Author Interview: Whitney Hill

Elves. Weres. Vampires. Djinns. And a single, private-investigator, air-magic-based elemental—a sylph—who is in over her head. The Othersiders are anything but boring.

The world Whitney Hill has built in her Otherside series is a sandbox I’ve loved playing in but I’m thankful I can stand up and walk out of. The series is raw, nuanced, steeped in mythology and mystery. All in the middle of mundane North Carolina, proving you don’t need the glamour of LA or New York to create a powerful book. I was overjoyed to have a chance to ‘talk’ with her about the novel.

You can also read my review of Elemental here.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a biracial/Black woman who’s been lucky enough to live in four countries and experience so many cultures from around the world. I love hiking and trail running in North Carolina’s state parks – they actually served as a big part of the inspiration for my first series! I’m also a huge mythology buff, particularly with ancient Egypt, and an astrologer. All of that colors my storytelling and the perspectives woven into my stories. Finally, I’m proud to serve as a board director for WriteHive, a non-profit providing free, inclusive events, programs, and resources for writers of all backgrounds.

What is your favorite novel, and has it inspired how you write? How?

I love Kim Harrison’s Hollows series. The growth arcs for all of the characters were well done and I liked seeing how even the “bad” characters had relatable reasons, and the “good” characters had their flaws. It definitely inspired me to write; I wanted to explore a contemporary fantasy world but one where the story came from a perspective, background, and experience that was more like my own.

Tell us about your novel/series.

I write the Shadows of Otherside contemporary fantasy series, which starts with the award-winning and best-selling book Elemental. It follows a supernatural private investigator as she is first pulled into a deadly conspiracy and then has to fight to claim her magic and the power that comes with it in a parallel society in North Carolina.

What are some key takeaways you’re hoping readers get from your book(s)?

That we don’t have to live in the boxes that other people put us in for their benefit, and while it might be a long journey with some screw-ups along the way, we can grow and find our voices and our people in spite of everything and everyone trying to keep us small.

What is different about your novel?

I weave in some real-life issues and explore how those impact supernatural beings who also present as humans from marginalized backgrounds. For example, what are some of the things a Black man has to think about when he’s not just marginalized in human society, but is also secretly a wereleopard? What does it mean to be mixed race and have to find your place with both sides of your heritage, especially when you have magic that nobody else does? It’s very much a fantasy story that readers have described as an escape, but it doesn’t shy away from what I’ve experienced as reality in my day-to-day life.

What are your plans for future novels?

I’ll be finishing up the five-book Shadows of Otherside series this year, and then kicking off a new project which I’ve already started but haven’t announced yet — stay tuned!

What inspires you to write?

Actively doing something to see more of people like me represented in fiction. I grew up rarely, if ever, seeing characters who looked like me included in books, games, movies, etc. I wanted to change that and also to inspire the next generation of creatives by showing them it’s possible, even if you have to take an unconventional path to get your work out.

What do you enjoy about publishing, and what do you struggle with?

I enjoy everything about the creativity of it. Just the fact that something started as an intangible thought in my head, and a few months later, I’m holding a printed book. It’s incredible. I struggle with the fact that many people seem to have some preconceptions about indie books or authors, and need a lot more convincing to try something not published by the big 5 (or need help finding it!). Unfortunately that takes a lot of money for marketing, but luckily, my background was in marketing so that helps.

What has been your greatest struggle writing, and how would you inspire other writers to overcome it?

Convincing myself that my stories are worth telling, and trusting that there are readers out there who want to read them. Putting yourself and the worlds you create out for everyone to see can be scary, but all you can really do to overcome it is work on your craft, participate in communities, and have faith in your voice. Hard work, community, and faith.

How can we purchase your book?

My books are all available as ebooks or paperbacks from any bookseller, including indies.

Book Review: Elemental

Enter an urban fantasy world where elves, vampires, weres, djinn, and others maintain a precarious balance of power in North Carolina. Welcome to Otherside.

Elemental by Whitney Hill is an urban fantasy based in North Carolina with an elemental sylph private eye main character, filled with supernatural intrigue that kept me guessing. Like the spellcaster she portrays, the misdirection and sleight of hand that Hill employs along with a healthy dose of character backstory and political chaos kept me on the edge of my seat, making this one of my favorite books I’ve read on my blog to date.

Arden Finch is a private investigator in Durham, North Carolina. When a client comes to her asking for her to find his missing grandmother, her biggest concern isn’t that he doesn’t want the police involved. Neither is that he’s actually an elf, nor is it that she is an elemental. More importantly, is that if he knew what she was, he’d be asking for her head, rather than for her help.

Then again, Arden Finch was used to being in danger. Being asked for help from elves? Not her normal assignment. Despite being one of the Otherside—supernatural creatures hiding under the radar from humans—Arden has always been an outsider, only taking on mundane assignments for her own protection. But her emotionally distant mentor, Callista, has her investigating in some strange places, and this case may be more than what Arden is willing to take on.

Elves aren’t the only ones Arden has to worry about.


If you like urban fantasy, this is one-hundred percent a must-read. Hill is someone to watch out for in the genre, coming into the fold with an olympian effort right off the bat. It’s hard to believe this is her debut release. The book is action packed, with well-developed characters and a complex plotline with a web of political and character motivations to make your head spin. It’s a great start to a series that I’m excited to see through until the end.

What I Liked:

There’s an adage in writing to ‘write what you know.’ While many writers seem to scoff in the face of this piece of advice and go for the most showy of settings, Hill stuck with the place she knew by heart (coincidentally, a place I know as well, having lived there for several years myself.) Rather than trying to shy away from real-life details, Hill creates a strong sense of place based on named landmarks, climate, and other minutia. She aimed for the bleachers and was very careful to add enough particulars that made the setting come to life. It was enough to bring back fond memories for me… minus the werewolves, vampires and djinn, of course.

In Arden I found a character that was easy to empathize with and idolize. She’s been raised to be obedient and not question her role despite being a private investigator and independent in her work. Her character is nuanced and complex, and her development through the story enraptured me. I felt a kinship not just at her struggle to apply her strength to her own autonomy of place in the world, but also at her effort to balance doing what was right with what was best for her own needs. I think her conflicts are ones we can all relate to, albeit not with the advent of elemental powers and at the behest of gods and supernatural creatures.

And speaking of which, the supernatural community was unique and well developed. Rather than relying on typical tropes and stereotypes, Hill used her own research and imagination to create a mythology that was based off history and archetypes along with her own flair. Rather than go the Tru Blood route of Southern urban fantasy and using the same tried and true script, Hill created her own Appalachian and Southern fantasy world that I can’t wait to read more about.

At the end of the day, Elemental was a book that left me wanting to read more. It seems like such a simple element (pun unintended) of a good book, but it’s one of the most important to developing a series. There needs to be the balance of satisfaction and asking for more, and Hill did a fantastic job of leaving me feeling like there was enough signed, sealed and delivered at the end of this novel, with just enough to keep me wondering what it really was inside that envelope.

Trigger Warnings: Physical violence, Death, Slurs (not toward any real racial or ethnic group/identity), Threat of Sexual Violence.