Some Thoughts with ... Eli Hinze

21 Feb 2023

The Author/s

Eli Hinze

Eli Hinze

Eli Hinze is a writer with an interest in ancient history and myths, particularly when combined with the fantastical. She's lived in China for a time, fought in tournaments, wrangled various farm animals, and worked in tech, but is happiest in life as an author.

When not writing, Eli likes to spend time with her husband, draw, watch documentaries, cook/bake, and make friends with animals. If you’d like a free book, bonus content, or to stay up-to-date with her newest releases, you can connect with her on social media @EliHinze or sign up for her newsletter.

Eli Hinze is the author of The Imposter King series and the Queen of Shades series, as well as the standalone books Death of an Immortal and Stolen Sun. Her latest work, The Wretched Spy (book #2 of The Imposter King series), will release in early 2023.  

The Interview

Welcome to a new post on my favourite section of the website. Today we are interviewing Eli Hinze, author of historical fantasy, having published the Queen of Shades series, and more recently, The Imposter King.

Let's dive in!

1.- What made you choose self-publishing?
Self-publishing is fantastic for those such as myself, who are control freaks when it comes to their work. (I’ve accepted the label with time.) I want to tell the stories in my head, in my own way, and in a style that resonates with me—not based on whatever is deemed ‘most marketable’ at the time. 
Additionally, I wanted to control my own intellectual property. Traditional publishers have burned quite a few friends of mine, and have less to offer nowadays. All I want is for readers to be able to find my books, and independent publishing is more than capable of delivering. 

2.- Why did you decide to use Mesopotamia as your location for The Imposter King?
I have a longstanding fascination with ancient Mesopotamia, going back well over a decade to when I first read The Descent of Inanna. It’s also a fascinating period of history that few people know about, even though they pioneered many of civilization’s “firsts”, from legal codes to astronomy to indoor toilets. In this place with no natural resources save mud and reeds, humans created this mighty, flourishing civilization.
Not to mention, since this was the major crossroads of ancient civilization, where myths and governments, and cultures all intersected, there are millennia’s worth of history and literature to draw on—and some truly kick-ass monsters. (The half-scorpion, half-men are my personal favorites.)

3.- As we are talking about a historical fantasy novel, how would you describe the research process attached to it? As this is a rather unknown period, how would you say that influenced your research?
It was a rather intensive research process, but that’s part of the fun for me. Research is where I get some of my best ideas; in fact, it was while reading Handbook to Life in Ancient Mesopotamia that I first stumbled across the imposter king tradition upon which the first book is based. 
I’ve checked out just about every book on ancient Mesopotamia that my library offers, and am slowly acquiring a personal collection of books on everything from their recipes to city planning to chemical warfare and more. YouTube has also proven to be an amazing source of information from reputable scholars. I adore The Oriental Institute’s recorded lectures, just about everything Digital Hammurabi and World of Antiquity make...
I could go on, but I think you get the picture! Research is fundamentally entwined with the writing process for me, and any gaps that are left behind make for fascinating “what if”s.

4.- At this point, you have finished a complete series, and this is the start of a new one. How would you say your process has evolved from the start to now?
The Queen of Shades series was originally a market test to see if there was interest in Mesopotamian fantasy, and also a personal test. It was through publishing four books in one year that I learned about what it takes to ship a complete book, how to avoid common pitfalls, and what tasks I’d rather outsource, such as audiobook production. 
Additionally, I wrote all four Queen of Shades books in one year; with The Imposter King series, I’m spending about a full year on each book. As educational as my rapid publishing experience was, it’s not for me. I enjoy the more sustainable pace of yearly releases, and find that I enjoy writing more, too.

5.- Could you tell us a little bit more about your Queen of Shades series?
The Queen of Shades series follows a poor grave digger who becomes the Mesopotamian goddess of the dead, Ereshkigal. There’s a period in the Bronze Age where, along the Levant, we just don’t find any burials. It’s certainly possible that they’re there, but it made me think: what if there was a time when people simply stopped burying their dead, or were too afraid to? What would that look like? 
While the first book focuses on Ereshkigal’s entrance to the pantheon, the following three installments are retellings of various ancient myths: the Descent of Inanna, the Marriage of Nergal and Ereshkigal, and the Enuma Elish.

6.- Is there any historical fact from the period you chose for your novels that you would say you find rather curious?
Let’s talk about the imposter king tradition (more accurately translated as ‘substitute king’)! When oracles foresaw omens of the king’s death, the king would go into hiding, while another took his place. This person would live just as the king lived, commanding the same wealth and authority, attending feasts, and so on. Once the threat was deemed over, the substitute would be put to death and, with the peril well and truly passed, the true king returned to his throne.
We have records of kings from Esarhaddon to Ashurbanipal doing just this, and it was even practiced as recently as 1591 CE! There’s also a (less well-attested, but still fun) record of king Erra-Immitti putting his gardener on the throne when he believed his life was at stake. In the end, the king ended up choking on his soup, and the gardener ascended the throne in his place.

7.- Outside of writing novels, what does Eli Hinze like to do in her free time?
Outside of writing, and obviously studying history, I enjoy drawing, reading, and cooking.

8.- What can we expect in the future from Eli Hinze?
The second Imposter King book will be out later this year. It’s a five-book series, so that will remain my focus for at least the next few years. I do have other projects I’m brainstorming in the background—a steampunk fantasy-romance series, a fantasy-horror standalone, another ancient high fantasy series—but I have my hands full for now. :)