Monday, April 9, 2012

H is for Hemlock a guest post by B. Throwsnaill

H is for Hemlock

I'd like to thank Scott for allowing me to do this guest post on his wonderful Indie Book Blog. His encouragement and the publicity he has given me have helped me immeasurably.

Hemlock is the name of the main character in my fantasy series called "The Maker's Fire". This guest blog post will discuss both the origin of this character and of my desire to become an indie novelist.

It all started after I had just stopped reading a particularly disappointing fantasy novel...

After being a voracious fantasy reader in the eighties and nineties, I had taken a bit of a sabbatical from reading it. Upon deciding to return to reading the genre, I soon was experimenting with some newer authors, and starting with the most popular entries in the category. After some highs and lows, I finally came to the aforementioned, disappointing novel. This one seemed to galvanize something deep inside of me. A sudden and somewhat unexpected sense of pride built in my chest, and I proclaimed to myself that I could do better. An inner voice challenged me: "Prove it!" This was the moment I decided that I wanted to write my own fantasy novel. And so my adventures as an indie novelist began (although I didn't really understand the implications of that at the time).

I immediately knew that I wanted to take a certain approach to this novel. First, I wanted the action to have a fast onset in the story arc. I was a bit tired of the typical fantasy plot of a young, inexperienced and ignorant protagonist realizing that they have some hidden power, etc., etc. I know this is almost a criticism of epic fantasy as a genre--and in a way I'm a hypocrite for saying this because some aspects of Hemlock and the Wizard Tower certainly tie into this plot and theme. I guess I wanted to have my cake and eat it too. I wanted the endearing quality of a coming of age tale, and a hero who wasn't too mighty to be relatable to the reader. But I just didn't want to have to write hundreds of pages of what I thought would end up being trite, boilerplate prose to get to the "good parts". So I decided to just start writing an adventure in the thick of the action, and use flashbacks to fill-in backstory as I went.

I was also immediately convinced that I wanted a female protagonist. And the weird thing is...I'm still not totally sure why. I know it had something to do with the emergence of female action heroes in the nineties and beyond (The Fifth Element was a particular influence). But the fact was that female action heroes weren't really innovative any longer--and that thought crossed my mind. I was undeterred, however. A female protagonist just felt right. And not long after I started writing the novel, I learned I was having a daughter. I like to think there was some mystical tie-in there.

So I knew I wanted immediate action and I knew I wanted a heroine. The concept of a young rogue infiltrating a Wizard Tower came to me, and I just started writing. I tried to think of a name, and my first thought was to name her after a poisonous herb. My thinking was that such a name would communicate a sense of danger that I wanted to be intrinsic to the character. That was the origin of the name Hemlock. I felt total validation for that decision when we were later on vacation, and our lodging happened to be on a "Hemlock Avenue". (I never ignore the power of synchronicity. In my view it's like an "attaboy!" from the universe.)

So who is Hemlock exactly? Is she the anima to my animus? I think she is a composite that contains some aspects of my personality--especially my adolescent personality. I think she's partially an idealized version of who I'd like to be. And I think she's partially my vision of the ideal young woman. Ideal yet humanly imperfect. And I realize as I sit here and type this that she's also partially an homage to my mother, who has been a real hero in my life. It's difficult to pin down all of the subconscious threads that weave together to create a character. That's one of the really interesting things about being an author. These imaginary characters really do seem to take on a life of their own. After all of the analysis...she's just Hemlock. And that's a wondrous thing.

Thanks for reading. If you'd like to read more of my meandering musings, or are interested in my books, please visit me at


  1. You know I'm not a big fan of fantasy but you have written this post so well that I am intrigued enough to try your work on for size. You have such an engaging, friendly style! Best of luck with your writing - it's obvious you have a gift.

  2. Cathy, thank you so much for the compliments and for trying my book! And it's really cool when people comment on blog posts. So often blog posts go out into the "ether" and are never heard from again. When people comment, blogs seem to take on a little life of their own, and become dialogues instead of monologues. Again, your comments are much appreciated!

  3. Nice meeting you, B and Scott. I'll have to check out your books. They sound fantastic.

  4. M Pax, it's nice to meet you too. I just checked out your site and joined. I look forward to checking out your writing. Thanks for the nice comment about my books!