To keep things simple and easy to read, my questions shall be bold and Heidi’s responses shall be italicized!
Paige: Thanks so much for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog.
Heidi: Sounds great! Thank you for doing this interview and setting everything out so clearly.
Paige: When did you know you wanted to write novels? How did you get started writing?
Heidi: I didn’t go about it so direct as, “I want to write novels.” I started writing poetry, free verse, to cope with adolescence. I’ve always had interesting dreams, so in my early twenties I made my first attempt at writing a novel based on one of my dreams that really fascinated me. I didn’t get very far with that one. I made my second attempt in my late twenties with an entirely different story. I got the first draft of that one finished, but never took it any further. My third attempt, which ended in self-publishing Nandana’s Mark, started with the Queen of the Realm of Faerie story, five years ago. It has been through many iterations in the past five years. This time, I stuck with it!
Paige: So Nandana’s Mark was inspired by a dream? Was it a specific scene?
Heidi: No, actually. Nandana’s Mark was not inspired by a dream; that was my first attempt at a book. Let me try to be succinct.
My mother and I had a very troubled relationship. I loved her very much, but we were separated when I was young (4). She died before I had the chance to reconnect with her (23). I had the good fortune to reconnect with her mother, my grandma, when grandma was ninety-four and in hospice care; I spent the last two weeks of her life with her. I can’t tell you how much this meant to me, after not being able to be there when my mother died.
THIS IS IT: I was there the moment Grandma died. I swear, a light entered the room. I have had a peace since then I never had before. The series was born in that moment; that is why I have stuck with it. It’s just really deep within me.
Sorry if that sounds corny!
Sounds like you had a rough time of it growing up. So sorry to hear about your mother and grandma. And it’s not corny; it’s interesting. Is it safe to assume Melia’s relationship with her mother was inspired a bit by your own relationship with yours? Were any of your characters inspired by specific people?
Thank you for the kind words; they made me feel better. Uhm… I think about this sometimes… I didn’t consciously model Melia’s relationship with Pressina after mine with my mother – are there shadows there? Possibly. I’ve had other mother figures. I suspect they have come into play, too.
Flora is the spirit of my grandma. Grandma was petite and had a much more refined social persona, but she could be really stern. As the series unfolds, I think– I hope– readers will see in Flora some of what I loved in my grandma. She will also help Melia in ways that my grandma did help me. This series is really, fundamentally, an ode of love to Grandma – a rather humble woman who I don’t think ever received the recognition she deserved.
She kind of saved me.
Aww! That’s incredibly sweet. Is there an underlying message you’re hoping your readers will take away from the series?
First, I want to tell a good story that readers will enjoy. If I want them to take away anything, it would probably be to have faith in life itself, and their own lives within that. It’s all a great mystery, but I truly believe there is something mystical going on on this planet.
What do you mean by “something mystical?” Can you give an example?
I do think we are connected to the ones we love, even when we are not in direct physical contact. That would come from dreams I’ve had about my mother after she died. I think loving, and being loved, are mystical experiences; when they are real, they transcend so much garbage. It is amazing the wounds people can accumulate in a lifetime, but loving and being loved can heal them. I dunno. I just think that’s mystical, because sometimes you think, “I will never heal.”
That’s a beautiful take on life there. I tend to agree.
It seems to me that the very idea of incarnating Umbra in NM went from being an absolutely Very Bad Thing to being more of a gray area. Would Umbra’s incarnation be a Very Bad Thing, or simply a frightening, but necessary, catalyst for some very positive changes in Faerie?
Well, that is kind of the story. What would happen if Umbra incarnated? How bad would it have to get before it got better? If it got really bad, could things get better? You figured it out! LOL.
I think I sense a message about good, evil, and hope in there somewhere.
Yeah, all those “cliches.”
Cliche, maybe. But they seem to be themes in every story ever written, because they’re themes so important to most every person. My opinion, anyway.
I agree. I mean, in the end, without hope there’s not a lot. And good and evil are always in play…
How did you come up with the names for all your characters and locations? They’re quite unique.
Ooh.. The names… I really like names, and I just did a lot of name searches. Then, I’d sit there for hours and play with various spellings until I came up with something I liked. The first draft, everything had kind of child-like names, very simple, but I ended up not liking that, so I started playing with them. I ended up liking the -ai endings, as you could probably tell, and used those more often.
Haha. I tend to do the same thing, but I’m terrible at naming things.
So, what can we expect to see in the sequel? Any details you’re willing to share?
