I fell in love with the vivid world Kevin Hearne creates in his Iron Druid series. From early in Hounded, I wanted to hang out with the characters …and was a little jealous I couldn’t read my dogs’ minds. While I can’t sit a spell with Atticus or the widow MacDonagh, Kevin was kind enough to indulge my questions. Read on to hear his thoughts on friends for Atticus, getting inside Oberon’s mind and what we can expect from Tricked. Oh, and there’s a sweet giveaway at the end.
Vampire Book Club: The merger of the mythological and the modern is masterful in the Iron Druid series. What makes millennia-old mythos work in a current setting? Was there ever a “that’s not going to work” or did you just love the culture shock as Morrigan tries to understand American slang?
Kevin Hearne: The reason those old gods work in the modern setting is because ancient man gave their gods very human foibles and emotions. You can write about gods like that—the sort that get angry and are maybe not so wise or patient or even kind. In terms of the world’s myths and religions, I don’t ever want to say “that’s not going to work” unless I can tack on “yet” to the end. There are more myths and pantheons coming up, no doubt.
Vampire Book Club: One of the elements I love so much from the Iron Druid series is Atticus’ relationship with his dog Oberon. (I’m a dog person.) Do you think Atticus could ever really have a human (or supernatural, say, werewolf) best friend?
Kevin Hearne: Oh, absolutely. Atticus has had plenty of friends, and he actively seeks them out, because that’s what keeps him grounded and in touch with his humanity. He is scared of growing “old and cold” as so many vampires do, who withdraw from humanity and consider them lesser beings. Some of his older relationships will get revealed as the series progresses. Oberon isn’t the first animal he’s ever established a telepathic link to, for example.
Vampire Book Club: As a writer, how much fun is it to get inside Oberon’s head and what is that process like?
Kevin Hearne: Oberon is a blast; the genesis of this whole series began when I was trying to figure out what kind of magical practitioner could share true communication with his dog. I’m definitely a dog person, and I would love to be able to speak to my dogs the way Atticus does to Oberon. They’re such happy, simple creatures, and we’d all be happier people if we could hear their thoughts. Writing Oberon takes no planning for me at all; his lines tend to drop out of nowhere and he kind of surprises me at times. I actually have a Twitter account for him now, if you feel like hearing more from the best hound ever: @IrishOberon.
Vampire Book Club: At the opening of each of your books is a nice little glossary telling us how to pronounce everything, and it comes with a note saying you don’t care if we pronounce it right. Does this mean you’re really cool with me calling the Fragarach sword something equivalent to “Fraggle Rock” in my head? Really?
Kevin Hearne: Sure, I’m cool with it. Seems silly to get upset about that sort of thing. Those foreign languages are foreign, after all, and you can’t get mad at people if they have trouble pronouncing some of it. The guides are there to help people who truly want to say it right, but they’re certainly not compulsory. If you come across the word “Fragarach” in the book and in your mind you just say “Frah” and move on, what do I care so long as you’re enjoying yourself? If you enjoy saying tough words correctly, however, then the guides are there to help.
Vampire Book Club: Setting the Iron Druid books in Tempe, Ariz., made me giddy. I may be a Texan these days, but I’m an Arizona State University alum. Despite how spread-out the Phoenix metro is, you managed to pick the one town that’s both tiny and vibrant. What do you think makes Tempe the right fit for Atticus?
Kevin Hearne: You know, I’ve never lived in Tempe myself—I just visited it a lot and wished I lived there. Mill Avenue has such a cool vibe to it, and I used to head down to the Coffee Plantation (remember that place?) and just watch people. Yuppies would be sitting next to skinheads who were sitting next to gangstas who were sitting next to lost little nerds like me. Mill Avenue was everyone’s territory, basically, and that’s why I put Atticus there. You can run into anybody on Mill Avenue—even gods.
Vampire Book Club: You use real-life places in your novels. How excited was the local Irish pub to discover it’d been immortalized in Hounded?
Kevin Hearne: You know, I’ve been back there several times to tell them, and I don’t think they care. I seriously don’t think they’ve read it, even though I gave them a copy. They’re just into serving beer and pub fare, and honestly, I can’t blame them, because they do it really well. If everyone came in and told their servers that “I’m here because of the Iron Druid Chronicles,” maybe they’d pay attention, but right now I don’t think it’s impacted them all that much.
Vampire Book Club: Atticus is strong and vibrant. What is one thing you hope readers take away after meeting him?
Kevin Hearne: What makes us truly happy and truly better human beings isn’t power (Atticus has plenty) or riches (Atticus has that too), but our relationships with others.
Vampire Book Club: Part of me really wants to believe the widow is based on a real person. If I go to the Newman Center, how likely am I to run into a tipsy old Irish woman? Vegas odds?
Kevin Hearne: The widow is based on a real person—my dearly departed grandmother. She wasn’t quite so prone to drinking as the widow MacDonagh, but she was a widow herself and fond of sitting companionably with anyone and talking for a spell.
Vampire Book Club: We have to wait until April 2012 for the next book, Tricked. Can you tell us what we can expect?
Kevin Hearne: The events of TRICKED begin three weeks after the epilogue of HAMMERED. You’ll find out what happened to Leif and the widow, and Atticus begins to understand the enormity of what he’s done—and the high price he’ll have to pay for taking those trips to Asgard.
Vampire Book Club: And, finally, how surprised were you when the ladies started suggesting Atticus is hot?
Kevin Hearne: It did kind of shock me a little bit. Seriously, search for my descriptions of Atticus—they’re very, very spare. He doesn’t think of himself as hot or spend any time worrying about his appearance. But I suppose if three different goddesses want to have fun with a fella, he must be somewhat desirable, yes? My guess (and it’s just a guess) is that the attraction comes from that sort of indirect characterization, along with the absurdly pretty cover model and his sense of humor—because people always say they want a sense of humor, right? It’s all good. Hotness is part of the entertainment for many readers, and I’m glad it’s there—but boy, is it an accident! I never set out to make Atticus hot; he just turned out that way.
I have one set of the first three Iron Druid Chronicles (Hounded, Hexed and Hammered) for a VBC reader. The books are the Australian editions and pretty darn awesome. The contest is open to U.S. and Canadian addresses only. Enter via the form below on or before Sept. 12.