Today, I have the pleasure of introducing to you not only a fellow author but long time writerly friend Heather Blanchard. Heather writes about magic, mystery, folklore and the supernatural.
1. When did you first call yourself a ‘writer’?
I don’t think I really embraced the word ‘writer’ until I was actually writing my first book. I always considered myself a writer but I had a bit of imposter syndrome around actually calling myself a writer to other people. Usually people respond with lots of questions and I wanted to avoid that.
2. Tell me about your books.
My first book, Dark is the Sea, is about a girl who moves back to her hometown in Scotland and discovers that she is a hereditary witch. And because of this, she is in danger from someone who hunts her kind. She has to learn how to protect herself and harness her powers before it’s too late. This book was very much inspired by sleep paralysis that I had experienced in the past, as well as my own fascination with both witchcraft and Scottish folklore.
My next book, The Song of the Mists, is also set in Scotland and again has elements of witchcraft and folklore, but it is about a woman who is investigating cases of mysterious deaths at a local sacred site that has links with fairies and ancient magic. It is inspired by missing person cases I’ve read about that were rumoured to be fairy abductions.
3. What inspires you to write?
Stories about the supernatural inspire me the most. I’ve always been excited by the more mysterious side of things. Witchcraft and the occult, history and folklore. The strange history of places feeds me lots of ideas.
4. How important is research to you when writing a book?
As soon as I get that spark of an idea then I dive into the research. I love academia, especially the research aspect of it, so research is both important and exciting to me. I collect books on folklore and magic. The trouble for me, is recognising when research is turning into procrastination.
I usually do thorough research for a couple of weeks to see where the thread leads me, so to speak, but after that I get to work on the outline and the actual writing. If there’s anything that needs further research, I make a note to come back to it after the first draft.
5. When and where do you write?
I predominately write at home. I like quiet and my own space with few distractions. And also access to my vast collection of herbal teas. If I’m not working in silence then I like listening to storms or film scores.
I have a lovely desk that I’ve set up but more often than not, I end up writing on the sofa under a cuddly blanket with one of my dogs lying on my feet until they give me pins and needles.
I do travel a bit, and when I do, I like to work in cafes or communal work spaces with headphones on and lots of coffee!
6. Plotter or pantser?
I’ve tried both but I’m definitely a plotter. I enjoy writing character bios and drawing maps of the settings and house plans. I write a short synopsis for each scene, that way, when I sit down to write each day I have a framework to work with. I’m a fan of fast drafting paired with a detailed outline.
7. Putting aside the writing for a minute, what is your favourite genre to read?
I read widely in all genres, but my favourites are Gothic, magical realism and horror/supernatural. I love Gothic so much that I did a Masters in Gothic literature and film a few years ago. I’ve noticed a lot more Gothic novels in the market recently, so I take it I’m not the only one who’s a fan.
8. Any advice for writers just starting out?
Making daily writing a practice is key. Writing every day breaks through procrastination as well as helping to hone your craft. I recently read the book Deep Work by Cal Newport and it encourages the idea of working undistracted for a set time each day and to be more aware of what your distractions are.
Looking up things on my phone is a deadly wormhole of time suck for me, so now I try and schedule in time to check my emails and social media, and when it’s time to work, I use the Forest app. It stops me from picking up my phone, because if I do, my virtual tree will die. Instead, I keep a notepad next to me to scribble ideas to look up later.
I’m a bit obsessed with reading books on productivity and creativity. I think it’s important to try out different methods and see what works for you. It’s a bit like Goldilocks – something will click in the end.
9. What books are you working on now or planning for the future?
I have a few ideas swimming around. I’ve written a couple of first drafts of books but they didn’t work out for me at the time, though I may return to them in the future. Right now I’m working on The Song of the Mists which will be released later this year. I’d love to write a vampire novel one day, but my vampire wouldn’t be a romantic figure!
You can find Heather on:
Her website is darkisthesea.com