Let’s see… Melia WILL BE doing everything she can to save Plantine from that muannaye, Lord Goring, but she MIGHT run into a few kinks along the way. Her relationship with Ohloh will possibly be tested, and I hope there will be a few surprises for the readers with how the second book ends. I am right in the middle of the heavy revisions, so some of this is being fine-tuned.
I’m excited to read it! What’s it called and when do you expect to release it?
Thank you. I do hope you enjoy it. The Flower of Isbelline. The calendar date is scheduled as December 15th. At this point, that still looks like a good date.
A lot of my readers are also writers, so I have a handful of more general, writing-related questions for you, too.
Tell me about your writing process. Do you set word count goals? How do you deal with writer’s block?
I do time goals. That just works best for me. If I do my time goals, even if the output is really inconsistent across sessions, the writing still gets done.
Writer’s block… I kind of don’t have that. Or maybe I just call it something else: Overcoming Inertia. Once I start typing, I am good. As long as I can coax myself to start typing, I am good. I overwrite, so I am okay if what I write is crap sometimes. The crap always tends to suss out some really good stuff if I just keep going.
What’s your favorite time of day to write?
I love to write in the early morning when the world is still quiet. But, when I am under deadline, I just push. Pushing is actually good, I think. It really forces the creative muscle. I do some of my best writing when I am pushing.
Interesting. I’m the opposite.
Who, or what, is your biggest inspiration as a writer?
Probably Stephen King. I loved The Stand— the shorter version. Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, are books I read as a teenager that really captured my imagination. As an adult, I just fell in love with Alice Hoffman… I am on an Alice Hoffman kick right now.
But I read this one other series, Angelique, by a husband and wife writing team. It’s historical romance, but I went back and read them all again a few years back and was surprised there was quite a bit of mysticism in them. I really don’t like historical romance. Which made it so weird that I liked this series so much. But, in the end, a good book is a good book!
Do you have any “Someday, I want to write that!” stories waiting on the back burner?
YES! I want to write a magical realism story… The kind where magic is part of the ethers, you know. It’s just there and if you’re paying attention… you can see it.
I love it, but I think it would be very hard to write a good one.
Ooooh! Sounds fun!
Do you plan to ever include any LGBT or deaf characters in your work? It seems most genres are lacking them.
That’s an interesting question. No, I guess I hadn’t thought of either of those explicitly, but I have been watching Glee. They have done some interesting things with their LGBT characters. For the deaf character, I can’t remember thinking about that.
I think a lot of hearing, cisgendered, straight writers simply don’t consider writing them.
I think that’s true. I think, maybe, if you write a certain bulk of stuff, then you are hungry to write more. You’d probably seek out more different types of characters and stories.
Chasing Amy is one of my all time favorite movies. It’s the ultimate love story.To me, the message was: It doesn’t matter who you love. It matters that you love. And, when you find love, cling to it. I believe that.
How do you feel about the changes we’ve been seeing in the publishing industry over the last few years?
Well, I think they are very exciting, but I was fortunate to be an early adopter of amazon, so, although I wasn’t the first to jump on the digital publishing band wagon by any means, I think it’s just huge and it’s going to shake literature to the core. And I think that’s always good. I was a singer/songwriter in the day, and the music industry survived, and so will the written arts. But, I think it’s going to be a really wild ride, for maybe the next four or five years. And, yes. Wild can be fun!
Indeed. What’s the best piece of advice you could give an aspiring author?
Read what you really love, and write. Finish the stories. Even if you don’t publish them. Finishing is a discipline and craft in itself. The more complete stories/novels you write, the better you’ll get.
Also, I do have this thing against forcing yourself to read stuff you don’t like. It’s okay for school, but, if you’re a writer, you need to read the stuff that seizes you. I think that’s just really important to let yourself have that.
Good advice! Now. If you could have one superpower, what would you choose?
Oh gosh, you ask me this right now… To imagine the completed book and, Whalah! There it is, perfectly written with not a single typo! LOL.
Maybe that is a very selfish superpower, but if the readers love the story, maybe not!
Hahaha! And, if you couldn’t choose, what superpower do you think the universe would bestow upon you?
Tolerance. Tolerance is a very powerful superpower, LOL! (I think I may just be lame at imagining superpowers.)
Not at all! Tolerance is definitely a superpower in my book. Thank you again for doing this interview!
Thank you, Paige. It was very fun!
I’m glad you enjoyed it. I certainly did.
And that concludes our interview with the lovely Heidi Garrett. Go check out her blog, buy her debut novel, and keep an eye out for the second book in the Queen of the Realm of Faerie series, The Flower of Isbelline, due out in mid-December, 2012.
I will be helping to host a giveaway of Nandana’s Mark by Heidi Garrett. It will be held October 8-12 with the winner announced on the 15th.