Welcome to another of my famous author interviews! Yes, they really are famous. Just go with me on this.
Today, I’m interviewing the very talented Hannah Heath, who’s embarking on a very cool writing project this year. She’s releasing a series of short stories called The Terebinth Tree Chronicles, which serve as prequels to her to-be-published novel The Stump of the Terebinth Tree. The first of these stories, “Colors of Fear,” is coming to Amazon and Barnes & Noble (in both ebook and paperback editions) on February 2. Yes, I will give you the pre-order link, but you’ll have to read the interview first. My blog, my rules. Be patient.
A little more about Hannah:
Hannah Heath is an author of YA Christian speculative fiction. She believes that words hold a special kind of magic: They have the power to open the mind, to change the heart, to transform the world. Because of this, it is her goal to use this magic to create stories that encourage and inspire the people who read them. By writing stories with souls, she hopes to better the lives of those around her.
Hannah lives in Southern California, where she is attempting to wield magic with her keyboard, read all of the books on earth, join every nerd fandom within reach, and graduate from college without driving herself or her professors crazy.
And the synopsis for “Colors of Fear”:
One sorcerer. Four assassins. Uncover the stories of the warriors who will one day band together to kill the most powerful being in their world.
Fear. It is all around him. Wanderer sees it in the eyes of his fellow desert elves as they set out to fight a war that consumes countless lives. Hears it in his brother’s coughs as black magic slowly kills him. Feels it as strange colors appear in midair, seeking to suffocate him.
No matter how he twists it, he can only see two choices: Leave his sick brother and join a war where he will surely perish, or face his brother’s dying days and let his world be destroyed without putting up a fight.
To face one fear is to flee from another. Whichever path he chooses brands him a coward, but he cannot run any longer. Wanderer must make a choice: Will he allow fear to control him? Or will he find a way to reclaim his life?
Welcome, Hannah! Tell us how you started out as a writer.
I started writing far before I learned how to spell properly, inspired by authors such as C.S. Lewis, Scott O’Dell, and Lloyd Alexander. The first “book” I ever wrote was about a group of horses who were traveling to a mountain to destroy a magic horseshoe. I was about nine at the time. This story was never published….mostly because it was terrible, but also because I would have ended up being charged with copyright infringement by the Tolkien family. I’m proud to say that my first publication, Skies of Dripping Gold, is neither terrible nor a rip-off of a beloved fandom.
Pretend my readers and I are Hollywood producers and pitch The Terebinth Tree Chronicles to us. What’s the story premise in a nutshell, and what sets it apart from other works in the fantasy genre?
A YA Christian Fantasy series, The Terebinth Tree Chronicles tells the stories of the warriors who will one day band together to assassinate the most powerful sorcerer in their world. Complete with swords, magic, and assassins, this series contains all of your favorite fantasy elements, but with added bonuses like complex character arcs, thought-provoking themes, and rich (but non-info-dumping) world-building.
You’re trying a very cool, experimental-ish method of launching your series by sharing these short stories first. Could you elaborate on the thought process behind that?
Sure. I watched a lot of fantasy movies growing up….So much so that my family and I noticed a common trend within the genre. Before the movie officially starts, often a short, prologue-like clip flashes across the screen that establishes the world, the plot, and the characters. My family calls this The Movie Before the Movie and I always get excited when I see them. Partly because of my upbringing as a speculative fiction junkie, I’m now writing fantasy stories of my own. My current novel, The Stump of the Terebinth Tree, is a Christian Fantasy novel about four assassins struggling to kill a sorcerer and have faith in something beyond their own swords. Christian Fantasy is not a popular genre and my writing style is far from orthodox, so I knew I was going to have to do something different if I wanted a shot at publishing this book. That’s when I started wondering: What if I wrote The Stories Before the Story? What if I introduced my readers to the the main characters of The Stump of the Terebinth Tree in a way that left them wanting more? And that’s how The Terebinth Tree Chronicles came into being.
What inspired the Terebinth Tree stories in the first place?
