Morgan Howell, aka Will Hubbell (the secret is out!), got my interview questions back in record time. Here they are; enjoy!
Your author bio is mysteriously scanty. Could you tell us a little about yourself?
First of all, Morgan is not a woman. Betsy, my editor, initially thought so, and I took it as a compliment. I studied art in college, so upon graduation ended up in the army. I spent nearly five years under arms, both as an enlisted man and an officer. I mention this because my experiences have influenced my fantasy writing. Upon discharge, I earned an MFA in photography and worked in public television, graphic design, and advertising. I started writing because I wanted to create children’s picture books, and to have complete artistic control, I needed to write the stories. Although I started out as a visual artist, I’ve become enthralled by written word.
Your bio does mention that you write full-time. Do you write nonfiction in addition to fiction? Advertising copy? Magazine articles? Something else entirely?
As many people have figured out, Morgan Howell is a pen name. I’ve written and illustrated three picture books under my real name, Will Hubbell. They are Pumpkin Jack, Apples Here!, and Snow Day Dance. Also, Ace Books has published two science fiction novels, Cretaceous Sea and Sea of Time, under my name. You can see some of Dar in the heroine of those two books, especially the second one.
My fantasy writing is different from my children’s writing, which is not dark at all, so I thought a pen name would be appropriate.
Did you try to sell QUEEN OF THE ORCS as one volume, or did you always intend it to be a trilogy? And how did it come to be published one month after another?
Queen of the Orcs started out as a single, long book in two parts. Before submitting it, I got it down to 140 thousand words through severe cuts. My editor had the idea of publishing it as a trilogy, and I’m extremely glad she did. It allowed me to expand the original concept and write Royal Destiny, which is my favorite book of the three. The original volume, with additions and changes, became the first two books.
Publishing the trilogy within three months was Del Rey’s idea, and I think it was a good one. As a reader, I’d hate to wait long to find out Dar’s fate. One reason I think they did it was because the first two books were essentially already written.
Please share with us what inspired you to write QUEEN OF THE ORCS.
I’ve always been fascinated by J.R.R.Tolkien’s orcs, and I thought it would be challenge to make them sympathetic. My rationale for the orcs’ nasty image was that they were in a position similar to Native Americans in the nineteenth century—their conquerors sought to define them.
I was also interested in writing a story in which a powerless person rises to authority. Throughout most of history, women have been second-class citizens, with men assuming superiority as their birthright. In many places, it’s still true today. As a character, Dar had to be more resourceful than any man simply to survive.
Finally, much of the orcs’ culture was inspired by my interest in the Haudenosaune, better known as the Iroquois. The women of their tribe had real power.
What is your favorite scene in the first two volumes of THE QUEEN OF THE ORCS?
This is the hardest question of all! I can’t pick just one, so I’ll cheat. In the King’s Property—When Dar forces the orcs to recognize her as a mother (“Steal this food! I will not give it to you!”); Teeg and Kol’s cynical conversation about Dar; Twea’s take to Dar’s new dress; and the wrenching aftermath of the final battle. In Clan Daughter—Kovok-mah in the vandalized nursery; Dar’s encounter with Velasa-pah; Dar and Muth Mauk on the hilltop; and—of course—the scene by the pool.
What scene gave you the most trouble?
The final battle in King’s Property took a lot of rewriting because battles are chaotic and confusing by their nature. It was difficult to convey that confusion while giving the reader a sense of what was going on.
Also writing in Orcish, both in the original and translation, was tough.
Can you give us a small teaser about the final volume, ROYAL DESTINY?
In Royal Destiny, the conflicts of the earlier books assume epic proportions. Everything is more intense. The orcs and the humans have a showdown. There’s more magic. Kol rises to the pinnacle of power. When Dar becomes fully immersed in orcish culture, forces within it rear up to oppose her, and she must deal with them as an orc. Not only do her human foes grow stronger, an otherworldly one does too. Velasa-pah has warned Dar that the bones are the true enemy, and this book shows why.
Have you finished any other novels besides the three volumes in QUEEN OF THE ORCS and can we expect to see them in print?
This month, I’ll finish writing the first volume of my next trilogy for Del Rey, The Shadowed Path. The story is set two centuries after Queen of the Orcs. While there are no orcs in this tale, the two trilogies are connected. At the heart of The Shadowed Path is this dilemma: If evil thrives on violence, how can force overcome it?
Publication dates for the trilogy have yet to be set.
Are you planning on setting up a website? A blog? A forum? A MySpace page? All of the above? In other words, can we expect for you to set up a web presence any time soon? And can you tell that we really want you to have a website? :)
Well, I’ve registered MORGANHOWELL.COM. It’s a start. My problem is I’d rather write than do promotion. I had my fill of that during my advertising days. However, I really do plan to start a website. Just as soon I finish the first book of The Shadowed Path.
Please share your publishing story and any writing advice that you may have.
There’s a reason why all the dedications to Queen of the Orcs include my muthvashi (wife), Carol Hubbell. She supported me through difficult times in every sense of the word. Writing can often be discouraging, and it’s a crazy way to try to earn a living. There’s only one good justification for doing it—because you simply must. I wrote Queen of the Orcs without a publisher because I had to get Dar’s story down. There were times when I thought only a handful of people would ever read it.
I write for my characters. I care deeply for them, even to the point of weeping over some. Fortunately, my studio is isolated, so I don’t upset anyone. My characters feel like my children—except they tend to listen to me—and I get great pleasure from sharing them with others.
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Thanks, Will! I enjoyed your responses!
I finished CLAN DAUGHTER and will put my final post up on it tomorrow.