I absolutely loved Tania Donald's debut novel 'Haunted Heart'. So I was pleased-as-punch to interview the author herself and get the scoop on an upcoming sequel and the benefits of horror.
And thanks to the lovely people at Penguin and Ms Donald, I will also be hosting an INTERNATIONAL giveaway of one signed-copy of 'Haunted Heart'. Gotta be in it to win it, so see the bottom of this post for entry details!
And, without further adieu, I give you Tania Donald . . .
Q: How long did it take you to write ‘Haunted Heart’ – from concept to final manuscript?
A: About 15 years! Well, sort of ... I originally wrote it as a very short story about 15 years ago, but I could never get the idea out of my head. I always wanted to go back to it but I was worried that when I looked at it again I'd be disappointed. When I finally did, I was pleased that I still felt there was potential to develop the story further. After that I just started writing. That was in January 2009. I finished it in about November of that year.
Q: How were you first published – agent or slush pile?
A: Not exactly either. I had sent submissions to a couple of agents but got no reply. I wasn't really sure what to do next. At the same time I got an email from an old friend, and I happened to mention the book. He replied that he was friendly with Bob Sessions of Penguin and offered to ask his advice for me. Before I knew it, Bob Session emailed me himself, and asked for a submission, then the whole manuscript. I know I was extremely lucky that it happened that way. And I'm very grateful for Mr Sessions' generosity in being so open to looking at my submission.
Q: Many people believe that writing for young adults is the ‘easier route’ to getting published, and there is also a common assumption that popular paranormal/horror fiction is ‘trashy’. But you hold a Ph. D in English Literature, and ‘Haunted Heart’ is a Gothic thriller! Please, put these mis-assumptions to rest and tell us why you chose to study and write in this (brilliant) genre?A: Well, I love paranormal fiction, and I always have. I don't see it as being inferior at all to mainstream fiction. If anything, I think it's harder to create a convincing and compelling story about the supernatural than about something very commonplace that we are all familiar with. The authors who do that best are ones whom I admire greatly: people like H P Lovecraft, M R James. I get such a thrill from the intense and mysterious worlds those authors create, I really wanted to try and write something in that tradition myself.
I don't think we can dismiss a genre that is so much enjoyed by readers of all ages - and let's face it, some of the greatest books in our culture involve paranormal or gothic themes: "Wuthering Heights," "Jayne Eyre." Even Shakespeare plays like "Macbeth and "Hamlet" involve ghosts, witches and prophecies. No-one could call those "trashy."
I love this quote from H P Lovecraft: "The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown. These facts few psychologists will dispute, and their admitted truth must establish for all time the genuineness and dignity of the weirdly horrible tale as a literary form."
Q: Popular paranormal books have romanticized traditional monsters. Young readers (girls in particular) think nothing of a boy who stalks them and proclaims eternal love. But Dolour White is a very different sort of paranormal hero than we’ve read lately. He’s from the more traditional Horror-Gothic world – and he is frightening! What was your motivation in writing a genuinely terrifying love interest?
A: Well, I suppose Haunted Heart is in some ways, a horror story about love. In order to scare and thrill us, horror has to touch some of our deepest fears, and I thought that our fears around love, and about how vulnerable we make ourselves when we surrender our heart to someone else, might be powerful fears to play upon in the story.
Haunted Heart certainly goes into some very dark areas, as it is much more of an adult story than a book for younger readers. And for that reason, I didn't want Dolour to be just a sweet, misunderstood, hot guy with supernatural powers. He is definitely a supernatural predator and a dangerous one. But I hope he is more than that for the reader. I've tried to avoid having any of the characters be just black and white/good or bad. For me, Dolour is as alluring as he is dangerous; as tormented by his own nature as he is threatening because of it. And what he has to offer Eloise is certainly beyond what any normal man could. There's nothing so thrilling as the idea of forbidden love - especially when combined with beauty and danger...
Q: I am thrilled to hear that a sequel to ‘Haunted Heart’ is in the works! Can you tell us anything about this upcoming novel? Title? Release date? Detailed synopsis? Anything!?
A: I just finished it last week! No-one else has even seen it yet. Its working title is "Fantôme Fatale."
1897: Paranormal researcher, Dr Oliver Martindale, is tantalized by the discovery of a page torn out of a second diary that continues Eloise's story. His obsession to discover what happened to her - and to find her if she is still alive - draws him into a web of danger, deceit and temptation, as he struggles against a master occultist intent on capturing Eloise for his own sinister ends. As their struggle twists and turns towards its shattering climax, Eloise's second diary unfolds her own story of capture by Arthur Grayton, and its shocking aftermath...
"Fantôme Fatale" is a story of obsession, betrayal, love and sacrifice...
Q: You have quite a quirky resume. Dog-groomer, chocolate connoisseur, graphic designer and mystery shopper to name a few . . . do these various occupations help to flex your imagination? What job hasn’t appeared on your CV yet, but are you still desperate to do?
A: I think you can definitely find inspiration in all sorts of places. But my varied jobs are more a reflection of how hard it is to make a living in the arts than anything else!
My ultimate dream would be to be a full-time writer and artist. These are things that mean the most to me, and the areas in which I think I have the most to offer.
Q: If ‘Haunted Heart’ was turned into a movie, who would be your ideal cast?
A: Hmm, Deborah Ann Woll who plays Jessica on "True Blood" is the kind of beautiful and talented actress who I'd love to see playing Eloise. She is a fascinating performer.
As for Dolour, the only actor I can think of with the right kind of quality is Hurd Hatfield, who appeared in "The Picture of Dorian Gray" in 1945. He had the kind of beauty that is almost other-worldly. Of course, he has passed away now, but I'm sure there must be some young actor out there, who'd embody that same slightly spooky kind of beauty today.
My fantasy cast would also have to include the wonderful Mr Paul Darrow as Mr Edward White. He is best known for his role as Kerr Avon in the British sci-fi series "Blake's 7." He is a mesmerizing performer, and to me he really captures the Coeurophage's ability to command and control your attention in a powerful way; very handsome and enigmatic, yet slightly dangerous.
Q: Since we’re on the topic . . . have you sold the movie rights for ‘Haunted Heart’?
A: That would be a dream come true as I'm a real film-buff. I'm a huge fan of Hammer horror films - those wonderfully atmospheric and stylish period horror movies of the 1960s-70s. Hammer have recently started making films again. If anyone could bring "Haunted Heart" to the screen they would be my first choice. Ah well, we live in hope! Let's cross our fingers!
Q: Favourite book(s) of all time?A: "The Wasp Factory" by Iain Banks, and "In The Heart of the Sea" by Nathaniel Philbrick are both books I love rereading and never tire of. Also the complete works of HP Lovecraft.
Q: Favourite author(s) of all time?
A: It would have to be H P Lovecraft. For me, his works open up this whole dimension of intense supernatural experience. No-one else gives me that same thrill of psychological horror. Once you enter into his dark and mysterious world, you want to keep returning to it. He is a continuing inspiration.
Q: What advice do you have for budding young writers?
A: I guess I would just say to keep working at it. If you sit there in front of the computer for long enough, and put the effort in, you'll get there in the end. If something's not working, don't give up on it, but find a way to make it work. Show your writing to friends you trust, and get their feedback. And keep going, because when you've created something yourself, and made it as good as you can, there's really nothing more satisfying.
'Haunted Heart' international giveaway
'Haunted Heart' international giveaway