Emily S. Whitten, Jim Butcher and The Dresden Files
The Dresden Files, as you may know, is a series about the wizard Harry Dresden, and follows his adventures and investigations into supernatural disturbances in modern-day Chicago, which he recounts through a first person narrative. It’s also, oh-by-the-way, a ton of fun, and weaves a lot of lore, myth, and legend from all cultures into modern adventure stories with a wizard who’s more gunfighter than Gandalf (even if he fights with a staff much of the time). As the series has progressed, it’s also gotten more complex and nuanced, with some great plot twists and character developments along the way. I definitely recommend it to anyone who hasn’t yet read it.
The series is pretty far along and we’re currently waiting on book fifteen, so if you have no idea what I’m talking about, I recommend you check out the series or at least the Wikipedia page before reading this interview; unless you’re the kind of person who doesn’t mind possibly being confused or definitely encountering spoilers. Because, fair warning, there are spoilers ahead!
Have we all been sufficiently warned? Yes? Then onward to the interview!
I’m a big fan of The Dresden Files, and I’ve read all of the books, so let’s just begin by talking about the series. There are fourteen novels to date. Book fourteen is Cold Days, which sets up the upcoming book. In Cold Days, Harry is the Winter Knight, and Sarissa ends up as the new Summer Lady, and Molly, in an unexpected turn of events, is the new Winter Lady. And Harry’s lost all of his stuff – even his mini model of Chicago!
Yeah, it all burned up in his apartment.
So he’s got no place to go, he’s living on Demonreach, he’s upset about what’s happened with Molly, who he’s tried to protect; he and Murphy have this interesting dynamic changing from what they’ve had, and something deeper is going on…so that’s where we leave it. Tell me when we will be seeing book fifteen, and what we should expect from it?
Book fifteen is called Skin Game. It will be out either late this year or early next year, depending on how quickly the publisher wants to rush it through production. The basic premise of the book is that Harry Dresden is still stuck working for Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness, and there are people she owes debts to…
In Skin Game, Harry’s been out on Spooky Island, on Demonreach, and has been staying there for about a year, because he’s got this thing in his head that’s going tick-tick-tick, and it’s going to kill him eventually. And Demonreach is able to keep it from completely crippling him. So he’s been staying there, and he thinks that his friends have kind of abandoned him, and he finds out that Mab has been intercepting all his communications and making sure they think he’s fine and needs to be left alone.
And then Mab shows up and says, “Okay, well – here’s the thing, is, I’ve got this job for you to do. I’ve got a debt to pay off, and you’re going to have to go do it. And if you don’t do it, well, you know, I can’t make you do anything, because that was kind of part of the deal, that I can’t compel you to do this; but if you don’t, then the thing in your head is going to kill you in the next three days. So I’ll let you make up your own mind.”
Hah, wow! Faeries always do that, in The Dresden Files; they follow the rules but trick you anyway.
Exactly. She’s playing by the rules, technically, which is the only way to do it, if you’re a faerie. So she’s informed him, “Well, you can either do this or not.” And Harry’s like, “Fine, I’ll do the job, whatever it is.” And he finds out that the job is, Mab is going to loan him out to Nicodemus Archleone, the head of the Denarians.
Ahh, and he’s shown up several times, and he’s really awful, to make an understatement.
Yes, he has, and yes – he’s one of the worst villains in the series. And he’s off to pull a heist. And he’s putting a crew together to pull a heist with, and he needs Harry to be on the crew. So Harry basically gets signed up with the Evil League of Evil, with all these different villains from around the world, some of whom have appeared before. So now he’s off to rob the treasure vault of Hades, Lord of the Underworld. So that’s the plotline. Harry’s got to be working with these people…and he immediately arranges to bring somebody along to watch his back while he’s there, because he doesn’t really feel like turning on these guys, and so he rounds up Murphy to come cover his back for him.
Oh, so Murphy’s going even deeper into the supernatural, right from the start of this story.
Yeah – but Harry’s point is, “I need somebody who can see things. I don’t need somebody who can fight supernatural things; I can do that. I need somebody who can notice things.” And Murphy’s the sharp one; so he grabs her.
Yeah, Harry is a little bit dim sometimes.
He can be.
You’ve written him that way.
But he turns to Mab at one point and he says, “You’ve got to understand, Nicodemus is going to betray me. He is gonna stab me in the back and try and kill me; that’s who he is.” And Mab says, “Of course he is.” She says, “I expect superior and more creative treachery from you. Oh, and by the way, make sure you do what I said you would do. You have to fulfill that first. But as soon as that’s fulfilled, do whatever you want.” And Harry’s like, “I can’t believe you’re going to have me do this.” And Mab’s like, “I would have loved a game like this when I was your age, come on!”
And Harry’s like, “I just want to take a nap, and a hot shower.”
Yeah, exactly. Really, that’s kind of where he’s at, yeah.
Okay, so now where does Molly fit into this book? Are we going to see her? Molly’s a favorite of mine, and obviously what happened to her in the last book was a big detour from what we thought was going on, and has a lot of impact.
Right; well Harry gets to find out that Molly hasn’t told her parents anything. She’s just carried on, and kept showing up to Sunday dinner and so on. So her parents don’t know about the whole Winter Lady thing, and they’ve got no idea anything’s wrong. So that’s a lot of fun.
So we get to see more of Michael and all of the family?
