Author Interview with Heather Blanchard

author interview with heather blanchard

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:

Twitter: @H_Blanchard_

Instagram: @h_blanchard_

Facebook: @heatherblanchardauthor

Her website is darkisthesea.com

Interview with author Suzanna Williams

interview with author Suzanna Williams

Today, I have the pleasure of introducing to you not only a wonderful writer but a good friend too, author Suzanna Williams. Suzanna is a YA writer of stories that cover sci fi, action and adventure, with a touch of parkour and romance thrown in too.

And Suzanna has a little freebie treat for readers of this blog post. Read on to find out more.

When did you first call yourself a ‘writer’?

I told my primary school teacher I was a writer after I’d filled a whole exercise book with a story for homework. It was called ‘Mr Uncle the Ostrich’, (which I still think is a good title). My teacher must have taken a long time to mark it, because future homework had a limit on the pages we could write. My mum complained about the teacher’s attitude which didn’t make me popular, but it didn’t deter me. I was a writer. I had to write.

Tell me about your books.

I have two YA books out at the moment.

Shockwaves book cover

‘ShockWaves’ is a fast-paced YA action-adventure. It’s about a girl who gets kidnapped by an ex-IRA terrorist and the boy who tries to save her, and it involves lots of parkour, some gymnastics and a touch of telepathy.  

‘Ninety-five percent Human’ is a YA sci-fi romance in which a sixteen-year-old Welsh hill-farmer, a human-alien hybrid and a robot life-form with a bad sense of humour take on an alien leader set to invade Earth.

There are two short story prequels to go with this series. ‘Jake’, the evolving robotic fighter-pilot-turned-space-pirate, the unexpected hit character from Ninety-five percent Human. And ‘Sarah’, the human/alien hybrid sent to test the viability of life on Earth.

The awesome readers of Fi’s blog can download a copy of ‘Sarah’ for free.

What inspires you to write?

Ideas often come from a story I’ve read or a film I’ve watched. Some characters or situations will spark an imagination explosion of ‘but-what-if’s…’ I keep these in my notebook until one of them morphs into a plotline that keeps me awake at night. I am a very sound sleeper, so, I write down any story that disturbs my eight-hours.

How important is research to you when writing a book?

I like to get facts correct.

  • How long would it actually take a one-armed pilot with an eyepatch to fly from London to Outer Mongolia in a Cessna during a thunderstorm?
  • Would it be physically possible for someone to drag themselves ten miles through the burning Amazon rainforest with a broken leg whilst carrying an unconscious wombat suffering from smoke inhalation?
  • In which country would you find a noxious pink plant that would make you hallucinate asteroids falling from the sky?

For these awkward questions, Google is my friend.

On a more realistic note, I once sailed to Ireland and back on the Ferry at night to experience the atmosphere to write in a book, and a lot of the settings in my stories are places I’ve visited.

(Note: I don’t know the answer to the above questions. Any guesses?)

What is your writing schedule like? Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?

I wish I could say yes to this question, but amongst the chaos that is my life, I don’t have the luxury of a writing schedule. Setting targets and watching them fly past unmet makes me sad. I prefer the satisfaction of snatching a few unexpected hours whenever I get the chance. This method is not productive, and I would not recommend it. However, it keeps me partly sane until life improves.

Plotter or pantser?

I started off a pantser. Over the years I have set into many a story with nothing more than the whiff of an idea and an overdose of enthusiasm. This has mostly ended badly. My aimless characters would meander around for several hundred pages before being written into a corner from which I could find them no escape. The manuscript then came to rest among the ranks of the undead unfinished.

On the rare occasion I typed ‘the end’, it would take more edits than I care to admit for me to untangle the plot holes and character inconsistencies I inevitably found when I read it back. This had to stop.

Starting off with a solid plot helps me find the problems with my story before I begin. The more detail I can add, the better the expectation that I will finish. Plotting rules!

Putting aside the writing for a minute, what is your favourite genre to read?

Not sure I have a favourite genre. It might be more useful to say what I don’t like.

So, in no particular order:

  • Erotica. Romance is good but leave the bedroom door shut please.
  • Historical novels. Especially those featuring sub-servient women with menfolk who abuse them. These are just too irritating. I’d leave them on the shelf.
  • Thrillers where children get abducted/tortured/murdered. Books are my escape and I don’t need a reminder that people can be horribly cruel. I’m a big believer in the happy-ever-after ending.

Most other books are fair game.

Any advice for writers just starting out?

Read as much as you can, even books you think you won’t like. (This is especially good at combatting ‘writer’s block.’)

Write as much as you can, even things you think are useless. (Yes, some of your words will be absolute trash, but some will be genius; go with those.)

Repeat.

Repeat again.

What books are you working on now or planning for the future?

I’ve had a long period where real life has brought my writing to a standstill, but I’m happy to be finalizing the last edit of AfterShock, which is the sequel to ShockWaves. It’s been a long time coming but I have a tentative release date in December. I’ve had new covers designed for the series which makes me smile every time I look at them.

I’ve also written a new middle grade series and I’m working with an illustrator on them. I’m not putting a release date on this project (see question 5 above) but fingers crossed it will be in the near future.

A big thank you to Fi Phillips for allowing me onto her blog. I’m looking forward to seeing Haven Wakes on the best sellers list very soon.

*

Thanks, Suzanna. Some great answers there.

You can find Suzanna by visiting:

And once again, you can download her free short story ‘Sarah’ here.