Alright, technically Bookwinked is on holiday, but I forgot that I had this interview planned with the lovely SJ Himes to talk about a series I love very much: the Beacon Hill Sorcerer. The interview is part of a booktour to promote the latest book in the series and there is a giveaway attached. I have read The Necromancer’s Reckoning and I can tell you it’s lovely. The review will follow soon! For now, please enjoy!
Hi S.J. Himes and welcome to Bookwinked. Thank you for agreeing to do this interview. So, tell us, who is S.J. Himes and how did you get into writing books?
Hello, and thank you for having me. I go by Sheena on social media usually, but everyone knows me as SJ. I’ve always been a writer, even at a very young age. I took long breaks in between certain phases of my life, and it wasn’t until 2014 I really got back into it. I was working for the US federal government at the time, and needed an outlet from the soul-sucking aspects of my day job. I began writing fanfiction for BBC’s Sherlock, and then wanted to give it a try at writing my own original works. I originally released as Revella Hawthorne, and that was during the last year I worked for the government. Once I was able to resign and go writing fulltime I went to using SJ Himes.
This is the question all authors get, but where does your inspiration for writing your stories come from?
Daydreams. I am a huge daydreamer. I would use it as the means to escape when I was young, and it was a habit I carried over into adulthood. Lots of my characters and books are spun out from these little fantasy movies I have playing in my head. I never really have inspiration pictures. I have a hellava time finding stock images that even come close to how my characters look in my head.
You have a book series called The Beacon Hill Sorcerer. What made you write a book about a Necromancer?
I am an avid mmorpg player and I love fantasy movies. The black magic user or necromancer is always portrayed as the Bad Guy. I disliked that immensely. It was just a form of magic and didn’t speak to the character of the person wielding it. (Sometimes.) What I wanted was to have a stereotypical villain be the Hero, the Good Guy. But Angel, my necromancer, would strenuously object to being called a hero. He firmly considers himself to be nothing of the sort.
The story of Angel Salvatore and his crew is set in Boston. Why Boston and do you have personal connection to the city?
I am born and raised in Massachusetts, and I love Boston. I spent a goodly amount of time in Boston as a teenager and in my early twenties, and the city is remarkable. Steeped in history. A lot of the history is violent—wars and battles and tragedy have stained the streets with blood and death. The historical districts are some of the oldest in the entire country and are the perfect setting for an urban fantasy with a unique hero. Beacon Hill is beautiful and amazing, and I only wish I could do it justice.
You have a quite the cast of characters in your books, but especially The Beacon Hill Sorcerer. How do your characters come about? How do you build them up?
I never really have an answer for people when I’m asked this question. I honestly just sit down and wait. Then I start typing. People in real life are flawed, even decent people. Everyone has dark places in their hearts and minds. No one is perfect. It’s that concept I use when writing my characters. Angel, for instance. He’s the main character, a powerful necromancer, but he also has a wicked temper and a dangerous tendency to kill first and ask questions of the corpse. Isaac, his brother, is a fire mage and an alcoholic, but one of the purest souls I’ve ever written. Daniel is a kind decent young man, and he’s decimated by low self-esteem and trauma.
Do you have a writing process when writing a book?
I usually have a scene or the story climax in mind before I begin writing. I cannot outline or plot at all when I begin working, or I get bored and disinterested in the story. I then write my way to the scene or moment I want to see happen. It’s a surprise to me where and how we get there.
What is the funniest thing that happened to you when writing?
I used to write in a local library in near where I grew up. I was in the seating area and typing away, and a former classmate came to say hi. We talked for a bit, and he asked me what I was working on. I told him I was writing a romance. He was never one to respect personal boundaries, so he came around and read over my shoulder. He figured out quick exactly what kind of romance I write. He got red in the face, stammered, and hightailed it out of there. Sometimes I wonder if he took a detour to the LGBTQ section before he left.
You self-publish your books. Does that make you more critical of your writing?
Yes and no? What I’m hard on myself for is grammar and sentence structure, technical skills. I want to get better, not languish, skill-wise. When it comes to plotting, world-building, character, development, I always try and keep it as organic as possible and avoid info dumps where I can (sometimes it is unavoidable) and that’s where I rely on my editor.
Is there a subject/topic/theme you would never write a book about?
I’m not interested in writing Christian romance or religion themed romances in a contemporary setting. That holds zero interest for me. And gory thrillers or murder porn, etc, slasher books, I won’t write those either. No inclination at all. Nothing wrong with those genres if that’s your thing, it just isn’t mine.
How has being an author changed your life?
By a huge degree. While this career is physically less taxing, it is mentally harder. I’m exhausted some days. Finishing a book is hard. Working for myself is hard, too. I don’t have someone over me helping me keep myself disciplined and on schedule. I need that, and not having it, but having full freedom…. it’s a trade-off for sure, but one I’m still finding in my favour.
Did being a published author change the way you write stories?
I learned with each publication how to be more effective and efficient with my words. Also, the merits of an editor. I don’t waste too much time trying for perfect from the first daft.
What are your plans for future The Beacon Hill Sorcerer books?
There are two more books in this series, Mastering the Flames, which is Isaac Salvatore’s story. Daniel’s story is the last, at Book #5. I am planning a few collections of short stories from Angel’s POV in the next year or so, using cut material and scenes from the books. I am also writing a spin-off series, set in the same universe as BHS, starting in 2019.
Thank you for having me, it is deeply appreciated.
About the author
I’m a self-employed writer who stresses out about the silliest things, like whether or not I got my dog the best kind of snack and the fact my kindle battery tends to die when I’m at the best part in a book. I write mainly gay romance, erotica, and urban fantasy, with occasional forays into contemporary and paranormal. I love a book heavy on plot and character evolution, and throw in some magic, and that’s perfection. My current series are: The Beacon Hill Sorcerer, Bred For Love (as Revella Hawthorne), The Wolfkin Saga, and the epic fantasy romance series Realms of Love. My last two novels in the Beacon Hill Sorcerer won 3rd Place in the Gay Fantasy category for the 2016 Rainbow Awards.
I live in New Orleans, where the personalities are big and loud and so are the bugs! New Orleans is rich in cultural history, and the flavor and music of the City is impossible to hide. Before that, I lived all over the United States: Tampa, Western Massachusetts, Indianapolis, and on and on…. I’m a nomad, and I’ve yet to find a place that calls to me strongly enough to become home. My faithful travel companions are my dog Micah, the numerous voices in my head who insist they all get put on paper, and the wind at my back.