Please welcome Steve McHugh to The Qwillery. Prison of Hope, the 4th novel in the Hellequin Chronicles, was published on April 14th by 47North.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Steve: It’s lovely to be here. I’ve written all my life, from when I was very young, but it wasn’t until the birth of my first daughter, ten years ago, when I was 25 that I began to take it seriously. Haven’t really looked back since then.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser? What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Steve: A bit of both, really. I tend to plot out the main story, character arcs and know what big things need to happen, but everything else happens as it happens. If I did too much plotting, I’d only ignore it, and if I did none, my 130,000 word books would be double that.
TQ: Describe Prison of Hope (Hellequin Chronicles 4) in 140 characters or less.
Steve: It’s an action-packed, Urban Fantasy about a 1600 year old sorcerer who has to find the Titan king, Cronus, before he can start a civil war.
TQ: Tell us something about Prison of Hope that is not in the book description.
Steve: It’s the most fun I’ve ever had writing a book. It’s certainly got the most brutal fights in it, but also the most humor and in some instances outright geekiness in it.
TQ: What inspired you to write the Hellequin Chronicles? What appealed to you about writing dark Urban Fantasy? In you opinion, what makes an Urban Fantasy dark?
Steve: I always loved mythology and magic, and knew I wanted to write Urban Fantasy. I’d read Kelley Armstrong, Jim Butcher and the like and knew I wanted to work in that genre.
I think the violence makes it’s dark. And not just the perpetrated violence. Nate has the ability to be as nice and calm as anything one moment, flick a switch, and then get hurt people badly. And he’s the good guy. He knows that there’s a darkness inside him, he knows that if he lets it out people will die, and he’s constantly trying to balance being a better friend to those he cares about, and ensuring that if anyone messes with them, then he will descent upon them like the apocalypse.
TQ: Tell us about the magic system in the Hellequin Chronicles.
Steve: There are a few different types of magic. There’s witch magic, which we’re introduced to in book 4, which is when a human access magic through the use of runes, which in turn begins to eat at that person’s life force.
And then there’s sorcerer’s magic. Sorcerers are born with an innate ability to use magic (although it doesn’t manifest until their teens). Sorcerer magic falls into two categories. The first is elemental, and it’s the one all sorcerers learn at a young age. From Fire, Water, Air and Earth, a sorcerer will learn two, but can never learn the opposite of what they know, so no one can have Fire and Air or Water and Earth.
The second category is called omega magic and only the most powerful sorcerers can use it. It consists of Shadow, Light, Matter and Mind. Nate, the main character, isn’t powerful enough to use these, in fact very few are.
Apart from these, some sorcerers can also merge their elements into a different magic, so fire and air becomes lightning. That’s explored in book 4.
The problem with magic is that it’s a living thing, it wants to be used, and any sorcerer using too much will begin to hear it telling them how they should allow the magic to take over, how it will show the sorcerer just what he could do if he just allowed it to. The physical manifestation of the magic is called a nightmare. And anyone becoming one is put to death.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Prison of Hope?
Steve: Lots of research on Germany, both in the build up to the Olympics in 1936 and today. Also various types of nerve gas, and the exceptionally complicated lives of various Greek gods… yeah, it’s not exactly a laugh a minute with those two.
TQ: In Prison of Hope, who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why? In the Hellequin Chronicles which character has surprised you the most?
Steve: Nate is always the easiest, he’s lived in my head for a decade. Tommy the werewolf, and Nate’s best friend, is easy too… mostly because he’d basically me in a lot of ways. Except the werewolf bit.
The hardest was Cronus. Getting that complete arrogance that comes with being incredibly powerful, and the total disregard for anyone except his mission was quite tricky.
Tommy’s teenage daughter Kasey is always the one who surprises me. She’s fourteen and saved her father and Nate in a previous book by standing up to something terrifyingly evil. And in every book I put her in, she does something that shows how much she’s changing between stories. I love writing Kasey because I know for a fact that she will do something to surprise me at some point.
TQ: Which question about Prison of Hope do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
So far we’ve seen a lot of Greek and British mythology, do you plan on using others?
A great question. Book 4 has a lot more characters from Greek Mythology, but also some from Roman. In fact over the next few books, we’ll start to see more and more characters from different mythologies from Norse to Japanese.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Prison of Hope.
