Guest Writer: Misha Herwin
First up in the Guest Blog section is novelist and playwright Misha Herwin. Misha has had plays and musicals produced in schools and by theatre-in-education groups in the UK and in Jamaica. When she’s not writing, she runs creative writing groups in schools and libraries and working with local museums on drama projects. She is also involved in setting up a fringe literary festival. She currently has several Young Adult fantasy books in print as well as the adult novel House of Shadows.
I write books for adults, kids and young adults. My Dragonfire Trilogy is aimed at the 8-12 market and for anyone who enjoyed Harry Potter. I love fantasy and magic and my latest book House of Shadows just out from Penkhull Press, has a strong supernatural element.
How long have you been writing and how did you get started?
I’ve always told stories, starting with ones about the dragons that lived under our beds that I made up for my younger sister, when we shared a room. I never wrote these down, but are countless others in red exercise books that I still have stored somewhere deep in a drawer. By the time I was fifteen, I was determined to be a writer and sent off a book about the adventures of an owl belonging to goddess Athena to a main stream publisher. Undaunted when it was returned, I’ve kept going ever since.
My first published works were plays for school, then short stories in various anthologies, such as Bitch Lit, published by Commonword, and The Alchemy Book of Ancient Wonders from The Alchemy Press. The most recent are ‘Cinderella Afterwards’ in ‘Magical’ and ‘Visiting Auntie’ in Totally Amazing Spider Tales. Then came the self-published ‘Dragonfire’ books and after that House of Shadows. I’ve also got a YA novel Clear Gold scheduled to come out in 2015 and published in the U.S by Zharmae Press.
All in all, my usual mix of different age ranges.
What is at the root of your current book?
House of Shadows is a time slip novel. Time has always been a fascination of mine and in this book the main character Jo slips between centuries as she is forced to face the consequences of a childhood promise she made to another little girl two hundred years in the past. It was inspired by a real place and was a long time gestating. When I was young I lived on a council estate in Bristol overlooked by a decaying Georgian mansion, which was the inspiration behind Kingsfield House. Needless to say I made up a story about an orphan, who was being kept prisoner by her evil step-sister. Decades and many edits later this became House of Shadows.
E books or Traditional?
Ideally both and also the smaller Indie presses, like Penkhull and Alchemy Press. The way things are going there are great opportunities for writers and we should be taking advantage of them. Traditional publishers might give you more status, but you still have to work on your own marketing and of course they take a cut of royalties. With e books what you make is yours and you have more freedom about what you write and when you publish. I do believe, however, that a good editor and a number of trusted beta-readers are vital when you self-publish to make sure that your work is the best it can be.
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?
To read, read and read some more. Not only in your chosen genre, but to read widely to see how other writers do it.
What is the most important thing you have learned about writing?
To keep going and to never let rejection discourage you. A large glass of wine and a hug helps when the manuscript is returned.
And join a good writing group, for feedback, support, encouragement and the above.
What aspects of writing do you find the most tricky?
Creating worlds is hard for me. It’s not that I don’t know what my world looks, feels, smells like, but it’s the little details, the technical stuff that I find hard. This is where the writing group I belong to, Renegade Writers, come into their own. They are very good at spotting and pointing out the inconsistencies and insisting that I put them right.
Romance: Pride and Prejudice or Fifty Shades?
Pride and Prejudice. The writing is wonderful, the characters vivid, the observations on life and human behaviour universally appropriate. It’s a book I can return to again and again. As for Fifty Shades of Grey, I have no problem with erotic literature, in fact I celebrate it arrival in mainstream, but I want good writing, sensuality and people that I care about.
Who has been your favourite character from your book/series and why?
Polly Miller in the Dragonfire series, because she is based on my eldest daughter and is the first of a long line of convention defying heroines who do their own thing and blow what society and the rest of the world thinks of them.
Crime: Morse or Dragon Tattoo?
Dragon Tattoo because Lizabeth Salander is my sort of heroine but carried to the extreme. In ‘Clear Gold’ my main character Mouse shares some of her characteristics.
What are you up to next?
There are more books in the Clear Gold trilogy to be finished. I want to follow Mouse’s progress and explore how a girl who cares only for her own survival learns that there is more than this to life.
I’d also like to go back to another one of my loves and teach some more creative writing classes.
An indulgent holiday in a warm place with lots of good food and wine would be brilliant. Plus, of course a bundle of books to read.
You can find out more about Misha Herwin on her blog at: http:www.mishaherwin.wordpress.com/ or follow her on Twitter: @MishaHerwin
House of Shadows by Misha Herwin, Penkhull Press.
Available in Kindle and Paperback editions
Jo Docherty stood and looked at the wedding ring on the black granite worktop. It would be so easy to leave it there and go. Desperate to have a child of her own, haunted by a girl in a blue dress her only hope of saving her marriage is to go back to the place where it all began.
Brooding over the estate at Weston Ridge, the house at Kingsfield hides a violent history. Built by a slave owner for his beloved wife, it is a place of lost children, where time fractures and two lonely little girls from different centuries cut their fingers and swear to be best friends for ever.
When Jo returns as adult, long buried memories of her childhood begin to surface. As she slips in and out of time, she realizes that she has to face the consequences of her actions and a friendship forged in blood two hundred years ago will force her to make to a heart-breaking choice
House of Shadows is novel of many levels. There is the supernatural and historical element inter woven with that of memory and how grief and loss affect what we remember and what we choose, subconsciously to forget. The book also explores Jo’s relationships with her family as she grows up; her marriage to Richard and how she copes with a difficult and disaffected step-daughter. And then there is her friendship with Helene and Cecile, two strong women who will enable her to face up to the legacy of her past.
Available from Amazon HERE