You probably know some of my favorite fantasy authors: Midori Snyder, Paula Volsky aka Paula Brandon, Victoria Strauss, and Laurie J. Marks. One you might not know about, because she’s comparatively obscure is Kathryn Hinds. Hopefully one day her books will be up there in popularity, because her books are very much worth the read.
There are times I learn from reading other writers. I gained quite a lot from reading Snyder’s Beldan’s Fire, and Marks’ Dancing Jack. Writing as Paula Volsky, I was surprised by her unexpected writing, which defied connections, only to see it rise to greater feats of literary wonder when she re-emerged as Paula Brandon with The Traitor’s Daughter. If there was a writer I would really hope to emulate one day, and know I could never could, is Kathryn Hinds.
I first read her text books, published by Marshall Cavendish Benchmark. I worked on her books as a fact checker. Early on I noticed that she somehow—and here’s the thing that makes her special—she makes one word do the work of ten. It makes her children’s text books both easy to read, but dense with information. Kathryn Hinds first worked as a copy editor, before she started writing. I know from discussions with her that when she works on nonfiction, she’s editing while she writes. The caliber of her writing shows. She’s perhaps one of those rare writers who can edit her own work. With non-fiction, while she’s learned to edit after getting the ideas down, that level of skill does not falter.
When I first read The Healer’s Choice, I discovered a very rich cultural world, with a rich inherent mythology. Though there are parts of the story with interpersonal conflict, cultural conflict is also very much part of the plot. The book is very much character driven, with those cultures conflicts adding to the tensions, misunderstandings. Like her work with children’s text books, her work is absolutely exquisite.
Why I wish I could gain some of that grace—and at times have to accept I’m a very different writer—came from a time before her book became published. She’d been offered a contract, but was asked to cut the word count, and cut one of the characters. I’m not a shabby substantive editor, and she asked me to review it and see what suggestions I could make. I re-read the draft and was bewildered by how those suggestions could be done. It illuminated to me, again, the intense, well founded structure beneath her work. If she removed the character, she’d loose much of the purpose of the story, much of the potential. I could not help but wonder what a top editor might make of it, till I remembered Hinds, herself, had been quite in demand, even while she was writing text books.
It’s not merely the structure of her plot, and her incredible multi-cultural world building that struck me, but the level of her characterization. All the best elements of writing come together with her book. I’ll freely admit that I’m not a fan of her book cover, only because it conveys absolutely nothing about the quality of the writing. If there ever was a book to read to teach people how to write, I’d pick this one—except one would get lost in the reading, and stop looking for the structure of her exquisite art.