Q&A with author Helle Norup

1. What inspired you to first start writing?

I have always been a voracious reader and a daydreamer. But when I was a teenager, I didn’t think authors were ‘normal’ people like me, so I never considered writing for a living. I pursued a business career instead and forgot my dream until I was in my thirties. At the time, I was reading children’s books again, and these stories sparked my imagination.

2. How long have you been writing? When did you first start?

I began writing about fifteen years ago. The first couple of years, I started and abandoned several novels. Nothing I wrote seemed to be good enough and I usually gave up after a few chapters. Then in 2010, I finally finished the first draft of manuscript. Over the next four years, I learnt the craft of writing, through books, workshops and writing groups, while I rewrote and edited that ‘apprenticeship’ novel (which will never be published).

3. Can you tell us about your new book Into the Faerie Hill?

INTO THE FAERIE HILL is a story about a rootless boy called Alfred, an eco-warrior girl who calls herself Saga, and a community protest against a motorway tunnel that will harm nature and disturb the faeries – the fearsome faeries!

In the book, Alfred and Saga venture deep into the mysterious faerie realm to unravel secrets from the past and find a way to protect both nature and otherworldly creatures. At its heart, INTO THE FAERIE HILL is about family, friendship, and discovering who you are and where you belong. Caring for nature and the environment are also important themes in the book.

4. Can you describe your book using only three words?

Faeries, nature, friendship

5. How does it feel being a published author knowing readers are really enjoying your stories?

That is honestly the best feeling ever. I’m grateful that so many wonderful book bloggers, booksellers, teachers, and librarians have been enthusiastic about this book. Even better is the feedback I’m getting from young readers who are loving the adventure.

6. What is the most difficult part of your writing process?

For me, writing the first draft is hard work. Especially at the beginning of a new manuscript, when it feels like I’ll never have plot enough for a whole book. I love the next draft, although that’s probably the most difficult stage. It’s all about taking that first draft apart, seeing it with fresh eyes, and finding the very best way to tell the story.

7. What advice would you give to those who are writing their first book?

Never give up! Persistence and practise are key. Learn from other writers, work to hone the craft, and try to write the story only you can write. Also: read!

8. Where is your favourite place to write?

I prefer to write at home at my desk or outside in the garden if no one else is there. I’m not good at concentrating where there’s too much going on around me, so I need both earphones and self-discipline to write on trains or in cafes.

9. Which authors do you most admire and why?

I’m in awe of so many authors for the books they have written. I especially admire those who go above and beyond to support and champion other writers, like Louie Stowell, who is always spreading good news, and Joanne Harris, who shares writing tips and works tirelessly for all of us at The Society of Authors—both, in addition to writing amazing books.

10. What are common traps for new authors?

I don’t think this trap is particularly for new authors (or even authors), but there’s a tendency to constantly move the goalpost, without celebrating and enjoying what we’ve achieved. It is also hard to avoid comparing your own achievements to those of others—deals, fancy marketing campaigns, media reviews, etc. Social media is definitely a contributing factor. But each of us have our own journey, and enjoying all the steps in that journey, instead of just the results, can help.

11. What risks have you taken with your writing that have paid off?

Writing books only I could write, even if they are somewhat niche, like my first two published novels, was key for me to get published. After a decade of helping out with my sons’ ski-race-training, and even longer as a passionate skier myself, I knew the world and the characters in THE MISSING BARBEGAZI. When I wrote THE HUNGRY GHOST, I had recently moved to Singapore, and I poured all my curiosity about the local culture, beliefs, and superstitions into a character with my own background. In INTO THE FAERIE HILL the links might be less obvious, but I have learnt to put more of myself into my characters. Whether protagonists or antagonists, they all share some of my hopes and dreams.

The stories I wrote before I was published were perhaps more epic in scale, but they were not anchored in me and my experiences in the same way, so I definitely believe that paid off.

12. If you could spend the day with another author who would you choose and why?

Again, so many! But if I had to choose one, then it would be Sinéad O’Hart. I adore her wildly imaginative books, and she has been hugely supportive of mine. We’ve been chatting on Twitter ever since we connected 5-6 years ago, and I know we will have a wonderful time when we meet in real life some day.

13. Which book has been your favourite to write to date and why?

That’s difficult to say, but probably INTO THE FAERIE HILL. It was such an escape to write this book during lockdown(s), and I have had a lot of fun imagining fantastical creatures.

14. What were your favourite books growing up?

I absolutely loved portal fantasies when I was growing up—I still do! THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE by C. S. Lewis, THE BROTHERS LIONHEART by Astrid Lindgren, and THE NEVERENDING STORY by Michael Ende were my favourites. But to be honest I read my way through the whole school library.

15. Are you writing anything else at the moment? If so, are you able to give us any clues?

I’m currently writing a sequel to INTO THE FAERIE HILL. The new story starts a few months after the first book, when Saga and Alfred discover that their solution to the tunnel problem might not be entirely ideal for everyone…

I want to say a huge thank you to Helle for taking the time to answer my questions and feature on my blog. You can buy Helle’s book from booksellers, online and of course using any independent bookshops.

You can follow Helle online Twitter: @HSNorup and Instagram: @hsnorup


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