Our newsletter Author of the Month is Helen Lowe. She has just had a book released called "Heir of the Night' and I have perviously reviewed it on the blog. Seriously you must check this book out, its fantastic! Now back to the intro, I asked Helen is she would kindly do us a guest blog on her book, just to give us a taste of it, for all those people out there who didn't read my review :D A thank you to PJ Fitzpatrick for the lovely picture of Helen. If you want to read some other great reviews then click here. The Specusphere gives a great one!
by Helen Lowe
Not so very long ago, and in several cities not so very far away (because her family moved around a lot) a little girl was growing up who loved stories. One of her earliest memories is listening in to Sunday morning radio’s story time for kids. Her favourite story, incidentally, was Sleeping Beauty: because of the magic of it, the gifts and the wicked fairy and the sleeping palace, as well as the vast sense of time in the hundred years’ sleep; but also the wildness and the adventure—the vast, tangled forest growing up, and then at last a prince hacking his way through that hedge of thorns to break the spell. Later, when she was grown up, the girl would retell that story in a way that she felt best captured that early sense of magic and adventure—from the perspective of the prince who breaks the spell. Perhaps not surprisingly, the story was called Thornspell (Knopf, 2008) and it was the first published novel for the author that little girl became.
But we’re getting too far ahead. Way back then, the girl got a little older and grew to love, not just hearing stories, but reading them in books. She read all the Narnia stories, Alan Garner’s Elidor and Roger Lancelyn Green’s Tales of Troy and Greece, as well as a myriad tales by Rosemary Sutcliff (The Eagle of the Ninth), Susan Cooper(The Dark is Rising) and Peter Dickinson (The Weathermonger.) A little older again and she was reading The Lord of the Rings and Dune and Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. The die, one might say, had been well and truly cast!
You’ve probably guessed that that little girl was me, and that while I was reading all these books I was also writing stories. My first short stories, on “realistic” themes, were published and broadcast in my teens. But when it came to book length stories, the ideas that “sparked” were always either fantasy or science fiction. The stories I’d loved reading—the epic sweep of The Lord of the Rings, the magic and power and darkness of the Greek and Norse myths, and the cultural and character nuances of books like The Left Hand of Darkness—were the kind of stories I wanted to tell: stories of “what if” and “wonder” and “possibility.”
Many ideas grew out of that mix. Thornspell was one, but another that kept recurring from very early on was the possibility of a twilit world, shot through with darkness and danger. What would it look like? And would the whole world be like that, or only parts of it? The bitter peaks and wind-blasted mountain range that became the Wall of Night grew from those (years of) imagining, but so too did the other realms of the world I came to call Haarth: the Winter Country, and Ij the Golden—a city built on islands between the river Ijir and the sea, and home to sages and merchant princes, minstrels and assassins—the dukedom of Emer with its heavily armoured knights, and Jaransor, where the land itself may be aware …
And “what if”, on the dark and wind-blasted Wall, there were a people who believed themselves to be defenders of good, but were in fact divided by prejudice, suspicion and fear. How would that work itself out through the story? Also, what if this people were not bravely defending their own homes and world against an external evil, but were in fact alien themselves and had brought their war and their enemy with them—how might that play out? What might the other people who were indigenous to the world think about it, or perhaps more importantly, do?
It was these “possibilities” and “what-ifs” that gave rise to The Heir of Night—and the “wonder” of both world and character building as the story evolved that drove the book to completion. Because in the end, no matter how many what-ifs and possibilities present themselves, every story hangs off its characters—and it is in the act of developing characters (or having them tell you how they intend developing) that the joy of storytelling lies. So who is Malian and what does it mean to be the Heir of Night on that bitter, wind-blasted mountain range (and these, by the way, are winds that flay flesh from bone)—or in the wider world of Haarth? Who are her friends and family, enemies and allies, and what is their stake in the story? I can’t answer these questions now, because to do that properly takes a book—and also because, as that little girl who loved stories knew, the magic thing about story is that you are part of it. To experience the magic you have to read or listen for yourself, and let the story unfold . . .
Helen Lowe is a New Zealand-based author, poet and interviewer. Her first novel Thornspell (Knopf, 2008) won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for “Best Novel: Young Adult” 2009, and Helen won the Award for “Best New Talent” in the same year. Helen’s second novel, The Heir of Night (The Wall of Night, Book One) is now on sale in the USA/Canada and Australia/New Zealand and will launch in the UK in March 2011. She also blogs on the first of every month on the Supernatural Underground and every day on her own Helen Lowe on Anything, Really site.
Now go out and grab yourself a copy!