We Have a Winner: Manly Wade Wellman Award

Award winner Hartness (right) with Samuel Montgomery-Blinn of NCSFF
Award winner Hartness (right) with Samuel Montgomery-Blinn of NCSFF

On July 16, 2016, the Manly Wade Wellman Award was presented at Con-Gregate to John G. Hartness, an author from Charlotte, North Carolina. The award, now in its third year, is given by the North Carolina Speculative Fiction Foundation and seeks to “recognize outstanding achievement in science fiction and fantasy novels written by North Carolina authors.”

The mastermind behind this award is Samuel Montgomery-Blinn, the publisher of Bull Spec Magazine. About the creation of the award, Montgomery-Blinn says, “Basically it started from something I was already doing for Bull Spec, putting together those yearly ‘holiday shopping guides’ listing all the NC books I knew about from the previous year. I was already building this big list of ‘eligible titles,’ and I really wanted to come up with a way to get the books (and their authors) more attention. At the same time, I also wanted to do some small part of connecting in a state-wide community the major NC science fiction conventions, so making one big voting pool out of the combined memberships was something I had in mind from the beginning as well.”

The 2016 award was given for a work of speculative fiction published by a North Carolina writer in 2015. The primary eligibility list was announced in January 2016 at Illogicon and included more than 115 titles (included one by yours truly). This year there were six finalists, since three titles were by the same author: 

  • Raising Hell by John G. Hartness (Falstaff Books)
  • The Mussorgsky Riddle by Darin Kennedy (Curiosity Quills)
  • Iron and Blood by Gail Z. Martin and Larry N. Martin (Solaris Books)
  • Vendetta by Gail Z. Martin (Solaris Books)
  • War of Shadows by Gail Z. Martin (Orbit Books)
  • Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon (Dial Books)
Finalists (from left) Larry Martin, Gail Z. Martin, John G. Hartness, Darin Kennedy (Ursula Vernon not pictured) with Samuel Montgomery-Blinn
Finalists (from left) Larry Martin, Gail Z. Martin, John G. Hartness, Darin Kennedy (Ursula Vernon not pictured) with Samuel Montgomery-Blinn

The winner, voted on by the combined membership of North Carolina science fiction and fantasy conventions (illogiCon, ConCarolinas, ConTemporal, and ConGregate), was John G. Hartness. He was kind enough to answer some nosy questions for GeekDad about himself, his writing and winning this award.

John Hartness, Looking authorial
John Hartness, looking authorial

GD: Since this is the South, let’s start with the basics. Where are you from? (In other words, who the heck are you?)

JH: I’m John G. Hartness, and I’m about as southern as it gets. I grew up in rural South Carolina (Western York County, about an hour south of Charlotte), went to Winthrop University where I got a degree in theatre performance with a minor in English, and now live in Charlotte. I frequently describe myself as a recovering theatre geek, having spent the better part of 20 years in the local and regional theatre community. I’ve been a lighting designer, actor, director, and producer, and was the co-founder and Managing Director of the Off-Tryon Theatre Company from 2000-2006. I also served two seasons as Managing Artistic Director of Shakespeare Carolina, President of the Metrolina Theatre Association, and President of the North Carolina Theatre Conference.

Around 2008, I switched my creative focus back to my first love, writing. I spent several years writing a poker blog and doing poker tournament recaps for several major online news outlets, then moved slowly into fiction writing. I self-published my first novel, The Chosen, in 2009, following that up with Hard Day’s Knight – Book 1 of The Black Knight Chronicles. After three books in that series were out, I sold the series to Bell Bridge Books, with an agreement to revise the first three books and re-release them, then produce three more books, for a total of six. Book #6 comes out August 15th, and I’m now under contract for three more in the series.

GD: Tell us a little about your award-winning book, Raising Hell.