No one moment inspired this story….Rather, it’s a patchwork of things I’ve encountered throughout my life. The stories were formed by my love for fantasy, by people I’ve met, struggles I’ve faced, and the God that’s been with me through it all. A vague answer, I know, but it’s true.
What was the inspiration behind the intriguing role that colors play in “Colors of Fear”?
The colors originated from something I’ve been struggling with for quite some time now: Depression. There are days that I can almost feel the depression around me: Dark and heavy and suffocating. I know I can’t be the only one who feels this way, so I wanted to weave it into my stories to show people that they aren’t alone. And, more importantly, to encourage others by letting them read about characters who overcome this darkness. With this in mind, I turned various colors into representations of different emotions, a concept that took front and center in Colors of Fear. The meaning of the colors morphed slightly as I kept writing, but I won’t go into that because of spoilers. You’ll figure it out come story #3.
What are some of the predominant themes you explore in these stories?
The main theme woven throughout these stories is that of faith and courage. Specifically, having the courage to put your faith in something you can’t see…as well as what happens when you let fear, anger, or pride eat away at your beliefs.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting these stories written, and how did you overcome it?
Ha. Well…technically I’ve only written one of the five stories that are going to be published (I like to live dangerously). For Colors of Fear, the biggest challenge was writing something so different from what is usually published. I felt like I was flying blind and was afraid of doing something incorrect. But one day I realized: This is my story. There is no such thing as “incorrect” unless I say that there is. This helped me shut down the nagging “This is a terrible idea” voice inside my head and allowed me to just go with what felt right. Like pretty much every writing project I tackle, it ended up being partly terrifying and partly fun.
Tell us about your writing process. How do you develop your ideas, and what’s your balance between outlining and discovery writing?
Much like the Joker, I just…do things. I stumble across a good idea and I chase after it. Once I finally catch up with it, I’m not always quite sure what to do with it because it’s often bigger and more chaotic than originally expected. So I chop it down into a few basic ideas, find the character’s climax, decide how I’d like the story to end, and write towards that. I don’t outline because, in my personal experience, outlines are specifically designed to torture me. I attempted one for Colors of Fear and instantly regretted it, so I threw the whole thing out and started over with my Joker-like writing process. It worked out from there.
What’s your favorite music to listen to while writing?
It changes on a regular basis. One week I’ll be listening to Japanese pop, the next I’ll be into 80’s rock. As it turns out, electropop was the main type of music I listened to as I wrote Colors of Fear.
Who are your three favorite fiction writers?
C.S. Lewis and Douglas Adams are always my top two. My third favorite writer is always changing…I am currently in awe of Patrick Ness.
What is your favorite writing-craft resource?
I actually don’t have one. I write largely off of what feels right to me and don’t like to muddle myself by taking outside advice. That being said, I suppose my bookshelf qualifies as my greatest resource: I learn a lot by simply reading massive amounts of fiction and noticing how different authors tackle plot devices, character arcs, writing styles, etc.
What advice would you give aspiring authors working toward publishing their own books?
Don’t be afraid. First drafts? Final edits? Writing jacket blurbs? They’re all hard. And you’ll often feel like you’re doing something terribly, terribly wrong. That’s okay. All that matters is that you put words on a page because, if you’re an aspiring author, then that’s what you’re meant to do. So do it. The rest will sort itself out.
What are your plans for the future of the Terebinth Tree stories?
After Colors of Fear there will be four more stories, adding up to a total of five. Each one tells the story of a different character and will release roughly two months apart from each other. I’m quite excited (and just a little bit stressed) about the whole project.
Thanks, Hannah! Having read the excellent “Colors of Fear” (you can check out my review in my recent Book Review Explosion post), I’m excited to continue the Terebinth Tree saga.
And, as promised, here is the pre-order link for “Colors of Fear.” You can stalk Hannah Heath elsewhere on the internet via the additional links below.
Hannah’s other published book, Skies of Dripping Gold: http://amzn.to/2Fkf0lm