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Today, we’re talking to Will Hahn, fellow indie author and one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. We talk about history, writing, and King Arthur. Will’s latest release, Reunion of Souls, will be available on December 26th. Scroll down to the bottom for a chance to win two print copies of the bundled set “Games of Chance” and “Strength of Conviction.”
You’re the Chronicler of the Lands of Hope. Tell me a little bit about these lands and your job as chronicler. I’m guessing there’s no 401(k) or dental.
Most excellent to be here, Jenni! The Lands of Hope look at first glance like many other epic fantasy worlds. There are castle-dotted kingdoms, a mighty river north of a searing desert, and great heroes of the ancient day who may or may not still exert influence on the present. But when you look more closely at the deep details and history of that world…then it looks more like that than ever. This is the thing about the Lands, I can keep right on going, past the scenes on the tapestries and the rhyming clues in the headlines, and see everyday folk going to the market, to church, to the theater. I zoom in for hours at a time, seeing and hearing it all, as long as I like. And I really like.
That’s the job, to be the chronicler; and I didn’t start until I could put aside the foolish notion well-meaning folks were trying to give me, which is that I could write about the Lands—meaning, that I could make this stuff up. I can’t, no one can. When I realized I was simply a witness, that the Lands were as real as anything else I’ve known, then I could begin the job. As for benefits, I’d have to say it’s not the dental plan, it’s the deep joy I get, from finally being able to serve up these tales, free of any interference including my own. Yep, me and Thucydides, and Froissart. Except I have interior heat and a microwave. And coffee. How did they get one chapter written under those conditions?
Your bio mentions a love for the Tales of King Arthur – something we have in common! Do you have a favorite version or re-telling? Who is your favorite character and why?
Can’t do better than King Arthur, right? My favorite version is the one my father read to me before I was old enough to hold the book—the Pyle edition with his drawings, I swear I can still see them. By the way, I live in Delaware about 25 miles south of the Brandywine Museum where they house his works and those of NC Wyeth, all that incredible gang of illustrators.
The greatest knight of the Round Table in my opinion was Sir Gareth, for his quiet determination to prove himself and his endless patience. Not the best female role model in his tale, though! I confess, I read the first half of the Arthurian cycle much more often than the end. As soon as that lady shows up and the Grail appears behind curtain number three, and the knights all start swearing to go and Arthur gets sad, my heart heads towards my gut and I just move on. (This is where a therapist would look up over his notepad and say “Verrrry interesting”. That is, if I ever let a therapist get anywhere near me.)
Guinevere: Was she the Yoko Ono of the Round Table, breaking up the greatest band (of knights) in the world? Or a convenient scapegoat? Or none of the above?
My sense of the whole tale is grounded in the world-view of a five year old. My lovely wife says that most of my world-view… never mind. But I hew to the interpretation that she and Lancelot were REALLY good friends. And yes, sure they felt tempted, but never actually, you know. Not ever. So it’s all Mordred’s fault! Yeah, that’s the ticket. How many five year old boys knew that in medieval times “naked” meant just “not wearing armor”? This one. I guess I’m stubborn sometimes.
How do you feel about efforts to prove Arthur was real? Would you rather the stories stayed shrouded in myth, or is it interesting to see the possible origins of Arthur as a Romano-Celtic chieftain?
When I was privileged to teach Ancient-Medieval history, I argued to the class that “Artur” was almost certainly a real person, and rehearsed for them the scenario where he defended Roman Britain from the Saxons. I don’t know whether myths “shroud” anything, but seems to me any man trying to hold it together in the 5th century AD was at least as heroic as a guy with eight huge castles, a drop-dead gorgeous wife and armor so shiny you could use it to coif your beard.
Of course, to end the year I showed Monty Python and the Holy Grail… so they may have wound up confused.
