By Sue Botos
For those unfamiliar with the “urban fantasy” genre, author Kevin Hearne suggests thinking about a smoothie. “It allows you to mash up stuff and have a good time doing it. It’s the essence of smoothies. You just put stuff in a blender and see what comes out.”
The Arizona native was in town last week speaking to fans at the Rocky River Public Library, where he also signed copies of books from his “Iron Druid Chronicles” series, which is based on Celtic mythology and features an ancient Druid living in present-day Arizona as a 21-year-old man.
“I always wrote to amuse myself,” Hearne told the group. The self-proclaimed “hardcore nerd” said he became hooked on superhero comic books at an early age and completely fell under the spell after his parents took him to see “Star Wars” when he was 7 years old.
Hearne received his degree in English education from Northern Arizona University, where he was an editorial cartoonist and feature writer for the school newspaper. He said he got the “writing bug” during this time after reading Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” But, he said, it took 19 years for him to become successful.
Overcoming rejection, he said, is the hardest part of writing, and he credited his wife, who is a teacher, for keeping him going. “She has always been seriously supportive,” he said.
“My first book was awful. It was an utter piece of trash that will never be published,” recalled Hearne, adding that the story featured such diverse characters as an eco-terrorist called “The Green Lantern,” the Russian Mafia and Aztecs.
Although the book was a flop, Hearne said the experience did teach him that he could actually complete a novel, something he had never done before. So he spent three years writing what he called “an epic fantasy,” which, without the help of a literary agent, was accepted by a publisher after only two weeks. “I was so jazzed by the positive feedback that I started to write ‘Hounded,’” recalled Hearne, referring to the first book of his series.
While he never heard from the first publisher again, Hearne decided to get an agent, and after a total of 24 tries, and numerous rewrites, he got an offer from Evan Goldfried and Jill Grinburg Literary Management. After two weeks, he received four bids from publishers. “Agents are good,” Hearne said with a smile.
Hearne wrote his first five books while teaching high school English, which he did for 18 years. “I quit because I didn’t want to wear pants every day,” he quipped. He added that the real reason was the stress of having to keep up with publishers’ demands while running classes. “Thanks to you guys, I was able to (quit),” he told his fans.
Hearne sees his genre as being groundbreaking when it comes to diverse characters. “Epic fantasy like ‘The Hobbit’ is all guys all the time,” he noted, adding that female roles in that series had been expanded a bit for movie versions. Answering an audience member’s question, Hearne said he would use unknown actors for the major roles, should any of his books reach the big screen.
He also said he would like to see the covers of novels reflect more of the characters inside, rather than look like the front of a romance. “You can’t judge a writer by those. That’s the art department, and they have a track record of what sells,” he said. Hearne added that his covers are more representative of his characters because he is specific about what he wants to see.
Currently, Hearne is working on the sixth book of his planned nine-novel “Iron Druid Chronicles” series. He also told fans that he is writing a Star Wars novel from the “classic era” featuring Luke Skywalker.
His nerd dreams have come true.