We have something different again! Everyone, welcome author Hilary Wagner! Her YA/MG animal fantasy novel NIGHTSHADE CITY is getting released in Fall 2010 by Holiday House Books. She is repped by Marietta Zacker of the Nancy Gallt Literary Agency. Hilary has a great attitude and enthusiasm. She was an absolute joy to work with for this interview. (And she has really great character descriptions!)
The illustration featured here is of Billycan, one of the bad rats of NIGHTSHADE CITY! He is a crazed ex-lab rat. My first time drawing a rat, so I had a lot of fun drawing this wicked character.
1) What is your book about?
NIGHTSHADE CITY is about a strangely intelligent colony of rats that live under a modern metropolis. Two brothers, Vincent and Victor Nightshade, escape the Catacombs, their underground home, run by the narcissistic Killdeer, the charming and decadent leader of the High Ministry, and Billycan, a slightly demented ex-lab rat, who commands Killdeer's Kill Army with a bloodthirsty fondness for butchery. Vincent and Victor soon meet up with Juniper, the ardent leader of a secret city and despised adversary of Billycan. Working with Juniper and his rebels, a fearless Ministry seamstress, and a relic tribe of earthworms, Vincent and Victor battle to defeat the High Ministry, realizing their future and releasing the ghosts of their past.
NIGHTSHADE CITY delves into the true importance of family and freedom and how much both are worth fighting for. It's about never giving up and refusing to let a few decide the fate of many.
2) What inspired you to write a story about rats?
I've always loved animals and I've always loved creepy! Rats were the natural choice. They are a nice mix of both. Rats can be cuddly and downright ratty!
3) Who's your most beloved rat and why?
Honestly, I love them all. I love my wicked rats, just as much as I do my altruistic ones. No story is complete without some bad apples and I just love a good villain. They are the most fun to create, but the goodhearted rats are dear to my heart. I would have to say Juniper and Billycan are my two favorites. Juniper is the essence of goodwill and generosity, the kind of character you'd want to be your father, always with a glowing smile and a lively joke, a rat's rat! Billycan, on the other hand, is the embodiment of evil, a depraved, complicated rat, who'd carve your throat out merely for a giggle.
4) What's your favorite animal fantasy book of all time?
Ummm....NIGHTSHADE CITY! Seriously, I'd have to Kenneth Oppel's Silverwing Trilogy is wonderful. His characters quickly became close to my heart and he is a marvel of description.
5) Can you give us advice on writing animal characters effectively?
I'd say first and foremost, know your animal! Do your research. When I wrote NIGHTSHADE CITY, I read several books on them, learning their history, habitats, etc. I watched documentaries, studied how they moved, what they liked to eat, even how they use their paws and teeth. Research is a rewarding part of writing. It's like taking all the classes you wanted to in school, not the ones you were forced to. Once you've got that part down, the rest is up to you!