long do you write, that sort of thing?

A) I do most of my writing during my lunch breaks at work. Typically, a few minutes are spent actually eating, and then there are a few minutes of stalling and procrastinating before I dig in and start typing. 50 minutes or so isn't a lot, but I've found I can do about 5000 words in a good week, which allows me to write a book every year in addition to some short fiction.

These days, I'm having to make time in the evenings and weekends to keep up with deadlines. I'm glad the writing is going so well, but I also struggle to balance family, writing, and the day-to-day jobs like shoveling snow or fixing the zipper on my daughter's backpack.

Q) This isn't your first book; tell us a little bit about what else is out there?

A) There are the first two goblin books, Goblin Quest and Goblin Hero. All three are a lot of fun, particularly if you're a fantasy fan, because you'll catch a lot more of the jokes. I've also written close to 40 short stories. (Well, I've written a lot more than that, but I've sold close to 40. Big difference.) A fair amount of the short fiction is humorous sword and sorcery, but there's some serious stuff as well. I was quite happy to make the preliminary Nebula ballot this year for one of the serious stories, even though I got knocked out of the running for the finals.

Q) Who is your favorite author?

A) The answer changes from day to day, depending on my mood and what I've been reading. Today, I think I'm going to say ... Snoopy. His prose isn't always the greatest, but as an author, he's quite the inspirational little beagle. He never lets rejection slow him down, and he knows the most important thing is to drag that typewriter onto the doghouse and just keep writing.


Previews of all three goblin books are available at

Jim's blog is at

Purchase links:
Goblin Quest:
Goblin Hero:
Goblin War:

Cover art:
Goblin Quest:
Goblin Hero:
Goblin War:
Jin Shei Cover from sgreer

Virtual Book Tour - open call

If there's anything you want to ask me or have me hold forth about, about the new book or about writing in general, and you're reading this blog right now - the comments are now open. Step right up to the mike...

learningtoread asks:

Did you have to revise? If so, could you tell us about the process?

Ah, revision, mon amour.

Let me preface my remarks by saying that I *love* writing. I *hate* rewriting. Mainly because I kind of... think... the story onto the screen and for me it has an internal shape and form and symmetry, and no I am not saying it is perfect off the bat but it has a kind of finality to it that is intrinsic to the way I write.

And then I give it to my first reader, rdeck. Who picks up a red pen and WIELDS it. Mercilessly. And I rail and rebel and whine and sulk and am generally unbearable about it, and then I go away and look at his comments and mostly, dammit, he's right, and it took a new pair of eyes (not my own, too close to the material) to see it. So I go through his comments - and I do not, by any means, take them ALL on board - and I muck around with my perfect symmetry until it's all skew, but the STORY is better for it.

And then it goes off to the editor. And the editor I currently have is ferociously good and detail oriented. She gives me an editorial letter, in the fullness of time, which contains HER instructions and suggestions. No, I don't take all of those on board either, but dammit, SHE is usually right, too, so I revise again. And there goes the symmetry and the perfection of form, down the river, splat. But the STORY gets even better, tighter, leaner, and by this stage I've usually lost about 10 000 words of the original and you know, even I can't tell any more where they used to nest.

And then it goes off to the copy editors who do a line-edit, check for continuity, deal with the little niggly things that have slipped through everyone's fine tooth combs. And I fix THAT.

And then come the page proofs, and I'm not allowed to fiddle any more except in dire emergency, but funnily enough this is when my fingers start itching and I discover all kinds of weirdnesses that I am DYING to fiddle with but can't and have to reach a state of zen that tells me "let go, let God, let the reader" and release it and let it go and grow.

By far my favourite part of this process is the original writing of the original story. I struggle mightily with rewrites, and I complain a lot, and I pickle myself in coffee (even more than usual). But if you press me I have to admit - it is necessary. It is good. It makes better. Amen.

(I STILL don't have to like it, dammit)