Thursday, October 7, 2010

BOOK B'DAY *** Debut Author Hilary Wagner *** NIGHTSHADE CITY

                           ****Please welcome very special guest, debut author, Hilary Wagner!****
Hilary lives in Chicago with her husband Eric, her seven year old Vincent and two year old Nomi. They also have a neurotic Italian Greyhound, Louie, who [Hilary says] is adorable, but very whiny! ;)

I'm sure you've seen her around the social network, and I know that a lot of you have been waiting to get her book, Nightshade City: Purchase now:  You can also leave a comment at the end of the interview for a chance to win an autographed copy generously donated by Hilary! Read on. . .
“Fans of Redwall and the Warriors series will love this heroic tale of good versus evil in a subterranean society of rats. The world of the Catacombs is so compelling readers will wonder if it really might exist under our city streets. Expect great adventures in Nightshade City.” ~ Rick Riordan, Author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series


Billycan is the decisive rat scoundrel - fanatical, nasty, ferocious and absolutely disturbing. Was there any particular thing that moved you to write this completely fantastic bad guy/rat?

I've always loved the bad guys! I suppose in some way they hold a place in my heart, because I feel something horrible must have happened to them had to make them so bad. Weird, I know! I married a good guy though, much to my parent's relief! ;)

What do you like most about writing villains?

I enjoy the many layers most villains have. What brought them to their wicked ways? What pinnacle events made them so cruel and nasty? I truly don't know if people (or rats in my case), can be born bad, but I think we all start out with a blank slate. So what did it--horrible parents, parents that spoiled them, no parents at all? Did they witness or were they involved in something terrible? Or did they just always have a mean streak?

Can you name one of your choice villains, and what made you adore them?

I just love the White Witch from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. She is just as cold as they come, literally! She embodied evil, but also had this undeniable coolness about her--someone you love to hate! She stopped Christmas for goodness sake! ;)

What would you say are the vital traits of a villain (or rat, as the case may be)?

Layers, for sure, villains need to have depth. Uniqueness, no one wants to read about the guy with the black hat, cape and mustache, demanding, "You must pay the rent"! History, why are they bad--the fun part about this is a villain's history can be revealed in more than one book!

What, to you, are the most overdone qualities in villains?

Ha! Not to be repetitive, the black hat, cape, and mustache! I like wicked witches, but nowadays I think you really have to have a singular witch. Even if she has a pointed hat and green skin, she darn well better have a good reason why!


Do you think of Billycan as an utterly hopeless bad guy, or are there good qualities in him?

To be revealed in Book II... ;)

Without giving any spoilers, what's your favorite Nightshade scene with Billycan and why?

Oh, gosh, he has an awfully eerie scene with a young rat, wherein he scares the tar out of her--poor girl! For me, it was extremely creepy and even gave me goose bumps as I wrote it. I always try to think how I'd feel if someone did that to me at that age...not good! ;)

Since this is your debut novel, can you share a bit about your writing process and your road to publication?

Hmmm...writing process--I don't do outlines, so I don't have a specific process. I seem to write in a series of scenes, picturing them in my head first and then getting down just right--one scene building on the next. Not too scientific, but it works for me!

Hilary's  road to publication
: Craig Virden (Nancy Gallt's husband and former president of Random House Children's Division) was the agent I'd been pining away for. I knew he was the one I wanted to represent me. We'd exchanged some lovely letters. He'd requested the full and made me laugh--a real charmer! This progression took about 6 months. Finally I got a letter back from him. My heart beat like a rabbit's. It was yet another rejection, mind you, the nicest rejection anyone could ever get, but a rejection all the same. He said due to the current market woes and competition he just couldn't take it on. 
You'd think I'd be crushed, but I wasn't. He offered to read anything else I had "mouldering" in my desk. So, instead of wallowing (which I'd become an expert at), I got to work that day on another MS I'd been wanting to finish. Then, about four weeks later, I got a phone call out of the blue. I didn't recognize the area code, so normally I wouldn't have answered it, but I just had this strange feeling. It was Craig Virden. He said he just couldn't stop thinking about the book and no matter the market, etc, he wanted to take it on if I was still interested...uh...YES! So, long story short, that's how I landed my agent.
Sadly, a month later, Craig passed away. It was a heartbreaking blow to his family and the publishing community at large. He was one of those larger than life men that everyone knew and loved and one and all seemed to have a story about--a truly special person. Marietta Zacker stepped in pronto. She was dear friends with Craig and Nancy and had just started working with them as an agent. Despite her grief, she called me right away and let me know everything was okay and most of all for me not to worry. Shortly thereafter, I had a new agent. Can lightning strike twice? Marietta is kind and funny and pretty much brilliant! She gives me so much insight into the publishing industry and she's as clever as a fox! She is my agent and my friend and I highly recommend her to anyone. She sold Nightshade City in less than two months. 
Do you have any advice for writers? Your favorite book on the writing craft? (Or anything you want to add about the writing life!)

