Jim Hines’s Princess Series starts with The Stepsister Scheme, in which we follow the adventures of Danielle (aka. Cinderella) after her marriage to the prince of her dreams. After her new husband is kidnapped by one of her evil step-sisters, she teams up with Snow White and Talia (aka. Sleeping Beauty) to go and rescue him. (As I’m writing this, it occurs to me to wonder if using the name Danielle is an homage to the movie Ever After? I just did some looking around, and that’s the only place I’ve seen that name in association with that character.)
The princesses are darker, more complicated, and more kick-ass than the Disney versions. The fact that there are three of them lends an unfortunate air of Charlie’s Angels, but three is a very traditional fairytale number. The tone of the writing is light, and very YA, but due to some of the sexual commentary and situations I wouldn’t recommend the books for anyone under 14.
The character that I’d like to highlight, though, is Talia. She is a Princess with a past, and her fairy gifts, originally intended to make her more graceful and princess-y, have instead helped her to become something like a ninja. As a side note, she’s also a lesbian.
Talia’s story doesn’t become fully fleshed out until the third book in the series, Red Hood’s Revenge, where the three princesses have to travel back to her home country of Arathea. I’m not going to give too much away, except to say that Little Red Riding Hood isn’t exactly like her folktale counterpart either, and it seems like she’s out to kill Talia…
The latest book in the series is The Snow Queen’s Shadow, published in 2011 by DAW.
Mr. Hines was kind enough to answer some of my questions by email.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Well, I’m an author (obviously). In addition to the princess series, I’ve written the Goblin Quest trilogy about a goblin underdog named Jig, and my latest book is Libriomancer, which comes out on August 7 and follows a magical librarian from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as he fights sparkling vampires and tries to keep his pet fire-spider from setting things alight. I’m 38 years old with two kids, I can do mediocre yo-yo tricks, and earlier this year I made a custom LEGO minifig of David Tennant as the 10th doctor. I’m currently on the Hugo ballot for Best Fan Writer. I like Hot Fudge sundaes.
Do you have a day job as well?
I’m a state employee. I took this job back in 2001, because it was stable and fit well with my writing goals. It gives me a stable paycheck and benefits for me and my family, but doesn’t drain all of my brain and creativity.
When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I started writing in 1995. Finished my first book in 1996. The first fantasy novel I sold was Goblin Quest, which I finished in early 2001. That book came out from DAW in November of 2006. Yeah, writing is not a fast-moving career…
How did you choose the genre you write in?
I’ve always loved science fiction and fantasy, and it just made sense to me that I should write what I love. There are other genres that would probably pay better, but creating these stories and being a part of this genre makes me happy.
Where do you get your ideas?
Mary Robinette Kowal gave me a magic marionette. Every morning, the marionette types a new story idea. The only problem is that once a year, it demands a sacrifice. It’s messy, and it upsets the cats. Fortunately, I’ve been able to keep it satisfied so far by feeding it internet trolls.
Do you work with an outline, or just write?
I work with multiple outlines. My brain just isn’t big enough to hold an entire book. I create an outline first, then start writing. After about 20,000 words or so, I discover all of the problems with my outline and make a new one. I usually go through three or four outlines before I get all the way through my first draft. It’s not fun, but it seems to be my process.
Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
I’d love to! Libriomancer is my first foray into present-day fantasy. (Is it urban fantasy if much of it takes place in a small town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula?) Anyway, Isaac Vainio is a librarian with the ability to reach into books and create things from the stories within, anything from Excalibur to disruptors to thermal detonators. He’s bright, but a bit too impulsive. He’s part of a magical organization founded five hundred years ago by the first libriomancer: Johannes Gutenberg. But now Gutenberg has vanished, various species of vampire are starting to act up, and Isaac is caught in the middle of it.
I’m playing with various urban fantasy tropes with this one. For example, the traditional love triangle gets pretty bent up by the time I’m through with it. I also wanted the book to be fun, to show a bit of the joy and wonder of magic, and of books.
It’s my first hardcover with DAW, and I’m really excited about it. Preliminary reviews are good, including a starred review from Publishers Weekly and a very nice blurb from Pat Rothfuss. I’m really looking forward to the release, and to seeing what people think!
The first chapter is posted on my website at www.jimchines.com if anyone’s curious.
Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
The goblin series draws a little on real life, oddly enough. While I never got stuck on muck duty or attacked by tunnel-cats, Jig’s experiences getting picked on by the bigger goblins echoes some of my own times during Junior High. (Which may be why I took such glee in killing off a few of those other goblins.)
Libriomancer draws a bit more on real life, since I set it in the real world. (More or less.) A lot of the locations are either real or based on real places, like the Michigan State University library and various bookstores. Isaac’s home town of Copper River is made up, but based in part on the towns we visit when we go up north for vacation every year.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) of Red Hood’s Revenge to write and why?
I think that would be the scenes with Roudette (Red Riding Hood) and Talia (Sleeping Beauty), whether they’re fighting or working together. They’re two very strong, very determined, very powerful women. They have so much in common, but ended up taking such different paths. I really enjoyed bouncing them off of each other and seeing what happened.
What project are you working on now?
Libriomancer II: The Sequel Without a Decent Title.
Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?
Jig the goblin had a pet fire-spider named Smudge who was a delight. Bringing him back for the Libriomancer series has been a lot of fun. Isaac’s love interest, the dryad Lena, is another idea I’ve worked with a lot. There was a dryad character in the princess books, Captain Hephyra, who became a bit of a fan favorite. I just really like the idea of this woman who is openly accepting of her beauty and sexuality, but also has the strength and power of the trees. Lena is rather different than Hephyra, but in some ways she’s an evolution of an idea I’ve been playing with for about a decade now.
Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Write. Read. Write. Listen to published authors, but don’t take their every word as gospel. Write. Take your time, and don’t expect to master this overnight. Also, you should write.
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?