Please welcome T.L. Huchu to The Qwillery as part of the 2021 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. The Library of the Dead was published on June 1, 2021 by Tor Books.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?
T.L.: I recall attempting to write a novel during my GCSE holidays (I would have been about 16 at the time). It was called “The Enigma of Alfred”, and was about an alcoholic recluse who secretly ruled the world. Needless to say, I lacked the stamina and the skill to pull it off.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
T.L.: Definitely a hybrid. I like drafting notes and planning. But when the writing actually starts, a lot of stuff goes out the window. It’s as Mike Tyson said, “Everyone’s got a plan till they get punched in the mouth.” So, when the characters start doing their own thing, the plan’s got to be updated and/or discarded.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
T.L.: Writing is a joy, a beautiful thing, a playful activity. The art itself is pure. I suspect most challenges are to do with things outside the writing itself; by this I mean, most writer’s hang-ups are to do with publication, reviews, sales, etc, not the actual writing itself. If one is not mindful, those external things can end up adversely affecting one’s writing.
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
T.L.: Books, naturally. I’m a reader first and foremost. TV and pop culture.
TQ: Describe The Library of the Dead using only 5 words.
TQ: Tell us something about The Library of the Dead that is not found in the book description.
T.L.: The book is an exploration of Scottish history, in particular, the ideas of the Scottish Enlightenment.
TQ: What inspired you to write The Library of the Dead? What appeals to you about writing contemporary fantasy?
T.L.: Fantasy brings out the inner child in all of us. That sense of wonder about a universe we don’t quite understand. It turns that shadow in the corner of your eye, the one you can’t quite see, into that most primitive form of art, the story.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for The Library of the Dead?
T.L.: Most of my research was on history and science, in particular Scotland’s immense contributions to the modern world in this regard.
TQ: If I pulled out my modern map of Edinburgh would I be able to follow Ropa through the city? How have you changed Edinburgh for The Library of the Dead?
All the locations described in the book exist, though some have been altered. You have Edinburgh as a third world city. The Edinburgh you find in the text exists as different layers of history superimposed upon one another, so you find the past in the future.
TQ: Please tell us about the cover for The Library of the Dead.
T.L.: The cover was designed by Leo Nickolls who has an incredible, sort of illustrative style, and he has an amazing track record for doing stunning covers. For my book, you have the towering figure of the Scottish philosopher David Hume on either side and a rendering of the magical library in the book. Nickolls did a great job; it’s a work of art in its own right.
TQ: In The Library of the Dead who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
T.L.: There is no such thing as easy or hard when it comes to creating your characters. Even the most minor ones with walk-on parts deserve care and attention.
TQ: Does The Library of the Dead touch on any social issues?
T.L.: It contains themes of class and exploitation, but I hope it doesn’t come across as didactic and that the novel never loses a sense of fun. I read to escape, to get away from it all, and you can have that with “The Library of the Dead”, but, if you want to go deeper, then it, hopefully, has something to say about the world we live in, too.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from The Library of the Dead.
T.L.: “Eat my vag.”
TQ: What's next?
T.L.: I’ve just turned in the second book in the series ,“Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments”, and, hopefully, that should be out next spring.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
T.L.: Thanks for having me. This was a LOT of fun!!!
The Library of the Dead
Edinburgh Nights 1
Tor Books, June 1, 2021
Hardcover and eBook, 336 pages
"An absolute delight . . . kept me totally hooked." – Genevieve Cogman, bestselling author of The Invisible Library
Sixth Sense meets Stranger Things in T. L. Huchu's The Library of the Dead,
a sharp contemporary fantasy following a precocious and cynical teen as
she explores the shadowy magical underside of modern Edinburgh.
WHEN GHOSTS TALK
SHE WILL LISTEN
Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker – and they sure do
love to talk. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to
those they left behind. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems
harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s
bewitching children – leaving them husks, empty of joy and strength.
It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. But what
she learns will rock her world.
Ropa will dice with death as she calls on Zimbabwean magic and Scottish
pragmatism to hunt down clues. And although underground Edinburgh hides a
wealth of dark secrets, she also discovers an occult library, a magical
mentor and some unexpected allies.
Yet as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?
"A fast-moving and entertaining tale, beautifully written." – Ben Aaronovitch, bestselling author of Rivers of London
T. L. Huchu (he/him) has been published previously (as Tendai Huchu) in the adult market, but The Library of the Dead is his genre fiction debut. His previous books (The Hairdresser of Harare and The Maestro, The Magistrate and the Mathematician) have been translated into multiple languages and his short fiction has won awards. Tendai grew in up Zimbabwe but has lived in Edinburgh for most of his adult life.