Today, the lovely Helen Lowe has kindly answered some interview questions for me. I have been friends with Helen for a few years now and she is a massively talented writer. I have loved her ‘Heir of Night’ and ‘Gathering of the Lost’ and I can’t wait to sink myself into the latest one ‘Daughter of Blood’

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What were you like at school?

 

HL: That is such a hard question, because to answer it you have to have objective insight into your past self. However, my high school friends tell me I was shy and retiring, so there you go! (I think the implication is that they think I’ve changed. O-o)

So, what have you written?

 

HL: To date I’ve had four novels published, with Daughter of Blood, The Wall of Night Book Three, being the fourth and most recent. I’ve also had over fifty poems published, both in new Zealand and internationally, and around twelve short stories. I’ve also had a small number of creative non-fiction pieces published and my 2012 interview with Kristin Cashore has subsequently been translated into French and Chinese.

As you may know, both Thornspell, my Junior/YA standalone novel, and The Heir of Night (The Wall of Night Book One) are Sir Julius Vogel Award winners. Thornspell was also a Children’s Literature Trust Notable Book, while The Heir of Night won the Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Newcomer in 2012. I have also won prizes and accolades for my poetry and short fiction, as well as for my interviewing.

Where can we buy or see them?

 

HL: My novels, particularly The Wall of Night series, can be purchased via any of the main sites, such as Amazon but also Nile in Australia, as well as in bricks and mortar stores (although non-USA readers might have to order Thornspell since it was only published in the US.) You can also find out more via my publishers’ sites: Harper Voyager in the US and Orbit in the UK.

I do have some short fiction and poetry featured on my website (just click on the embedded links, immediately prior) and with further links to electronic publications provided in the Short Fiction and Poetry bios on those pages.

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Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?

 

HL: The main character in The Wall of Night series is Malian, the Heir of Night, although there are a number of other major characters, the chief of whom is her friend and sidekick, Kalan. In many ways it is Kalan whose character arc drives Daughter of Blood, stepping up as champion and captain – in part because he is an essentially goodhearted person, as you yourself once observed, Tarran. It is this that makes him special, because he doesn’t stand back when he sees the need for someone to step up.

Malian, though, is the main character, and with an equally strong sense of duty, but she is also cooler and more considered in her actions. She is playing the long game and for very high stakes, with the fate not only of her own world of Haarth, but potentially of all worlds, at stake. So she is more the political leader, whereas Kalan is a captain in the field. The qualities that make Malian special, though, are that she doesn’t turn aside from her duty, even though she understands it will likely mean her death. And although she is a loner, she also cares about people and about right and wrong, truth and justice – but in a more detached, cerebral way, whereas with Kalan it’s instinctive.

Thornspell is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of the prince who breaks the one-hundred-year spell, so of course he is the man character in that book – but perhaps I should tell you about him another time. J

What draws you to this genre?

 

HL: I could say “just love it”, but… Magic, adventure, mystery, romance, courage, chivalry – as well as the delight of worldbuilding and the whole possibility of the speculative where you get to ask “what if” through your storytelling. What’s not to love in any of that?

Do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when?

 

HL: I do try and keep to a routine, a key part of which is to actually write (not including other writing-related activities) for twenty hours per week – or at least be at my desk with the intention of writing. So four hours a day, five days a week is the minimum when I’m implementing that routine, although life, in that way it has, does sometimes get in the way. When that happens, I take the time I can get.

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Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

 

HL: When I sit down at the writing desk, my “rule” is that I have to either be there for the full four hours or complete two hundred words. I know two hundred words does not sound like a great deal but it’s really a kick-starter – i.e. if I can get to two hundred words, then I’m very likely to make twelve hundred or two thousand words in my four hours. But I also believe it’s important not to beat yourself up if wrangling an important part of your story results in only a small word count on a particular day – because advancing the story is about quality as much as it is about quantity.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

 

HL: I think I am still evolving and my writer’s journey is very much a work in progress. In fact, I hope it remains that way for the rest of my life. J

Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors.

 

HL: I read a lot and have very many favourite authors, so restricting myself to naming even a few is a great difficulty. However, some “main” names in Fantasy are CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Patricia McKillip, Guy Gavriel Kay, Ursula Le Guin, Robin McKinley, George RR Martin, Barbara Hamby, CJ Cherryh, Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman, and Katherine Kerr.

In the YA field, I am a great fan of Melina Marchetta’s contemporary fiction and Cynthia Voight’s writing, as well as authors like Scott Westerfeld and Karen Healey, and recently I’ve been enjoying Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys.

But I already know that I have omitted as many names as I’ve listed here, especially as I haven’t even gotten onto SciFi, historical fiction, or the classics!

What book/s are you reading at present?

 

HL: Right now I’m reading Trudi Canavan’s Black Magician series since Trudi was a kind enough to send me the whole set – because I’d read all the subsequent books but not her original series. And of course I’m reciprocating with The Wall of Night books; I just have to get Daughter of Blood in the post.

Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

 

HL: For me, absolutely. I am always drawn to the cover first and will resist picking up a book if I don’t like the jacket, no matter how many people tell me the story is wonderful. However, I know other people to whom it’s not nearly so important.

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Which social network worked best for you?

 

HL: I’ve only tried one and that’s Twitter, but it works pretty well for me. I find it helpful for interacting with other writers internationally, but also for connecting with readers and those interested in both the Fantasy genre and books and writing generally.

I do have a blog as well, where I post regularly, and I guest post on the Supernatural Underground on the first of every month. Currently, I also have a guest series on SF Signal: “Fantasy Heroines That Rock My World.” But I don’t think of blogging as social networking because it is individually generated and focused.

How do you relax?

 

HL: I find reading very relaxing, but so, too, is getting out and walking in “green” environments. I also enjoy cooking a lot and sharing the results with friends – and a glass or two of wine, or a pot of coffee on the table, never goes amiss.

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?

HL: I can’t think of any book I love that I would have wanted to write, because then I would not have enjoyed reading it nearly so much. However, in terms of a book that I found hugely challenging to read, but also enormously rewarding, to the extent that when I finished I thought: “that may just be the best book I’ve ever read”; and also “I want to write stories that make people feel like I’m feeling now” – that book is Aldous Huxley’s Eyeless In Gaza. It’s not an easy read, though: it’s a book you really have to persevere with. But if you do persevere, I believe it will come together, as it did for me – and then you may think, as I did, wow: wow.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

 

HL: Write. And then write more. If you do, you will find your own path – and that’s the only path that’s ever going to work for you.

Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?

 

HL: I can never answer this question! So far, I have never seen anyone who fits with my personal picture of Malian of Night – chiefly the combination of her personal power, combined with her reserve, coolness, and daring. And it’s pretty much the same with Myr, aka “Lady Mouse”, who is the Daughter of Blood that gave her title to the latest book in the series. She is shy and diffident, but also perceptive – a delicate character whom I believe it would take a very special actress to portray well. It would be great to see the story cast as a film or a television series, though: that would be a lot of fun, but also nerve wracking, in case the casters got it completely wrong!

Bio:

Helen Lowe, is a novelist, poet, interviewer, and blogger whose first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. Her second, The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012. The sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013. Daughter Of Blood, (The Wall Of Night Series, Book Three), is recently published. Helen posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really blog and is also on Twitter: @helenl0we.

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