Hilary Wagner

Get to know Hilary…

Hilary Wagner was born and raised in Chicago. She graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in fine art. Her paintings have appeared in galleries and exhibitions in New York City and Chicago, where she lives with her husband and two children. Her first book, Nightshade City, launched the Nightshade Chronicles and received wide critical acclaim. Nightshade City is a CBC Best Book of 2011 and a Crystal Kite Finalist.

Hilary also writes for National Geographic School Publishing and has just finished Goblin Shark Rising, a new adventure novel, set for publication in fall of 2012.

You can find Hilary on Twitter and Facebook. Keep up with all her latest news by checking out her blog and the official Nightshade City website for news on her books, events, and booking school visits. 

Let the conversation begin!

Would you rather publish a string of mainstream books or one classic?

I know this is totally cheating, but I’d like to publish a string of mainstream classics. *grins broadly* 

If you could only write one more book, what would it be about?

Right now, I’m writing GOBLIN SHARK RISING, which comes out in fall of 2012. The idea for this book had been rattling around in my head for over a year. I told my publisher’s Editor in Chief about it at a dinner last year when she was in Chicago, and she told me to quit blabbing about the book and start writing it. With this book, not only do I get to write about a city of sharks, but the great city of Tokyo, where the book takes place. It’s been loads of research, but the book is nearly complete!   

I suppose since this is nearly done, it may not count in terms of this question, but I can tell you, Book III of the Nightshade Chronicles has started knocking around in my head as of a few weeks ago. I guess that would be the one more, though I plan on writing at least 50! 

Do you begin with character or plot?

Character, once I create the main characters, the plot seems to build itself around them. 

What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?

Some books have been written faster than others, but none have been necessarily easy–at least not for me! The White Assassin was a tremendous challenge. My editor told me how important this book was and how it needed to be just as special, maybe even more special, than the first book. 

I think a sequel can be more difficult than the first book because readers want to be reminded of the first book, yet they want something entirely new and exciting…not just a continuation. Even though you’re dealing with characters and plots that were in the first book, the second book needs to be standalone great!   

Outliner or seat-of-the-pantser?

What is an outline?? 

Easier to write before or after you were published?

Hmmm…good question! While deadlines can be stressful, you just have to learn to work with them. I think when my editor is waiting on me, I try harder, I even think harder. I know someone is relying on me to do not just a good job, but a great job, not to mention they have given me a contract to do so! Maybe that’s just it, you have to treat it like a job you never want to get fired from! 

What’s one rule you’re dying to break?

All of them! 

Daily word count?

I learned a long time ago that I can’t live by a word count. Some days, I’ll be lucky if I get out one good paragraph, while on other days, I charge through twenty pages at breakneck speed. For me, it’s about the quality of the words. I think sometimes writers are too hard on themselves in terms of word count.  We need to think in terms of quality, not necessarily quantity. I write every day, but sometimes it only one sentence!


Book II in the Nightshade Chronicles begins three years after Juniper and his rebel band of rats liberate the Catacombs and defeat their oppressors.

A sense of peace has settled over Nightshade City, but it is a false one. Billycan, the white assassin, has been found. Deep in the southern swamps, he now rules a primitive horde of savage swamp rats eager to overrun Nightshade City and claim it for their king. With the help of an ancient colony of bats and an uneasy alliance with the swamp snakes, Juniper and his Council set out to thwart Billycan’s plans. When an old secret is revealed—one so shocking it shakes both Billycan and Juniper to the core—the fate of Nightshade City and the life of Juniper’s only son depend on Juniper’s decision: should he help his mortal enemy? The past resurfaces with devastating impact in this exciting sequel to Nightshade City, a dark tale of intrigue, deception, and betrayal. 

Nightshade City, Book I of the Nightshade Chronicles is a CBC Best Book of 2011 and a Crystal Kite finalist.