JH: Raising Hell is the first Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter novella. Quincy Harker is the immortal magic-wielding child of Mina Murray and Jonathan Harker from Dracula. Raising Hell introduces us to Quincy, his “Uncle Luke,” and a host of other characters who either help or hinder Harker as he goes about the business of fighting the forces of darkness that threaten our world. Harker has a little John Constantine, a little Harry Dresden, a little Jesse Cutler, and a liberal sprinkling of Han Solo, Batman, and Dirty Harry all blended together to make one foul-mouthed, pistol-toting, spell-slinging, demon-killing son of a b-tch. He might not always walk on the side of the angels, but he doesn’t care, because he thinks most angels are @ssholes. I tell people that Quincy Harker stories are what you get if Constantine were on HBO, or if Supernatural were R-rated, and only featured Dean, because Sam’s a pansy.

GD: Readers may already know you from your Bubba the Monster Hunter series. How does Quincy measure up to Bubba? Would they get along? Or are they too different to ever see eye to eye?

JH: Quincy and Bubba are very different, but appeal to similar readerships. Bubba focuses more on the comedy, and having a good time, while Harker’s world is much darker. They both still often operate in very high-stakes situations, but the threats in Harker’s world are typically a little darker and nastier. Harker would wipe the floor with Bubba in a one-on-one fight, but Bubba could drink Harker under the table, so it all balances out.

GD: I understand you are also one of the masterminds behind Falstaff Books, which has produced some pretty impressive collections. How did this publishing venture come to pass?

JH: I’ve always used the name Falstaff Books to cover my self-published works, and when my friends Sarah Joy Adams and Emily Leverett were meeting a lot of rejection with the book that eventually became Changeling’s Fall, I told them if they needed someone to publish it, I’d do it. I had read the book in an earlier draft, and I knew there was a great novel in there, but for some reason it wasn’t selling. So I agreed to publish it, then I started finding other projects. Jay Requard and Jaym Gates then agreed to help with the project, and before I knew it, the idea that had been a book each quarter in addition to my contracted work and self-published books became a concept with a dozen or so projects on the horizon and a full production calendar! So like most things, it all started over a beer or three.

GD: So, an award huh? How are you feeling about that?

JH: I feel great about it. It was a surprise and an honor to be a finalist, especially when you look at the amazing work published in 2015 by North Carolina writers. Not just my fellow finalists Ursula, Gail, Larry, and Darin, but folks like Jake Bible, Tonia Brown, Carrie Ryan, Orson Scott Card, Tony Daniel, Clay and Susan Griffith, David Drake, and so many others! The level of talent in North Carolina is amazing, and I’m thrilled to use this award to help bring some attention to that. And of course, it’s all the sweeter because I got to share my nomination with Gail, Larry, and Darin, who are some of my best friends. In the past, I’ve been the person who worked behind the scenes helping to create awards programs at both the college and professional level, and I watched what that notoriety can do for struggling artists and programs. So I am honored to be recognized by the fans, and thrilled to have something to show my dad to say that maybe this writing thing is going to work out okay after all.

Raising Hell, Hartness's Award-Winning novella
Raising Hell, Hartness’s Award-Winning novella

Back of the book blurb: Straight out of the pages of the legendary vampire novel Dracula comes a demon hunter for the modern world. Mina Murray and Jonathan Harker had a son. They named him Quincy. His guardian angel calls him Q. Dracula calls him nephew. Demons call him The Reaper. “There are things in this world that men and women aren’t meant to understand. We aren’t supposed to know these things exist, much less how to fight them. The things that go bump in the night, the monsters in the closet, the shadow out of the corner of your eye—that’s where I live.” This exciting new series from the author of The Black Knight Chronicles and the Bubba the Monster Hunter short stories is a walk through the dark side, where things go bump in the night, and somebody has to bump back. Quincy Harker is that somebody.

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Samantha Bryant is a middle school Spanish teacher by day, and a novelist by night. Her Menopausal Superheroes series is available from Curiosity Quills Press. You can find her on Twitter @mirymom1