Jim Hines is a speculative fiction writer and renowned author of the Jig the Goblin books as well as the Princess series, featuring fairy tale princesses kicking ass. His latest, Libriomancer, is out this week and is the first in the urban/contemporary fantasy Magic Ex Libris series.
To celebrate its release, we invited Hines for a chat, Book Smuggler-style.
Read the last Book Smugglers on their review of 'Servant of the Underworld.'
Your new book features a secret organization founded by Johannes Gutenberg over five centuries ago to protect the world against supernatural beings, such as vampires. It also features a protagonist who is a libriomancer, i.e., an intriguing hybrid of a librarian and a magician. Needless to say, this is a very cool premise. Please do tell, what does it take to become a libriomancer?
Libriomancy is the ability to reach into a book and create the things described on the pages. More than anything else, libriomancy requires a love of books. Isaac Vainio, my protagonist, is a shameless geek, so most of his magic comes from SF and fantasy titles. But I also have a libriomancer who works with historical texts, and in book two, I’ve introduced a libriomancer poet.
You have to feel a connection to the text, a passion so strong the stories become real to you. Unfortunately, love isn’t enough on its own. The ability to touch and manipulate magic is a bit of a mystery, and few people are able to do it. There are competing theories about why this is, and some of Isaac’s predecessors have done research to try to figure out if magic has a genetic component, or if there’s any way to imbue someone with magical ability. So far, nobody has been able to provide definitive proof one way or another.
Goblins and fairy tale princesses have been the main characters of your first two fantasy series. Now with the Magic Ex Libris series, you seem to be treading into urban fantasy territory. How do you see this move in terms of similarities and differences across your three series?
I’ve noticed that I really like poking at tropes, at taking the traditions and assumptions of the fantasy genre and tugging at them to see where they start to unravel. For example, urban fantasy has a lot of strong, sexy, monster-fighting heroines. Libriomancer has Lena Greenwood, a hot dryad who shows up and helps to kill a few sparkling vampires in the very first chapter. But Lena’s character is a lot more complicated and in many ways problematic, and I tried to take the romantic subplot in some different directions. I’m hoping to deconstruct a lot more of the genre as the series progresses. And to have fun, of course!
You are a prolific blogger and, on top of posting reviews and general thoughts about genre fiction, you also provide insightful social commentary. How do you reconcile your author-persona and your blogger-persona? Do you ever rethink writing the blog?
Reconciling the personas isn’t all that hard, since for the most part, I’m just me. There are parts of my life I keep out of public view, but author-me and blogger-me are both pretty much me. It’s easier that way, since I’m not smart enough to juggle multiple personas.
The bigger challenge is trying to manage the time commitment, which has grown for both the blogging and the writing. I have considered cutting back on the blog, or simply retiring it, but I don’t see that happening. I’m fortunate enough to be in a position where I can reach a fairly large audience, and I think it’s important to use that platform to try to improve the world, whether it’s talking about racism in publishing or simply trying out some urban fantasy poses to showcase the way we objectify and sexualize women. And then sometimes I just want to post a goofy song parody or talk about how awesome Legend of Korra is.
Speaking of blogging, one of your blog's features is called First Book Fridays in which guest authors talk about their first published book. In a similar vein, can you recommend three debut novels that you have loved?
Only three? I’d start with Karen Lord’s Redemption in Indigo, which is based in part on a Senegalese folk tale. Lord’s story challenges everything from the nature of evil to the assumption that the only heroic choice is to fight. She’s a nominee for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and she’s certainly earned her place on the ballot.
N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was another amazing read. I loved the narrative style, the worldbuilding, the characters, especially the gods. For number three, I’m going to go with Janet Kagan’s debut, the Star Trek novel Uhura’s Song. I love Kagan’s writing, which has so much heart. Reading her stuff just makes the whole world a little better. It’s pretty much my favorite Trek book of all time.
We Book Smugglers are faced with constant threats and criticisms from our significant others concerning the sheer volume of books we purchase and read, hence, we have resorted to “smuggling books” home to escape scrutinizing eyes. Have you ever had to smuggle books?
I’ve tried, but it turns out I’m not much of a smuggler. It’s more common for me to bring a book home and then, when I try to read it, to discover it’s vanished into my wife’s secret book stockpiles. I need to build myself some secret smuggling compartments like Han Solo had on the Millennium Falcon.