Author Interview: Deb E. Howell – Healer’s Touch
Happy Thursday everyone!
Today I have an interview with Deb E. Howell of New Zealand, blogger and author of the Fantasy novel: Healer’s Touch. Deb was gracious enough to answer a series of questions regarding her work. We ranged over a variety of topics including: Characters, publishing, inspiration, the process of writing and of course, pets. (All Hail The Furry Overlords!)
Right. On with the interview!
1. Let’s start with the basics, can you tells us something not listed in your bio on your blog (http://deberelene.com/about/)
Yep. I love the colour purple, and I’m still working on being brave enough to really be “me” out in the world. Getting there.
2. How are things going with Healer’s Touch? It was released in January
That’s right. It was officially unleashed on the world on 31st January. It’s really hard to gauge how it’s going – I have no way to see actual sales numbers. My guess is that it’s getting along modestly with a couple of sales here and there most days. Not exactly enough to retire on! But this is early days. It went out there with none of the fanfare of a Big-5 published novel, so it was never going to sell thousands of copies in those early days. Now it’s a matter of trusting that I wrote a story that people enjoy enough to tell their friends about… and wait. In the meantime, I keep writing.
3. What inspired the story and characters of Healer’s Touch?
My initial inspiration came from the TV show “The Young Riders”, which I was watching a lot of at the time. That’s pretty much where the Wild West-like setting came from. As for the heart of the story, Llew’s power, well, I stole that off a character I developed back in high school – well over a decade ago! The inspiration for that? I can’t pinpoint it exactly, but I enjoyed cartoons like “Gargoyles”, “X-Men” and the movie “The Crow” (the original one, of course), so I can only assume they all played their part.
4. Genre selection is always a big choice. How did you come to yours?
Oh, this is going to sound terrible, but ultimately laziness and no budget. I decided right from the outset that I didn’t want to set my story in my home town, I wanted to go further afield. But writing in another city or country would require a ton of research that I wasn’t interested in doing. My main goal was characters to fall in love with. Next came a good story (I hope!). Now, I’m not saying that writing Fantasy doesn’t require doing research. If you’re writing anything that you want people to be able to identify with, then you must have something real in there. First stop would be believable reactions and emotions. Next, I think, comes accurate physics, chemistry, biology… etc… That being said, people can be lenient – planets with two moons, for instance. But people do appreciate it when an author takes the time to get things right. I don’t believe in doing research so you can write something and say “Look at me, I’m clever”, but I do believe in doing research so that things ring true.
5. Which Character is your favorite (if you can pick just one!)
Wow. Tough. I want to say Llew. I mean, I do love her. She’s my MC. But no, I can’t pick. Jonas is based on several of my favourite leading men, so he’s got a lot of appeal. I have a real soft spot for Cassidy… probably more than what showed up in the pages justifies. Sometimes Braph is scarily attractive… and he’s my bad guy! And then there is Anya… I admit, she started off being more of a set piece than a character, but that girl has really come into her own. I’ve really come to like her, particularly in the early chapters of the next book.
6. Many writers live and or visit the places that they write about, did New Zealand influence the world of Healer’s Touch?
Absolutely! The book starts in the town of Cheer, on the island nation of Aghacia. Cheer is loosely based on Dunedin back in the 1860s, and Aghacia is a single-island version of New Zealand. I mention a few native plants here and there, and the Alps. “Cheer” and “Big River” are the kind of uninspired place names you might see around Central Otago… like “Bridge No.9”.
7. Do you have an aspect of the world that particularly pleases you?
I have to admit that my magic system has taken me a bit by surprise. At first I just gave Llew this healing power and then thought Jonas should have something useful, too, so gave him some extra strength and speed. Through discussing ideas with a friend, I realised that Llew’s power is external – she transfers life from one thing to another – while Jonas’ power is internal – he draws on his own energies to power his muscles. It’s been really interesting to explore how those powers can work with or against each other, something I really delve into in the next volume!
8. Did you have an “A-HA!” moment when writing the novel? If so, tell us about it.
Yup yup, I so did. When I first started, I was writing for me. The only characters that seemed of any import were Llew and Jonas. But as I write, I realised something: Good guys are nothing without a bad guy. And so I began work on Braph. Two aspects his development were inextricably intertwined: 1. How to make him powerful enough to be a good, strong nemesis but still give Llew and Jonas a chance of defeating him, and 2. His motivations. Those two things led to several “Aha!” moments over the course of the story.
