An Interview with Faith Hunter, Creator of Jane Yellowrock

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Faith Hunter returns for Dragon Con 2015! An attractive hazel-eyed blonde with a penchant for natural jewelry, Hunter is the creator of one of the most loved kick-ass heroines of contemporary fantasy and is hard at work on a new series. The New York Times bestselling author of the Jane Yellowrock, Rogue Mage, and The Soulwood series answered our questions between whitewater kayaking trips and arriving in Atlanta.

Kim Hunter StudioDaily Dragon (DD): Kim Harrison has described your series lead Jane Yellowrock as “smart, sexy, and ruthless.” What other qualities attract readers to Jane and her adventures?

Faith Hunter (FH): I think it’s the way her empty and cold life is slowly and surely filling with friends and family. The loner finds peace. She is no less able to kill her own vipers, but she is not alone doing it. The way Jane changes and develops, while still staying true to her original self, is the draw I feel while writing her, so I have to say it is also likely the same draw readers feel.

DD: Even as a new fan of the series, I sense that Jane’s character arcs spring across books and stories. Would you expand on the quintessential Jane, her inner turmoil, self-discovery, and (perhaps) redemption as the series progresses?

FH: Jane Yellowrock is the most complex character I have ever written, so this is a loaded, involved, complex answer. When Jane woke in the human world, she was twelve. She walked out of a mountain woods, naked, scared, scarred with old, healed, bullet wounds, and with no language or social skills at all. She was feral. Raised in a Christian Children’s home, she learned English and those missing social skills in an environment that was different from most of ours.

Unknown to Jane or to the people around her, her new life was also vastly different from the missing years—all 170 or so of them. Jane had been born a Cherokee skinwalker, and at the age of five, she had started training to become a War Woman, a youth that was abruptly ended when the US government forced the tribal Americans to relocate in the 1800s.

In the modern world, when she was 18, and was released from the home, Jane began a journey of discovery into her new future and into her past, a journey that started with taking the courses for becoming a licensed private investigator, and quickly morphed into the job of rogue-vampire hunter. This new job was very different from both her remembered life in the home, and from the forgotten, lost memories of her Cherokee ancestry, but it also led her to a Cherokee elder who helped her begin the process of finding her Cherokee roots and her memories, even the oldest, most painful ones.

As her oldest memories slowly begin to return, they change Jane’s perception of who she is and how she was bred to relate to the world. Her perceptions of law, and of right and wrong, begin to grow and develop. She remembers some of things she was forced to do as a child in training. She learns that some of the creatures she has hunted and killed as a rogue-vamp hunter might have been saved with proper treatment. She is forced to consider that she might have murdered, in the act of trying to save the innocent. This twists the woman who grew up in a home with certain expectations of life purpose and morality, and though she hasn’t stopped trying to do the right things, even when life kicks her in the teeth for it, Jane is struggling as a person and as a skinwalker.

And then, to make matters worse, there is her Beast, the soul of a mountain lion that Jane pulled inside her body with an act of accidental black magic, when she was five years old on the Trail of Tears. As a two-souled being, Jane is doubly cursed with impulses and reasoning that are not even human.

Redemption? I think self-forgiveness is terribly underrated in our society. It’s my hope that Jane forgives herself, stops the self-recrimination, the useless guilt, and accepts all the good things that life can offer.

DD: Without revealing too much about the very large creature lurking in the corner, what dangers lie in wait for Beast in upcoming encounters with things that go bump in the night?

FH: Poor Beast. Her love of, and fascination with, strong monsters are likely to be her undoing. And the thing in the deepest basement at vamp HQ is like bait in a trap for her. Worse, the sane, unchained monsters in the upper levels are just as delectable.

DD: Jane Yellowrock’s physical abilities are a key element of her character in all aspects. How does your own interest in whitewater kayaking contribute to the portrayal of Jane’s very athletic prowess?

