Kevin Hearne, author of the Iron Druid Chronicles, joins us…
by Gabrielle Lissauer
Despite having his debut novel released only last year, Kevin Hearne has since seen three of his Iron Druid Chronicles (Hounded, Hammered and Hexed) published in that short span of time, and all to wide acclaim; the fourth in series, Tricked, is out April 24. An English teacher and self-proclaimed comic book nerd, Hearne fills his books with references from ancient mythology and modern day pop culture, greatly enriching books which happily wiggle their way into a space of Urban Fantasy that is rarely covered: they don’t involve any investigators, massive dreary cities, but instead feel rather like an epic fantasy set in the modern day.
Here, Hearne talks Iron Druid, comics, what’s next and why everybody hates Thor…
GS: To start us off, could you please introduce our readers to the world of the Iron Druid Chronicles?
KH: IDC’s world is basically our world but with all of history’s gods and monsters thrown in. We don’t see them because we frankly don’t believe we can in this science-based society, and the gods tend to operate according to human belief. In the midst of this we have the world’s last Druid trying to blend in and hide from some Irish gods who want him dead.
GS: How would you describe your main protagonist, Atticus?
KH: He’s the world’s finest fugitive, on the run from an Irish god for almost two thousand years. He doesn’t seek out conflict, but once in, he’s utterly ruthless and won’t cry over the necessity to kill. He’s a bit obsessive about fitting in, so he studies language constantly, hangs out with the younger crowd, and watches lots of movies to pick up slang. But this obsession with pop culture is also a self-preservation method; by living in the moment, he doesn’t lose touch with his humanity and become detached and cold like so many other long-lived creatures.
GS: You originally started writing the Iron Druid as a comic book for contest at DC. Can you tell us how that came about, and how you decided to turn the idea into a book series?
KH: The flirtation with a web comic was originally a way to kill time while I was waiting to hear back on another novel I had on submission. But once I scripted and drew a few pages, I realized that the characters of Atticus and Oberon were way too much fun to give up to a comics company. My understanding of the fine print—which may have been wrong—indicated that DC would own the characters once I submitted my entry. I decided to write a book about them instead, and that worked out far better than I ever anticipated.
GS: There are obviously a lot of mythological references in the books; what sources did you use when doing your research? Do you have any recommendations for readers interested in studying the various mythologies further?
KH: Lots of the old mythologies are available online for free if you want to find them. I’m not talking about some random dude’s summary of them on his pagan website—I mean the original texts, translated side by side with English. Usually you find these stored on a University site somewhere; that’s where I got my Irish stuff. For the Norse material, you want to read the Poetic and Prose Eddas, which are also online for free. Just realize that much of the material is contradictory and you have to make sense of it somehow.
GS: Everyone seems to hate Thor. EVERYONE. What made you choose him out of all the various gods in the various pantheons to be the most hated of them all?
KH: Two things: he’s an avatar for bad weather. Not exactly stable to begin with. But on top of that, he has this prophecy hanging over his head that says he won’t die until he meets the world serpent, Jormungandr. In my mind, an unstable individual might take that as permission to do whatever he wants, since he believes there can’t be any serious consequences for his behavior, his manner of death being ordained. There are many other thunder gods, but none with the potential to run amok like him.
GS: Speaking of pantheons, you mention that some are truly immortal (like the Olympians), and others are not. How did you decide which one was which? After all if Thor can resurrect his goats, why can’t he be resurrected himself?
KH: I didn’t decide, honest! The mythologies tell us this and I stick to what they say. The Norse and the Irish are not truly immortal, but rather eternally youthful. The Norse have to eat the golden apples of Idunn; the Tuatha De Danann have several anti-aging goodies, like the hogs of Manannan Mac Lir or the brew of Goibhniu. Thor could resurrect his goats with his hammer, but he couldn’t resurrect himself with it, being dead and unable to use said hammer. In any case, unless I missed it, the ability to resurrect people (vs. goats) was never explicitly assigned to the hammer.
GS: A lot of Urban Fantasy tends to shrug off Christian mythology, going the “don’t mention it and it doesn’t exist” route, even when there are gods wandering around from more ancient times. How hard was it for you to decide on having Jesus actually appear in the books? Were you at all concerned about causing offense? Have you had any negative feedback about it?
KH: It wasn’t hard to decide at all. I’d planned on involving Jesus from the beginning. Perhaps the decision was made easier by the fact that I never intended to portray Him any other way than as a dude who preaches peace and love. Tough love, sometimes, but love nonetheless. I haven’t had anybody get especially mad about it—in fact, I get emails from readers telling me the bit with Jesus was their favorite part of the series. I do my best to be respectful of all gods in the series—with the possible exception of Thor.
GS: One of the first things that struck me while reading your books is the fact that Atticus is so tech-savvy. A lot of older characters in Urban Fantasy tend to avoid technology or are unable to use it; what made you decide to go the other way?
KH: I was kind of tired of reading about UF characters who avoid technology or are unable to use it. Seriously. I suppose the rationale behind the technophobic hero(ine) is rooted in the idea that magic and technology can’t coexist, but I call bullshit on that. My whole series is about coexisting—and, if you want to look at it that way, so is Urban Fantasy. If you’re going to put fantasy critters in an urban setting, then my personal view is that they should be able to interact with that urban setting.
GS: Would you be still interested in seeing the Iron Druid as a comic book?
KH: HECK YES!
GS: Are you a comic book fan yourself? What are your favorites?
KH: Yep, I’m a comic book nerd through and through. Marvel superheroes when I was younger, Vertigo titles when I got older. Right now I really like CHEW. That’s a really excellent title, can’t recommend it enough.
KH: Neil Gaiman. Ken Kesey. William Gibson. Patrick Rothfuss. They’re all amazing storytellers.
GS: What can you tell us about the forthcoming fourth book in the Iron Druid Chronicles, Tricked (out April 24)?
KH: Atticus needs to find the time to train Granuaile properly, so he exerts himself in this book to achieve that goal. He uses Coyote to get it done, but using a trickster god always comes with its own set of complications. We also see some of the loose ends from HAMMERED tied up—what happened to the widow MacDonagh, Leif’s condition, etc.—and we get a peek at the consequences coming down the road for Atticus after his raid on Asgard.
GS: What’s up next for you?
KH: I have to write book six, HUNTED (book five is finished), and plot out the remainder of the IDC. I’m also working on an epic as well, so hopefully that will take some meaningful shape soon.
THE FINAL FIVE WITH KEVIN HEARNE
Trek or Wars? Gah! I like ’em both! Okay. Wars.
Marvel or DC? Under-16 Kevin says Marvel, Over-16 Kevin says Vertigo (an imprint of DC).
Vampires or werewolves? I’m a sucker for doggies.
Dragons or unicorns? Teeth! Flames! Wings!
Time Travel: Pro or Con? Pro if I can have my own sonic screwdriver and psychic paper. Con otherwise.
- Geek Speak Magazine would like to thank Kevin Hearne for his participation in this interview.
Visit Kevin at his official website here.
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