JMW: Dragon Con, I’m not sure of the answer to that question.
John G Hartness: And it’s daytime, so why are we even functional?
JMW: Okay, let’s just stop this and…speaking of daytime and how we’re not functional, you’re best known for your urban fantasy series set in Charlotte and point south, generally featuring vampires, hence the reason why are we here during the day. What prompted you to bring Dracula to North Carolina, and why ever does he stick around?
John G Hartness: Well, the taxes are lower in the south, so Dracula is a fiduciary genius by this point. So he understands that you can buy a lot of house in North Carolina with those old school Transylvanian ducats.
JMW: And is there a lot of basement to go with that lot of house?
John G Hartness: His house has plenty of light tight rooms, but typically, houses in North Carolina don’t all have basements.
JMW: Yeah, that’s what I was thinking.
John G Hartness: No, that’s true; we don’t, but if you’ve got enough money, you can dig a big hole.
JMW: That’s true. And big holes are good for him. Teasing aside, what attracted you to urban fantasy?
John G Hartness: They say write what you read, and I was reading a lot of urban fantasy. I think Kim Harrison’s “Hollows” series was probably the first that I read that was branded as urban fantasy. I read all the Anne Rice books when I was younger, then I read Kim’s “Hollow” series. I read Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files.” I’ve read a lot of the “Anita Blake” books by Laurell K. Hamilton. And I really enjoyed those, and I had been writing non-fiction for years, got fired from that non-fiction gig and decided to move into writing long form fiction.
JMW: What kind of non-fiction?
John G Hartness: I was writing poker tournament coverage for poker websites.
JMW: Oh my God, that’s arcane.
John G Hartness: It’s pretty esoteric, but at the height of the World Series of Poker, I was being read by a quarter million people a day in 27 countries.
JMW: Wow. Now talk about a platform.
John G Hartness: Yeah. Unfortunately, they don’t read anything but poker articles.
JMW: Oh, that’s so sad! Speaking of platform was my way of edging into the next question, which has to do with you have done an amazing amount of self publishing, and I believe that even “Black Knight Chronicles” was self published before they were picked up.
John G Hartness: That’s correct.
JMW: Do you think that urban fantasy has an edge when it comes to self publishing?
John G Hartness: I think it’s one of the stronger genres in self publishing. What I have seen on K-boards and other forums where a lot of serious self published authors talk is that the self publishing market largely mirrors the traditional publishing market in that romance is a huge part of it. Suspense and thrillers are very strong. But yeah, urban fantasy definitely has an edge over things like epic fantasies, sword and sorcery, straight horror. Those are harder sells in a self published world. YA and middle grade are very difficult in the self publishing world because a large portion of your target market doesn’t have credit cards or access to a Kindle account.
John G Hartness: So yeah, self publishing is pretty good for urban fantasy writers, and I’ve been very happy to be part of it and to move into a hybrid career.
JMW: Yes, but I do have a question. Now you just said epic fantasy, not so good; and sword and sorcery, not so good. What kind of series have you just started? Tell us a little bit about it.
John G Hartness: Not only is Queen of Kats a sword and sorcery style of epic fantasy, it’s also a serialized epic fantasy that I just started publishing, and I did self publish the first third of it as part one “Betrayal.” I’m very happy with the way it’s performing, sales wise. It’s a book of my heart. And I tell a lot of new and young writers, “Write the book of your heart, and then throw it away or lock it in a drawer and don’t share it with anyone.” Because when you’re new and vulnerable, it’s hard to put your baby out there. And the character in “Queen of Kats,” Remarin, a thief with poor impulse control and horrible life choices, is a character that I’ve carried with me since my college “Dungeons and Dragons” days.
So I love this character and I really wanted to bring him to life, and I do feel like at this point I have enough of a platform and fans to make it a, if not a smash success, at least a viable business decision to go ahead and self publish “Queen of Kats.” Now, if any major publisher sees this and wants to offer me a contract for it, you can find me at JohnHartness.com.
