In the first in our trilogy of interviews between three authors who are powerhouses of paranormal romance, urban fantasy and more, Charlaine Harris (author of the Sookie Stackhouse Mysteries, Midnight, Texas and more) interviews Suzanne McLeod (author of the Spellcrackers.com series) about writing, urban fantasy, and Hellhounds…
CH: How long will the Spellcrackers series continue?
SM: There are currently three more books to come in the Spellcrackers series! The next one up is The Hidden Rune of Iron which is book #5. It’s going to be the last book to feature Genny Taylor as the main character and it sees her on a quest for the iron rune of the title. During her quest a lot of long-standing questions get answered about Genny, her magic (or rather her lack of it), her past (we finally get to meet Clíona, Genny’s murderous sidhe queen grandmother!), and what’s in store for Genny’s future, and, of course, what’s in store for the rest of the Spellcrackers gang. *cough*Malik*cough* #teases. Genny’s still going to be around as a background character in the two books after The Hidden Rune of Iron but those stories are going to feature a new main character, one I hope everyone will love just as much as they do Genny. And that’s all I’m going to say for now as I don’t want to steal any of the thunder from Genny’s final story! 😉
CH: Do you find it harder to write short stories than novels?
SM: I do! I write long books with twisty plots and complex characters and lots of ‘iceberg’ worldbuilding (and maybe the odd fantasy kitchen sink!), and it’s a challenge to fit all that into a short story (though I’ve been known to try!). But challenge as they are, it’s also great fun to write short stories. If they’re ones set in the Spellcrackers world it means I get to write about parts of Genny’s life and backstory in more detail than the books allow, or I get the opportunity to show the Spellcrackers world through some of the other characters’ points of view which always turns out interesting (in a good way, of course, though not always for the characters … ;-)). And if it’s not a Spellcrackers story then it’s a chance to explore a totally different world with different rules and different characters (obviously!), which is always an inspiration for a writer’s imagination.
CH: How do you measure your work progress? Number of pages, number of words, hours on the clock?
SM: I’ve tried all three methods at different times and I find the one that works best for me is hours on the clock. I find that if I measure progress by pages or words, which depending on the circumstances can be lots or hardly any – a difficult scene might only end up a few hundred words but take a good few days to get right even in first draft form – and for me that lack of forward progress can end up a tad demoralising. So I now turn off the word count on my laptop screen so it can’t distract me, and set a target for hours to work rather than words to write. I use an alarm to let me know when I’ve done an hour and take a short break (AKA cup of tea/stretch legs time!), and then when I’ve done my hours, I’m done. Time makes for a much more constant achievable target.
CH: Every writer I know likes animals, and I remember you do, too. What animals are sharing your life now?
SM:We have two Hellhounds! They’re both rescue dogs and so named because when they first came to live with us life was pretty hellish at times. Hellhound #1was very stressy and also wanted to be Top Dog and House Protector – cue lots of zooomies and barking and lunging at other dogs and chasing of foxy and feathered and furry garden interlopers! Hellhound #2 was super anxious and a super thief and super hungry (Labradors – dustbins on legs!), which meant a lot of our time was spent chasing after him and rescuing things (cushions, glasses, computer mice, shoes, pictures, clothes, mobile phones, bags, pillows, remotes, or really anything he could get his gnashers on!) before he could chew them to destruction! And if we were out walking we spent all our time chasing him (again) before he could find something super disgusting and eat it. But now they’ve both settled down and know they’re in their happy forever home they’re a joy (mostly) to live with. 🙂
CH: What was the initial germ that spawned your world?
SM: Back when I started writing I took a ‘Writing for Beginners’ class and each week we had to write a short story for our homework. One of those homework stories was Sanctuary, a flash story about two trolls on the hunt for a young girl. After a lot of late night/early morning pondering (insomnia doesn’t always suck…) about just who the young girl was and why the trolls were hunting her, and plot-noodling about what sort of London she lived in, I came up with Genny and her Spellcrackers world. If you so wish (and with the caveat that it was written a looong time ago), Sanctuary is available to read on my website – http://www.spellcrackers.com/Sanctuary.html
CH: Would you like to spend a day in your world?
SM: London, the setting for Spellcrackers, is my favourite city and is an amazingly magical place. But I’d love it even more if it was truly magical and I could buy a Bad-Hair-Day spell at the Witches Market in Covent Garden, watch the pixies cause havoc in Trafalgar Square, stomp at a New Moon party on London Bridge with the local trolls, down cocktails at the Blue Heart vampire nightclub in Leicester Square (biting optional!), or take a stroll through the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew – the spiritual home of the dryads – with my very own personal dryad guide! So that would be a Big Fat Yes to spending a day in my magical Spellcrackers world!
Thanks so much to Charlaine for all her questions! I had fun answering them and I hope you all enjoy the interview and the rest of the fabulous Gollancz Festival 2016!
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