4 Oct 2019

Science Fiction and Fantasy Fridays: THE LIBRARY OF THE UNWRITTEN by A.J. Hackwith

Science Fiction and Fantasy Fridays

introduces readers who are unfamiliar with the Adult SF/F genre to books, authors, and discussions all about the vast expanse of the world of Adult SF/F!


Author: A.J. Hackwitch
Series: A Novel from Hell's Library #1
Source: eARC via Publisher
Publisher: Ace Books
Publication Date: October 1, 2019

In the first book in a brilliant new fantasy series, books that aren't finished by their authors reside in the Library of the Unwritten in Hell, and it is up to the Librarian to track down any restless characters who emerge from those unfinished stories.

Many years ago, Claire was named Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing-- a neutral space in Hell where all the stories unfinished by their authors reside. Her job consists mainly of repairing and organizing books, but also of keeping an eye on restless stories that risk materializing as characters and escaping the library. When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto.

But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong when the terrifyingly angelic Ramiel attacks them, convinced that they hold the Devil's Bible. The text of the Devil's Bible is a powerful weapon in the power struggle between Heaven and Hell, so it falls to the librarians to find a book with the power to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell….and Earth.
Amazon | Chapters | TBD

Describe THE ORCHID THRONE in 10 words or less.

A.J. HackwithLibrarian of unwritten books hunts runaway character, catches hell instead.

What was your favourite scene to write in THE LIBRARY OF THE UNWRITTEN?

A.J. HackwithWhat a tough question! I think most readers would think I’d pick a major dramatic scene, but as far as what was the most fun to write, there’s a duel, midway through the book, between two storytellers with very different ideas of stories and books. 

They duel using quotes, of course, and the fight occurs while a more standard swordfight is happening next to them. It let me combine my two favorite things: meta-humor and fight scenes. It required a combination of action and humor that was challenging, but it was a blast to draft and pull off. 

What is the most interesting part of writing fantasy? How are these elements incorporated into your novels?

A.J. HackwithThere’s a highwire writers walk when writing fantasy. You are trying to build a world that’s fantastical enough to capture a reader’s imagination, but credible enough that they’ll go along for the ride. A lot of skilled authors lean on the realism, but I like making the world only just familiar enough--and fun enough--to gain a reader’s trust. 

I’m a fan of the AUTHOR knowing how everything works, but only giving the reader as much exposition and detail as the story absolutely requires. That means I tried to make sure the rules and magic of the Library made poetic sense--they felt true, to book readers--without going into deep detail that would break the spell.  Worlds should have rules, but more importantly worlds should have physics which can be felt. You should understand that something is going to fall without necessarily knowing the details of gravitational force.

The fun thing is, physics can surprise you. Sometimes eggs balance on their ends--that’s what I save my exposition for. The exceptions can help explain the norm.

Did you incorporate any of your “shelved” manuscripts into the stories that are unwritten? If yes, why did you stop writing them?

A.J. HackwithI was writing a library of the books that never got written--it was impossible NOT to insert some references to my trunked works and the works of my dearest writer friends! You’ll see sly slivers of those in the names of damsels (awakened under-appreciated characters from unwritten books), names of places, and references to particular stories. 

I’ve trunked a couple very early novels. I first attempted NaNoWriMo during my first year in college--I ‘won,’ but only barely. The draft was a fun but fairly derivative Urban Fantasy, which politely lingers and gathers dust in my own section of the Unwritten wing. For the last few years, I am less likely to trunk unfinished ideas as I am prone to tearing it apart and repurposing the good bits into a successful project. No writing is wasted. If an idea doesn’t work out, I can always mulch it into fertilizer for the next one.

What do you like most about writing a series? How does THE LIBRARY OF THE UNWRITTEN fall into this?

A.J. Hackwith: The fun thing about writing a series is getting to craft very large character arcs that would feel too rushed in a single book. I try to make sure each book is a complete story--the cliffhanger ending for books always bugs me--but at the same time explore a larger arc over the course of a series. I’m entering into drafting the third and final book of the trilogy right now, and my number one goal is to make sure each of the Library crew get an emotionally satisfying resolution to their personal arc. Everyone’s changed so much! It’s bittersweet, but it is also really fun to work in callbacks and mirrors to where they all started in the first book.

Claire is Hell’s librarian - what would be her number one recommendation to people to read?

A.J. Hackwith: She couldn’t recommend anything from her own library--impossible to acquire a copy! I think Claire, being intimately familiar with the agonies of stories that don’t get told, would strongly encourage readers to read books by marginalized authors. We’re entering into a period of books where we’re getting more options (and yet more are needed). That would be her number one recommendation: read outside your own experience! A story only exists if its read.

For sci-fi and fantasy readers, for example, she might shove the BINTI series of novellas, by Nnedi Okafor, in your hands, along with Fonda Lee’s JADE CITY, J. Y. Yang’s Tensorate series, and Rebecca Roanhorse’s TRAIL OF LIGHTNING. 

What can we expect from you next?

A.J. Hackwith
I have my hands full with the subsequent two books of the Hell’s Library trilogy! I’m working on drafting the final book now, and it is a very weird thing going through the bittersweet feelings of finishing a trilogy when the first book is only just being shared with the world. But I’ve had such a wonderful journey writing it, and I hope readers will have a wonderful journey reading it. 

This trilogy certainly isn’t the only one in my own personal unwritten library, however. There are projects-in-waiting that I am right now internally referring to as ‘Shrinepunk-heist book’ and ‘Map!Magic book’. I hope readers will enjoy the journey of The Library of the Unwritten books enough to join me on the next one.

What are some of your favourite Adult SFF books?

1 comment:

  1. I usually write Fantasy, occasionally with a small input of Sci-Fi. However, it rarely has much to do with the stories.


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