Over the past few weeks I have been following Steve McHugh’s blog posts of the first chapters of his soon-to-be-released novel, Crimes Against Magic. (Prologue, Chapter 1, Chapter 2) I’ve been enjoying the writing—it’s clean, dynamic and engaging, and it has a plot and characters with enough depth to keep readers hooked until the end. Here is Steve’s summary:
“It’s been almost ten years since Nathan Garrett woke on a cold warehouse floor with nothing but a gun, a sword, and no idea of who he was or how he got there. His only clue … a piece of paper with his name on it. Since then, he’s discovered he’s a powerful sorcerer and has used his abilities to work as a thief for hire. But he’s never stopped hunting for his true identity, but those who erased his memory have never stopped hunting for him. When the barrier holding his past captive begins to crumble, Nathan swears to protect a young girl who is key to his enemy’s plans. But with his enemies closing in, and everyone he cares about becoming a target for their wrath, Nathan is forced to choose between the life he’s built for himself and the one buried deep inside him.
Crimes Against Magic is an Urban Fantasy set in modern day London with Historical flashbacks to early fifteenth century France. It’s the first in a series of books called the Hellequin Chronicles, which shows the life of Nathan (Nate) Garrett, a sixteen-hundred year old sorcerer.”
The cover-art carries the same dynamic ‘street’ feel, with the main character—his stare cool, muscles rippling under his shirt, and honed body poised for action—obviously based on a session of nude modelling Steve bravely sat through with the artist. That is what readers want from a writer—dedication to his craft, and what other writers should aspire to—a willingness to sacrifice for his art.
With his hunkiness, integrity and nobility established beyond reasonable doubt, Steve has kindly given me permission to assess his personality, intelligence, and wisdom with some questions:
*Turns CIA-style swivel lamp toward his subject. <click>*
1) Steve, from the beginning you make sure the reader is aware that Nate is a character that women are attracted to. After posing naked for your own cover, what are your opinions on the sexploitation of male authors that are forced to bear their abs and flex their guns just to sell their work?
Wow, that light is bright. Did it have to be a red bulb? It gives the room a slightly creepy-bordello vibe. *Reads question again*. Dude, I worry about you.
You mean I didn’t have to pose naked for my cover? Seriously? I was told that was the whole point of having a cover. I’m just glad it wasn’t cold that day.
2) Nate is very much the ‘alpha male’ type. Is he an embodied rebellion against current western society’s feminisation of the male species? Have gender roles become too blurred? How did this affect the writing of male and female characters in your book?
I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t think about it. At all. So, it didn’t affect the writing one bit. There are probably more kick-ass women in the book than men, but I don’t think the gender roles are blurred. You can be a kick-ass woman and still be sexy. And you can be a bad-ass man and still have a softer side.
3) I have a working theory that, for some writers, their main character is actually a channel for their own wish-fulfilment or inner child. The Twilight series, Conan, James Bond, and a large proportion of the erotica book market seemed to bear this out. Which dreams do you and Nate share? And, which parts of you does Nate represent?
Nate is probably the smart-assed side of me turned up to 11. He certainly says things I’d never say, but would think. I probably get to live vicariously through him in that respect. But we’re actually very different people, even if he does live in my head.
4) From Nate’s picture he obviously has a pert butt. How important is it for your average contemporary sorcerer to stay in shape? How has writing about your hunky hero changed your perception of your own body image?
I think if you can’t crack a walnut between your butt cheeks, you have no business being a hero. It’s something they don’t touch on much in most books or movies, but it’s very important.
Nate is meant to be a thief, amongst other things, so having him in shape was sort of important. I didn’t want to start having him wheeze and take a break in the middle of a heist, when he lost his breath.
How has it affected my own body image? Ummm… it hasn’t. I’m fairly comfortable with who I am.
5) Steve, your biography says that you started writing at school. Why mention this in your bio? Everyone did, so what was it about writing at that age that was so important to you, and what does it mean to you now?
It says an ‘early age’, is the red light making your eyes funny? And why can I hear a banjo?
You’re right though, the first completed story was done in school. I was about thirteen, I think. It was the first time we’d been able to do any sort of creative writing that focused on our own imagination.
