One of the justifications for slavery was that African-Americans, because of the color of their skin, were somehow not entirely human. The Constitution had a clause stating a slave only counted as three-fifths of a person.


Shadows of Ghosts explores how differences in physical characteristics can lead to prejudice and repression. And yet it isn't our physical appearance that makes us human. In Shadows of Ghosts a civil war has broken out over the morality of using centaurs as slaves. Some people believe that because centaurs have the head and torso of a human this makes them human, deserving the same rights as humans. Others believe that because centaurs have the body and legs of a horse this makes them animals that can be forced to work in the fields and bought and sold like livestock.


Describe your writing process.


Before I begin writing a novel or short story I make a basic outline of the story. Then, from the basic outline, I write a longer, more detailed outline. With Shadows of Ghosts I wrote a detailed outline for each chapter. The reason I outline so extensively is because when I begin writing I want to focus on the quality of the writing. I don't want to be distracted by having to think about what direction the plot should go. Also, it keeps the plot tight. Without an outline it's too easy to write scenes or chapters that don't properly move the story forward and then these scenes or chapter have to be cut or extensively rewritten.


Do you write on a computer?


No. I write longhand in a notebook. I like holding a pen, I like the feel of writing on paper. When I type what I've written into the computer I will make minor revisions.


Is there anything else about your writing process that you'd like to share?


When I write I always have music playing. I can't concentrate without music.


What kind of music do you listen to when you're writing?


Usually, I listen to classic rock. The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, U2, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones.


Name your favorite fantasy novels.


Tolkien's The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy, Ursual LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea, George R.R. Martin's A Game of Thrones, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz and Gregory McGuire's Wicked, a very cleaver reimagining of the Oz story. T.H. White's The Once and Future King and Neil Gaiman's Stardust.


Besides the authors of the novels you just named, who are some of your favorite authors?


I'm not sure where to begin. . .I can't put them in order of most favorite because I love them equally, so this is a random list. Mark Twain, Ray Bradbury, Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, Leo Tolstoy, William Faulkner, George Orwell, Kurt Vonnegut, H.G. Wells, Cormac McCarthy.


Do you feel fiction is pure escapism, simply entertainment, or is it more than that?


Fiction can be pure escapism, simply entertainment, but in many cases it's much more than that.




Fiction can give you a different perspective. By seeing a situation through another's eyes you can understand how people develop different beliefs and why people have different reactions to situations. Fiction widens our understanding of people and our society.


Fiction can give us comfort. It can show us that others have experienced the same feelings we have. It can show us that we're not alone in our feelings.


Also, fiction can teach us about history in a way history books can't.




For example, a history book can teach us about how many prison camps Stalin had, what years the camps existed, the names of the people in charge of the camps. However, if you want to know what it felt like to be a prisoner in one of those camps, read Solzhenitsyn's novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. That novel will teach you what it was like to live in one of those prison camps far better than anything you'll ever read in a history book or academic paper.


What is your favorite scene in Shadows of Ghosts?


I like the part at the beginning of the story where Cal is coming to terms with the conflicting emotions he feels toward his father. He had spent so many years feeling angry at his father for sending him away when the war began. He had wanted to stay with his father, no matter how dangerous that could have been. And now that his father has been assassinated, now that his father is gone, he feels guilty for having been angry at his father for so long. He wishes he could take the anger back, but since he can't take it back he decides that to make up for the anger he'd felt he'll bravely complete the journey he's on. He'll act in a way that would make his father proud.


One of my favorite action scenes from the novel is when the bridge Cal is crossing collapses and he falls into the river and is attacked by poisonous water snakes.


Is there going to be a sequel to Shadows?


Shadows of Ghosts is the first book of a trilogy. I've started working on the second book. It's called Dark Dreams Return. The second book focuses on Mont and Ellsben.


Besides writing, what activities are important to you?


Travel. I love seeing new places, meeting new people, and experiencing different cultures. I've visited over twenty nations.


What are some of the adventures that you've had while traveling?


Riding a camel near the pyramids in Egypt. That was amazing. Swimming with sea lions in the waters of the Galapagos Islands, climbing the Great Wall in China, dog sledding in northern Michigan, and photographing polar bears in Canada.

What inspired you to write Shadows of Ghosts?


Shadows of Ghosts was inspired by a combination of three things that fascinate me. First, my love of fast paced adventure stories and, second, the fascination I have with ancient Greek mythology.


What was the third thing that inspired you?


The events leading up to the US Civil War. And the war itself. There are many events in Shadows of Ghosts that parallel events from the US Civil War. One of things that fascinates me about this time in US history is the contrast between the American ideal of "all men are created equal" and the reality of a country living with legalized slavery. This contradiction was like a festering wound, painfully swelling until it burst, exploding into a civil war.

A Conversation with Stefan Haucke




Stefan Haucke