FH: Staying active is hard for a writer. We sit when we write. We sit on the way to signings. At signings. On the way to conferences. On panels at cons. It’s difficult to stay active when one’s income and greatest joy in life requite a state of near immobility! And worse, due to health issues, I was a couch potato for many years. I’ve been rehabbing my body back into some kind of shape for the last decade! I work hard to keep my body in motion. Jane is part mountain lion, and that big-cat is an ambush hunter, with built-in weapons and physical gifts that help Jane hunt, chase, fight, and kill monsters. Added to her natural skinwalker abilities and magic, she is physically powerful and capable of learning new fighting skills—even ones dangerous to her own existence. For nothing is free, and all magic has its price.

DD: Can a less active person imagine and hope to write effectively about a character as fit as Jane? Any writing tips for us couch potatoes?

FH: I was diagnosed with two health issues in my early 40s. They made it hard to do anything, and harder to want to do anything physical. I wasn’t physical, at all! So, yes, one can remember running when one was a child and write that. Or see the joy on the face of a healthy child who is running or swimming or jumping rope, and vicariously feel that health and action. A writer can then translate it to the page. But I wanted to live without pain; I wanted to be active. So I started small. Walking. And floating down gentle rivers. And eating much, much, much better! Slowly I’ve found healing, and my healing is in the water. Start with a goal—to get healthy and to move. See your doctor to make sure how slowly you need to start. And then every day, do just a bit more. It’s really simple. Small lifestyle changes every day.

DD: The last Jane Yellowrock novel, Dark Heir, released in April, 2015, may have been Jane’s most dangerous escapade yet and made some guesses about weapons of choice in the future. What’s next for Beast-fans?

FH: Over the course of the last few books, Beast and Jane have merged more tightly than expected, even by me. (Yes, my characters still surprise me!) Jane has to learn how to deal with her abilities to shift into time as well as with the price she has to pay physically every time she does so, a price that seems to be getting steeper and more dear with every use of the new magics. Also, there’s that tiny issue of tangled DNA that needs to unsnarl, something that Beast would just as soon see stay put. Jane and Beast have to make peace, fight the bad guys and gals, while keeping New Orleans safe from the very people she works for. Beast and Jane have kinda worked themselves into a tight spot!

DD: You recently published Water Witch, a novelette written with D. B. Jackson (David B. Coe) in the world of his Thieftaker Chronicles but also featuring Hannah Everhart, an ancestor of Jane Yellowrock’s best friend Molly Everhart Trueblood, a practicing witch. What was the genesis of this collaboration?

FH: Just for funzies, in Death’s Rival, I gave the antagonist, Lucas Vasquez De Ayllon, a history that included the line, “He… terrorized Boston for a few years before the tea party of 1770.” That was the time setting for Jackson’s Thieftaker series. And I promptly forgot about it. A few years later, David read the book and called me and asked if I did that on purpose. That was the beginning of the short story collaboration.

DD: I found the differences between Hannah’s magical abilities and Ethan Kaille’s conjuring fascinating. What led you to develop Hannah’s system on such a divergent path from Ethan’s? And, fantasy set in Colonial-era America is a bit of a departure from the contemporary venues common to much of your work. What special challenges did you encounter in writing Hannah Everhart’s tale in an eighteenth century setting?

FH: Hannah had to speak and act like a girl from the 1770s would, which made the voice and tone very different from the voice of Jane’s world. Jackson and I talked back and forth on the phone and then worked closely on the short story where Hannah’s world intersected Ethan Kaille’s world, to keep the necessary parts for both worlds true and clean. At the same time, Hannah also had to remain true to the Everhart magic system set up in the Jane Yellowrock/Skinwalker series. We blended some of Molly Everhart’s magic to set up Hannah’s magic, changed the voice and tone, and then gave her that quintessential teenager twist. Et voilà! Hannah’s magic! Working with D. B. Jackson was the most fun I’ve had in ages!

DD: Can we expect more stories from the combined pens of Faith Hunter and D. B. Jackson? Any release dates pending?

FH: I hope so. Nothing novel-length in the foreseeable future, but some shorts and novellas, I hope, time and contracts permitting!

