SPECIAL INTERVIEW WITH BARB HENDEE and J.C. HENDEE
Barb and J.C. Hendee are the New York Times best-selling authors of the Noble Dead Saga. An epic fantasy series with a huge fan following.
Now they have focused their attention on a new series set in the same world called The Dead Seekers. Their first book is debuting to great anticipation in January 2017. But will old characters makes cameos? And what will make this new series different from their last?
I couldn’t wait to ask!
1) What started your successful writing collaboration? Did you both know that you had to write fantasy together?
Barb: We went to college together and took many of our courses together. We collaborated on a few stories together, and then later, we were living in Colorado and we wrote Dhampir. We sold that book to the first editor who read it—at Ace/Roc—and the publisher contracted for the entire series. As with many things in life, it just sort of . . . happened.
J.C.: Yeah, what she said. We were both readers of fantasy in our earlier lives. We each had other [different] genres we favored. In non-fiction narrative, Barb liked historical works, while I liked metaphysical / occult / mythology fiction. There you have it: all of the various components that contributed to the world in the Noble Dead Saga.
2) Why return to the same world for your new book The Dead Seekers? Why not explore a new one?
Barb: Many of our fans love the dark dripping superstitious Eastern continent, and we left it behind with book six of the Noble Dead Saga. J.C. wanted to have more room to develop the Móndyalítko further, and we decided to go back and play in that world again.
J.C.: Regardless of how widely our NDS main caste traveled, they rarely stayed in one place/land/culture for long. The world we created is bigger than even we can grasp all at once. Plus, we wanted to get back to the root of it all that many readers liked the most—our eastern lands derived [lightly] from post-medieval Eastern Europe.
3) What sets The Dead Seekers apart from your Noble Dead series besides the main characters?
Barb: That’s a tough question. The easy answer would be “ghosts as opposed to vampires,” but the Noble Dead Saga was about so much more than vampires, and I think The Dead Seekers is about so much more than ghost-hunting. For me, the main difference would be that The Noble Dead Saga was incredibly, intricately episodic. Some novels literally picked up right where the last one left off. We swore to each other that we’d never write anything so episodic again. With The Dead Seekers series, we will have a larger story arc, but each novel could be a “stand alone” story unto itself.
J.C.: Again, what she said. And I’ve always like playing around [lightly] with the meaning of Life… and Death… and how one becomes the other as an existence. Barb’s also right in that I’ve always want to live among one people of our world, where I would most feel at home—the Móndyalítko. More specifically, among the yai-morchi, yai-urvai, and yai-dôytri—the “two-fleshed,” “two-spirited” and “two-minded.”
4) Will beloved characters make appearances in your new series?!
Barb: Beloved characters will not (smiles). But you may see some secondary characters along the way. If you remember the opening sequence in Traitor to the Blood, our heroes met an interesting military captain named Stàsiuo. He’s a character in the first book of this new series.
J.C.: Third tier characters might make an appearance in future books, but other than that, don’t expect any “guest appearances” from the NDS main cast. They’ve had enough, and they’ll tell you so; some of them in less-than-pleasant terms.
Anyone got enough of a death wish to ask Magiere—or Leesil—to strap-in for another quest?
5) Yipee, something to look for! Can you both tell us what is so special about your main characters Tris and Mari?
Barb: Oh, gosh, I could talk about this for a while. Tris was born dead, and the resulting impact has left him with some personality elements that make relationships with other people nearly impossible. He is a man apart, but he’s not exactly the strong, silent type either. In many ways, he’s sort of vulnerable. He has a natural ability to send spirits back to the other plane of existence, and he uses this ability every chance he gets.
Mari watched her entire family being murdered when she was a child, and she functions from a platform of anger. She also has some special abilities—but I don’t want to give too much away. Beneath the anger, she is surprisingly fair-minded and given to unexpected bouts of compassion for others.
J.C.: Not going to touch this one much. Anything more than what Barb’s said would be too telling. Well, except that I favor Mari a little more, since she’s a feral, bloody, nasty piece of work when pushed over the edge. And that’s going to become a big problem in the future.
