Getting Jig with GoblinQuest – Jim C. Hines Interview

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Hines author of Goblinquest. I want to make a comment here, just because an author has a smaller publishing firm you can find some real gems that way. Jim was a pleasure to interview and we both learned a little something I like to think. Without further interruptions let us get started.

jim c hines

Damon: One question I always find myself asking authors is where do you write? Where do your ideas come from? Give us a little brief peek into what is on that desk.

Jim C. Hines: Lately, I do all of my writing during my lunch break at work. When we bought the new house, we set up a nice little office in the basement, but since our baby arrived in March, I haven’t once had time to sneak away and use it. Fortunately, I have a state job where I’m able to take that one hour lunch break each day to scarf a bit of food and then churn out 1000 words or so. I do wish I had more time to write. (Yeah, me and every other author out there.) Still, 5000 words/week isn’t too shabby. I try to push myself to write an hour each day, even when I’m not in the mood. I don’t accomplish much during the weekends, but those lunch breaks are precious to me. I’m not one of those writers who has whole piles of ideas fighting and clawing for attention, but I have a few novels whispering from the corners. As for where those ideas come from, union regulations require me to answer only “Schenectady.”

Damon: How did RPGs influence this work? As we know from my review, this is a book about a classic dungeon crawl told from the point of a Goblin.

Jim C. Hines: I’ve been gaming for about as long as I can remember, so a lot of the fantasy tropes and traditions show up in GoblinQuest. I’ve even got D20 stats for a few of the monsters up at

Darnak’s obsessive-compulsive disorder about maps came from a fellow gamer at college. Many of the traps and surprises in the book come from role-playing staples, generally with a bit of a twist thrown in to keep it interesting. (After all, there’s always a secret door behind the throne, right?)

In part, I wanted to take the whole idea of a role-playing “dungeon” and try to make sense of it all. Why would someone build such a silly structure, then stock the whole thing with monsters? How would the monsters interact? What would they eat? What would they use for light? How would they feel, knowing their whole purpose was to fight adventurers and eventually get themselves killed? What did they do when they weren’t ambushing heroes?

Damon: You say you are an avid gamer I am going to assume both in the pen and paper RPG world and maybe even the online gaming world. Can you tell us if you are a gamer and if so what games? Also what is your most humorous RPG story to tell whether it happened to your character or yourself

Jim C. Hines: I don’t know that I qualify as avid anymore. I still do an occasional D&D or Star Wars game, but it’s a lot harder to stay up until three in the morning drinking Mountain Dew and blasting insect shamen in Shadowrun than back when I was in college. Lately, one of the couples in my gaming group just became pregnant, and my own son was born a few months ago. The running joke is that we’re breeding the next generation of gamers. Though my wife gives me strange looks when I tell her we should have another kid so the group can have an extra cleric…

Damon: This is one I have to ask, if I remember correctly there is going to be a sequel to Goblinquest, tell us a little about it. Did you think you would be writing a sequel as you put pen to paper so to say on Goblinquest? Is it going to contain the same characters? Do we learn a little bit more about the backstory of some of the characters we saw in Goblinquest?

Jim C. Hines: GoblinQuest was written to be a stand-alone story. I have a pet peeve about books that end halfway through the story. I understand the marketing pressure and the logic behind splitting larger books like that, but I don’t like it. Still, there are plenty of things left to explore in Jig’s little world, and the character is too much fun to ignore. At the moment, I’ve just finished up the first draft of GoblinMage, which takes place about a year after Quest. GoblinMage spends more time learning about goblin society. At this point, Jig is in a position of power and prestige, so naturally there are all sorts of folks working to take him out. This time, Jig shares the book with Veka, a goblin and wannabe hero who would do anything for that kind of power…anything at all. Jig also picks up a few more goblins to “help” him along the way. (Naturally, “help” means something very different when you’re a goblin.)

Without going in to too much detail, the ecology of Jig’s little dungeon home is a very finely-tuned thing, and you can’t wreak as much havoc as he did in the first book without creating some unexpected consequences. Those lower tunnels and caves are now pretty much empty, and that’s what some might call prime real estate for anyone interested in moving in.

I’m not sure when or if GoblinMage will make it into print. My agent and I are hoping to hit the larger publishers, but it’s hard to take a sequel to a new publisher. Honestly, this wasn’t the best book for me to write at this time, but I like Jig too much to leave him in peace. My happy dream would be to find a publisher willing to pick up both Quest and Mage for a mass market release.

Damon: Porak and Jig, two of my favorite characters in the book. Did you model them after anyone that you know in real life? Porak especially sounds like the boss that we all hate.

