Ten Questions About Heartwood, By Freya Robertson
Obviously, I am of the opinion that Angry Robot makes a lot of very strong choices in terms of the fiction they choose to publish (their mistake publishing my books notwithstanding — I mean, what were they thinking?). They sent me an early copy of this one, and it pleases me to have the author, Freya, to pop in and talk about her newest: Heartwood.
Tell Us About Yourself: Who The Hell Are You?
I’m Freya! I write epic fantasy for Angry Robot Books. I like fantasy and science fiction books and movies, and I’m a dedicated gamer. A bit of a geek, actually.
GIVE US THE 140-CHARACTER STORY PITCH:
A dying tree, a desperate quest, a love story, a last stand – a quest-based epic fantasy.
WHERE DOES THIS STORY COME FROM?
It’s a blend of many things that fascinate me, namely Templar-style holy knights, monasticism, castles, nature-based religions…oh, and there’s a bit of sword-porn in there too
HOW IS THIS A STORY ONLY YOU COULD’VE WRITTEN?
Well, the cool thing about writing is that only you can tell your particular story from your point of view, with your background and experiences and voice. But I know you’re asking why couldn’t anyone else have written Heartwood the way I wrote it? Because I think I carry a certain naivety to my work that’s unusual nowadays. I write from the heart, and I don’t hold much back. I believe the best in everyone, and I’m not very cynical (I can hear you laughing now, Chuck.) But I think Heartwood reflects this. The main character, Chonrad, is an old-style hero in all the best senses of the word—he has his faults like any normal person, but he’s brave and courageous, strong and honourable. And while all the heroes are forced to delve into the dark places in their souls in order to complete their quests, and terrible things happen, ultimately I believe in the power of goodness over evil.
WHAT WAS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT WRITING HEARTWOOD?
The length. It was long and hard (that’s what she said.) (Sorry—I’ve been watching too much of The Office.) But seriously, folks, the first draft was 187,000 words, and the finished manuscript is around 172,000, which will be the longest that Angry Robot have published. There are longer stories out there, of course, but for me it was an epic journey in itself.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN WRITING HEARTWOOD?
That horses can’t travel 100 miles a day unless they fly. That it’s not easy to come up with names for four different countries that sound similar but different, if you know what I mean. And that I do have enough stamina to get the damn thing finished.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT HEARTWOOD?
Writing Heartwood was like unzipping my fly and exposing myself to the world. I mean…um… I really feel as if I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve with this story more than anything else I’ve written. I poured myself into it, and I love the huge scale of the story, involving adventures across four lands, journeys to the bottom of the ocean, and a momentous battle with heroic deaths and a satisfying, cinematic ending.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME?
Absolutely nothing. I love the story to bits, even though I’m sure it has hundreds of faults.
GIVE US YOUR FAVORITE PARAGRAPH FROM THE STORY:
He bent and kissed her gently on the forehead, then pushed her carefully to one side onto the ground and got up. He stared around him like one who had woken from a dream. The knights were still in front of him, trying to keep him safe from the Darkwater Lords who now definitely outnumbered the standing Militis, but Teague could see it wouldn’t be long before they fell too. Fionnghuala bled profusely from a cut on her neck and Bearrach was holding his left arm in a strange way, as though it had been numbed with a strike. Valens was now fighting a magnificent, powerful Darkwater Lord and could barely defend himself again his blows. Dolosus was motionless, on his knees in the midst of the warriors in the outer circle. And all around, knights were falling like felled trees. Only Procella remained unhurt and magnificent in her fury, but Teague could see that eventually the number of the Darkwater warriors would overwhelm her. The tide had turned. The element of water was on the rise.
“…come to us…”
Slowly, he turned to face the Arbor. The tree was calling him. He could hear the voices, tens, maybe hundreds of them, whispering to him, beckoning him.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU AS A STORYTELLER?
I’ve written the sequel, Sunstone. That comes out next March, providing my editor likes it! I’d like to write more epic fantasy. Half the time I’m being told the genre doesn’t sell well nowadays, but there are always surveys coming out that dispute that. I think readers grew tired of traditional epic fantasy for a while, but the recent popularity of TV series and movies like Game of Thrones and The Hobbit have perhaps sparked a new interest in the genre.
I’m also drafting proposals for couple of new fantasy and sci-fi series. I’ll let you know how it goes!