I recently read and gushed about The Line by debut author J.D. Horn (you can read my five-star review here), and I was thrilled when J.D. agreed to do an interview for the blog! If you love stories with witches and a Southern gothic flare, then you’ll love The Line. And J.D. is generously offering up TWO SIGNED COPIES of The Line: One to a U.S. winner, and one to an international winner! So keep reading after the interview for a chance to win!
First, please welcome J.D. Horn to the blog!
The Line is your first published novel. Can you tell us a little about your path to publication, how long it took to write, and how you ended up at 47North?
The short answer is that I ended up at 47North because editor David Pomerico is a very brave man. There are not many publishers willing to take on the risk of a Southern Gothic Urban Fantasy series that gleefully jabs its finger at just about every hot button issue you can think of. Luckily, I think Charlaine Harris has done much in paving the way for quirky stories like The Line.
The longer version runs like this: Earlier I wrote a novel that helped me meet my agent, but for which we couldn’t find a publisher. We kept getting the same response. It was a lovely story, but didn’t stand a chance of commercial success. One publisher considered taking it on, but decided she could never get the Marketing budget needed to give it a proper launch. Without the necessary support, the book would never have a chance to find its readers.
I understand that publishing is a business, so I decided to take a serious look at the reasons for rejection the editors had shared with us. Of course, reviewing their comments in the context of being rejected was heartbreaking, but on the flip side of the heartbreak I had been given a list of what editors were actually wanting. That left me to do some soul-searching. Could I write a story that would feel like it belonged to me, but that might still have a wide enough appeal to entice a publisher to put its capital on the line? (No pun intended.) Mercy’s story came as the answer to that question.
Six months of part-time writing convinced me that what I really wanted to do with my life was to write full-time. After taking that leap, I spent around six months or so working with a developmental editor. (If you’re a writer, and can manage to come up with the funds, consider a professional editor an investment rather than an expense.)
Once my agent, my editor and I agreed Mercy’s story was ready, my agent presented the book to a small group of publishers who specialize in genre fiction. I believe it was a period of two to three months from the point we pulled the trigger until the book got picked up by 47North.
Your novel takes place in the South and incorporates “root magic” into a story about a family of witches. What sorts of mythology or legends did you draw from to come up with the various types of magic that the Taylor family uses?
I really wanted to come up with a fresh take on witches and magic. I have tried to walk a thin line, as I want practitioners of Wicca to feel respected and enjoy The Line, but I also want to open up the definitions of “magic” and “witch” so that everyone can join in on the fun. As Mercy discovers in The Source (the second book in the series), the font of my witches’ magic lies beyond the purview of religion.
The Taylors, like many of Savannah’s families, come from Irish stock, so of course old Celtic beliefs come into play. Kabalistic magic plays an increasingly important role as the series progresses. Norse mythology gets a nod here and there also. Still the witches of The Line come from many different cultures and religions. H.P. Lovecraft moved occult fantasy into a realm that was not bounded by any one religious viewpoint. Readers of H.P. Lovecraft will easily spot his influence on the Witching Savannah mythology, if not on the story’s tone.
In regard to root magic, the practice is a very real part of the Low Country (Charleston, Savannah and the surrounding region) culture. I simply could not write a book about witchcraft in the Low Country and not address root magic. I just hope its practitioners realize the love and respect I have for my Jilo, and are willing to hang with the series as they see how she develops from near caricature to hero.
Which character in The Line did you most enjoy writing? And which character was the most difficult to write?
Hands down, Mother Jilo Wills was my favorite character to write. Her participation in the book was originally to be limited to a mention in passing, relating how another character was related to Savannah’s reigning queen of Hoodoo. Then, Jilo started talking to me. Telling me her story. She wanted to live, and she was not going to take a no from me. This book was not going to happen without her, and I needed to get the heck out of her way.
I had gone through many false starts on The Line, but once Jilo took over—yes, took over—the story just flowed. Jilo is feisty, fiercely intelligent and well-educated. Still, she hides her sophistication and presents herself in a way that those around her expect. She has created a persona that has in turn entrapped her. Part of the joy of writing the series has been watching Mercy peel away the layers until she gets to the real woman inside Jilo.
I cannot really say which character was the most difficult to write without giving too much away. Unlike Jilo, who presents herself as less than she is, there are a couple of characters who present themselves as being more. These two were very difficult to write.
The Line ends with lots of plot points resolved, but there are teasers in the story about upcoming events. Can you tell us a little about what’s next for Mercy and her family?
Just because someone loves you, doesn’t mean they won’t lie to you. As a matter of fact, the more they love you, the bigger the lies they might tell. Mercy is going to learn that her family loves her—a lot.
For me, the star of The Source is the relationship that develops between Mercy and Jilo.
Other than that, I am going to imitate Doctor Who’s River Song by shaking my head and saying “Spoilers.”
What is a “day in the life” of J.D. Horn like? Are you a full-time writer, or do you have a “day” job?
I am blessed. Around two years ago, I decided to leave a career in Finance to follow my dream of becoming a published writer. I have a tremendously supportive (and up till now supporting) spouse who believed enough in me to allow me to go for it.
A day in the life depends on where I am in a book’s cycle. Currently, I am finishing a first draft of The Void (Book Three), getting ready for a second round of copyedits on The Source, and working on promoting The Line.
Tell us three things about yourself that readers might not know.
I’m a non-proselytizing vegetarian.
I am a big and proselytizing supporter of ending puppy mills. (Adopt, don’t buy.)
I worship Emmylou Harris, Nanci Griffith and Alison Krauss.
Thanks for an awesome interview, J.D.!
About the Author:
JD Horn was raised in rural Tennessee, and has since carried a bit of its red clay in him while travelling the world, from Hollywood, to Paris, to Tokyo. He studied comparative literature as an undergrad, focusing on French and Russian in particular. He also holds an MBA in international business and worked as a financial analyst before becoming a novelist. When not writing he is likely running, and he has race bibs from two full marathons and about thirty half marathons. He and his spouse, Rich, and their three pets split their time between Portland, Oregon and San Francisco.
And now for the giveaway: One U.S. and one International winner (total of two winners) will receive a signed copy of The Line! Big thanks to J.D. for offering these signed copies:) Simply click on the Rafflecopter button to enter now: (Note, please read: Rafflecopter is acting wonky!! I’m not sure if it’s just me or what, but it may ask you to sign in first. Also, if you don’t see the Twitter follow or Facebook follow buttons, please click on the follow links (above) in this post to follow J.D. And let me know in the comments if you’re also having trouble with Rafflecopter!)