Jim C Hines appeared at Kazoo Books today in digital format. The weather has been insane lately with sub zero temps and enough snow to replenish the Great Lakes. So we hooked up a brand new HP laptop (it still had the stickers by the touchpad) attached a webcam (though it had one built in) and Jim’s head was on the table before us. He gave a sysnopsis of his Goblin books and then shared about the new Stepsister Scheme. He held up a sketch of the cover for the forthcoming The Mermaid’s Madness. And the screen went blue and the computer rebooted. When we got him back online he said, “Well if you didn’t like the cover you could have just said so.”
The computer ditched us a few times. First we tried minimizing the video from full screen to a window. Then it dumped after he said the word “however.” The pure audio feed dumped too. So we finished the session on the phone with speakerphone on. I won’t give you the meeting minutes here, but I do want to point out some of the questions he answered for us.
My first question was about humor. How one keeps humor in a serious book without leading the audience to expect a comedy. He pointed out that the humor should come from the characters. The goblin books had a lot of humor because that’s what you get with them. The Princess books definitely have their share of humor, especially from Snow, but it is clearly a more serious type of story. He said he has had reviewers say that they didn’t think the new series is as funny and not like Terry Pratchet. Jim pointed out that he is not Terry Pratchet- Terry wears a hat.
Another thing I learned (me struggling with finishing mid length stories) was that a keen way to introduce subplots is to introduce more characters and generally make things harder on them. He cautioned about videogaming the plot with plot tokens that don’t move the story as a whole forward.
Jim also had some interesting insight for those of us still working up to our breakthrough. He said that he started in 1995 and things really started rolling in 2005. He pointed out that he had been writing that whole time, so when he became an author of interest he had a lot of inventory. Daw has been able to do a little better than a book a year and he’s got short stories showing up all over. He said that when you hear about an author exploding onto the scene it is probably because they are already exploding with fiction that is done when it happens.
At any rate those are the big takeaways for me. I’d be happy to share more about the event if there are any questions.
Oh yeah, I learned 1 other thing. Some editors don’t dance the Contract-Agent two-step. The late Jim Baen disapproved of authors looking for an agent after he had already agreed to buy the book. I don’t know if there are others with this predilection, but Jim said that if he had to do it over again he would have tried to get an agent first instead of submitting straight to the publishers. If following this path he points out that you need to spend the time developing your Query Letter writing skills.