Today we're excited to chat with Henry Neff, author
Below you'll find more about Henry,
his book, plus a giveaway!
What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
While concluding my first series, The Tapestry, I was happy with how I’d wrapped up my hero’s tale but found myself wondering how my world might evolve now that a new age was beginning. How would things change over several generations or even millennia? Would magical humans share the realm they’d salvaged or would they come to master the non- magical population? Would that founding idealism persevere, or would good intentions calcify into corrupt institutions? As someone who’s studied empires and their life cycles I was excited to play with these possibilities. The ideas really sparked while I was in Rome and surrounded by echoes of famous families—the Medicis, Borgias, etc. A feudal society began taking shape in my mind, an empire dominated by twelve ancient houses and the royal family, the once-godlike Faeregines, whose magic was fading. There’s no finer fodder than an empire facing collapse.
Who is your favorite character in the book?
Probably Hazel Faeregine. She’s one of two main characters (the other being a commoner named Hob Smythe) but she’s the one with the most layers and who experiences the most growth in the book. At first, it’s tempting to chalk her up as the Poor Little Rich Girl since she’s the black sheep of the royal family, but we quickly find out there’s more heart and grit to Hazel than anyone suspected, including herself. But there’s a darker side too, mysterious and eerie parallels to a long-dead ancestor who’s the most feared figure in Impyrium’s history. Just when you think you’ve got Hazel pegged, she can surprise you.
Which came first, the title or the novel?
The novel’s working title was THE LAST FAEREGINE but I renamed it IMPYRIUM for several reasons. I wanted a one-word title that sounded big and alluded to a realm. “Impyrium” smacks of empire but the unconventional spelling includes fun touches specific to the story. The word “imp” hints at demonic familiars that serve the ruling classes, while “pyr” is the Greek root for fire and alludes to the forces that threaten to consume the dynasty. I love words—both their sound and meaning—and thus titles are a lot of fun. Each one is like finding just the right puzzle piece.
What scene in the book are you proudest of, and why?
There’s a scene where the Hazel Faeregine and her sisters make a voyage to honor a dragon that guards one of the Otherland Gates (portals to other worlds). It’s a rite of passage for female Faeregines (only they can rule) and the sisters accompany their grandmother, the imposing Divine Empress, who shares not only the sacred duties that fall to their line, but the disturbing truth regarding Hazel’s birth and her mother’s death. I’m fond of the scene because it combines many of the qualities that define IMPYRIUM: ancient lore and old magic combined with modern characters and familiar/relatable family dynamics.
Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
The first is to have faith in your instincts. I agree with my editors 95% of the time, but there will be occasions where you don’t see things the same way. When that happens, it’s critical to understand why your editor feels the way they do, but ultimately to trust your instincts as storyteller. I’d rather make my own mistake than change my story to please someone else and regret it later. The other lesson I’ve learned is to write a first draft as quickly as you can. It’s better to get a rapid sense of your story’s arcs, merits, and flaws than to inch along in the hope of penning perfection. The latter is a fool’s errand. You won’t pen perfection; you’ll simply take a long time to finish your draft. Save the revision for when you have a completed draft.
What do you like most about the cover of the book?
I do all the interior illustrations and maps for IMPYRIUM, but I didn’t dare attempt the cover. That’s a highly specialized skill and requires a practiced hand. For that, we turned to Antonio Caparo, a brilliant illustrator based in Toronto. Most authors don’t have a ton of input into their covers, but HarperCollins was kind enough to include me in the brainstorming and we agreed upon an image of a demonic shadow standing before a vault that was opening to reveal something magical and mysterious. Of course, that was just the concept—it was Antonio that translated our rough ideas into something iconic. I love that his cover works as a thumbnail but rewards closer inspection with gorgeous elements such as the roiling sea monsters engraved on the vault door. His attention to detail is exquisite—whether it’s the stitches on Hob’s military jacket or title’s custom typography. Antonio’s a master and we were very fortunate to have his services.
What’s up next for you?
I’m busy working on Book Two in the Impyrium trilogy. I don’t want to give away too much, but rest assured there are political upheavals, an ancient sect of demons, a machine that dispels magic, and two friends trying to keep the realm from splitting at the seams. We might even visit another world. Book Two’s a fun blend of fantasy, horror, and even humor. Several chapters are written from the villain’s perspective and I’ll only say that necromancers have a dark but surprisingly funny take on the absurd situations that can arise in their profession...
Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
For me, the most emotional scenes are those where a character is straining to grasp, define, or internalize a key aspect of their identity or history. It’s a struggle we all go through, and those moments always strikes a powerful chord in me. In IMPYRIUM, there are two such scenes that stand out. The first is when Hob—a bastard whose mother’s people rejected him—pushes for information about his deceased father in the hope he’ll learn something affirming, that he’ll finally belong somewhere. The second is when Hazel Faeregine must confront forces without and within to declare who she is and what she stands for. They’re moving scenes and I can’t read them without choking up.
What would you say is your superpower?
The ability to write books in a household that includes two boys, ages three and five. They are master saboteurs; crafty and insidious.
Henry H. Neff grew up outside Chicago before going off to Cornell University, where he majored in history. Before becoming a writer, he was a management consultant and also taught history at a San Francisco high school. Impyrium is his second series. The first, TheTapestry, is a five-volume epic that follows the life and adventures of Max McDaniels. He lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with his wife and two sons. You can also find him at www.henryhneff.com.
By: Henry Neff
Release Date: October 4, 2016