Interview with Jillian Kuhlmann, author of “The Hidden Icon”
I’ve actually never done an interview with another author before, though it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. Let’s be honest, they’re just fun. Right? Right.
So, when I decided to do said interview, the first person that popped in my head was Jillian Kuhlmann, author of “The Hidden Icon“. There were a few reasons I did this: First, I know her since we’re under the same publisher. Second, she’s probably one of the sweetest people I’ve come across in this here writing game. Third, and most importantly, she has a “voice” that I’m seriously envious of. It’s sort of…astounding how beautifully she crafts a tale. Seriously.
So, before delving into the interview, a quick bit about Jillian (taken from the Fable Press website):
Jillian Kuhlmann received her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and her MA in Creative Writing from the University of Cincinnati. She has been published in Paper Darts literary magazine and Cincinnati’s CityBeat. In junior high school, she peopled post-apocalyptic adventure stories with her friends… and her enemies. It was a far more satisfying way of killing off the classmates she didn’t like than letting them die of dysentery on the Oregon Trail.
She maintains a garden, a husband, a baby girl, and a wicked costume collection in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Hidden Icon is her first novel.
Now, with that out of the way. To the interview!
PD: Tell us about Jillian, what makes you tick? how did you get into this whole writing fiasco?
JK: I’ve always had an overactive imagination and a tendency to get lost in fictions. I had crushes on boys in books when I was in grade school, played pretend Laura Ingalls Wilder; lots of embarrassing, bookish childhood things. Now I’m more likely to obsess about a story arc in Star Trek, but still. I want to tell stories that make other people want to tell stories.
PD: And in turn, you’ve written a story, about a character that tells stories, The Hidden Icon. So here’s a two part question: First, can you give us a bit more about the book itself and Second, did you find it hard writing a story, in a lot of ways about stories. Was it hard for you to make the book stand on it’s own as a larger tale that encompasses a lot of smaller ones?
JK: There’s a big reveal relatively near the beginning of the book, so I can’t say too much – don’t I feel like a jerk, saying that? – but essentially, I wanted a thoughtful heroine, and to challenge the idea that someone unassuming and selfless couldn’t discover – and revel, if guiltily – in some unsavory things about themselves. I think some of the greatest science fiction and fantasy novels are those that sprinkle a little bit of fairy dust on the very real horrors and delights of the human heart and mind, so, that was what I hoped to do. The stories Eiren tells, I think, build your understanding of her character as well as her world. I had the opportunity to play not only with world building but otherworld building, essentially, as she creates a whole mythology for her world through stories. I had a creative writing professor who told us we weren’t allowed to have characters who were writers, but he broke that rule and did a pretty damn fine job of it, so I didn’t feel too bad making her a storyteller, too. Unless I wrecked it, in which case, well. But I don’t feel like her stories did much, if any, of the plot-driving in this book, so I didn’t find the balance difficult. And I actually very rarely interrupted the flow of writing the main narrative to write the stories she tells… most of them I wrote after I was finished with the first draft, and plugged them in where I felt like they belonged.
PD: So, a little more about Eiren? Where did the idea for her take form? And did you take from other female (or males for that matter) protagonists and use them as an influence? Frankenstein them? Anything like that when you made her?
JK: Eiren had been camping out in my brain for quite a long while. I didn’t draw inspiration for her from any particular source, but I am notoriously attracted to good characters who do bad things, so she’s certainly got a lineage there. She’s sensitive but she’s not a pushover, and she has a sense of adventure and willfulness that I like. I’ve gotten a little jaded with the slew of badass heroines of late, so while I definitely didn’t set out to write someone “different,” I did want to write someone keenly aware of the consequences of their actions, and ready to tackle regret.
PD: So, you’ve finally done what a lot of people have set out to do, and that was get a book published, so first off congratulations. You’ve earned it because your “voice”, honestly, is pretty damned stunning. That said, what was it like to get that message that someones taking your story and moving forward with it and then too actually hold your book, that you wrote, for the first time.
JK: Thank you! It was surreal. I still really don’t buy it and I’ve got a stash of paperbacks under my bed.
PD: It is a bit much to wrap your head around isn’t it?
JK: And I’ve got an uncommonly big and lumpy head.
PD: It’s ok, most of us author types do. So, what’s next for Jillian?
JK: Well, in the next few weeks I’m releasing a vignette for free on Amazon, just a little sideways stroll in Eiren’s world. As soon as I finish agonizing over what to title it. And I’m working on the second novel in the series.
PD: Ok, so, a lot of interviews tend to have the whole “let’s talk writing bit”. I want to do something a little different. So, with that said, let’s say “Hidden Icon” just got picked up to be a movie, TV show, or what have you. Who would you cast as your main characters?
JK: I think the best book movies are full of faces I’ve never seen before, or have seen rarely enough that there’s still hope for them to eclipse the vision I had of the character in my head. I’m also intensely interested in how other people picture the characters, and am loathe to insist they look one way or another. But if I must give you an answer – and knowing you, I must – I’m quite taken with Simon Ginty as Gannet and Naomi Scott as Eiren.
PD: Aw, c’mon. I’m not that bad. Ok, same question, well, sort of. What artists would you put on the sound track.
JK: I’d want Loreena McKennitt to do the whole damn thing. I listened to The Mask and the Mirror a lot when I was first writing. Maybe The Yoshida Brothers could jump in there, too.
PD: And what about Linkin Park? Yeah. I remember that.
JK: Of course you do. Me and Chester go way back, but, yeah. Mostly it was the video. Not quite sure the rap rock of my tempestuous youth has any place in Eiren’s world!
PD: Alright, last question….and it’s a doozy on the nerd scale. One of the doctor’s drops his TARDIS into Eiren’s world. Which doctor is it and why?
JK: How to properly convey my love for this scenario? I think it’s Nine. He’s got a fair number of demons of his own to tackle. They can rage and regret together.
PD: I always did like nine, he gave the Doctor some serious swagger. So, that’s that. Any parting words?
JK: I’m too occupied imagining what jumper Eccleston would wear in the desert.
PD: A very, very cool one. Because that’s how Eccleston rolled. So, aside from fawning for The Ninth, any other parting words?
JK: I’ve exhausted my supply of nerd references for the time being. So I think I’ll go read a book, and you probably should, too.