Interviews With Barbara Hambly

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Deb's Interview With Barbara Hambly - July, 1997
I'm in yellow, asking the questions, and Ms. Hambly's answers are in white (at least, that's how I designed it to look...)

1. What insipred you to return to mysteries (genra-wise) with A Free Man of Color?

What inspired my return to mysteries? The short answer is, another mystery story I wanted to tell. My original Master Plan for my Career was to run two careers, fantasy and mysteries. I started the mystery end prematurely with Search The Seven Hills/a.k.a. Quirinal Hill Affair (actually, the original title was The Baby Eaters but everybody vetoed that one), and discovered that a mystery writer HAS to write a series. That's how they're marketed. Nobody really cares whether Dr. Moran murdered his daughters or how he did it -- they want to see Sherlock Holmes in action. I put that end of my career on hold for a long time and worked at fantasies, although Those Who Hunt the Night was written in the style of a detective-story. I've had the idea of a free black detective in the antebellum South for a long time (since college, actually); and, I loved New Orleans from the first time I visited here back in '88, long before I met my beloved (who lives here). (I'm writing this in our New Orleans apartment -- we live part-time in New Orleans, part-time in Los Angeles. At the moment we're just watching the westernmost of Hurricane Danny's petticoats go by overhead).


2. Is there a particular cover artist you like? What are your favorite/least favorite covers?

My favorite cover artists? It's a toss-up between Michael Whelan (who did Silicon Mage, probably one of my four fave covers) and the new guy, Donato Giancola -- wow! I'd love a Tom Canty cover one of these days, but my editors at Del Rey assure me that his "look" isn't in line with the type of stuff I write, and they're probably right about that. The cover Giancola did for Icefalcon's Quest is gorgeous; I can't stop looking at it. My favorite covers so far are: the original cover of Time of the Dark, Whelan's Silicon Mage cover, Mother of Winter, and that lovely paperback reissue of Search the Seven Hills that looks like a movie-poster -- oh, and Bride of the Rat God! It's like asking what's my favorite book I've written. Way too many to choose from.


3. Do you have any siblings?

Siblings? I have an older sister Mary, who is an LVN and just starting the RN program -- she has a son and a daughter, Mark and Brandy -- and a younger brother Ed, an English teacher, who also has a son and a daughter, Ed the Fourth and Jamie. Our ages are very close, grouped in about three and a half years; we essentially all grew up together and I have the impression that we're really all the same age.


4. The re-release and additions to the Darwath books prompts this question - do you have plans to add to other series in the fiture, or will you coninue to write books in new areas. Del Rey did report on Dragonshadow, and mentioned another book had been purchaced, but didn't mention what it was. Besides Fever Season, and The Icefalcon's Quest, what's in the works?

Icefalcon's Quest is a continuation of the Darwath Series, as I may have said before. After that the next fantasy is Dragonshadow, which is the same cast of characters as Dragonsbane, and then Graveyard Dust in the New Orleans series. The next fantasy for Del Rey will be Fading of the Light, which isn't connected with any work I've done before.


5. How do you like working in the Star Wars universe? Is it fairly regulated? Any plans for future books there?

I had a blast working in the Star Wars universe. I gather there are contractual questions about how Bantam is going to be farming out future Star Wars novel contracts; they're all still in negotiations, so I can't talk about them, but it's up in the air as to whether I'll do another. (Which is a pity, because I've had one HELL of an idea for the series that I'm dying to do!)


6. I actually had a chance to ask about the use of chiarascuro (see the nifty words list if I've lost you) in the Windrose Chronicles, and got back pretty much what I expected:

Chiaroscuro is a word I used a good deal because it's a description of light-and-dark, the way I see scenes; firelight and shadow. When you've written close to thirty novels you use a lot of the same words. I don't use chiaroscuro nearly as often as I use "the".


7. You mentioned at a convention (I read this somewhere) that you "cast" main characters, and that Tom Baker was the model for Antryg. Did Joanna and Caris have models?

Sometimes I cast characters, and sometimes I see them clearly but have never seen them before in my life. Joanna is like that. I have no idea who'd play her -- somebody short, bosomy, and slightly Jewish-looking but blonde. Caris is based partly on a guy I trained in karate with, as far as appearance (not personality); one of the most gorgeous young men I've ever seen and a complete jerk.


8. Are you much of a Web-surfer?

I am almost completely computer-stupid. I don't go on the Web much because I have no idea how to get there and it takes forever to get around, especialy when we're in L.A.


9. Do you write using the computer, paper, typewriter, or a combination of these?

I do, however, write on a computer. We have duplicate computers in L.A. and New Orleans. We both use Word for Windows, though I've written whole chunks and chapters of novels on sheets of typing-paper while on airplanes or in hotel rooms.


10. In the past few years, your work has appeared in several collections of short stories. Is this a format you enjoy doing? Will you continue to do more short stories?

I'm not very good at short stories. I never wrote them at all before I got involved with George -- he's a master of the form and basically taught me how to write them. I've only written about a dozen so far. My usual length is 100,000 words.


11. One of the things many people like are your "crossover" books, where someone in one universe crosses into another one. Do you plan to have characters from different series meet? (I asked this because Ingold was mentioned in the Sun-Cross series)

Crossovers between series and series? I'm not sure. That's a little too comic-book for me to feel comfortable with, though a number of people have told me to do it. I've never felt at ease with gimmicks, and Batman vs. Spiderman has always felt to me to be a bit gimmicky. But, anything can happen.


12. Who is your favorite character?

My favorite character? Yeep. That's like asking about a favorite cover -- you get a list. A pretty long one, in this case, because I love all these people. If I didn't, I wouldn't write about them. In no particular order, people I really love writing are: John Aversin, Sun Wolf, Antryg, Ingold, Hannibal Sefton, Ben January, Ben's mother Livia, Abishag Shaw, the Bishop Govannin, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, Dylan Arios, Christine Flamande, the Mud Tortoise, Don Simon Ysidro, the Icefalcon, Callista, Pope Sixtus I, Felix Silanus, Cain and Abel, and probably a whole host of others -- the fact that someone isn't on this list doesn't mean I don't like to write about them. I love these people.


13. Which character is most like you?

The most like me? I'd say the one that comes closest to me is Christine Flamande from Bride of the Rat-God, although I don't have her substance-abuse problems -- her, and the evil Bishop Govannin from the Darwath series.


14. What is Starhawk's real name?

Starhawk's real name? I haven't the faintest idea yet.


15. If there was one place in the world you could go, where would it be?

If there was only one place in the world I could go -- presumably for a visit or a vacation, and not the place where I live -- I'd say Peiking. (Or Beijing -- I'm old-fashioned that way). There's a lot of places I loved and want to go back to -- Paris, Istanbul, Manhattan, San Francisco, Venice Italy, Rome -- (my beloved will NEVER convince me that Chicago is worth more than one trip) -- but of those that I've never been to yet, I'd say Peiking (if the Ming Tombs and the Great Wall are included in the itinerary).


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