This interview was originally published by The AU Review on 26/03/20
Soon readers will once more be able to explore the realm of Ellest, in Helen Scheuerer’s prequel collection Dawn of Mist. The anthology reveals more about key characters in The Oremere Chronicles, bringing together sixteen short stories in one volume.
Ahead of the book’s release on April 16th, we caught up with Helen to chat about returning to the series and how she’s managing as an indie author in these uncertain times.
Hi Helen – thanks as always for your time!
No, thank YOU for having me back yet again, and for your insightful questions, as always!
First things first, what can we expect from Dawn of Mist?
Dawn of Mist is a collection of prequel stories that delves into the lives of three protagonists from my fantasy trilogy, The Oremere Chronicles. Each of the sixteen short stories explores the life-changing events that shaped their personalities prior to the events in the series.
Readers can expect long-kept secrets revealed and some rewarding connections to the story and characters arcs in the main series.
What inspired you to put together this collection?
Well, I started writing these prequel stories for myself, before Heart of Mist was even published back in 2017. It was a way of exploring the characters’ backstories that later became something fun to share with my readers while they had to wait between books.
Not long after sharing the first story, “Break”, I received requests for more. I can’t pinpoint when I decided to make it an actual collection, but it felt like a natural step and I loved the idea of offering readers who had enjoyed the series something extra special.
What’s it like returning to these characters and locations once more?
I’ve been writing these characters and these shorter stories since 2016, so really, I never left. However, it was definitely challenging returning to their lives before the events in the main series and fleshing these details out post-series publication, if that makes sense? I knew how it all ended, so it felt odd to be asking: how did it all begin?
It was also a surreal experience because I’ve changed a lot as a writer since the early days in 2016. It was definitely a challenge merging work from back then to the more recent stories I’d written. My editor and I worked hard to ensure that despite the span of time that had passed between each work, the book still flowed well and that the stories were ordered in a way that complemented them.
What was your process for putting the stories together? How did you choose who to write about/who made the cut?
Once I’d decided I wanted to write beyond the first one or two stories, I took stock of my characters in The Oremere Chronicles and thought about who had the richest, most complex histories. Again, it was a natural choice between the four main point-of-view characters: Bleak, Swinton and Henri were perfect, while ten-year-old Dash was too young.
So, in a very basic spreadsheet, I mapped out how many stories I wanted there to be and worked my way through the books for references to characters’ pasts. From there, I picked the moments I wanted to explore and the moments I thought my readers would like to know more about.
Do you approach writing short stories any differently to writing full length novels? Does your writing process change at all?
That’s a fantastic question! I approach it in a similar way. A traditional short story still has to have everything a novel does: a beginning, middle and end, plus all that vibrant character development. It’s just on a smaller scale. For me, because the novels in this series are structured by alternate point-of-view chapters, when I wrote a short story for one of the characters, it felt like I was writing one of their chapters. What I loved about it was that it was such a faster process. From first draft to finished pages, a novel usually takes me about a year to create, whereas these short stories took a matter of weeks. The experience was certainly refreshing!
Any personal favourites from the collection?
Oh that’s a hard one to answer without giving away spoilers! I’ll keep it vague… One of my personal favourites is the final story. The collection as a whole explores some pretty dark and intense events in the characters’ lives, but the last piece… It leaves the reader with a little kernel of hope.
With so many event cancellations due to the pandemic, book launches are rather out of the question at the moment. How are you managing with that, as someone who does much of their marketing and promotion themselves?
Ah, I’m really glad you asked that. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It’s an incredibly scary time to be a full-time indie author, let alone one who’s releasing a book amidst all this chaos.
Cancelled events seem to be the focus for a lot of authors, however for us indies, that’s just a small part of what we do. For me, the biggest concern is the massive drop in sales. They’re down across the board, because despite the notion of people reading more during self-isolation, understandably people just aren’t spending money how they usually do.
This has a scary knock-on effect: the less income we have, the less budget we have for online marketing, the less online marketing, the less exposure, which of course, results in less sales. It’s hard because as you said, I do much of my marketing myself, there’s no one really reassuring me that I’m making the right calls.
How am I managing? Well, it’s still early days but like many other authors, I’m just pushing on, pushing through, because really, what else can we do?
What can readers do to support authors (especially indie authors!) during this time?
I can’t thank you enough for asking this question! Well, besides the obvious (keep buying books!), there are plenty of small, cost-free gestures that help us massively…
- Leave a review of an author’s book on Amazon & Goodreads
- Comment/like/share an author’s post on social media
- Post a photo or a story about an author’s book on Instagram
- If you enjoyed the book, send the author an email to let them know. I can’t tell you how often messages like these brighten a dark day for me!
- Do exactly what you’ve just done – ask how you can support them 🙂
And, in the interests of self-isolation inspiration, do you have any book recommendations for AU Review readers?
Yes, yes and yes! I’ve read some incredible books to tune out the noise of the media lately:
- The Ninth Sorceress by Bonnie Wynne (fantasy)
- Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton (memoir – have recommended this to all my girlfriends)
- My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (psychological fiction, TW: themes of abuse and consent)
- See What You Made Me Do by Jess Hill (Investigative non-fiction, TW: domestic abuse)
Bit of a theme coming out there, but it’s an important one.
However, if you’re looking for a complete and utter escape, I can’t go past recommending Brian Jacques’ Redwall series.
Helen Scheuerer’s Dawn of Mist is out tomorrow!
You can pre-order it now through Talem Press. You can also pick print copies of the previous installments of The Oremere Chronicles through the website, or you can go digital on Amazon!