So today I am bringing something completely new for you all–an author interview! I’ve had the privilege of reading an ARC copy of Heart of Mist, a brand new YA novel about a young girl seeking a cure for her magical powers in a world where magic is forbidden and a mysterious toxic mist is slowly consuming the land.
I finished reading the book in June and you can read my full review here, where I gave the book four stars for a strong debut. I wanted to do something special because I liked the book so much so here we are!
Helen sat down with me to talk about her debut novel, Heart of Mist, what inspired her to become a YA author, and the struggles of indie publishing. A huge thank you to Helen for giving me the opportunity to read an advanced copy of the book and for kindly doing this interview with me.
First and foremost, what inspired you to write Heart of Mist?
Helen: Heart of Mist came about while I was actually in the middle of structural edits for a literary fiction novel. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, these edits were slowly killing my creative spirit.
I’d been reading a lot of YA fantasy at the time, as a form of escape. NaNoWriMo was just around the corner, so with some writing friends I signed up. I had this epiphany: shouldn’t I write what I love reading? For the most part, that first draft poured out of me during NaNo, and within about 6 weeks I had a complete first draft.
What’s your writing routine like? What did you enjoy most about writing Heart of Mist?
Helen: When I’m in the midst of writing a book, my routine is pretty strict. I try to write every day, even if I can only manage 300 words on the train on the way to a meeting or something. That feeling of making progress, no matter how small, really helps keep me motivated.
What I loved most about writing Heart of Mist was that I wrote the first draft entirely for myself. It was a book I wanted to read, so I wrote it, and I wrote it with complete abandon.
As I mentioned, I’d been stuck on a previous book, I’d fallen out of love with it, and then Heart of Mist came along and it felt like I was a new writer, a new person. Everything about writing those characters and that story felt right to me.
There are a lot of really great characters in Heart of Mist, my personal favorite being Fiore. Who are your favourite Heart of Mist characters and why?
Helen: Why thank you! And I’m so glad you’ve said that because Fi is actually one of my favourites as well. I love his bromance with the Commander, and that he’s a bit of a dreamer. But more than anything, I love how loyal he is, without letting his friends get away with too much…
Then there are the obvious favourites like Bleak and Henri – the two female leads. What I love about them is that they’re these kickass women who are at the same time, also absolutely flawed.
I found Bleak’s difficulties with alcohol opens up discussion about drug addiction in young adults. Why did you choose addiction as a theme to explore in Heart of Mist?
Helen: I don’t think it was a conscious choice, it kind of just threaded itself into her character and the story.
As you grow up, you notice more and more people self-medicating with drugs and alcohol. Sometimes it’s temporary, sometimes it’s not, but it’s an issue that affects young adults just as much as adults, so it’s a theme that I hope generates some conversation.
There are a lot of strong female characters in Heart of Mist and the Valian way of life turns traditional gender roles on its head. What message did you have in mind when creating the Valia Kindred and their unique social hierarchy?
Helen: For me, the Valians were a hybrid of Amazon warriors and Spartan society. I was tired of seeing men get all the epic battle scenes and awe-inspiring skills, so I created the Valians.
At the same time, I wanted to make sure that it was clear no society is perfect. So while the “Valian Way” is a mantra to that particular group of people, Valia is by no means a utopia.
What made you decide to go with an independent publisher and what challenges have you faced?
Helen: Over the past few years both as an author and as publisher at Writer’s Edit Press, I’ve come to gain a lot of insight into the publishing industry… For me I came to my decision to go with Talem Press for a number of reasons…
First, I’d worked with a publisher on a previous book only to find out that even with a contract, there are no guarantees.
But more importantly, I’ve realised that I’m in a unique position. Through my work with Writer’s Edit, my Masters of Publishing and my job as a freelance editor, I’ve actually got a lot to bring to the table as an author.
As an author, I find that these skills and qualities are put to better use going indie.
In terms of challenges (besides the general hard work of writing, editing and producing a book)… I’d say the cost is certainly a struggle at times. If you’re doing things the right way, there’s no cutting costs – you want the best people on your team and rightly so, those people charge a lot of money.
I really enjoyed the world building in Heart of Mist, will we get to see the other continents in the next book?
Helen: Thank you! It was super fun for me creating a new realm from scratch (albeit challenging).
Anyway… I want to answer this so badly as I’m in the middle of writing some epic scenes for Book II, but I keep forgetting that Book I isn’t even out yet, so I better keep tight lipped on this one!
What are your plans now for the rest of the Oremere Chronicles and when can we expect the next book to be released?
Helen: Well… After Heart of Mist is released, Book II will be released in 2018 around the same time of year, with Book III to follow in 2019…
However, I’m doing something a little exciting on top of that! Before Heart of Mist and in between each book, I’ll be releasing a series of prequel stories, that take place before the events of The Oremere Chronicles.
Two of these are already available for free on my author website, with more to follow: http://bit.ly/2trOYL9
I’ve absolutely loved writing these shorter pieces that introduce my readers to some of the main characters!
Looking forward to it! Alright final question, what advice would you give to aspiring YA fantasy authors?
Helen: I’ve been asked this a few times lately and I always find myself giving different advice depending on where I’m at with my own work… Today I’m in the midst of writing a really difficult chapter of Book II in The Oremere Chronicles, so I’ll say this…
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself in your first draft. First drafts are meant to be bad. Just put your ideas on the page, get it done. The second, third, and fourth (etc.) drafts are for perfecting.
Purchase Heart of Mist
Available August 31st
Want to get a feel for the series before release day? There are actually three prequel stories available on Helen’s website completely free!
About the Author
That about wraps things up! The book will be out next week and I hope to see this book receive some more love and attention. I really enjoyed the novel and look forward to reading the rest of the series!
Let me know in the comments section below how you liked this interview and if I should do more interviews in the future. I would only try to do interviews for authors of books that I have personally read and enjoyed.