News and Interviews

Chadwick Ginther on Writing a Necromancer Who Longs for a Normal Life & Discovering His Themes

Chadwick G

Corrupt morticians. Dead twins. Animated skeletons. And a necromancer named Winter who protects the city. This ain't your grandfather's Winnipeg. Instead, it's Chadwick Ginther's wonderfully dark and wildly imaginative Graveyard Mind (ChiZine Publications), which follows necromancer Winter on her adventures.

Publishers Weekly praised the book as "sure to delight lovers of gritty urban fantasy," while the New York Journal of Books raved that "the sequel to Graveyard Mind and the further adventures of Winter, et al, will be eagerly awaited."

We're eager to welcome Chadwick to Open Book to take on our Lucky Seven interview. He tells us about finding his necromancer in a Todd Lockwood painting, working as a "discovery writer" (a new-to-us term that we love!), and his helpful strategies for dealing with tough days in the writing process. 

Open Book:

Tell us about your new book and how it came to be.

Chadwick Ginther:

Graveyard Mind is a contemporary dark fantasy set in Winnipeg. The protagonist, Winter Murray, is a necromancer tasked with keeping the dead of her city in the ground. Her past comes back to haunt her in the form of an old grudge, long thought buried; a grudge that threatens to put her desire for a normal life eternally out of reach. This novel came about in the period after submitting the first book in my Thunder Road trilogy and waiting for the responses. I wanted to do something different than my previous book while maintaining what I loved about writing Thunder Road. This time I got to create my own mythology instead of playing with the Norse sagas. Graveyard Mind wasn’t the book I meant to write back in 2009 when I started Chapter One. I had been writing something else, was almost 50 pages into that book and really enjoying it, when the idea of a necromancer who talked to their dead twin collided with a painting by Todd Lockwood called Blue Cloak. The painting has a dark haired woman in jeans and a blue cloak in front of a tunnel. And I knew that woman was my necromancer. She quickly became Winter, and that old book became abandoned.


Is there a question that is central to your book, thematically? And if so, did you know the question when you started writing or did it emerge from the writing process?


I’m a discovery writer, so I didn’t know what Graveyard Mind would be about until I was a few drafts in. The first draft found the rough edges of the story, the second and third refined the plot. I didn’t start to see themes—where we find family when they’ve be lost, or abandoned, and why seek redemption when we don’t believe we deserve it—until later.


Did this project change significantly from when you first started working on it to the final version? How long did the project take from start to finish?


Most of the characters didn’t change much from how I initially drafted them, but I did completely change the main antagonist. The plot went through even more alterations. That rough first draft was pretty rough. I think it had three different endings, and several scenes that would’ve served better in the third or fourth book of an ongoing series. While Graveyard Mind took roughly seven years to write start to finish, I wasn’t working on it continuously throughout that time. I was focused on completing my trilogy, and returned to Graveyard Mind periodically in between drafts and editorial on the other books.


What do you need in order to write – in terms of space, food, rituals, writing instruments?


I don’t need much, I’ll write just about anywhere. I do have a home office, but just as often I’m putting my words down with a pen in a notebook on the bus, or during my lunch break at work, as at my desktop. I use a tablet to do most of my writing away from home. Otherwise, all I need is a cup of tea and some music.


What do you do if you're feeling discouraged during the writing process? Do you have a method of coping with the difficult points in your projects?


If I’m feeling discouraged, I usually try to clear my head by doing something not writing related; go for a walk or listen to music. When I can’t find the story, I’ll make a soundtrack for the project trying to capture the emotional beats. If I’m stuck on a long form project, like a novel, I’ll try to do something short—a vignette or a comic script—that I can finish in a day or two to gain some momentum. When I’m stuck on a short story, I usually change gears and move on to another story at a different stage of completion.


What defines a great book, in your opinion? Tell us about one or two books you consider to be truly great books.


A great book needs to linger with me long beyond the first reading. It needs to bring me back again, to see what else I can find within years down the road. Roger Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber has stayed with me since high school. Every time I reread it, I find something new; a turn of phrase, a philosophical conundrum, a bit of worldbuilding. Speaking of more contemporary writers, I love the work of Silvia Moreno-Garcia, her novel Signal to Noise in particular. Her character work is stunning.


What are you working on now?


I’m halfway through a first draft of a follow up to Graveyard Mind, and I have a number of short stories in various stages of completion.


Chadwick Ginther is the Prix Aurora Award-nominated author of the Thunder Road Trilogy (Ravenstone Books) and numerous short stories. A bookseller for over fifteen years, he lives and writes in Winnipeg, Canada, spinning sagas set in the wild spaces of Canada’s western wilderness where surely monsters must exist.

Buy the Book

Graveyard Mind

In Winnipeg’s underworld, every mortician is on the take and every revenant of myth waits to claw their way out of their tombs. The dead stay in the ground because of Winter Murray, a necromancer of the Compact. A victim of abduction and a criminal herself, Winter stalks Winnipeg’s Graveside, preventing larger, more heinous crimes from spilling over into the lives of the Sunsiders, no matter what laws of gods and men she must break to do so. Winter is a chimera, sharing the genetic material of her own never-born fraternal twin sister. Her dead twin’s essence provides her a link to the Kingdom—the land of the dead—and a tie to a past she’s run from for thirteen years. Winter struggles to find a redemption she doesn’t believe she deserves. The temptation of dirty deeds is everywhere: An animated skeleton with a penchant for wearing dead men’s clothes wants her on his payroll. Her deceased, but not gone mentor, still pushes her to take the easy way by being hard. A composite man assembled from soldiers who still puts boot to ass when Winter demands. A vampire that wants just a taste. Each pulls at Winter ensuring a normal life remains eternally out of reach, and the easy way is anything but.

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