Yeah, what about teaching ancient and medieval history? That covers a lot of ground. Do you have a favorite person, incident, or emphasis? I’m partial to the mystical medieval nuns, myself. And queens with pointy hats.
I did cover a lot of ground! And I wish I could go back and do it again—I’d teach for a dollar, as long as my family had groceries. I spent a lot of time on the incredible Battle of Thermopylae, and on the structure and decline of the Roman Republic. I think these are quite instructive to students, not because they’re going to wear togas or fight in hoplite formation, but because Western values owe a lot to these civilizations and it’s always good to realize that, question them before accepting.
I’m amazed how much I can learn from medieval religious figures, whose job it was to study and preserve knowledge. What’s your biggest life lesson take-away from studying history?
That the human experience is never cut off from us. Folks who lived 25 centuries ago, once you understand a few things about their culture and environment, lived the same lives we did. They had problems and choices to make. They felt lost, they struggled against what they abhorred, and whenever they didn’t lose, they won. In ancient times it’s better because there’s so much less clutter. Just 300 Spartans in a pass, watching a half-million Persians bearing down, and agreeing they’d be damned before they’d run away.
Let’s talk writing. Tell me a bit about your writing process, from idea to finished product. Mine involves whisky. I’m hoping yours is a bit more wholesome. Maybe I can learn something.
Hah! You try to copy my “writing process,” you will go to live inside the whiskey bottle. I studied the Lands of Hope for, not kidding now, thirty years between 1978 and 2008. I have copious notes: maps, descriptions, historical markers, a zodiac, moon-phase charts, vassal hierarchies, it never ends. All filed away in folders, on paper from the age of dinosaurs. White-out. Scotch tape. Lead and paint.
But not stories, not one word of that. So now, when it comes to chronicling what I saw, it’s like a dam with four drops less water than it can hold. I just start tapping at the wall, put the first noun with the right verb and direct object, and suddenly it’s like a firehose. I’ve already seen it, a hundred times—these heroic events have been on my mind for years (how many? go back to Reagan’s Inaugural Address, then keep going), so there really isn’t any process. Sometimes nothing comes out for three weeks at a time, but it’s only because the mass of events behind the dam are swirling and rearranging. It always resumes when they’ve gotten themselves sorted. Now that the hole’s been knocked in, there’s no stopping it anymore.
Looking over the top from time to time, I can see there’s plenty of water left.
I love Hahn’s First Law of Chronicling: This Hobby Shall Cost Thy Family No Money (from your Smashwords author interview). What are your three best tips and tricks to make this happen?
I know less than most about e-book publishing, but that’s obviously the key. You can get it all done yourself if you read the guides and apply elbow grease without mercy. The sole exception is the cover: especially for fantasy writing you cannot slide by with a phone-snap of your cousin in a Ren Faire outfit posing nervously between a couple trees in the local park. Having said that, almost every aspect of getting published beyond your writing (can’t really outsource that, it’s semantic) could be improved with the services of an expert. Barter. I can beta-read the heck out of a story and am very willing to give it a shot. And I’ve signed away a modest percentage of my current releases to a micro-publisher in return for her tutelage, skill and encouragement across a great many areas. In my honest opinion, I am robbing her blind. But I have a contract! One page long and well worth re-reading. About a zillion times.
Tell us about your latest release. Are there any tiaras? Arthurian influence?
Judgement’s Tale is an epic fantasy about the earliest days of the Age of Adventure in the Lands of Hope. The first two installments, Games of Chance and Strength of Conviction, are out now, and part three, Reunion of Souls is coming in two weeks (on December 26th). By this point, characters have been introduced and the plot is really starting to cook. But if you’re new to the tale, I have good news—starting with this interview date, part one Games of Chance is available for just 99 cents!