6) I often wondered, since both series have a male and female protagonists. Does Barb sort of write the female point of view and J.C. the male perspective? How does that work?
Barb: Actually, if you’ve read any of the Mist-Torn Witches books, you know I have a very different take on female characters than J.C. So, for our collaborations, he does more writing for the women such as Magiere and Mari. In the Noble Dead Saga, I did a lot of development for Leesil and Chane. But of course we cross over. Most of J.C.’s female characters are very, very angry. Hah! I’m not great at writing angry women.
J.C.: The opposite of what you’d expect. But there are elements of both of us in all of those characters and others. Perhaps it more telling we each set the BIG PICTURE for characters of gender opposite from our own. Then we switch off the subtle side to flesh out the details.
It has worked well. There isn’t one reader we’ve heard from who didn’t have a deep affinity for more than one member of the NDS caste. Wynn was probably the least liked in general. Among those who did like her, they were utterly ardent about it—more so than readers who favored other characters.
7) Do you see yourselves writing the Dead Seekers series as long as the Noble Dead series? Will it be more than a trilogy?
Barb and J.C: A two-part question. To answer the first one: No, no, no, no . . . and no (smiles). To answer part two, we are planning for a trilogy, and then we’ll see.
8) So much to look forward to! I’ve also read the Mist-Torn and Vampire Memories books by Barb Hendee. Does Barb intend to write more? The sistesr in the Mist Torn series really captured by imagination and I hope they will get their own ending.
Barb: I LOVED writing both series, especially the Mist-Torn Witches. That series sold “decently,” but not enough for my publisher to justify contracting for more. In today’s industry, you really have to sell a lot of books for a publisher to keep contracting for more.
9) That makes sense. The Vampire Memories series is also addicting; does J.C. contribute to the plot/characters - like a sounding board? What is the fascination with vampires in your books?
Barb: No, JC hasn’t even read my other books. But there’s no reason that he should. For me, vampires are fun to work with. I like making up “rules” for supernatural characters. I loved the idea of a small group of vampires living in a church with a mission of their own. That was a fun series to write. Oh, and Eleisha is my idea of a “strong female character.”
10) I have to ask, I noticed that you have two cats. Will they ever be featured in one of your books?!
Barb: That’s a fun question. I doubt Ashes and Cinders will make appearance, but we both love to create pets/animals as main characters . . . so you never know.
J.C.: Yeah, I know, but I’m not telling. “Cinders” and “Ashes”—and “Keiko” and “Nyx” before them—as well as my best-buddy of childhood, “Scampy” [½ Black Labrador, ¼ Cocker Spaniel, ¼ Coyote]—have and will contribute to minor animal characters into the future. And others not-so animal, though you might not guess which ones.
Thank you so much for answering my questions and taking time out of your busy schedules!!
Barb and J.C.: Oh, you are so welcome. You’re very familiar with our work, and this was our pleasure.
Interviewed by Steph from the Bookaholics Romance Book Club
For additional information about this dynamic duo you can check them out at:
The Dead Seekers by Barb and J.C Hendee -Jan. 2017
Mari Kaleja was only 10 years old when she saw her family slaughtered in the Wicker Woods. She’s vowed to hunt down the one responsible for their deaths: The Dead’s Man. Tris Vishal was born dead to a baron and his wife. He came back from the dead and now has powers to seek out and destroy restless spirits. He also has a dark half, trapped between portals, lying in wait to take over Tris’ life. Mari is Mondyalitko, a shifter, who has tracked her prey and is ready to seek vengeance — until she finds herself rescuing Tris and questioning his guilt in her family’s death. She agrees to accompany Tris as his translator as he travels to a village to lay a dead girl’s spirit to rest. Mari must learn more about Tris before she kills him. After vanquishing the young girl’s ghost and learning of the circumstances surrounding her death, Tris and Mari head to the barracks in Soladran, where soldiers are dying. It is here they are enveloped in a battle in which they are outnumbered. Mari must question everything she thought she knew to defend the Dead Seeker as the spirits come for him and his dark half gains power.