JMW: Yes. We will repeat the website at the end of the video. Do the characters in “Queen of Kats” have any relationship with the characters in your contemporary fantasies?
John G Hartness: No, they’re completely separate worlds.
JMW: Okay. “The Black Knight” books that I’ve read are very visual. I always know where the characters are in relationship to one another and in relationship to their setting. Does this reflect your theatrical background?
John G Hartness: Absolutely. I have a 25-year career in theater as a designer, director, and actor, and that practice moving people through space and around objects has been invaluable in setting scenes and placing people, and especially in fight scenes. I do have a little bit of a background in fight choreography, although not any actual martial arts or fight training. So being able to block a fight in my mind, I’m basically just playing the movie in my head and writing down what people are doing.
JMW: Are there other ways in which a theatrical background has influenced your writing?
John G Hartness: Absolutely. Dialogue is one. I’ve done a lot of Sam Shepard and David Mamet work and studied a lot of that. And those guys have such fluid dialogue in their plays, that it has really helped me write tight dialogue and write punchy dialogue. And obviously watching things like “West Wing,” Aaron Sorkin, has created some amazing characters on that show, and that also came into play when I was working on dialogue.
JMW: Where does the liquor and the card playing come into it?
John G Hartness: Well, I’m southern. And Robert Penn Morin once said that southern men like to tell stories, fornicate, and drink liquor, not necessarily in that order. So, I like to drink and I like to play cards. Like I said earlier, I spent five years covering The World Series of Poker, so I’ve had poker games figure into several of my “Bubba The Monster Hunter” short stories. And “Magic The Gathering” is my other nerd passion, and that figures into several of my “Black Knight” stories.
So it’s just a part of me and I throw them out there because they’re things that people can touch on to because they’re like, “Hey, that guy loves poker, I love poker.” It’s just like setting the stories in Charlotte. People from Charlotte feel good about that. They’re, “Hey, there’s never anything set in Charlotte.” And I also really liked Jim Butcher’s detailed descriptions of Chicago and the Mid West, so I really wanted to emulate that in my descriptions in the “Black Knight Chronicles.” And the only town I’ve lived in that’s big enough to house anything is Charlotte. I’m a little country boy.
JMW: Yeah, little.
John G Hartness: Okay, I come from a small town.
JMW: What are you working on now?
John G Hartness: I’m working on book six of “The Black Knight Chronicles.” It’ll come out next year from Bell Bridge Books. I’m also working on a brand new series that is as yet untitled, featuring a southern medium. It has a 50 something female protagonist. I’m describing it as Jessica Fletcher meets Odd Thomas.
JMW: Oh, that’s going to be so strange.
John G Hartness: I’m having so much fun writing her dialogue because her voice and the voice of the characters in that story are people I grew up with, and her voice is my Mother’s.
John G Hartness: Yeah.
JMW: Yeah, that’s one way to keep her with you, isn’t it?
John G Hartness: Absolutely.
JMW: That’s so cool. And she’d be so happy.
John G Hartness: I hope so.
JMW: She is.
John G Hartness: I’m also working on a “Bubba The Monster Hunter” novella, which I hope to have out in October. And there will be a new “Harker” novella out by the end of the year because fans keep buying them, so I’m going to keep writing them.
JMW: That’s a very good reason to me. We’re just about at the end of our show, is there anything you’d like to add?
John G Hartness: Go out and buy my stuff! Come down to Dragon Con sometime and join me in a margarita Popsicle.
JMW: Yeah, I heard about them.
John G Hartness: They’re half the price of beers at a hotel lobby. How can you lose?
JMW: Sounds good to me. Maybe we should retire there. Anyway, thank you, John, and thank you for BuzzyMag.com.
Jean Marie Ward writes fiction, nonfiction and everything in between, including art books, novels (2008 Indie Book double-finalist With Nine You Get Vanyr), and short stories such as WSFA Small Press Award finalist “Lord Bai’s Discovery” and “Personal Demons” in the award-winning anthology Hellebore and Rue. Her videos include author interviews and tutorials.