DD: After your recent historical foray in Water Witch, would you consider taking us back in time to explore Jane Yellowrock’s past or meet one of her ancestors? How does her Native American heritage contribute to Jane’s dynamic qualities? 

FH: Yes and yes. I have a very short story, about 2,000 words, that deal with this very subject. It will appear in The Weird Wild West (the Anthology) in November of 2016.

DD: The Soulwood series is set for release in 2016. Please tempt us with details about what’s in store for us.

FH: Soulwood is a contemporary fantasy/urban fantasy/paranormal police procedural series set in Knoxville, TN, and in the world of Jane Yellowrock. Nell Nicholson Ingram was introduced in the short story “Off the Grid.” Nell is an escapee from a cult, a young woman who can’t leave her home for any great length of time, due to a metaphysical link with the land, a link that was forged in blood. But when PsyLED (the Psychometry Law Enforcement Division of Homeland Security) comes calling, Nell agrees to help, never guessing that it will put her life at risk.

Nell may turn out to be the darkest character I’ve ever written. Her history is the cult, her present is in danger, and she can’t run. She can’t hide. She has to face the people who want to hurt her, must deal with the problems that come at her. And her magic is an ancient magic, born in her, primal and shadowy and based in blood. She is also alone and romance needs to find her. She needs to be loved. Or maybe I need her to be loved!

DD: As Gwen Hunter, you write mysteries and thrillers, some with a medical slant. Do you think that experience bleeds through to your more speculative fiction forays? (And do vampires really patronize hospital blood banks?)

FH: Vamps never go to blood banks. The blood in them is full of anticoagulants, preservatives, and glucose. It would make a vampire quite ill to drink all that awful stuff, not to mention the cold and the gack-factor! But yes, I use my many years working in a hospital in every part of my work. It’s, “Write what you know and research to learn what you don’t,” for me!

DD: Where can your fans find you at Dragon Con?

FH: Below is my tentative panel schedule. My final schedule will appear in the DC app and I will also have a signing at the MISSING VOLUME booth. Tentatively scheduled below. Check by there for the date and time!

“Mission Statement: Objectives in Urban Fantasy”
Authors discuss stated protagonist goals in the genre: protecting the human world from the supernatural, or vice versa. Fri 10AM, Chastain ED (Westin).

“Heroism and Sacrifice”
UF protagonists who sacrifice happiness to make the world better for others. Fri 10PM, Chastain ED (Westin).

Autographing at The Missing Volume booth
Sat 4PM, AmericasMart Building 2, booth 1301–1303, 1400–1402 (at the end of a row by the glass wall on the first floor).

“Hunting Monsters”
Whether a job or a calling, our panelists’ protagonists track down and destroy monsters. Sat 5:30PM, Augusta Ballroom (Westin).

“ACE/ROC Presents”
Editors from ACE/Roc Publishing show us what they have in the pipeline for the future. Sat 07PM, Embassy A–B (Hyatt).

Reading: Faith Hunter
Sun 10AM, Marietta (Hyatt).

“Spellbound: Magic Systems in UF”
Authors in the genre describe the characteristics of the magic that serves as the underpinnings of their worlds. Sun 08:30PM, Chastain ED (Westin).

“Vampiric Variations”
Authors discuss how their choices of vampire mythos & traits inform their characters and worlds. Mon 11:30AM, Chastain ED (Westin).

Thanks y’all! This was fun!

Visit Faith Hunter online at http://www.faithhunter.net.
FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/official.faith.hunter
Twitter at @hunterfaith

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Photograph of Faith Hunter by Kim Hunter Studio; whitewater rafting photos courtesy Faith Hunter

About the author

Amy Herring As Louise Herring-Jones, Amy Herring writes mainstream, historical, and speculative fiction as well as non-fiction.  Her stories have been included in anthologies, most recently "The Twittering of Sparrows" in Asian Pulp (Pro Se Press 2015) and "Gooji" in Luna's Children: Full Moon Mayhem (Dark Oak Press, 2014). She practices law in Alabama and is an advocate for privacy rights, First Amendment guarantees, and other constitutionally protected freedoms. 

Website: http://www.louiseherring-jones.com

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