Interview by Brock Eastman
Featuring Forged Steel
Downtown. Coffee shop. 2 AM.
One minute, Josh is firing off sarcastic remarks at his best friend Marc – the next, they’re running from shape-shifters. Apparently, even best friends don’t share all their secrets.
Now Josh is in danger. He can see the monsters among the humans.
When Marc is kidnapped, Josh finds himself pulled into the schemes of the fae courts, and throws in his lot with Marc’s allies: the lovely Larae, a human named David, and the fighter, Eliaster. But what began as a rescue mission becomes something much more involved…
And all Josh wants to do is get out before it’s too late.
Brock: How did you come up with the idea for this book or series?
H.A.Titus: I came up with the idea after being introduced to urban fantasy via Neil Gaiman's novel Neverwhere and Kersten Hamilton's series The Goblin Wars. Both of them inspired me to try my hand at urban fantasy, which was a completely new genre for me, and I also decided to throw in a Celtic twist, as Celtic mythology has always been something that fascinated me.
Brock: Tell us about the main characters. Who are they? What makes them unique?
H.A.Titus: There are several main characters, so I'll just stick with the two who are the most important.
The book is written in the first-person point of view of Josh, a computer and math genius who is also a fantasy and sci-fi geek. He's pretty unique because you don't see many geek protagonists getting out there and getting their hands dirty—they tend to stay in the bunkers giving the other protagonists technical back-up.
Eliaster is my warrior character—he's full-blooded fae, which makes him temperamental and dangerous for humans to be around, but he's also committed himself to protecting humans from other fae who are worse than he is. He's my favorite character to write in this series, not just because of his sarcasm, but because he has a really cool story line that I can't wait for readers to see.
Brock: Give us one fact about each main character that no one else knows.
H.A.Titus: Umm, ok… Josh absolutely hates energy drinks. He can down coffee like no one else, though.
Even though Eliaster grew up in the fae-run Underworld, he isn't comfortable there and rarely sleeps more than two hours while he's in the Underworld.
Brock: In three words, what is this book about?
H.A.Titus: Adventure, mythology, and building trust.
Brock: Do you outline the entire book before starting, or do you write as you go and let the characters take control of the story?
H.A.Titus: I loosely outline, so I have an idea of where I'm going, but I allow enough flexibility to let the characters take over at times. (And hope they won't change my ideas for the story too terribly much.) ;)
Brock: How do you believe this story relates to the lives of readers?
H.A.Titus: Anyone who has a hard time trusting others is definitely going to relate, especially to Eliaster.
Brock: What is your favorite genre to write for?
H.A.Titus: Well, I love urban fantasy and steampunk—each has its own tropes that make it fun—but I think my absolute favorite would have to be middle-grade whimsical fantasy, along the lines of the first few Harry Potter books, or Alcatraz VS the Evil Librarians, or Howl's Moving Castle. I just started trying it out earlier this year, and it's a fun change of pace from my darker YA and NA books.
Brock: How many books are planned for this series?
H.A.Titus: Five to seven, though that number keeps changing as the story is still in flux.
Brock: Any certain research required for the book, or is it all from your imagination?
H.A.Titus: I did a lot of research of Celtic mythology and the Irish Gaelic language, all of which was fun for me. I can finally speak a bit of Irish Gaelic, which has been a bucket list item since high school! Although I probably mangle some of the pronunciation, since it's easily one of the most confusing languages I've seen.
Brock: How does it feel to have your work published?
H.A.Titus: Really, really awesome. This has been something I've wanted to do since I was twelve, so being able to finally hold a book that is 100% from my head in my hands is easily as cool as the first time holding my sons.
Brock: Why did you choose to focus on a male protagonist?
H.A.Titus: I didn't really choose…Josh kind of walked into my head and said "Hey, I've got this cool story you need to write down."
Brock: Are you working on the next book in the series?
