Interview with Wendy Hammer

by Jennifer 2. August 2017 09:50

Today we have a quick talk with author Wendy Hammer about The Cross Cutting Trilogy.

Wendy Hammer lives in Indiana with her husband, a collection of books, and a stockpile of tea. Her fiction has appeared in Urban Fantasy Magazine, Evil Girlfriend Media Shorts, the Shapeshifter Chronicles, and elsewhere online. You can find her trying to keep it reasonably weird on twitter as @Wendyhammer13.

 

How does it feel to write "The End" on the series?
Pretty awesome, actually. Though I loved writing the characters, I’m really pleased I got the chance to finish the main storyline and tie the three novellas together. The challenge of making each novella both a full story on its own and a part of a larger arc was one of the most interesting and daunting aspects of this project. I learned a lot from it and that feels good.

 

How did you develop your characters?
I tend to develop characters by daydreaming. I walk or drive or sit around and think. Sometimes I chew on questions. Sometimes I look for images or music for inspiration. The Cross Cutting trilogy began by thinking about city-based magic. Who would wield it? What would happen if they didn’t have a territory they’d bonded to? I started to play with locations and an image of Trinidad took form. I first imagined her on the walking trail in Indianapolis with her knife in her pocket, ready to hunt down some monsters. After that, I needed to fill in her world. I looked for balances—complements and opposites.

Fireman Dan started from a memory from my college days. Iris was inspired by a picture I found during an image search for pink hair and tattoos. I liked the idea of Trinidad’s romantic interest being soft-spoken and sensitive despite looking fierce and formidable. I originally envisioned Ache with electric blue Liberty Spikes, but that didn’t last long. The daydreaming trial and error process is all part of the fun.

 

What was your initial inspiration?
I’ve always had a soft spot for the “making camp” sections in quest stories or games, and one of my favorite parts of that is when magic users set wards, people stand guard, and all that. It’s a cool bit of magic and has the potential for both danger and juicy character interactions. So, I guess the interest in location magic has been roiling about in my story-brain for ages.

The inspiration moment happened while I was walking around downtown Indy around GenCon and I saw a group of crime scene vans parked along the path. I knew then I wanted to write a story featuring those vans and figured what better foe than a protagonist most comfortable with her feet on the ground?

 

Why choose Indianapolis/Lafayette as your setting?
I picked Indianapolis for two reasons. First, the vans and the path I’d been walking felt like the best match for the story and I liked the immediacy of the experience. Second, I wanted to write an Urban Fantasy set outside of one of the genre’s mainstay locations.

I wanted to move the primary location to the Lafayette area in part because I live there and I know it better. But, really, I picked it because it has so many liminal spaces and contradictions. Lafayette/West Lafayette are joined but distinct. It’s urban and rural, industrial and agricultural, farm and factory. It’s also a college town. Purdue University is this delightful mix of scientists, engineers, and creators. It has a huge population of international students and they help transform the community in all sorts of exciting ways.

Lafayette felt like a solid choice for my found family of characters to live. And it’s my way of saying that even in one of those states many may only see in the red mass on a map, we’re here.

 

What happens when your editor says "Do more x" on revisions?
Most of the time, I’m happy to get confirmation that something wasn’t quite right and I see what needs to be done right away. I can brainstorm, rework, push, and pare back because I have a better idea of where the story’s weakness is. When it isn’t quite as obvious I reread the whole story. I think about what I was trying to do and take a look at how the pieces fit together. I try to see how deep the problem goes. I plan as best as I can and then leap on in. Sometimes I nail it. Sometimes I need another pass or two.

 

What was the best part about writing The Cross Cutting Trilogy?
It’s hard to choose, but I think it comes down to the satisfaction of getting the pieces to come together. The Cross Cutting title is partly a play on “cutting cross” or taking a short cut (appropriate for a Walker), a nod to the cut between worlds, and a reference to a filmmaking technique that interweaves separate scenes. Taking this journey with these characters, managing two points of view, and creating monsters and menaces that could work both independently and as part of a larger threat was wonderful.

 

What was the hardest?
Aside from learning some hard lessons about managing deadlines with work and life stress—I’d say one of the most difficult was appropriately handling the voice of the characters. The trilogy is basically written in a fairly close third. It’s my sweet spot most of the time because you can have some distance but still weave in lots of flavor in the narrative language outside of dialogue. At the same time, what can make prose vibrant runs the risk of falling into overkill or just sounding off. Trinidad is Caribbean and Irish—she’s a fighter, a POC, and not an American. Ache is a man, a musician and a body builder. Trying to see the world through their eyes and find language that reflects it meant a lot of research, a lot of open tabs for specialized dictionaries and websites, and a lot of conversation. It didn’t always make for speedy writing, but it was certainly rewarding.

 

What's next?
I’ve got a handful of short stories I’m working on, but my primary focus is a novel. It’s my first secondary world fantasy—with heists, magic, performing arts, rogue healers, and a whole lot of buried secrets threatening to rise up and turn everything upside down. I’m both terrified and exhilarated—which feels just about right.

 

 

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