9. What is your writing process? Are you an early morning, late night, middle of the day, six cups of double strength caffeine or perhaps more mellow with cubby-wubby-womb-room tea. (Insert ‘So I Married an Axe Murderer’ reference, CHECK!)
Heh heh. Oh, I love Mike Myers.
At my most prolific, I am an all day, everyday writer. Back when I worked full time (before having my son), I would write at every available moment… In winter, I would get my husband to drop me close to work, since the icy hills could make the walk treacherous. This would mean me getting to work early. And so I would write. Then there was breaks and lunch times (unless someone wanted to talk to me… some days were wonderfully solitary, others not so much). Then there would be the end of the day… sometimes I walked home, sometimes I bussed (meaning a wait at the bus stop… writing/reading), and sometimes I’d go to the library and write until my husband came by to pick me up. And then, I would write while I cooked dinner, and after dinner…
Then came baby… The recommendation in the early days is to “sleep when they sleep” – and you have to, believe me. But I did give up a few sleeps to write instead. As he learned to sleep through the night, I developed the routine of writing when he sleeps during the day. That used to mean a morning session and an afternoon. These days it’s only the afternoon… and one day, I won’t have that anymore, either… I fear that day, I really do. Don’t get me wrong, I love my son, but I need to write, and all those little moments I used to carve out are no longer available. But soon he will be old enough to get government subsidised kindy time…
10. What tools do you use when writing, and how do you use them?
I have pen and paper for brain-storming and “hitting my stride”… Sometimes I need that physical action of shaping the words to really get into the moment. But typing is faster, so once I’ve got things working I move to my computer and get typing.
11. Tell us about the publishing process. Do you have a traditional Agent and Publisher, did you go e-pub.
Well, my experience isn’t typical. You see, Kristell Ink are a small publisher (the fantasy/scifi imprint of Holland House, UK) that were just starting out at the end of last year. They happened to put a call out for submissions soon after I had completed HT. HT was finished, the first half pretty well polished, the second half needed a little more work. But KI were open to looking at the time. It was excellent timing for me. Now, with a Big-5 (4,3,2…) publisher, you might sell you manuscript and then go through a two year or so process of edits, and then waiting while they sort your cover and such, and you get on with marketing (you usually still have to do that yourself!) They might help with getting your book into reviewers’ hands, though… In my case, in particular with KI being new and keen to get their first novels out, the process was very fast. We edited a chapter a day, sometimes two, then it was cover design and the rest… and then the book was out!
12. It looks as though you went for a broad base of distribution. Amazon, Smashwords, etc.. Has that proven successful? Was it a lot of work to setup?
I guess I can’t really say, as it was my publisher that set all that up! (Thankfully because time is short enough as it is!)
13. The cover art has a computer rendered look and feel, is it your own work or did you hire a cover artist?
While I like to draw, and have done enough to be “not too shabby”, I am by no means a cover artist/designer. We used the services of artist Matt Donnici (http://mattdonnici.deviantart.com/gallery/).
14. Any pets? Or as I refer to my cats, the Furry Overlords.
Heh. We call them “Fur Babies”. We have two cats (Kitty (11) & Pixie (9)), one dog (Lucy, 2) and one miniature horse (Chino, 5). Chino doesn’t live with us, unfortunately, but he’s only a 10min drive away.
15. Music during writing, yes or no? If yes, what sort of music? Did you find that what you listen to changes as you write different scenes?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. As a mum, I do crave silence at times. But at the same time, music really soothes my soul, so I need time to listen to that, too. I have a playlist of primarily Rock that I consider to have the right “mood”. The Deftones feature several times, many songs from “The Crow” soundtrack, along with a little Outlandish (usually more R&B, but their “Warrior/Worrier” song really works for me), Saint Etienne (“Like A Motorway”) and some Anika Moa for the more romantic or heart-breaking moments.
16. What is you biggest hope for Healer’s Touch?
Well, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to hoping for some decent success… Heck, if I let myself have unrealistic dreams (and who doesn’t?), I’d love to go bestseller… I think the story has elements that will appeal to the masses, but whether or not I wrote a truly broad-appeal story has yet to be seen. It’d be lovely, but ultimately I wrote a story I love about characters I love, and a few other people have been enthusiastic about it, so I can’t complain.
17. What is next for you?
I’m working on Book 2! Currently titled “Warrior’s Touch”, while Llew remains the main POV, the focus of the story shifts to explore more of Jonas’ history/problems. While progress is slow due to Real Life (sigh!), I am really excited about getting this story out into the world – I’m loving the direction it’s taking.
We wish Deb the best with Healer’s Touch as well as her future endeavors. You can find out more about her here at GoodReads.