“I think a toy of me with a real spinning sphere of death, is an unlikely action figure.”
“So far I’ve gone a few years without tearing anyone’s head off for pissing me off. It’s going well.”
TQ: What's next?
Steve: Well book 5, Lies Ripped Open, is out in Aug. I’m currently writing a science fiction book, and then once that’s done I’ll be writing a book I’ve had plans for, for about a decade called Chimera. Very much looking forward to it.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Steve: Thanks for having me.
Prison of Hope
Hellequin Chronicles 4
47North, April 14, 2015
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 512 pages
Long ago, Olympian gods imprisoned the demon Pandora in a human—Hope—creating a creature whose only purpose was chaos and death. Remorseful, the gods locked Pandora away in Tartarus, ruled by Hades.
Now, centuries later, Pandora escapes. Nate Garrett, a 1,600-year-old sorcerer, is sent to recapture her and discovers her plan to disrupt the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, killing thousands in a misplaced quest for vengeance.
Fast forward to modern-day Berlin, where Nate has agreed to act as guardian on a school trip to Germany to visit Hades at the entrance to Tartarus. When Titan King Cronus becomes the second ever to escape Tartarus, Nate is forced to track him down and bring him back, to avert a civil war between those who would use his escape to gain power.
Prison of Hope is the fourth book in the highly acclaimed and action-packed dark urban fantasy series, the Hellequin Chronicles.
Steve McHugh is the author of the popular Hellequin Chronicles. The fourth book, Prison of Hope, is out on April 14th. He lives in Southampton on the south coast of England with his wife and three young daughters. When not writing or spending time with his kids, he enjoys watching movies, reading books and comics, and playing video games.
Crimes Against Magic
Hellequin Chronicles 1
47North, September 17, 2013
Trade Paperback and eBook, 420 pages
Book 1 in the Hellequin Chronicles.
How do you keep the people you care about safe from enemies you can’t remember?
Ten years ago, Nate Garrett awoke on a cold warehouse floor with no memory of his past—a gun, a sword, and a piece of paper with his name on it the only clues to his identity. Since then, he’s discovered he’s a powerful sorcerer and has used his magical abilities to become a successful thief for hire.
But those who stole his memories aren’t done with him yet: when they cause a job to go bad and threaten a sixteen-year-old girl, Nate swears to protect her. With his enemies closing in and everyone he cares about now a target for their wrath, he must choose between the comfortable life he’s built for himself and his elusive past.
As the barrier holding his memories captive begins to crumble, Nate moves between modern-day London and fifteenth-century France, forced to confront his forgotten life in the hope of stopping an enemy he can’t remember.
Born of Hatred
Hellequin Chronicles 2
47North, September 17, 2013
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 480 pages
There are some things even a centuries-old sorcerer hesitates to challenge…
When Nathan Garret’s friend seeks his help investigating a bloody serial killer, the pattern of horrific crimes leads to a creature of pure malevolence, born of hatred and dark magic. Even with all his powers, Nate fears he may be overmatched. But when evil targets those he cares about and he is confronted by dire threats both old and new, Nate must reveal a secret from his recently remembered past to remind his enemies why they should fear him once more.
Born of Hatred, set in modern London with historical flashbacks to America’s Old West, continues the dark urban fantasy of Crimes Against Magic, the acclaimed first book in the gritty and action-packed Hellequin Chronicles.
With Silent Screams
The Hellequin Chronicles 3
47North, February 18, 2014
Trade Paperback and Kindle eBook, 466 pages
His name is Nathan Garrett, but he’s also known as Hellequin. And murdering one of his friends and trying to blow him up is a good way to get this centuries-old sorcerer’s full attention…
An old friend’s dead body, a cryptic note, and an explosion that almost costs him his own life propel Nate headfirst into a mystery involving a new threat from an old foe. Now he must piece together the connections between a grisly series of tattooed murder victims, an imprisoned madman, a mysterious alchemist, and a deranged plot to usurp the throne of the hidden realm of Shadow Falls, rival to the power of Avalon.
Can Nate avert the coming slaughter, or will he become the latest to fall in this clandestine war?
With the story careening between modern-day New York and Ontario and 1977 Maine, With Silent Screams continues the gritty and action-packed mix of urban fantasy and ancient mythology that mark Steve McHugh’s popular Hellequin Chronicles.