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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Interview with Django Wexler, author of The Forbidden Library & The Mad Apprentice

Author Django Wexler is at The Hiding Spot to celebrate the release of his new novel, The Mad Apprentice, which is out today! Django talks a bit about what readers can look forward to in this new book, the hobbies that have influenced his writing, and more!

Your newest book, The Mad Apprentice, is the sequel to last year’s The Forbidden Library. Can you tease what readers can look forward to in this second installment? How many books featuring Alice are planned?

In The Forbidden Library, Alice discovered that her uncle Geryon was a Reader -- a wizard who can enter magical books and bind creatures to do his bidding -- and became his apprentice.  The second book picks up six months later, when Alice's confidence in her powers has grown.  Geryon tells her that one of the other Readers has been murdered, and that she will join with a group of other apprentices to track down the culprit.  She finds out that some of the other apprentices live very differently than she does -- and that sneaking in to a Reader's fortress, even a dead one's, can be very dangerous indeed...

The Forbidden Library will be five books in total.  I'm working on the third one now!  It's possible that I'll write something else featuring Alice afterward, but five books will bring us to the end of this particular story.

Tell me a little bit about your writing process: Do you outline? Start at the beginning? The middle? The end? Does this process change when you write a sequel like The Mad Apprentice?

I am what you might call a reformed outliner.  I used to hate planning and just wander wherever the writing took me, which involved an awful lot of backtracking and rewrites.  When my first series was picked up for publication, my editor asked for synopses, and having to do those was some of the hardest writing of my life.  I couldn't help but notice, though, that when the time came around to write those books everything went much more smoothly, and I think the final product was much improved.

So these days, my process involves writing a fairly detailed outline, going scene by scene through the book from beginning to end.  Then I start writing the actual draft, starting from the beginning, filling in the scenes of the outline as I go along.  Often this results in unexpected problems -- I still backtrack and rewrite -- but hashing things out at the outline phase, while sometimes unpleasant, is a lot easier!

What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing or provided inspiration?
Being an author was always supposed to be kind of a side project for me.  I have a degree in Computer Science and another in Creative Writing, and I figured the former would be my day job and the latter would be what I did for entertainment.  That turned out to be true for a number of years -- I worked at Carnegie Mellon University, doing AI research for DARPA for a while, and then came to Seattle and did technical documentation for Microsoft.  I realized I was getting bored with it around the time both my current series started up, and I decided to quit the computer work, at least for a few years.  So far, it seems to be working out, but I never planned to get here!

More than my work experience, my writing has been shaped by my hobby interests.  Aside from the obvious SFF novels, I've always been into role-playing games and Japanese anime, and I think both those influences find their way into my work on a regular basis.  For anime veterans, for example, the way Alice captures creatures by fighting them and then uses their powers bears a strong resemblance to Card Captor Sakura, or even Pokemon!  And twenty years of running role-playing games has taught me a lot about how to put together a deep, detailed world.
If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why?

The sounds of certain words always attract me.  I like "actinic" and take the opportunity to use it whenever I can. 
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?
Books are, obviously, a big one for me as well.  Sometimes that's not so useful, though, in my line of work, since books are reality!  I like games of all kinds -- computer games, board games, wargames, and so on -- and I can use that to escape.  From my wargaming interests, I got into painting miniature soldiers, and that's also remarkably distracting.  I can listen to audiobooks and paint for hours.

What can readers look forward to next?

It's a busy year for me!  I have short stories in Asimov's magazine and the Blackguards anthology, both of which should be available around the time this goes up.  In May, a novella tied to my military fantasy series The Shadow Campaigns is coming out as an e-release from Roc, which I'm really excited about; that's called The Shadow of Elysium.  In July, the third volume of that series, The Price of Valor, comes out in hardcover!  In the meantime, I'm hard at work on a new Alice book, which will hopefully be ready early next year.

About the Author

Django Wexler graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh with degrees in creative writing and computer science, and worked for the university in artificial intelligence research. Eventually he migrated to Microsoft in Seattle, where he now lives with two cats and a teetering mountain of books. When not planning Shadow Campaigns, he wrangles computers, paints tiny, and plays games of all sorts. Find out more about Django at



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