Interview with Christopher Husberg, author of Duskfall
Published: June 24,
2016 | 09:28
Please welcome Christopher Husberg to The Qwillery as part of the 2016 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Duskfall was published on June 21st by Titan Books.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Christopher: Well I can answer that in a few different ways, but the most relevant seems to be THE WOMB. Just kidding, obvies. A huge catalyst for my writing career came in the seventh grade when I started writing fan fiction for Final Fantasy VII. [Nerd Alert!] FFVII was one of those things that left a hole in my heart when I finished it (that’s the best kind of thing, by the way). I filled that void by reading all the fan fiction I could get my hands on (I still remember printing off hundreds of pages of FFVII fan fic stories...my parents were not happy about that), and, of course, attempting to write some of my own. In a lot of ways, attempting to tell those stories about Cloud, Aeris, and Sephiroth is what solidified my conviction to one day write stories of my own. (Also I’m totally pumped for the FFVII reboot!)
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Christopher: I used to say that I was pretty much a straight-up pantser, and while that's still mostly true for my stand-alone stories and first novels in a series, my experience writing CQ2 has told me that I'm a bit more of a hybrid than I realize. Most of my formal outlining still takes place after my first draft, but I’ve begun to use it more and more as a tool to make sure I’m hitting the emotional beats I want each character to experience in the right order, at the right time, etc. Turns out I’m definitely not smart enough to hope that those things just happen as I’m writing a five-book series!
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Christopher: Right now, it’s definitely writing sequels. All of the writing workshops and classes I’ve taken have focused on writing first and/or standalone novels and stories--none of them ever mentioned writing sequels. Nobody told me how difficult and how different it would be from writing a first entry in a series! I’m more boxed in with characters and plot points, and, as I mentioned earlier, outlining has become a pretty important facet of my process in overcoming that difficulty.
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
Christopher: Yikes. A lot of stuff! I feel like I’m always drawing influence from movies, television shows, books, music, and the world around me in general. That said, I can definitely speak to a few things that have heavily influenced my craft and how I approach the writer’s life. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield has probably been the most important--it’s a fantastic treatise on what it means to be a professional. I’ve had the privilege of taking fiction writing classes from Brandon Sanderson, and he taught me a lot about the industry and the world of SFF writing, and also introduced me to the phenomenal podcast Writing Excuses. Stephen King’s book On Writing is one of the few “how-to” writing books that I genuinely appreciate, mainly because it endeavors to not be prescriptive. And I’m always on the lookout for more books, podcasts, Youtube channels, etc. that will help me become a better writer!
TQ: Describe Duskfall (Chaos Queen 1) in 140 characters or less.
Christopher: An amnesiac assassin, a woman with an addiction to magic, and a priestess caught between faith & family converge. Dark epic fantasy ensues.
TQ: Tell us something about Duskfall that is not found in the book description.
Christopher: It has vampires--of the legit variety, who murder folks! Well, a vampire, anyway, although I can say for a certainty that you’ll see a few more as the series progresses. I’m always a fan of vampires who murder folks and drink actual blood and such, so I couldn’t help but include one in my first novel.
TQ: What inspired you to write Duskfall? What appeals to you about writing Dark Epic Fantasy?
Christopher: The characters. Knot and Cinzia were the first characters I wrote the story around, but Winter soon came out of the woodwork as one of the most important characters in the entire series. Each of the three main characters spoke to me in different ways, and their stories are the reason I’m writing this series. I want their stories to be told!
As far as Dark Epic Fantasy goes, I have to admit the surface level things are fun--higher body counts, more on-screen gore, etc. But what really draws me to the genre is the moral ambiguity, the extremely flawed heroes and the redeemable villains, and the horror elements woven throughout. Exploring the dark, confronting it and processing it through writing and reading, makes the light that much more powerful for me.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Duskfall?
Christopher: Boats boats boats! Namely sailboats and fishing boats and how they work, who crews them, etc. I did quite a bit of research on telekenisis and telepathy (Can you call that research? Pararesearch, maybe? Yeah, that sounds cool.), which influenced the central magic system. I also did a fair share of medical research, mostly into how certain injuries affect (and sometimes kill) people, and what medieval ways there are of treating those injuries.
Fun fact: I get pretty queasy when I’m thinking about my own blood, and while I did all of that medical research and applied it to certain scenes in my book, I did a lot of thinking about my own blood. When I block a scene, even a violent scene, I usually imagine myself in that scene and...yeah. I had to stop writing/blocking certain scenes more than once while working on Duskfall because I was about to either faint or vomit. So, basically, I grossed myself out multiple times. Also, I’m apparently a total poltroon when it comes to that stuff!
