Interview with Alec Hutson
For this newsletter, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing another writer friend of mine, Alec Hutson, author of the bestselling epic fantasy series, The Raveling. The first book was The Crimson Queen, which I loved. It has an old school, 90s feel, and is fantastic.
Before we get to that, a few items to clear up. First, a little housecleaning about what I’m writing. I’m about 60% of the way done with A Testament of Steel. Nothing has changed about the story. It’s still about Cinder Shade, a young man with amnesia and uncommon fighting skills who takes on the task of defending his home from a rising evil. It’s in his blood since Cinder was once known as Rukh Shektan.
Second, congratulations to Andrea from PA for winning the Kindle giveaway! This is the one for a Kindle Paperwhite loaded with all my books.
On to the interview with Alec Hutson!
First, off I’m incredibly honored to be here. Thank you so much for the opportunity to share my journey, Davis.
Well, of course, you’re honored. I’m an honorable fellow. Just teasing. I am honorable (I think), but it’s more my honor to have you here. Enough back-slapping. Let’s go!
1. What inspired you to become a writer?
Reading has always been a very important part of my life. Some of my earliest memories were being read Maurice Sendak and Chris van Allensburg books by my mother; my aunt also owns a fantastic independent bookstore in my hometown of Newburyport, Massachusetts, and I spent a lot of time there growing up. When I was in the 2nd grade I wrote and bound a fantasy story, and ever since I wanted to be a fantasy writer, although I didn’t consider it a real possibility until readers reacted so positively to my first book.
2. What did you do before you became a writer?
I was a teacher at various international schools in Shanghai pretty much my entire adult life, from when I graduated university to when I quit two years ago to focus on my writing. I really enjoyed teaching, but I never considered it would be my career. Originally I had thought I would go to law school, and I even took the LSAT, but my college girlfriend had gotten a job in China and she convinced me to come ‘just for the summer’ after graduating. That was 15 years ago.
3. You’re known for the world of your bestselling epic fantasy series, The Raveling series. What was the inspiration for that story? BTW I really liked the throwback feel of Crimson Queen, the scope of it and the farmboy/fisherboy (is that a word?) who is thrust into a world of power.
Thank you! I always loved what I see as the traditional epic fantasy story – a person from a humble background swept up in some grand narrative . . . a huge inspiration for me was The Deed of Paksenarrion, and several events in my series are homages to some of my favorite scenes from Moon’s masterpiece. I started writing Queen as a bit of a call back to these older stories that sustained me growing up, and also as a rejoinder to the trend in fantasy to embrace dark, nihilistic characters and plots. The term that’s thrown about in the genre is ‘grimdark’. I do enjoy a well-done grimdark tale, but I was having trouble finding any new fantasy that hearkened back to Jordan or Feist or Moon, and that saddened me. With reality how it is right now, I felt readers needed less depressing fiction and more stories that suggest that a common person can make a positive mark on the world. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t tragedy or darkness in my stories, but I do believe that good people can effect change and challenge evil, and that’s the story I wanted to tell.
4. Now that we know a little about the history of The Raveling, what can you tell us about the story itself? Just a quick blurb will do.
In my series, an ancient magical conflict brought down terrible cataclysms that shattered the land of Araen and virtually eradicated sorcery from the world. Magic has begun to slowly seep back into the land, bringing ancient powers that have been hiding for centuries into conflict with those that are newly emerging. The main character, Keilan, has a rare and much-coveted talent, and he becomes highly sought after by various factions in the world. He has to survive their machinations while developing his strength and protecting those he cares about.
5. You’re an American living in China, and I’m curious how that life abroad impacts and informs your writing.
I think certainly it has given me a different perspective, as China is a culture as rich and deep as the West, but very, very different. Also, living in Asia has allowed me to travel to some remarkable places – the first chapters of The Crimson Queen were written in a burst of inspiration one afternoon after I’d woken up at 4 AM so I could visit Angkor Wat when the city opened and experience the dawn breaking over the ruins with no one else around.
6. Book 2 rightly expands the story, but it still feels cozy, which is one of my favorite things about a book: to get to know the characters and have them live and breathe. That’s a great balancing act. Are there any stories you enjoy that offer the same warm but dangerous feel of your books?
Well, as I mentioned the Deed of Paksenarrion is one of my biggest influences, and I would recommend it to anyone who has enjoyed my books and wants to read a somewhat neglected fantasy classic.
7. The Shadow King, book three of The Raveling, came out in December, and I believe this is the completion of the story. You have to be happy to be done with the series. However, I imagine there is also some sense of loss. So what happens next?
It does feel good. There are a lot more stories I’d like to tell in the world, and I have another trilogy slowly coalescing in the back of my brain, but I’ll probably take a break and work on something new for a year or so. I’ve got two paths in front of me, and after I finish up working on a little project I’m doing I have to decide which way I’d like to go. One is a story that I believe would appeal to fans of progression fantasy, each installment being shorter and faster-paced than my previous epic works, and the other is a stand-alone book that would be much slower and would be inspired by The Goblin Emperor and The Player of Games. Kind of a fantasy of manners, I suppose.
8. What about audiobooks? I ask this of everyone. Will there be an audiobook version of book 3?
Yes! My audio producer’s schedule didn’t align with my publication schedule, but I’m hoping The Shadow King will have an audio version ready in a few months.
9. Anything else you want to tell us about your books?
Not so much about my books, but I’d like to say that I’m immensely grateful for the readers who have tried my work. I imagine there are at least a few among your newsletter readers, so thank you very much, all. And thank you, Davis, for giving me the chance to speak with your fans. Happy holidays to all!
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