Q&A: Jim Butcher

Jim Butcher
In Skin Game (LJ 4/15/14), the 15th volume of Jim Butcher’s best-selling “Dresden Files” series, Chicago wizard Harry Dresden is only recently back from the dead, and he is now tasked by the Faerie Queen of Winter with joining a literal rogue’s gallery to break into the vault of Hades, Greek Lord of the Underworld. Luckily for Harry, he is not without friends who are definitely on the side of the angels.

Your biographical blurb states that your “résumé includes a long list of skills rendered obsolete at least two hundred years ago.” What are some of those skills?

Horseback riding, fencing, archery, leather­working, armoring, and knife-­making make a good start.

Who are some of the authors who inspire and inform your writing?

I think the writer with the most impact on my writing has probably been Robert B. Parker. His deft, lean prose and vibrant dialog are models I aspire toward in my own writing. Dean Koontz runs a close second.Skin Game

If you had to organize a “suggested reading” display for your series, what other books would you include? What would you call your genre?

I like the phrase “contemporary fantasy” to cover stories with a fantastic element that are set in the modern world. Any kind of contemporary fantasy display should probably include Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, Patricia Briggs, Kim Harrison, Richelle Mead, Carrie Vaughn, Benedict Jacka, Lilith Saintcrow, Seanan McGuire, Larry Correia, and Kevin Hearne.

Your series features a vast array of supernatural creatures from the fae to the lesser-known naagloshii. You make some unusual connections, such as equating Odin and Santa Claus. Do you research mythology and folklore, or are all the monster minutiae from your own head? Do you have some sort of spreadsheet to keep track of your immense dramatis personae?

I do a lot of research, but I would definitely say that the research is mostly just assembling raw material and stealing anything that looks like it would be fun to put in a Dresden tale. I find things that I think would be nifty to use and modify them to meet the needs of my story. I do have a file of character profiles that I sometimes consult, but most of the time, these days, I consult the fan-built Dresden Files Wikipedia (dresdenfiles.wikia.com/wiki/Dresden_Files). The enthusiasm of fans has created a database far more accurate and better organized than anything I could manage on my own. Thanks, guys!

What are some of or the most common questions that fans ask that you decline to answer?

The big one is always the same: Who is Harry going to wind up with, romantically? It’s a great question because I really can’t answer it, because I really don’t know. I never planned out Harry’s love life. I wanted it to be something that grew up organically through the series.

You’ve set your hero up in a virtual minefield of moral and emotional quandaries with literal angels and demons making pitches to him in their own way. Do you have a sense of where Harry’s life and choices will eventually take him, or do you create each of his steps along the way as you write?

The answer is I do both. I have a good idea where I think he’s going to wind up, and I can see how the story is progressing to take him there, but I’m also constantly reevaluating how his choices have changed and shaped him over the years. I think it’s entirely possible that Harry might surprise me before all is said and done.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Lib., Wisconsin Rapids

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