TQ: In Duskfall who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Christopher: Astrid, a young girl who shows up partway through the novel, was the easiest. Sometimes characters are so easy to write that they almost take over the story, and that was the case with Astrid. She’s sarcastic, quippy, and is capable of surprising violence, and all of that makes for a pretty easy character to write.
On the other hand sometimes, despite being difficult to write, the story that a certain character has to tell is so important that they take over a whole novel (or series, in this case), and that was the case with Winter. Knot was the original central character of the novel and series, but as I wrote the first draft of Duskfall years ago, I began to see that, while Knot certainly plays an important part, everything was really revolving around Winter. Winter is difficult to write because her story has such significance (in my eyes, anyway) that, I think, it’s just intimidating to approach as a writer. But on a more base level she is also just...solemn. She sees the world through weary eyes, and getting that tone right without making her sound indifferent or boring was tough for me. Still is, even in the later books in the series.
TQ: Why have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Duskfall?
Christopher: Well, now I’ve got “Issues (Think About It)” by Flight of the Conchords stuck in my head, and that’s awesome.
I do include social issues in my writing, though. Definitely. At least the way I see it, social issues are inherent to human experience. Whether we like to admit it or not, I think we’re all confronted with social issues every day. Some of have very strong stances on those issues, while others don’t want to hear about them. As a writer, I’m not in the business of preaching, I’m in the business of telling stories, but by telling stories, if I can help someone experience another perspective, something they’ve never considered or never been able to see before, then I think I’ve succeeded on some level. And one of the great privileges of writing stories is the opportunity to learn about and research perspectives and experiences that are different from my own. It’s a fine line to walk, in a lot of ways, but it is also just completely part of what I do.
TQ: Which question about Duskfall do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Christopher: Ha! You know it seems I think of dozens of these questions when no one is asking them, and then when someone gives me the opportunity to talk about them I can hardly think of any!
That said, one question that comes to mind that no one has really asked yet is “Did you have the ending of Duskfall in mind all along?” The answer is actually yes and no. One of the things I love about being a discovery writer (pantser) is the sense of organic freedom I have when I’m writing. I definitely had a pretty clear idea of what the ending of Duskfall was going to look like...until I actually started writing the book. The more I wrote, the more my idea of the ending changed, until it became something pretty different from what I’d originally had in mind--and, in my opinion, much better! Call it my muse, call it my subconscious, call it whatever you want, but it’s pretty amazing how that kind of thing develops consistently in my writing without me even expressly looking for it.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Duskfall.
“There are daemons even daemons fear.” This quote comes up a few times in the book. I won’t go too much into it in the spirit of non-spoilerism, but it’s sort of the “there’s always a bigger fish” concept. But, you know, with demons.
“I know that I can kill a man with anything you can think of. Give me a sword or give me a spoon, and I’ll give you a dead man.” I won’t tell you who’s speaking there, because it’s a minor spoiler (you know, I’ve read the book so many times that it’s getting hard for me to tell what might be a spoiler for a reader and what wouldn’t--I have to be careful!), but the idea of someone who has been trained to kill in any situation, with any tool available, definitely intrigues me and heavily influenced one of the characters in Duskfall.
TQ: What's next?
Christopher: Well, right now I’m hard at work revising book two of the Chaos Queen Quintet--and, fortunately, it looks like the CQQ will be taking up a lot of my time over the next few years :-). That said, I’ve got a few side projects that take place in the CQ ‘verse, but aren’t exactly part of the Quintet, that I hope eventually see the light of day. One is an ancient history, a few others address how the events of Duskfall (particularly the ending) affect other parts of the world. I have a lot of stories I eventually want to tell in that setting!
I also have a YA series in the works, but that might be a few years down the road, so I’ll keep my lips sealed(ish) about that for now :-).
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Christopher: Thank you for having me! It’s been a pleasure.
Duskfall Chaos Queen Quintet 1 Titan Books, June 21, 2016 Trade Paperback and eBook, 400 pages
Pulled from a frozen sea, pierced by arrows and close to death, Knot has no memory of who he was. But his dreams are dark, filled with violence and unknown faces. Winter, a tiellan woman whose people have long been oppressed by humans, is married to and abandoned by Knot on the same day. In her search for him, she will discover her control of magic, but risk losing herself utterly. And Cinzia, priestess and true believer, returns home to discover her family at the heart of a heretical rebellion. A rebellion that only the Inquisition can crush…
Their fates and those of others will intertwine, in a land where magic and daemons are believed dead, but dark forces still vie for power.
Christopher Husberg was born in Alaska and studied at Brigham Young University, where he went on to teach creative writing. His short story collection Look Me in the Stars received an honourable mention in the 2013 Utah Original Writing Competition. He lives with his wife in Lehi, Utah.