Yeah, we’ll get the Carpenters in it for some stage time there. But yeah, she’s been off doing Winter Lady stuff, and catching up on about 150 years of Maeve’s backlog; because not only was Maeve crazy, but she wasn’t doing the job; and that was really the problem as far as Mab was concerned. Crazy, psychotic, murdering people? Okay, that’s fine – but is she getting the work done? So Molly’s been doing that; and Molly’s the only one who can take care of the thing in Harry’s head – Demonreach told him that Molly could help (in Cold Days). Which is why Mab has made sure that Harry couldn’t communicate with Molly. So she’ll have to show up to help him with that.
So that’s where we’re going in the next book – tell me, what’s the plan for the rest of the series?
We’re going to have twenty-ish of the books like we’ve had so far; these casebooks that happen as one-by-one stories; and then I’m going to cap the whole thing off with a big ol’ apocalyptic trilogy at the end.
So there’ll be a great trilogy at the end.
Well, big. I don’t know if it will be great!
Well, I think the books have kept getting better as you’ve gone along; and I always admire someone who can write a big series and keep it all straight.
I have help with that!
That’s to be expected! So we’ve got Harry and Murphy off on this adventure; Mab is kind of pulling some strings; Molly is dealing with her family, and possibly going to come in. What about the Outsiders, and the Nemesis and all that?
We’ll get back to them in the future. At the moment they’re not as huge an issue. Harry needs to survive the next three days, and then he can start dealing with some of the other things. At the moment he’s got enough on his plate with Nicodemus being in his face.
It’s kind of like on The X-Files, where we got some monster of the week episodes, and then some about the overarching conspiracy. It’s kind of nice to break it up like that.
Yeah, you can’t do huge-huge-huge all the time, because that’s no fun.
Okay, so let’s talk about Harry’s love life for a minute…
Oh, gosh. Yeah. Harry’s love life was something that I never really planned when I was writing out the whole series.
Well, going back to the very beginning; there was a whole lot of…almost uncomfortable…male gaze in the first few books. As a female reader, I love the books, I love the adventure, I would keep reading for the adventure; but the scenes where we stopped and spent five minutes talking in extreme detail about the women Harry meets, and learning that every one of them is model-beautiful… I was a little put off by that at first; and I think one of the reasons I wasn’t entirely put off is because when Murphy is introduced she’s treated differently, which was refreshing, and also made me think maybe she was going to stick around for awhile. You’ve gone away from that some…
Well, to a degree.
So has your perspective on that changed?
Well, I think the main thing is, I’m not a 25-year-old guy anymore. Which was how old I was when I wrote Storm Front. I don’t want to sound weird or anything, but you haven’t had the experience of being a guy in his twenties, where basically you don’t really know what’s going on, from the time you’re fourteen or fifteen until about the time you hit twenty-five, and then you sort of emerge from the testosterone haze, and it’s like, “Maybe there’s something in life other than boobs.” And that’s the – car insurance rates go down when you’re twenty-five for a reason. You know, I don’t think these two things are unrelated. But yeah, I mean it’s just one of those things that has been a change of perspective on my part. I just have to write the story that I write, and I don’t worry too much about basically anything except writing the story.
Well that’s fair. In the beginning, when you had Susan and some of the other female characters, and Murphy – did you realize that you were approaching Murphy differently, and introducing her without as much of the sexual component? Was that a purposeful thing?
Nope; I was just doing what I was doing.
Okay; so let’s jump over to the current relationships; now that we’ve talked about Susan and the other earlier women…
Yes, and poor Susan; she died horribly. Although there were so many people who were like, “Oh, I just can’t stand Susan.”
Well, maybe because of the way she was introduced – but several people have died horribly in your books!
True, and perfectly wonderful people have died horribly, too, so, you know, that…kind of happens.
True! So now…we’ve got Harry, and we’ve got Murphy, and we’ve got Molly…and we’ve got some relationship issues. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Right – Harry and Murphy have at least kind of admitted that there might be something there; which is way better than Harry would ever consider doing with Molly. Because he still remembers Molly when she was little, so, even though their age difference is not entirely huge, it’s huge enough that he’s weirded, anyway. She is no longer weirded by the concept at all, but he is. So Harry and Murphy have finally admitted there might be something there; but both of them are just very avoidant, and so they’ve had trouble actually expressing that, except in moments of adrenaline.
Yes. Now with Molly being the Winter Lady, and Harry being the Winter Knight – I root for Harry and Murphy because it just seems so right; you’ve written it in such a way that it makes sense – but I did wonder towards the end of the last book, now that they’re both in the Winter Court, and there’s this magical connection beyond the connections they already have; how is that going to play out?
Yeah, awkwardly. It will continue to be awkward; because it’s Harry Dresden, how could his life not be awkward?
True! Now, there’s a character that I absolutely adore, and I don’t know if we’re going to see again – Ivy. Will we be seeing her?
She won’t be in this book; she’s not gone from the series permanently, but not in this one.
Great; and anything else you want to share with the fans?
Well…here comes the next one! And I’ve still got plenty more after that. The stories are already planned out.
Well I look forward to reading them, and thank you so much.
• • • • •
Thank you, Jim, for your time and a delightful interview; and Dragon Con, for setting that up for us! Hope you all enjoyed it, ComicMixers!
And until next time, Servo Lectio!
TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis
WEDNESDAY MORNING: Mike Gold