Tanya Huff is a prolific science fiction and fantasy author. Her best known works include the Blood series featuring cop-turned-vampire Vicki Nelson. Ms. Huff also writes the Valor series, a military science fiction series based around Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr and her kick ass, take charge attitude. Many of her fantasy works feature big and small cities in Canada, bringing a fresh perspective to readers tired of reading one more series set in New York or Chicago. She currently lives in Canada with her partner and fellow author, Fiona Patton.
Q1: What draws you to write Speculative Fiction?
TH: People tend to write what they like to read. The very first book I ever took out of a library — I think I was seven — was about the Greek Gods and Goddess. And then lightly older cousin started lending me the Narnia books and I’ve been remarkably consistent in my taste ever since.
Q2: What was the first piece you ever had published?
TH: Well, if we’re not counting the two poems I had published in the Picton Gazette when I was ten (they paid me $5 a poem) it was THIRD TIME LUCKY, the first of the Magdelene stories in Amazing Stories November 1986.
Q3: What did it feel like?
TH: It felt like a beginning.
Q4: What was the defining moment that made you say “Yes I’m a writer”?
TH: I suspect it was the first time I wrote it on a tax form. If you can defend the position in an audit, it must be true.
Q5: How long have you been writing? What keeps you writing?
TH: I was always a storyteller. I have a copy of a letter my grandmother sent to my father — he was at sea — when I was three with a story I told her about a spider who lived in the garden and made doilies. (I suspect that came from the intricate doilies my grandfather crocheted.) When I was ten, I had a cousin who spent the summer in a body cast and I spent the summer with her, telling her stories to keep her from being bored. Now I write the stories down but it’s much the same thing.
As to what keeps me writing… well, it’s what buys the groceries.
Q6: Who are some of your influences? (Authors, Personal Friends, Teachers, etc.)
TH: I’m not sure you could call it an influence — possibly it influenced me less than it should have — but the best advice I ever got was from my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Purcell. He said, “You’re likely to go far Tanya, if you remember one important thing: Brain first, mouth second.”
Q7: What’s your favorite speculative fiction work?
TH: Hmmm… I wouldn’t say I have one favourite but I’m very, very fond of Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart, Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (actually I love pretty much anything by Terry Pratchett) Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones and The October Country by Ray Bradbury. I love a lot of books but these are the books (and people) I tend to reread.
Q8: Are there plans for more books within The Enchantment Emporium series? If so, any idea when?
TH: There’s tentative plans. No idea when.
Q9: The characters in The Enchantment Emporium are very diverse, with at least one gay character and a few bisexual ones. Do you think that made it harder to get it published, even as a very well established author? Why or why not?
TH: No, not at all. Tell a good story with three dimensional, believable characters and their sexual preferences are moot.
Q10: Do you find yourself consciously choosing to write about LGBT characters, or do they just spring forth?
TH: All of my characters are bisexual unless I specifically tell you otherwise. Because that’s just the way I roll…
Q11: Have you ever had any negative reactions to the characters you write?
TH: Because of their sexuality? No. Because of something they may have done in the story? Well, there’s a whole lot of people out there who disagree with Vicki’s final choice. I’m not sure that’s negative exactly…
Q12: What’s the best positive reaction you’ve received?
TH: Best ever is an email I got from a USMC Staff Sergeant serving in Gulf about the first Valor book. The entire email read: “You got it right.”
But a very close second is that Randy Zalken and Paul McConvey at Kaleidoscope Entertainment were willing to do so much work and take so much risk to bring Blood Ties to the screen only because they really liked the books. It was an amazing compliment.
Q13: Is Alysha Gayle based off of anyone in real life? What about any of the Aunties or Cousins?
TH: Alysha, no. As for the Aunties… well, everyone has at least one Auntie…
Q14: Many of your book settings are based in Canada, where you live. What are some of your favorite places in Canada?
TH: I’m very fond of both coasts. And the middle bit is pretty cool too.
Prince George in the fall when the trees are gold. CFB Shearwater at 5:30 am in a fog so heavy you have to keep one foot on the driveway and the other on the grass to find the door to the Wardroom. Downtown Toronto on a Friday night and this little Japanese lunch place on Queen Street the rest of the time. The river run in Guelph. Quebec City during winter carnival. The Dartmouth ferry. Nose Hill Park in Calgary. The Forks area in Winnipeg. Vancouver — pretty much all of Vancouver actually. My garden in the spring when the ground first thaws and it’s all potential…
Q15: Who are some of your favorite Canadian authors?
TH: Charles de Lint would be top of the list but there isn’t a Canadian author who isn’t on it.
Q16: In Valor’s Choice, we meet Staff Sergeant Torin Kerr, a completely capable military woman in a combat position. Do you think that today’s military will eventually be completely co-ed? Why or why not?
TH: “In february 1989 a Canadian human rights tribunal ordered all obstacles be removed to the integration of women into all military occupations and roles. …”
In this, as with gay rights, Canadians are waiting for Americans to catch up.
Q17: What sort of research did you do for Valor’s Choice and the three books that followed? Did you speak with any military personnel?
TH: My family is military, I spent some time in the Canadian Naval Reserve, and I have a number of friends who serve or have served. So, yes to your second question. I also spent a lot of time reading solider’s blogs as well as tech research as needed. You can find pretty much anything on line and I’ve done some very weird searches.
Q18: The last book in the series so far is Valor’s Trial. Any plans for more books featuring Torin Kerr?
TH: I’m working on one right now. And, I really like the universe so I hope to go back with other characters. Following a Recon group perhaps.
Q19: Do you find writing in one genre easier than the other? Science fiction versus fantasy.
TH: It’s all story telling. And, fortunately, I have good support to help me get the science right.
Q20: Do you think that being a woman author has made getting published harder or easier for you?
TH: Hasn’t made the slightest bit of difference.
Q21: What about being a lesbian?
TH: Also, hasn’t made the slightest bit of difference. Unless your publisher wants to sleep with you, I can’t see why sexual preferences would even come up. It ALL comes down to writing a good book that there’s a perceivable market for. Granted your ability to maintain a professional relationship with both your publisher and your readers helps but again, that has nothing to do with sexual preferences.
Q22: Where do you think the future of speculative fiction is going? More inclusive of diverse characters, or more exclusive?
TH: I have no idea where speculative fiction is going. As society goes, I expect. Hopefully more inclusive. I type with my fingers crossed…
Q23: What are you working on right now? Any other series or stories in the works?
TH: Over the summer, I’ve written three Vicki Nelson stories and one Tony Foster story (that’s from the Smoke books) — don’t know for sure when they’ll see the light of day — although the first Vicki story is in Evolve which is debuting at the British Horror convention — but they’ll all show up eventually I expect. I’m also doing a story for the next Valdemar anthology and am working on a fifth Valor book, untitled as yet.
Q24: Finally, do you have anything else you’d like to add?
For more information about Tanya Huff and her writing visit the sites she listed above or follow her on Twitter @TanyaHuff
You can purchase The Enchantment Emporium, Valor’s Choice, and the rest of Ms. Huff’s works through Amazon, Borders, and Powell’s Books.