Today we have a blog tour post celebrating one of Chicken House's recent and incredible publications, Darkmere by Helen Maslin. My review of Darkmere can be read here. And alongside, we are also highlighting another epic romance by Chicken House, Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis (review here). Take it away Helen and tell us who inspired you to write!
by Helen Maslin
In the spring of 2012, I was browsing the blogs of my favourite writers and trying to convince myself it could happen to me too. The phone-call that would change everything. I’d sent my manuscript off to several agents and now I had to wait. I read the latest post on Laini Taylor’s blog – which is always crammed with writing tips and pretty pictures, and one of the links took me to Stephanie Perkins’ blog – which is funny and has photos of attractive men. After that I clicked on Sally Gardner’s website and realised...they all had brighter hair than me!
That weekend, I bought a gallon of Crazy Colour and spent hours making my hair redder than a can of Coca-Cola. And then scrubbing dye off the bath. And the shower. And the sink. And all the towels...sigh.
Because if I couldn’t be a published writer, I was damn well going to look like one!
Then of course, I got my phone-call. An agent invited me to meet her for a cup of coffee because she liked my writing. ‘It’s the hair,’ whispered a voice in my head. ‘The hair-thing worked!’
Later, I had a meeting with a publisher, who also told me he liked my writing. Definitely the writing. But I’ve never let my hair colour fade. You know...just in case.
Hair epiphanies aside, Laini Taylor is one of my favourite writers because her imagination seems to stretch so much further than anyone else’s. It’s limitless. And it makes me want to be braver too. One of her stories – Hatchling – is so startling that I genuinely couldn’t tell whether I liked it or not until I’d read it several times.
Similarly, the author who inspired me earliest – Daphne du Maurier – was also noted for her imagination. Throughout Rebecca, the unnamed heroine spends a great deal of time thinking about what might happen in the future or what might’ve happened in the past – entire conversations, dramatic scenes, years passing – everything. Du Maurier was imagining an imaginary character’s imaginings. I love that! Norman Collins (a senior editor at Gollancz) said, ‘I don't know another author who imagines so hard all the time.’
The same could be said of JK Rowling. I think the wizarding world of Harry Potter is more richly imagined than any other fictional setting. Schools, shops, spells, food, fairytales, animals – the details are fascinating and endless. I can’t read this series without wondering which house I’d be sorted into, or what my wand would be made of and so on. These are books that readers can climb inside and live in.
While it’s imagination that inspires me most of all, I think it’s humour that makes me enjoy the writing process. Neil Gaiman’s stories read as if they were fun to write. In reality, they must have taken time and work, but they’re so full of mischief and subtle jokes and playful asides to the reader, they could’ve been written simply to amuse himself. Even his most dreadful villains are funny and whimsical and brilliantly entertaining – I love Croup and Vandemar, Prince Septimus and the Lilim, and the Jacks of All Trades.
My favourite books of all are the ones in which I can sense the writer’s desire to draw me into an imaginary world, to entertain me or make me laugh. Even when I’m too caught up in the story to know that I’m aware of anything beyond, it’s the author’s imagination and sense of humour that will prompt me to read their books over and over again.
Darkmere by Helen Maslin is out now, published by Chicken House