Chris Husberg’s debut Duskfall sounded pretty cool to me when I read the synopsis and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into it later this summer (is it my vacation already? I need time off to read!) I also had several questions I wanted to ask and Chris was kind enough to answer them for me. His answers have only made me look forward to Duskfall more, so look for a review of it later this summer.
Let’s start with the basics. Who is Chris Husberg?
Fantasy author (and reader!). Desultory blogger. Dota 2 pubstomper extraordinaire. Zombie apologist. Buffy scholar. Basically, I’m a HUGE NERD! But my nerdy self has done other stuff, too—I grew up in Alaska, where I learned to love the outdoors, hiking, camping, all that stuff. I’m a stay-at-home parent to an amazing little girl, which is probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done. I love films, TV, running, hanging out with my wife. That’s me in a nutshell!
How would you introduce people to the world of Duskfall?
It’s a secondary world fantasy, meaning it happens in a place that is very different from Earth, with very different geography, rules, and races. Elves are a recently emancipated slave-class, generally despised by humans. The universal religion that has dominated the world for millennia has, for the first time, encountered a heretical rebellion that it cannot quell. Magic is newly discovered and monopolized by a group of deadly assassins, many of whom have to battle the addictive nature of the drug required to access this power. And the darkest beings of myth and legend may have finally found a way back into the world, but whether they can be stopped remains to be seen.
TL,DR: If you like fast-paced action, compelling magic, and/or are familiar with existential angst (because which of us isn’t), this book is for you!
One of the elements that drew my particular attention in the synopsis, was the connection between magic and addiction. How did that evolve and what inspired it?
Like most aspects of my writing, the addiction element evolved rather organically. I knew I needed a cost for the magic system, and I knew one of the main characters needed a conflict that would affect her, and everyone she loved, very deeply. Addiction sort of fit quite nicely into that set of requirements.
As to why I chose addiction specifically, well, there are a number of reasons. First and foremost, it’s played a significant role in my life and in the lives of some very close friends and loved ones. But I also think the way we often view addiction as a society is at best inaccurate, and at worst so harmful that it perpetuates the problem. Too often in media addicts are criminalized, demonized, and condemned. My understanding of addiction is very different. Addicts can certainly do criminal—even demonic—things, but they are also very, very sick people in need of help. If we can better understand that need for help, I think we’ll take a significant step towards helping addicts—and those affected by addicts—find recovery.
The series is called The Chaos Queen Quintet. Did you set out to write a big series when you started writing Duskfall or did the story just expand as you went along?
I’d heard people tell me that authors seeking publication should focus on writing stand-alone novels, as they’re supposedly easier to sell, but I could never do that. Duskfall was never a stand-alone novel; it was always the first in a series. It wasn’t always five books, but it was always going to be multiple volumes. The stories that Winter, Knot, Cinzia, Astrid, and the others in the series have to tell are just too large to fit in one book, and I look forward to revealing those stories in the coming years!
What was your path to writing epic fantasy? Have you’ve always been a fantasy fan?
I kind of have always been a fantasy fan, yes. My parents introduced me to some of the classics from a very early age—The Hobbit, The Dark is Rising Sequence, Ender’s Game—and I was hooked from the beginning. Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin, Jacksons’ LoTR films, and countless other books, TV programs, video games, and films solidified that love. I’ve written very few stories that didn’t have at least some kind of speculative element in them. I think sci-fi/fantasy, and speculative fiction in general, has incredible potential. It can help us confront and process issues that we shy away from in real life. It can help us escape reality, but it can magnify reality, too. As my agent says: “Fantasy is the best because life is so unendingly beautiful and fantasy goes ‘Yeah…but what if we add DRAGONS?!’”
What part of writing is your favourite thing, developing the plot, world-building, character development, or something completely different?
Definitely the character development. The world-building—composing histories, refashioning governments and religions, drafting geography, creating new magic systems—is a lot of fun. But for me, I wouldn’t be telling stories if it wasn’t for characters. I start almost every story with a character. I base plot on how those characters develop, on the trials and problems and conflicts they face. For me, everything comes back to and originates with character. Those are the stories that have always been most compelling for me to read, so those are the ones I try to write!
What’s next for you? Any appearances or conventions planned?
Writing-wise, I’m finishing up a revision of Book 2 in the Chaos Queen Quintet, and in the next couple months I look forward to starting Book 3!
Appearance-wise, I try to attend Worldcon every year, and this year I’ll definitely be there in Kansas City. I’m also looking forward to attending Salt Lake Comic Con in September and the World Fantasy Convention in October. I love attending conventions—if you see me at one, definitely say hi!
Is there something else you’re passionate about other than writing and books?
At the risk of sounding cheesy, I’d definitely have to say my family :-). I have the most incredible wife who has been outstandingly supportive, understanding, and pragmatic when it came to making this writing career thingy work. I also have an adorable, clever, hilarious chunk of a baby daughter, and I’m a big fan of hers as well.
Other than that, I suppose one could say I get rather passionate during a good match of Dota 2, and I definitely enjoy a good eSports broadcast!
As a book reviewer, I’m all about the book enabling; I can’t help but want to make people read all the good books out there. But I can always use help. What are your top recommendations of books we should look out for in the coming months?
Confession: I’ve been so wrapped up in revising Book 2 of the Chaos Queen Quintet that I have gotten incredibly behind in my reading. But I do have one book that I can’t help but tell everyoe about: The Reapers are the Angels by Alden Bell. It came out a few years ago, but it’s probably the most single underrated book I’ve ever read, and it’s amazing. I never thought the most beautiful novel I would read would be a zombie apocalypse novel, but it is, and it’s this one, and everyone should read it IMMEDIATELY!
Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?
Well I’ve got two main divisions (fiction and non-fiction), and within each division the books are organized alphabetically by author. No other way to go about it, really!
Bio: Christopher Husberg was born in Alaska and studied at Brigham Young University, where he went on to teach creative writing. His short story collection Look Me in the Stars received an honourable mention in the 2013 Utah Original Writing Competition. He lives with his wife in Lehi, Utah.