Interview with Steve McHugh (NO GODS, ONLY MONSTERS)
Steve McHugh was born in Mexborough South-Yorkshire, before moving to Southampton as a child. He currently lives in Southampton with his wife and 3 daughters.
Steve self-published his first book, Crimes Against Magic, in 2012, following up with Born of Hatred later that year. In 2013, the series was picked up by a traditional publisher, and the final novel in the series, SCORCHED SHADOWS, received a nomination for a Gemmell best novel award. Two additional trilogies have been published in Hellequin Universe; The Avalon Chronicles and The Rebellion Chronicles.
Since 2012, Steve has also published 3 novellas in the same universe, and his most recent work was his first science-fiction title, Blackcoat. Self-published under the name Steve J. McHugh, Blackcoat is a dark sci-fi thriller set in a dystopian society.
Welcome to the Hive, Steve. Let’s start with the basics: tell us about your next book No Gods, Only Monsters – why should readers check it out? And can it be read as a standalone, as it is set in the same world of your main series?
No Gods, Only Monsters is an historical fantasy book set in the period of Ancient Rome, around 200AD. The main character is the Roman goddess Diana, who is not really keen on the rest of the gods and would like to be left alone. It’s the same Diana as the one from the Hellequin Chronicles, but I wanted to tell her story from when she wasn’t the all confident fighting machine she is in the modern day.
It’s completely standalone, as it takes place hundreds of years before Nate from the Hellequin Chronicles is even born.
Your Hellequin books are heavily inspired by all sorts of myths and pantheons from around the world. How much research did you need to do for this, and how closely did you stick to the “originals”?
I didn’t have to do much new research as I’ve been researching gods and goddesses from mythos and pantheons for years. The new research was only kept to a few characters who haven’t been in books before, so I wanted to make sure I got them right.
I change quite a lot from the original mythologies as few of the pantheon are quite what people expect. I like this idea that the stories of old are just the gods form of propaganda to tell either good stories about themselves, or bad stories about members of the pantheon they don’t get on with.
The characters are easily one of my favourite parts about your books. Sure the magic and action are great, but how do you come up with all the sass and banter?
I’d like to be able to say that I have any idea, but I don’t really, it just comes to me. I’ll be in the characters head and what they would say at that time comes out. Sometimes it’s a bit off and needs changing, or needs to be said by a different character, but most of the time, it’s just the natural flow of having all of these characters in my head.
The diversity of your cast is also a big plus for me, as are the amazing female characters you write. Do you intentionally think about that when writing, or are they just organically springing to mind?
Thank you. I want to make sure that the stories I tell have a diverse cast, and I think it’s my job as a writer to ensure that each of them feels authentic and isn’t a stereotype.
I don’t sit and think that I need so many women, or so many LGBTQ characters, or anything like that. But when it comes to creating a character, I do think about them as a person and want to ensure that their creation is organic. Sometimes that character will change over time, or even over different drafts of the same book, but I need them to feel real to myself and the reader. Otherwise, why bother?
The other books in the Hellequin world have been published by 47 North, while you did self publish the novellas and Blackcoat. Will we see more self published books from you in the future, and how different is the process for you?
Honestly, I’m not sure. I have a new series ((Riftborn) with a new publisher (Podium) so I’ll still be getting traditionally published work out there, but I also write fast and not every book is going to be picked up by a publisher, so I imagine there will be more self-pubbed stuff in the future. I just can’t say what or when.
After the Hellequin series, Blackcoat was something completely different. Was it hard to switch? And how did it feel to go back to the old world for No God’s?
Not hard to switch at all. I tend to take a few weeks off after the end of every project to get my head in the space for whatever comes next, so the switch from fantasy to sci-fi, and back to fantasy, was fairly easy.
I’d always planned on writing more in the Hellequin world, and I’d always wanted to write something in the time of Ancient Rome, so I was more excited about the book than anything else. Which is probably why it was only meant to be a novella and turned into a full novel.
Do you read reviews for your books? And if you do, what is something you love seeing on response to your books?
I usually check every now and again to see the latest review, and I keep an eye for the first few weeks just to see how’s it’s doing, but I don’t go out of my way to read them. I’m just happy if the book makes people happy. If they identify with the characters, or they love the story, or it takes their mind of whatever is going on in the world. I want to write books that people find fun, and engaging, so seeing people say I’ve achieved that is always nice.
We always appreciate a beautiful book cover! Was it done by the same artist who did your previous books?
Thanks very much, I think it’s wonderful too. The cover was done by the amazing Shawn T. King, who has done covers for loads of superb authors. He also did the cover for Frozen Rage, the Hellequin novella. I’ve been really lucky over the years to work with a bunch of different artists for my covers.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
Probably taking the family out for the day. Maybe some light videogame playing. I think I’d just be happy to get to spend more time with my family for the most part. I try not to work weekends anyway, so I don’t have to be trying to work while everyone is home.
One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
I originally thought dragon, because it’s a dragon and they’re awesome, but I also think everyone else would say dragon.
So, I’m going to go with a griffin. They can still fly, which is cool, but they just look awesome. And if someone is riding a flying lion/eagle hybrid at you, you’re probably going to think twice about the life choices you made that put you in its way.
Tell us about a book you love. Any hidden gems?
I don’t think this is a hidden gem, but I’m going to say Hogfather. I read it every year at Christmas and it’s like a warm comfortable blanket to surround yourself with. It’s just a wonderful book and one of the few I read over and over.
I’m never sure what constitutes a hidden gem, but I’m going to pick the Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston. It’s the Magnificent Seven, but evil and with magic and dead things. It’s funny, action-packed, and absolutely brilliant.
Can you tell us a little bit about what we can expect next from you? More SciFi, more gods, or something completely new?
Riftborn is probably next. It’s my new urban fantasy series, the first book is called The Last Raven, and it’s a little different from the Hellequin stuff, which turned into these big, bombastic magic fests.
Riftborn is a bit more grounded than that, and it’s been a lot of fun to write.
I also have to write a sequel to Blackcoat, so more Sci-fi at some point, and probably a sequel to No Gods too.
Staying busy is always preferable to not, and it stops my brain from bombarding me with new ideas .
Are you planning anything fun to celebrate your new release? Do you have any upcoming virtual events our readers may be interested in?
I have two blog tours. One with Escapist Book Tours, which will have already started by the time you read this, and one put together by Graeme Williams marketing. Lots of blog posts, reviews, and the like. I’m looking forward to getting No Gods, Only Monsters into people’s hands.
Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing?
I hope that my love of writing comes through on the page. That they find something (a character, or scene, etc), that they identify with. Both of those are things I hope people take away from my writing.
Thank you so much for joining us today!
Thank you so much for having me.
You can find Steve here:
And Steve’s books here: