Today I have the pleasure of welcoming fantasy author Bill Blais to the blog. I got the chance to reveal the cover for Bill’s latest novel, Hell Hath No Fury (Kelly & Umber #2), yesterday, and he was gracious enough to allow me to grill interview him about his writing journey. Let’s find out a little more about this wonderful writer, shall we?
Bio: Bill Blais is a writer, web developer and perennial part-time college instructor. His novels include Witness (winner of the Next Generation Indie Book Award for Fantasy) and the Kelly & Umber series. He lives in Maine with his wife and daughter.
Now tell us something about you that your bio doesn’t include. Feel free to make us laugh!
I can juggle, read Old English and I rode my first 100-mile bike trek last year. Oh, and I can’t carry a tune in a paper bag (though, sadly for our new baby girl, this doesn’t tend to stop me — my wife, amazingly, is immune to the, um, sound).
Congrats on your new baby, Bill! Please tell us about some of the unique elements in your books. What inspired you to write them?
It probably sounds a bit trite, but I would say that the most unique element of these books is Kelly herself. Female protagonists (like male ones), tend to be portrayed as strong and sexy and ready for anything, or damaged and broken and angry (but still sexy, of course). Kelly is neither of these extremes, and this was the critical thing for me. I wanted her to be someone I might know or meet on the street, someone real.
When we meet her in No Good Deed, she’s what Garfield the cat might call ‘undertall’ and not necessarily a head-turner, but she’s happy in her own skin, and her strength and beauty flow from this personal groundedness. Kelly also has a family, including a loving husband and children, as well as brothers and sisters and parents of her own, all of whom impact her life directly and indirectly, just as they do for the rest of us.
My inspiration was being rather tired of the ‘super’ heroes and heroines. I wanted to see what would happen when a person as ordinary (and extraordinary) as the rest of us, was thrown into the ‘traditional’ urban fantasy genre. Kelly’s certainly not perfect and makes her share of mistakes, but that’s the point, I guess; I wanted to show that it’s the ordinary people that are the real heroes.
Who is (or has been) your favorite character to write and why?
As far as the K&U series, I have to say Kelly has been my favorite, which seems like a cop-out, but it’s the truth. I hadn’t written a female point of view before, and I didn’t know if I could pull it off. The story wouldn’t let me go, though, so I took on the challenge to find a genuine, believable voice for her.
As it turns out, I didn’t really have to worry about it (at least, that’s how it felt to me and I hope readers feel the same). As soon as I put pencil to paper, Kelly started talking and all I had to do was listen. Whenever I try to make her do one thing when she wants to do another, she definitely lets me know. Of course, I can be stubborn too, but I’m learning, and this whole discovery process with Kelly and being tuned in to what she would really do or say was extremely cool, and sometimes surreal.
What is something you think people should know about your books before they start reading?
Nothing at all, actually. My hope is that readers can walk into this book and series, regardless of their general reading habits, and enjoy them.
When you have time to read, who are some of the authors whose books you have to have on-hand?
When in the middle of writing something of my own, I try to avoid reading (or listening on tape/CD during my commute to and from the day job) in that genre to avoid unintentional cross-pollination. I like to read just about everything, and I try to pick different authors, but my fiction favorites tend to be old friends like Jane Austen, Patrick O’Brian, and Henryk Sienkiewicz.
Tell us about a book that resonated with you (either recently or prior to your writing career).
The one that comes immediately to mind is Stephen King’s On Writing. I was given it many years ago by a friend, but I intentionally put off reading it. I was afraid it was more of a how-to book and I didn’t want to be told how to write (I regularly upgrade from ‘stubborn’ to ‘pig-headed’). After I had written Hell Hath No Fury, though, I felt like I could be more objective, and I am so grateful I finally got there. On Writing isn’t about how to write, but how to be a writer. I cannot recommend it highly enough. At the risk of sounding cocky, it tended to affirm my own approach to the writing life, and it felt very good to not be alone.
What are you reading right now?
Endless Forms, Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom, by Sean B. Carroll. It’s not a quick read, but it’s packed with fascinating information about this new field of Evolutionary Development and the findings they are uncovering about genetics and such (such as how a zebra really gets its stripes and whether it’s genetically a black animal with white stripes or white with black stripes). Okay, so not everyone’s cup of tea, but I borrowed this from my sister-in-law a couple years ago as research for a short story and I’m still reading it (it’s filled with scraps of paper covered in scribbled notes).
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received regarding your writing/books?
The one that comes to mind is from my grandmother, who is a stickler for grammar (God help me if she reads this and finds a typo!) and a life-long reader. I was always a bit leery of her reading my stories, because fantasy (urban or otherwise) is not really in her reading zone, but after she read Witness, my first book, she asked me how I came up with all those different characters and voices. She was very impressed that I made them sound so different from one another. That was a very big moment for me.
Where can we stalk find you?
Site and blog – http://www.billblais.com
Twitter – https://twitter.com/#!/onemoredraft