Debut Author Spotlight: Sylvia Izzo Hunter

We love debut authors here at RT and we love introducing them to our readers. This month, we're shining the Debut Author Spotlight on Sylvia Izzo Hunter, the author behind the sweeping historical fantasy, The Midnight Queen, which our reviewer says is "a novel that readers will be unable to put down." Read on to learn more about Sylvia and the book!

Name: Sylvia Izzo Hunter

Book: The Midnight Queen

Genre: Historical Fantasy

Current Home: Toronto, Ontario

Author Icon: Jane Austen (who wrote insightful novels full of brilliant social satire at a time when respectable women weren't supposed to write novels at all) and Lois McMaster Bujold (who has long written in a genre that some people think women shouldn't write in, and who also puts romance in her SF despite all the people saying SF shouldn't have romance in it).

Favorite Word: I have to pick just one? ::sad face:: Well, in English, I do really like the word "midnight". In French, definitely "crépuscule", meaning twilight, and in Spanish, the pleasingly euphonious "cumpleaños", meaning birthday, but literally referring to having achieved another year, which I like. In Hebrew, an excellent word is "dayenu", which manages in three syllables to mean "it would have been enough for us." Also, sometimes in life you just need a really good multipurpose insult. My go-to one is "asshat".

Was this the first book you ever wrote?

No, it wasn't! It is, however, the first book I've ever finished. I've been writing the middles of books for about three decades, and I've written lots of beginnings of books, but endings are trickier.

How did you start writing?

Writing, full stop, or writing this book? I honestly don't remember how or when I started writing, but I am told I was making up stories and inflicting them on people (sometimes in the form of songs) within a short time after I learned to put words together into sentences. This particular story began when one day I started hearing in my head a conversation between two people in a garden. I made some initial assumptions about these people and their story that turned out not to be accurate — for example, I thought they were Edwardian or perhaps Victorian, and I didn't realize at first that their world involved magic and Romano-Celtic  polytheism — but they already had names and personalities, and they set me straight on the other stuff :). As I mentioned, I've started a lot of books but never finished one before. The fact that I did finish this one is entirely down to the encouragement I received from the friends who read each chapter in first draft as it was finished, gave me HUGELY helpful critiques and then said, "OK, where's the next chapter?"

What was it like when you got "The Call"?

I'm not going to lie: I jumped up and down, flapped my arms and made high-pitched squeeing noises. I did this when my agent, the fantastic Eddie Schneider at JABberwocky, called me to offer representation, and I did it again when we got offers from publishers. And also when I first saw the draft cover. If you've seen the cover, you'll understand — it's absolutely the most gorgeous and pitch-perfect cover I could possibly have imagined for this book. It was a long journey to get to that point, and I'm old enough now that I can do really absurd things, as described above, and I DON'T EVEN CARE.

What's your favorite paragraph in The Midnight Queen?

Wow, that's a tricky one. Trying to avoid spoilers! I do really like this bit, which occurs fairly near the beginning. You know how sometimes you think someone's a minor character, and then before you know it he or she has become integral to the plot? This is the bit where that started to happen to me:

Joanna — a stocky, open-faced girl of perhaps thirteen, who bore no evident resemblance to either of her sisters — stopped short at sight of [Gray], looking him up and down with candid grey eyes.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“Joanna!” Gray came very near to laughing at Sophie’s outraged tone but restrained himself to spare her dignity. “Mr. Marshall, may I introduce my sister Joanna? Joanna, Mr. Marshall is one of Father’s students, and our guest for the summer.”

Joanna curtseyed haphazardly, revealing to Gray that her petticoats were edged in mud and her scuffed boots half-unlaced. Gray bowed gravely in return. “I am delighted to make your acquaintance, Miss Joanna.”

“You have the most enormous boots I have ever seen,” said Joanna.

Who is your all-time favourite female SF/F character?

OK, this one is easy: Ista dy Chalion, in Lois McMaster Bujold's Paladin of Souls. (She's in The Curse of Chalion too, of course, but in Paladin she's the POV character and I LOVE HER SO MUCH.)

Author photo by Nicole Hilton

The Midnight Queen comes out September 2, so be sure to pre-order your copy today. And for more fantasy authors and books, visit our Everything Sci-Fi/Fantasy page.