H.A.Titus: Yes! Still finagling some plot details, since it introduces some new characters and a new point of view, but it's coming along.
Brock: Can you give us a hint at the next book in the series?
H.A.Titus: More Unseelie plots, more danger for Josh and Eliaster to get themselves into, and more sarcastic characters for the guys to snark at. If I tell you any more, it would step into spoiler territory.
Brock: Do you plot or outline the entire series before you begin writing, or do your books take on lives of their own? Or is there a combination?
H.A.Titus: This is the first series I've written, and it definitely took on a life of its own. It was originally intended to be a novella…then it expanded into a full length novel…then a trilogy…now it's a series. I'm kind of hoping that this doesn't turn into a trend for the rest of my stand-alone books, otherwise I'm never going to finish everything! ;)
Brock: If your book changed as you wrote it, how is it different than how you originally planned?
H.A.Titus: As I mentioned above, it was originally supposed to be a novella. It was also supposed to be satirical. Turns out I'm not very good at satire, and I adored the characters too much (ok, Eliaster…I adored Eliaster too much) to let it just be a novella.
Brock: Were any scenes or characters cut from the book? Can you give an example?
H.A.Titus: Not really, but there were a couple of characters whose parts were cut from having a big role to having merely a cameo. (For those who have read the book, these characters are Gren and Coriander from the Chicago Underworld.)
Brock: Is it difficult to be accurate to a biblical perspective or biblical facts when writing fantasy fiction?
H.A.Titus: I don't think so, although I can't speak for the biblical facts part as I've never tried writing Biblical fantasy. Any author who is a Christian, even if they're not trying to write specifically Christian fantasy, is going to show some Biblical perspective in their writing, even if it's something as simple as a "good versus evil" plot, or as subtle as Tolkien's Iluvatar. I think speculative fiction is something that is uniquely suited to the Christian perspective, as so many fantasy and sci-fi stories are, at their core, stories about heroes…and what is Christ's sacrifice but the ultimate hero story?
Brock: Where do you like to write?
H.A.Titus: I prefer writing in my office, where I can shut the door, plug in my headphones and turn on loud music, and concentrate, but more often (like as I'm answering these questions), I'm writing on my laptop at the kitchen table to the soundtrack of my newborn's snores and my toddler's car noises, alphabet songs, and random yells.
Brock: Are you a full-time or part-time author/writer?
H.A.Titus: Part time, for the forseeable future.
Brock: How long does it usually take you to write a single book?
H.A.Titus: It depends…usually about a year from start to finish, although it can take longer if I have to take a break from writing for a while.
Brock: Expound on the spiritual themes in the book/series.
H.A.Titus: I didn't really try to build any specific spiritual themes into Forged Steel, but one I've noticed that keeps cropping up, especially in a certain character's story arc, is clinging to God as a lifeline through everything.
Brock: What is your "how I got published" story?
H.A.Titus: Around May of last year, I realized that I would shortly be turning 26, and I still hadn't published a book, even though I'd said every year for the past five, "THIS year will be the year I publish a book". I realized I needed to stop procrastinating, stop being fearful, and just get my book out there. So I gave myself a deadline (my birthday, which was in July), and dove into editing my book for the last time. It was a mad scramble to get everything done in two months, so next time I'll definitely give myself more time, but in the end it was worth it.
Brock: When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
H.A.Titus: When I was twelve, when I realized that my penchant for writing stories might be a God-given talent, and that I should probably cultivate it.
Brock: What are some of the strongest influences on your writing?
H.A.Titus: J. R. R. Tolkien got me started on fantasy—before then I tried writing mysteries and historical fiction, but it never really seemed to fit my personality. Fantasy was where I felt the most comfortable. Nowadays, Jim Butcher and Neil Gaiman have been strong influences on my urban fantasy, but for overall writing, I'm most inspired by anything Brandon Sanderson writes.
Brock: What’s your view on e-books and the new publishing revolution?
H.A.Titus: It's totally awesome! I loved having the ability to control my cover, my interior layout, and pretty much every other aspect of my book. It's forced me to learn new skills (though I was close to pulling my hair out a time or two), reach out to the community of writers I know online, and I also like being able to run giveaways and control the pricing of my book. It gives me a lot of flexibility and room to experiment.
Brock: What was your favorite book as a teen or child?
H.A.Titus: The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, for sure.
Brock: What is the one author, living or dead, who you would co-write a book with and why?
H.A.Titus: Brandon Sanderson or J. R. R. Tolkien, although I know I wouldn't be able to come even close to their geniuses.
Brock: Describe your feelings when you opened the box and saw the first published copies of your very first book.
H.A.Titus: I just stared in a sort of shock. It was hard to translate the fact that these ideas, which had existed only in my head for so long, had finally been given a physical form.
Brock: What are your hopes for your future as an author?
H.A.Titus: Well, as I'm sure any author would, I'd love to get a bestseller, or maybe even have my books made into movies or TV shows! My more realistic goal though is to be able to supplement my husband's income, or maybe eventually make enough to give us the financial flexibility for him to start his own business, which is something I know he'd enjoy.
Brock: Coke or Pepsi?
H.A.Titus: Neither…most dark sodas make my stomach upset, so I prefer ginger ale or lime-flavored seltzer water.
Brock: Soft shell or hard shell tacos?
H.A.Titus: Soft shell. I don't like the mess of hard shells.
Brock: Favorite place to vacation?
H.A.Titus: Copper Harbor, Michigan. It's a quiet, remote campground at the northernmost part of the Upper Peninsula. There's a tiny little town a five minute bike ride away, and it's right next to a Civil War fort. I love how peaceful it is there. It feels like my personal Rivendell, as Bilbo describes in The Hobbit: "Elrond's house was perfect, whether you liked food or sleep or story-telling or singing or reading, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness..."
Brock: Favorite season?
H.A.Titus: Summer! Summers up here never get super hot, except for a couple of weeks in July or August. Most of the time it's the perfect weather to go mountain biking or rock climbing.
Brock: Do you have a particular drink or food you consume when you write? Like coco, raspberry tea, animal crackers?
H.A.Titus: Ginger chews, dark chocolate covered pretzels or almonds, and tea—lots of tea, hot or iced depending on the season.
Brock: Favorite color?
H.A.Titus: Green or black, depending on my mood.
Brock: What’s your favorite holiday memory?
H.A.Titus: I don't have a specific memory, but I love Christmas. Despite winter being my least favorite season, Christmas is a time that I always get excited about—I think there's something about the season that is magical and joyful no matter how old you are.
Brock: Do you have a favorite Bible verse?
H.A.Titus: Probably Psalm 45:1, "My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer." I've just always thought it appropriate for a writer. ☺
Brock: Favorite pasta dish?
H.A.Titus: That would have to be spinach artichoke pasta with chicken.
Brock: Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what are some examples?
H.A.Titus: I don't often get the chance any more (remember the whole writing at the kitchen table thing?), but I do enjoy listening to music while writing. A lot of times it helps my writing go better. What I listen to depends on what I'm writing—I build Spotify playlists tailored to each work in progress as I'm outlining, but it generally includes a lot of cinematic-type music from Future World Music, Audiomachine, etc. If I'm just writing blog posts or doing business stuff, I turn on Owl City or Andrew Peterson or Imagine Dragons—something bouncy and peppy to keep me moving.
Brock: What are your hobbies besides writing?
H.A.Titus: In the summer, I love to rock-climb and mountain-bike. The city we live close to also has a lot of nice paved biking paths, so we try to get out two or three times a week for a ride. In the winter, my favorite pastime is skiing, but I also end up going on a snowmobile trip once or twice a season too.
Author Website: www.hatitus.com
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