Interview with Rhiannon Hart

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rhiannon Hart is like ten shades of awesome. This is for a number of reasons:
1. She writes an awesome YA fantasy/dystopian/paranormal book review blog. If you don't read her blog, you should.
2. She's an Australian.
3. She recently signed with Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown for her YA fantasy trilogy, Lharmell (I know, she has the same agent as me!!!! EEEK!!!).
Observe the awesome in the following interview:

1. When and how did you start writing? Can you tell me a bit about your previous writing projects?

OK, I'm outing myself: I started by writing fan-fiction. Yes, the nerdiest of all nerdy things to do in high school. These were the heady days before blogging, and forums and homemade geocities websites ruled the interwebs. Season three of Xena had just aired on Channel Ten--the pinnacle, in my opinion, of the show--and I was inspired. Labyrinth fan-fiction was also booming and eagerly jumped on board. Later came Charmed, but by then my interest was waning and I only wrote a few short stories. I've never been scared of identity theft over the internet and even then I posted under my real name. Which means if you Google hard enough, you'll find me. I'd forgotten all about my much-loved but well-hidden teenage hobby until my friends did a spot of idle Googling over beers about a year ago while I was preparing dinner. Horror of horrors, they found me. Raucous laughter ensued, followed swiftly by my utter mortification.

But in all seriousness, writing fan-fiction was great writing practice for me: I had a pre-made set of characters and settings to play with, so I could focus on dialogue and plotting and tension and so on. The pressure was off to create everything from scratch. Well, that's how I justify being a giant nerdy-pants! Basically I just did it for fun. I should dig one out and post it on my blog--I think I've overcome my embarrassment by now!

Since then there have been several failed novels that were never finished and I won't bore you with.

2. Could you tell me a bit about Lharmell, your YA fantasy trilogy?

Here's the blurb I wrote one day for book one when I was daydreaming about Lharmell being published. It was all pie in the sky then, but now it might actually happen! I'm not sure what a marketing department would make of my attempts, but here goes:

In the tiny, impoverished queendom of Amentia, Princess Zeraphina finds it easy to hide what she really is—especially from herself. But when her sister becomes betrothed to a prince from the northern land of Pergamia, Zeraphina’s strange hungers become entangled with an obsession for the nearby land of Lharmell. Inhabited by unnatural creatures, Lharmell seems to be calling her home—but whether it's a journey she should make, or avoid at all costs, is impossible to discern when everyone is keeping secrets from her. Most secretive of all is Rodden Lothskorn, adviser to the King of Pergamia. Does he plan to expose her ugly truth and ruin her sister's hopes of happiness, or hand her over to the ones she fears most?


3. What inspires your writing? Are there any authors who particularly influence your work?

All the authors I fell in love with as a teenager: Tamora Pierce, Annette Curtis Klause, Tanith Lee, Jean M. Auel, Judy Blume, Paula Danziger, L.J. Smith, Isobelle Carmody. I've never loved reading more than I did at fourteen. It was a magic time for me. What inspires me is when I get a flash of insight into a character or two, and a situation that's going to cause trouble on all sorts of levels: family, romance, peril and so on. Usually these flashes burn out into nothing, but the one that inspired Lharmell just kept going and going until it was a trilogy.

4. Were there any parts of the writing process that you really struggled with?

The opening. It's been so hard to write, and it still needs work. The actual events haven't changed, and I love my opening line (which hasn't changed either) but it was so hard to match the tone of the scene with the rest of the book, know when to put info in, take it out, put it somewhere else. The rest just flowed out in a mad month, followed by a few months of editing. Mostly spent on the damn opening!

5. Can you tell me a bit about how it came about that you signed with your awesome agent Ginger Clark of Curtis Brown?

I came across Nathan Branford's blog at some point. He's at Curtis Brown too. I saw that he said emphatically that he wasn't after books about vampires, so I wandered off to research other agencies. My Lharmellins aren't exactly vampires in the traditional sense---but whose are these days? (You certainly wouldn't want to kiss one though.) I researched and queried like a demon for about two months, ferreting out every single YA agent that went for speculative and compiling a huge list. I queried a few each week, and ended up with seven manuscript requests. Ginger Clark was one of my automatic-yes agents by then. I'd heard so many good things about her and her tastes match mine so closely that when I got her email saying she loved Lharmell I screamed, jumped all over my boyfriend (who was asleep, poor thing) and immediately said yes when Ginger called me.

6. Complete this sentence: My teenage years were...

Full of books, and full of waiting for my real life to begin.It was a fun time, but I knew the real fun was to come.

7. Complete this sentence: Outside of writing, my life is...

Reading, eating, clubbing with my friends and boyfriend, arguing about books and movies with my boyfriend, wishing I spent my money on clothes instead of books, wishing Sarah had let just Toby become a goblin, and publicising other people's books. Which mostly means fretting about typos, unfortunately.

8. What are you working on now?

Ooh, it's TOP SECRET. In this over-paranormalled YA world it's so hard to find themes and characters that haven't been done to death. All I'll say is it's inspired by a Grimm Brothers' fairytale that I'd never heard of til I picked up one of their collections. Most, honestly, made me want to puke. They were late edition versions of the tales so had been sugar-coated beyond belief and lacked any sort of depth. But one struck a huge chord and I was off. I wrote about a third waiting to hear back from agents about Lharmell, but it'll have to take a back seat while I finish The Harmings and Queen of Lharmell (books two and three of the Lharmell trilogy).

Thanks so much for interviewing me, Steph! Here's to Ginger and our imminent book deals! *clink*

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