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Steve McHugh: On the Joys of Writing Villainous Characters

Bestselling urban fantasy author Steve McHugh discusses writing his new novel, The Last Raven.

Steve McHugh is a bestselling author of urban fantasy. His book, Scorched Shadows, was shortlisted for a Gemmell Award for best novel. Steve was born in a small village called Mexborough, South Yorkshire, but now lives with his wife and three young daughters in Southampton. Find him at his website or on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Steve McHugh: On the Joys of Writing Villainous Characters

Steve McHugh

In this post, Steve discusses writing his new novel, The Last Raven, how his ideas change over time, and more!

Name: Steve McHugh
Literary agent: Paul Lucas from Janklow & Nesbit
Book title: The Last Raven
Publisher: Podium Publishing
Release date: November 8, 2022
Genre/category: Urban Fantasy Noir
Previous titles: The Hellequin Chronicles, The Rebellion Chronicles, The Avalon Chronicles, No Gods, Only Monsters, Blackcoat
Elevator pitch for the book: Lucas Rurik was once a riftborn and lived a life of excitement and intrigue, but that was then, and after years as a human, Lucas has managed to find a new life for himself. But when an old friend calls asking for help, he finds himself dragged back into a world he finds all too easy to slip back into, even if it might mean the end of him.

Steve McHugh: On the Joys of Writing Villainous Characters

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What prompted you to write this book?

The idea started with the main character, Lucas. He is someone who was considered a powerful and dangerous person, but who lost all of that power years earlier and has tried to start a new life for himself.

His formation in my brain occurred at the same time as the idea of a dimension attached to our own where all of these people from history live because they were imbued with the power of the rift. After a few elements come to me, stories tend to strike off in their own directions, which is what happened with The Last Raven.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

I wrote the book in late 2020/early 2021, but I’d had the idea first back in 2019. I’d just finished another series and wondered where I was going to go next. Originally, I was going to write an epic fantasy, but as I worked on that, this idea about the rift and Lucas’ place in it wouldn’t let go. So, I wrote The Last Raven instead.

Books always change from original idea to finished article, but apart from a few pieces of worldbuilding that I wanted to change, things in the book are pretty close to what my original idea was. Once it was done, it took about six months to get a publisher, and here we are.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

It's the first book with a new publisher (Podium), so the learning process was more about how they do things differently to my previous publisher. Publishing wise, it was a smooth experience as they’ve been a joy to work with.

Steve McHugh: On the Joys of Writing Villainous Characters

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

I think the main surprise was how much I enjoyed writing some characters I didn’t think I’d warm to. One of the villains in particular was fun to write, despite the fact that they’re a terrible person. Or maybe they were fun to write because they’re a terrible person. It’s hard to tell sometimes.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

I hope they read it and enjoy themselves, that they find the characters and world engaging. I think as a writer that’s all I can ever hope for.

If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?

Write what you love. You don’t have to write what you know. There are a million ways to research things you don’t know, to look up places and items and people. But writing what you love is the most important to thing to do. People can always tell when someone loves what they’re writing about, so I think that’s the best advice I could give someone.

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