Tiaras, hem, I apprehend the delicacy of my situation. There is a band of adventurers seeking the fabled Tridium, three artefacts of power that invested the ancient kings of the Percentalion. A sword, a scepter and what do you know, a crown! Also, one of the adventuring heroes, the mage Linya, wears what I refer to as a headpiece. It’s rather plain, bronze with a single stone setting; but she’s being mysterious about what exactly she’s ensorcelled it to do (besides casting light). And as for an Arthurian flavor, I think readers would enjoy the kingdom of Shilar, where knights and a code of chivalry are alive and well, and the prince’s name—just like the heroic king of old who was his namesake—is Gareth. I swear, you can’t make this stuff up.
What’s next for the Lands of Hope? Do you see yourself writing about these lands for the rest of your career? How many years of history for the Lands do you have mapped out?
The Lands have more than five thousand years of history, and I would say it’s all mapped out, in exactly the same way as those sea-charts of the world in 1500 were. You know, the ones that had the words “here be monsters” scrawled across the bottom two-thirds of the page. And I would be delighted, simply delighted, to continue happily chronicling away at the Lands until my fingers fall off. I’ve said before, if you write epic fantasy you eventually dip into all the major genres. In the current tale, Cedrith and Judgement are pursuing a mystery, Natasha is facing a personal horror, Treaman wonders if he and Linya will become romantically attached, while his pet, the miniature dragon Hallah is always good for humor. These are people—it’s easy to forget because they’re in a story—they are living all of life, just like we are. Except we don’t get to wear tiaras or armor because people would look at us funny. Come to think, they always look at me funny…
Now, tell us where we can find you and your work online! Where should readers go to buy your work or learn more about the Lands of Hope?
Wouldst fain do that right gladly, maiden.
The Tales of Hope are available at online retailers everywhere and I have some links below. But there are two additional resources I’d like to emphasize. I used a Facebook page to create a chronology of the Lands – perhaps readers and fellow authors would find it useful, if like me you need to take the long view. And I’ve decided not to make folks wait for my fame, but to post the Compendium of the Lands of Hope online now, with new articles added periodically to reinforce your understanding of history, astrology, flora and fauna, magic and more. Maps too, I do love me some maps. It’s all online and totally free. One day it might even be powerfully indexed. My website is also the place to find my semi-regular feature It Figures, where I take the idea of how many words a picture is worth, and just run with it.
To the web-stores then!
See the Trailer
Reunion of Souls
With a world in crisis, its heroes reach out to find companions, to take stock for the struggle ahead, and to look beneath the surface at clues that may make the difference between a person’s fame and a nation’s doom.
On the fringe of the cursed Percentalion, Treaman’s adventuring band revives the glory-days of Trainertown, celebrated by all—except themselves—as the hand of destiny. Somewhere in the remote Marble Swords, Sir Renan abandons name and fortune to seek a brotherhood that no one else believes exists. Near the forests north of Shilar, Prince Gareth wrestles with the choice to preserve his honor alone, or rejoin his royal father’s house and in so doing, cause a war between the children of Hope.
Now at the heart of Conar—safest city in the Lands—Solemn Judgement, the Man in Grey, uncovers the gateway to peril; he is thrown among adventurers that include his only friend, the woman who refused to teach him, and a man who has vowed his death, in… Reunion of Souls.
Will Hahn has been in love with heroic tales since age four, when his father read him the Lays of Ancient Rome and the Tales of King Arthur. He taught Ancient-Medieval History for years, but the line between this world and others has always been thin; the far reaches of fantasy, like the distant past, still bring him face to face with people like us, who have choices to make.
Will didn’t always make the right choices when he was young. Any stick or vaguely-sticklike object became a sword in his hands, to the great dismay of his five sisters. Everyone survived, in part by virtue of a rule forbidding him from handling umbrellas, ski poles, curtain rods and more.
Will has written about the Lands of Hope since his college days (which by now are also part of ancient history). His current epic is Judgement’s Tale; parts one and two, Games of Chance and Strength of Conviction came out in 2014 and part three, Reunion of Souls is available starting December 26th.