It wasn’t the story that was important, but the fact that my teacher, Mr Pearcey, pushed me to continue and write out of my comfort zone. I’d always had the imagination and would write bits and pieces, but my love of writing started in that classroom.
6) A writer’s spouse always has it tough. Does your wife get involved in any way with your writing process? Is your style of writing what she likes to read? And, most importantly, who does she think is sexiest, yourself or Nate?
She doesn’t get involved in the process of writing, although she will read the finished product. I wrote a book a few years back called For Past Sins, which Vanessa didn’t like at all. But she seems to enjoy Crimes Against Magic. She’s not one to say she likes something just to spare my feelings, so she must enjoy something about it.
I’m hoping she finds me sexier than Nate. I’d be fairly concerned if she didn’t.
7) You have two daughters, of which you are really rather fond. What do they think about Daddy being a writer?
Faith is two and beyond letting her watch Phineas and Ferb and eat the occasional cookie, she couldn’t care less what Daddy does.
For the most part, Keira’s not that fussed either. At least until I write things for her. I wrote a letter from the tooth fairy that went down a storm and she likes to tell her teacher that I’m a writer, but I think that’s more impressive to the teacher.
8) In the story you flash back to sixteenth century France. It is a period of history with unforgivable fashion blunders. They wore costumes like these:
What is it about men in tights that fascinates you so much? Why France? Does your family descend from the desecrating Normans dogs that invaded the homeland of the innocent Anglo-Saxons all those years ago? Do you count yourself more English or European? Do you have an unhealthy liking for overly long bread and vampire repellent?
Are you… wearing that outfit right now? But you have stockings on, not tights… and where the hell is that banjo playing coming from?
The clothes back then were dreadful, and my original idea (which I never actually mention in the book) was that Nate was coming back along the silk-road. So he wouldn’t actually be wearing any of the local clothing, but he would wear something he’d have picked up in China. Tights free.
Why France? I’ve always been fascinated by what happened during the hundred years war, but I didn’t want to put Nate in the middle of it. So I used Soissons, as it was involved in the war, but its destruction was used as a catalyst for fighting elsewhere. It gave me a bit of free reign to have Nate go off and do his own thing.
My family are originally from Scotland, before we were run out by the English to Ireland. Where we changed our name slightly (we dropped the ‘a’) and lived happily ever after. Probably.
I’m British, but it depends on whether or not I’m watching football or rugby. Then I’m English. I do like French bread, although I’m not too fussed about garlic. Speaking of garlic, I’ve never understood why that, out of every herb on earth, is a vampire repellent. Why would they be scared of something that makes your breath smell?
9) We live in the UK which, as a cultured, modern and liberated society, has no constitution. Therefore, you cannot plead the Fifth Amendment. Nate is a man who cannot remember his past? Which bits of your past would you rather forget, and why?
I’d quite like to forget the time I fell out of a moving bus (it wasn’t going fast), because it was very embarrassing.
And there are women I’d rather forget, mostly because they were either insane or far too much hard work for one reason or another.
10) This is a quote taken from one of Steve’s latest blog posts:
“During your life you’re bound to have people who don’t like you or annoy you. Even I have people I don’t get on with, as hard as that is to believe. And for most people they have to either put up with it and pretend they don’t make you want to claw your own ears off, or you punch them in the face repeatedly until they stop. Neither of those things are all that productive long term.
Writers have another method. A better method. We kill them.“
So, Steve, what is your honest opinion of an interviewer who asks you deliberately difficult questions?
Well, I’d like the light turned off. And the banjo to stop. And it’s certainly an experience I’m unlikely for forget. Although, I’m hoping large amounts of alcohol helps change that.
Oh, and as you’ve read that last post of mine, you know you’ll see yourself in one of my books one day, TJ… I can guarantee that.
*Quickly grabs lamp. <click> Runs toward the door before Steve begins channelling Nate and manifesting some of his more antisocial abilities.*
*Drops note on the way out:*
“Dear gentle and kind Steve, O’Wondrous and Beneficent One:
I can only cite in my defence your first two blog posts where you got a load of random and disreputable people to ask you all the sensible interview questions that could ever be asked (Introduction, Pt. 1, Introduction Pt. 2). In order to avoid redundancy this is what you get. You made your own bed you know…”