I've never read a book on writing, so I can't offer up any good titles. For me, the key to writing is developing your own sense of style. I think once you do that, you're really onto something--more so than just learning "how" to write. A distinct voice means everything in a successful book. When I think of my favorite books, all of them had a unique feel about them--something unforgettable

NIGHTSHADE CITY is available at Barnes and Noble stores nationwide, Indie Booksellers, Amazon and more. Learn more about Hilary Wagner by visiting her blog:  and enter the exciting, subteranrean world of NIGHTSHADE CITY here:

Who will be the lucky winner of a personally autographed copy of  NIGHTSHADE CITY? If you leave a comment, it might be YOU! Simply stop by to CONGRATULATE Hilary or to share the title of your favorite anthropomorphic book from childhood! Mine is The Wind in the Willows!  The drawing will take place on October 21st!


  1. Sounds like a great read- just what some of my students ( and myself) would love!

  2. I am super excited for Hilary. Her book sounds awesome. I like what you have to say about villains--it reminds me of the musical WICKED.

    Are people born WICKED or is WICKEDNESS thrust upon them?

    I can't believe your road to publication story, Hilary. GOODNESS. This book was meant to be. I would love to win it. :)


  3. Margo, I'm excited for Hilary, too! Thanks for joining us. Your name goes in for the drawing!

  4. Congratulations to Hilary for perserving in her road to publication. I agree with Margo, it seems like this book was meant to be published.

    My favorite book as a kid was Watership Down.

    Thanks for introducing us to this wonderful new author, Clara. Good luck Hilary!

  5. Clara, thanks so much for having me today! I hope my road can give others a little inspiration! I can and will happen!!

    xoxo -- Hilary

  6. I have three daughters and we're all avid readers, this one's going to be a fun family read, looking forward to it.

  7. I'm very intrigued by this! I love the Redwall series, so can't wait to give this a go.

  8. So delighted that you stopped by to share with us, Hilary! Thank you so much!

  9. Thanks for stopping by, Susan! I know you'll be eager to share Hilary's book with your students!

  10. Thanks, Jennifer. Watership Down was my son's favorite, too!

  11. Thomas,

    Thanks for stopping by to celebrate with Hilary! Your name goes in for the drawing!

  12. Hi Danielle, Thanks for joining the celebration! Your name goes in for the drawing!

  13. Congrats Hilary! I can't wait to read!

  14. Thanks for joining the celebration, ART GIRL! You name goes in for the book drawing!

  15. Writer Wannabe Aishah--Thanks for celebrating Hilary's book birthday! Your name goes in for the drawing of NIGHTSHADE CITY!

  16. I loved "The Wolves of Willoughby Chase" as a young girl. Read it over and over. Congratulations Hilary! Your story is so inspirational! I hope to reach that point someday.

  17. That would be so awesome I would love to read your new book Mrs. Wagner it. Oh and Clara I love your blog,love,love it.

  18. Hi Mysti! Thanks for joining the October Book Birthday! Your name goes in for the drawing. WOLVES OF WILLOUGHBY CHASE is great one!

  19. Hi Mallory! So happy to see you here to celebrate the debut of NIGHTSHADE CITY with Hilary! Your name goes in for the drawing.

  20. Congratulations, Hilary! I love the illustrations. Best wishes with your work.

  21. Thanks for stopping by to celebrate with Hilary! Your name gets added to the drawing for the book, Karen!