Jim C. Hines: Hmm…I’m afraid not. The only character in the book with any real-life basis was Tymalous Shadowstar. In a more general sense though, some of Jig’s experiences with being the nearsighted, picked-on runt have a lot in common with my experiences in Junior High School. The specifics are different, but Jig’s everpresent sense of dread should be familiar to anyone who was a bit too geeky in those years.

I wouldn’t have guessed Porak to be anyone’s favorite, but looking back, he is kind of fun. One of the things I love about goblins is their complete lack of guilt. Porak’s a nasty character, but to a goblin, there’s nothing wrong with that. I wouldn’t want them living on my street, but they’re a blast to write about.

Damon: This question actually may appeal to the group of budding writers we have within our midst. Why 5 Star? How hard/easy was it to get this book published for you?

Jim C. Hines: I met John Helfers, a wonderfully nice and helpful man who eventually bought the book, through my story in Esther Friesner’s anthology Turn the Other Chick. (Please forgive the not-so-subtle plug!) John works with Tekno, who do a lot of anthologies and also work for Five Star. When I learned of his Five Star connection, I asked if he’d be interested in seeing GoblinQuest. A few months later, I had an offer in my e-mail.

This makes it sound pretty simple and straightforward, but it came about only after GoblinQuest had collectedmore than thirty rejections from other publishers and agents. Five Star is a smaller press, but they offer a nice advance, and they produce some beautiful books.

Damon: So you pick Goblins, the question though is what sort of research did you do on goblins? Is there a particular story and or gamebook that you feel contributed to your story on goblin society? Also did you drawn a map of Jig’s Mountain if so, do we ever get to see it? Or if it’s a scrap of paper I’m sure our FBS readers wouldn’t mind seeing a scanned copy.

Jim C. Hines: I didn’t have a map for GoblinQuest, but I sketched a bit for the sequel. (And I currently have no idea where that sketch has ended up. It may have gone out in the recycling last week, for all I know.) I’m thinking of trying to include a map with the second book, but it would be very different from your standard fantasy map. First of all, the tunnels and caves of Jig’s home are three dimensional, which complicates things. And this would be Jig’s map, complete with arrows and little notations like “Somehow this tunnel ends up over here” and “Don’t go here or the hobgoblins will eat you.” I don’t know about you, but I can’t even draw a floorplan of my house without getting walls wrong and rooms squashed and distorted, so I suspect a real working map would be even messier. Especially if Jig did it.

Damon: Also, while I know you are currently at work on the rest of Jig’s adventures, do you have any thought of what you will write when Jig’s story comes to an end? Do you have another idea rolling around in your mind that you might share a glimpse of it with us?

Jim C. Hines: I’ve got a few seeds for a third book, and I suspect I’d end it there, at least for a while. I’m thinking about spending more time with the origins of Jig’s god, Tymalous Shadowstar, and maybe looking a bit deeper into the motivations of a god who takes goblin followers. I don’t want Jig or the goblins to get stale, and I don’t want to be a writer who drags a series out far past the point it should have been retired. With that said, I’ve got a short story about how Jig and Smudge meet, which is currently sitting on an editor’s desk. I got an invite to a Martin Greenberg anthology yesterday, and I suspect a goblin tale would be perfect for that theme, so a very, very young Jig may make an appearance there as well. I like Jig a lot. He’s a fun character.

Damon: What sort of hobbies do you have besides writing? I mean with children its hard to have any other hobbies but maybe you find some time to sneak in there.

Jim C. Hines: I would love to get back into a martial art, or maybe pick up fencing again. But these days it’s more about picking up the baby or roughhousing with my daughter. Free time? Yes, I have faint memories of this thing called free time…

Damon: Favorite fantasy books, who and why?

Jim C. Hines: It changes from day to day, depending on what I’m reading and what mood I’m in. I love some of Spider Robinson’s stuff for the sheer joy and wonder he infuses into the books. The Gaiman/Pratchett collaboration Good Omens is the perfect mix of wonderful humor and delightful story. Tolkein does wonderful things with language and description. Tanya Huff writes books that are damn fun to read. Terry Pratchett is good for nonstop belly laughs. Lastly, I’ve been enjoying C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series again, but that’s mainly because I’ve started reading it to my 4 1/2 year old daughter, and she’s absolutely loving it. (I only hope she’ll be half as enthralled with my own books!)

Jim C. Hines: Thanks so much for the chance to do the interview – I’ve had a great time!

Damon: Was great to have you and look forward to more adventures with Jig and friends.