Most of you know that I love fantasy books of all kinds, so of course I jumped at the chance to interview author/editor Helen Scheuerer about her new YA fantasy novel, Heart of Mist, which debuts August 31st.The synopsis drew me in and I immediately knew I had to read this book. So if you love fantasy books and are looking for a new book to read, keep on reading and learn more about Heart of Mist and Helen’s writing process!
Now get ready to be inspired to write and read her book after you check out my interview with Helen; she has a ton of great advice for writers.
1. Your book is a fantasy novel featuring an interesting concept of toxic mist. What made you want to write this book/ what was your inspiration and how did you start the writing process?
Helen: About a year and a half ago now, I was working on a literary fiction novel that was giving me a lot of trouble. I’d lost my vision for it and the edits I was receiving were gut-wrenching. I honestly think Heart of Mist was born out of a desire to escape.
I’d been reading a lot of YA fantasy for the same reason, and had the realization: shouldn’t I be writing what I love reading?
NaNoWriMo was just around the corner, so myself and my two friends Kyra and Claire signed up. It feels like a long time ago now, but I think after a brief planning stint, I just jumped straight into the story. Six weeks later, the very rough first draft was complete...
2. What parts of your book did you struggle with and what parts did you enjoy the most? Do you have a favorite scene you wrote?
H: In Heart of Mist there’s a younger character named Dash, who’s about ten years old. He’s a POV character and I often found myself struggling to get into his head. I was constantly questioning would a 10-year-old do that? Would a 10-year-old say that? He was definitely the character I worried about the most.
In terms of enjoyment… By the time I got around to rewrites and edits, I surprised myself by finding that I enjoyed the worldbuilding, and that the descriptions were a lot of fun to write. I tend to layer these in later, after I’ve got the big picture details down on the page. So it was nice to take my time, listen to playlists and really revel in the scene I was painting.
As for favourite scene… Without wanting to spoil things… There’s an event when some kick-ass warrior women show up and do some damage. I love that #girlpower moment :)
3. You are an editor as well as a writer, how does your job as an editor affect your writing? Are you focused on the technicalities of your writing when you write or do you set aside the editing part of your brain and just write?
H: For the first draft, I try my best to set aside the editor hat. I’m a big believer in pumping out a first draft as quickly as possible and then using the time after to really perfect all the details.
Throughout my manuscript when I’m writing my first drafts, there’s loads of ‘XXX COME BACK TO THIS’ or ‘XXX NEEDS MORE DETAIL’ and sometimes even ‘XXX ARE YOU SERIOUS?’. That’s because I find that if I stop to try and make things perfect at this stage, it really kills my motivation and my momentum.
Later drafts are for analyzing the quality of the writing, first drafts are for the writer to get down all they know about their world, their characters and their story.
4. Who was your favorite character to write and why did they leave such an impact? What do you want readers to take away from that character?
H: It depends what day you ask me! But as I’m actually really enjoying writing a Bleak prequel story at the moment, let’s stick with her. What I love about Bleak is that she’s very flawed. She’s not your typical cool, beautiful, perfect heroine. She has a darkness to her, and can sometimes be quite selfish.
I suppose what I’d like readers to take away from her, and all the Heart of Mist characters really, is that everyone is flawed. In real life we’re constantly surrounded by people’s social media profiles that only ever show the best possible version of their lives. It’s nice to remind ourselves that nobody’s perfect, and that’s perfectly okay.
5. How long did it take you to write Heart of Mist? What advice would you give authors who struggle with finding time and motivation to tackle writing a book? (You can find a LOT of writing advice on Writersedit.com, a website and business that Helen founded!)
H: I wrote the first draft of Heart of Mist in about six weeks, most of which during NaNoWriMo of 2015. But it was a very rough draft, and it took me probably another year after that to rewrite, edit and refine the manuscript.
As for advice…
1. Find a supportive writing community. I had my two writing besties Kyra and Claire by my side throughout the whole process, and couldn’t have done it without them cheering me on.
2. Try and write a little each day. Even if it’s only a paragraph. I wrote Heart of Mist just about everywhere - on the train, in my lunch breaks, on a Friday night instead of going out. I was on holidays in Birmingham, a few days before Christmas when I finally wrote ‘The End’. Creating a good writing habit is half the battle.
3. Break the massive task (writing a book) into smaller tasks, like ‘Plot Chapter One’ or ‘Create Word Pool For XX Setting’... Doing it this way allows you to feel like you’re making progress, and keeps you motivated to keep checking things off your list.
6. Was there an author whose work you read to get inspiration from for your series? Why did you choose that author and what did you take away from their work that you wanted to fine tune in your own writing?
H: Hmmm… To be honest, I don’t read other authors’ work to get inspiration, but rather to escape. That’s what YA fantasy is to me - an escape from the daily grind, an escape from the stress and pressures I put on myself as an author… So for the most part I’m not analysing other books, but rather just enjoying them.
I definitely went through a period in life where I was reading what I thought I should be reading, rather than what I wanted to read. So I’m quite protective over what and how I read now.
That being said, I really admire writers like Sabaa Tahir and V.E. Schwab for the immense quality of their writing, and Sarah J. Maas for her insanely thoughtful plotting :)
7. Finally, what was your favorite part of the journey of writing a book? Was there a moment when it all became real to you?
H: For me, it’s always different for each book. With Heart of Mist I loved writing the first draft. It felt like it had been a long time since I wrote with such utter abandon. I had an absolute blast.
I think it was Stephen King in On Writing who said: “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story." That was very true of the first draft of HoM, and I found it incredibly liberating.
The moment it became real to me was when I saw the completed Heart of Mist map for the first time in print. I had worked closely with a very talented map maker based in France and we’d exchanged dozens of emails going over all the minute details like terrain styles and town illustrations, but seeing it finished at the front of my book was surreal… Here was this realm that had been in my head for two years, fully formed, in a stunning map for all my readers to see.
Thank you for an awesome interview, Helen!
I also can't wait to dive into Heart of Mist and experience that kickass warrior women scene Helen mentioned. Everything about this book screams exciting!
What do you guys think? Are you going to buy it when it releases on August 31st? Check back on August 28th and I will have a review of Heart of Mist to help you decide!
In the meantime, feel free to check Helen out on all her social media and websites; she is super nice!
Don't forget to add Heart of Mist to Goodreads!
About Helen Scheuerer:
Helen Scheuerer is a YA fantasy author from Sydney, Australia. Heart of Mist is the first book in her high fantasy trilogy, The Oremere Chronicles. It explores themes of identity, belonging, loyalty, addiction, loss, and responsibility.
After writing literary fiction for a number of years, novels like Throne of Glass, Elantris, The Queen’s Poisoner and The Queen of the Tearling inspired Helen to return to her childhood love of fantasy.
Helen is also the Founding Editor of Writer’s Edit (www.writersedit.com), an online literary magazine and learning platform for emerging writers. It’s now one of the largest writers’ platforms in the world.
Helen’s love of writing and books led her to pursue a Bachelor of Creative Arts, majoring in Creative Writing at the University of Wollongong and a Masters of Publishing at the University of Sydney.
Helen now works as a freelance writer and editor, while she works on the second book in The Oremere Chronicles.