Q&A – Steve McHugh

This is certainly a week for book releases! As of Monday, April 30, Steve McHugh’s novel Crime Against Magic is available for purchase! In order to celebrate his new-found status as a published author, Steve and I enjoyed a nice chat about his book, his process, and food.

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Welcome Steve, make yourself at home! A fellow wordpressian, I’m sure you know where everything is.

Once you’ve selected from my marvellously prepped (not by me) tray of hors d’oeuvres, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?

 Oooh, hors d’oeuvres. I hope there’s vol-au-vent’s, I love those things.

 So, whilst I stuff my face with small pastry items, I guess I could tell you more about me. Well, I’m originally from a small village in South-Yorkshire called Mexbrough, but we moved to Southampton when I was young and I’ve lived there most of my thirty-two years.

I’m married with two young daughters and a third on the way, which probably makes me sound insane, but the lack of money just means I get to write more. Well, that’s the theory anyway.

Apart from reading, I’m also a big reader, especially comics along with my love of anime and videogames. Basically, I’m a geek.

I understand you have a book coming out shortly, called Crimes Against Magic. First off, I love the title. At first glance, it’s simple, but suggests so many layers to it. Tell us a bit about the story.

Thanks very much, I’m glad you like the title.

Crimes Against Magic is an Urban Fantasy set in modern day London with Historical flashbacks to early fifteenth century France.

The story is about Nathan Garrett, who woke up ten years previous on a cold warehouse floor, with no memory of who is was or how he got there. Since then, he’s discovered that he’s a sorcerer and uses those abilities to be a highly regarded thief.

But the people who took his memory never stopped hunting for him. And when they find him, he’s forced delve into a past that remains locked, before those he cares about become targets for his nemesis’ wrath.

You can go here to get a longer version.

And here to find out where to get a copy! [Do! Do!]

How about the story’s development? What first gave you the idea, how long as it taken you, where do you hope to see it going?

About five years ago I wrote a book called For Past Sins. Although I sent it out to agents, in hindsight it wasn’t good enough to be published, but I took the elements from it I liked and forged Crimes Against Magic. The actual writing of CAM took me about eighteen months, as it went through some massive story overhauls as I tried to find the right voice and figure out exactly what it was I wanted to tell.

The idea came about, primarily, because of my love of history, mythology and magic and a desire to do something that combined them. And also, because I wanted to write a book that I’d be happy to buy and read myself.

As for where do I see it going? Well, I hope it becomes a big success and I can quit my job and write full-time within a few weeks of publication. On a more realistic note, I’d like it to do well and for people to like it. As it’s part of a series, I’m just finishing off the second book and then it’ll be onto the third.

You recently posted the prologue and first two chapters on your blog (thanks for the preview, by the way, they were excellent) and I’m really interested in your take on the hierarchy of magic – Elemental, Omega, and Blood. What made you go with this interpretation?

Magic has always interested me, but I didn’t want to use a wand or magic words as I felt they’d been pretty much done many times previous, so instead I had magic users show glyphs that appear across the skin of the arms and chest of anyone using it. That led into different magic’s corresponding to different coloured glyphs.

Elemental magic was always going to be the four elements—fire, air, water and earth. I wanted that first set to be simple, but incredibly powerful.

Omega was much harder. Although, elemental was always going to be that first set of magic that everyone learnt, I wanted something that showcases how much more powerful someone was if they’d moved on from them to something else. It went through about a dozen different versions before I settled on—matter, mind, shadow and light. 

Blood Magic came about because I wanted a down and dirty magic that most sorcerers will look down their nose at. I wanted something that someone might use if they were willing to go that extra mile to get the job done, but something so dangerous that using it too often took something from them and never gave it back.

Who is your favourite character in CaM? Anyone we should watch out for as particularly cool?

Apart from Nate, who has sort of lived in my head for the past decade, in one form or another, I’d go with Dani. She’s the sixteen year old daughter of his neighbour and someone who looks up to Nate as a sort of refuge from the crap she deals with at home. She probably has the biggest transformation throughout the book too.

I’m also a big fan of the main bad guy. I won’t spoil who it is, but I love writing villains who really don’t see themselves as villains. He might only consider how anything effects him, but as he’s the most important thing in his life, everything he does he can justify.

Aside from the endless promotion and marketing you’ll be throwing yourself into from here on out, do you have any other projects in the works?

I’ll be finishing the second book in the series: Born of Hatred. And then starting book 3: With Silent Screams. That should keep me busy for a while.

What has been your favourite part of this writing/publishing experience? The scariest?

The best part of writing is seeing your words take shape into the story in your brain. It never ceases to amaze me when the story starts to flow onto the page, it’s a wonderful feeling.

My favourite part of the experience of publishing is how much people seem to have enjoyed the book. I’ve had so much nice feedback, that I’m beginning to think that not all of them could be lying to spare my feelings.

The scariest, was letting people read the prologue and first two chapters on my blog. My mouse hovered over that ‘publish’ button for about half hour before I actually pushed it.

And as always (I know you’d have felt left out if I didn’t ask): What are your writing must-haves?

So long as I have a PC, I’m good to go. I can block out most outside noise once I start writing. And if I don’t have a PC, then a notebook and pen or my phone work just as well for note taking.

And parting words of wisdom?

I’m not sure how wise these might be, but they’ve served me well.

Join a writing group. This is without doubt an important step in any writer’s career. To learn not only how to receive, but also give criticism is how you grow as a writer.

Write for you. This might be obvious to many, but a lot of people write what they think others will want to see or read. If you’re not writing that book for yourself, then I can almost guarantee that people will tell you didn’t. You should always write something you’d want to read.

If you want an interview or review, or help with something, ask nicely. It’s amazing how many more people will respond to you if you ask them nicely and act like a professional. Okay, it isn’t amazing, it’s commonsense.

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12 comments

  1. Hi Steve and Krista,

    Great interview you two. Sorry if you’re still bearing the scars Steve – I’m glad Krista was gentle with you. I wish you both all the best with your writing dreams, especially freedom from the nine to five, and good luck with your next writing projects… Born of Hatred, and whatever you’re up to next Krista.

  2. Congrats Steve, humble and a person who wants to pass on lessons learned the hard way. As usual Krista, a solid post and one that was a joy to read. Great stuff.

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