Friday, 2 February 2018

Sinéad O’Hart - The Eye of the North - Q&A Interview with Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books


Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books has taken this fantastic opportunity, in the run-up to the publication of The Eye of the North, to ask Irish author Sinéad O’Hart about her debut book. The book will be published in the UK by Stripes Publishing on the 8th Feb 2018. It's a brilliant middle-grade fantasy - please check out my book review HERE

Thank you Sinéad for taking the time to answer some questions about the book. This interview takes a brilliant LOOK AT the book and gives you a great insight into the author and her writing. I hope this interview peaks your interest and makes you add this title to your reading pleasure. 

How would you sum up The Eye of the North to potential readers? 
The Eye of the North is a story about Emmeline, a girl with no friends, and a boy with no name who calls himself Thing as they are thrown headfirst into a mystery which threatens the entire world. They must learn to trust and rely on one another, and on the people around them (something neither of them has had much experience of) as they race to the frozen North to stop an ancient evil from being unleashed. It’s a story about friendship and loyalty, love and bravery, and doing whatever it takes to save the people closest to you – with added peril, mythical monsters and scary witches made of ice! 

What element are you most proud of in this book? Is there anything that you would change? 
I am proud of many things in The Eye of the North, but I think I’m proudest of Emmeline as a character. She’s anxious, cautious, suspicious and introverted (for reasons which are explained in the book), and it takes a while for the depth of her love for her family and her commitment to Thing to really come to the fore. She’s a bit atypical of what you’d expect from a main character, particularly a girl, and I wrote her like that purposefully. I wouldn’t change a thing about her – and I’m pretty happy with the book overall! There are a couple of typos, but hopefully nobody will spot those but me… 

Do you have any tips about writing convincing characters? 
I love characters who go against type – girls who are rebellious and scientific, inventors and explorers and the hero of their own story, and boys who are emotional, loving, kind and generous. None of that takes away from their strength, but instead deepens their character and makes them more interesting. My tips for writing convincing characters would be: make them unexpected, because that will make them seem more real and fully rounded; give them flaws as well as strengths, because nobody in real life is all one thing or another, and finally: let them speak to you. If a character wants to go in a particular direction, then let them – and see where it takes you! 

Which actor would you like to see play the lead character from your book? 
I don’t get to watch much TV or go to the cinema these days; I have a young child, so leisure time is a bit of a premium! As a result, I’m out of touch with the young actors and actresses of today. I imagine Emmeline as a twelve-year-old girl with dark eyes, light brown skin, long dark curly hair, and – as the book describes it – a ‘know-it-all nose’, and Thing as a boy of around the same age or a little older with blue eyes, pale skin and longish, messy dark hair which sticks up and out in an unruly fashion. If you know any good actors who fit the part, I’m all ears! 



Do you think that the book cover plays an important part in the buying process? 
For me, certainly it does – I am a sucker for an eye-catching cover, particularly well-designed lettering and typeface. I love both the covers which have been created for The Eye of the North, and I’m particularly pleased that they’re so different! I love the artist Jeff Nentrup’s 
imagining of Emmeline and Thing on the US cover, published by Knopf in 2017, and I adore Sara Mulvanny’s illustrative cover for the UK edition (Stripes Publishing, 2018), particularly the fact that she included the dogsled team which plays such an important role in the story. I really do think a good cover can do a huge amount to get a book from the shelf into a reader’s hand; cover design is definitely an art, and I have huge admiration for anyone who can get it just right. 

I have read that you love churches, graveyards and, antiques, do these influence your writing in any way? 
Yes! I do. I love visiting old churches, reading inscriptions on gravestones and learning about the past, and poking about in antique shops. I have a love for history and all things to do with ages gone by, which includes a love for mythology and folklore. That love of old stories certainly played a role in the writing of The Eye of the North, as it is filled with details and influences from all the old myths and tales I love. 

This is your debut book, what did you learn from writing it? 
That’s a big question. From writing this book, I learned it’s possible to have a dream come true, and from the process of having it published I learned that making a dream come true takes more work than I could have imagined. I learned to trust my inner voice, to allow my characters the space to do what they want, and that if I reach a point where I simply can’t write, that sometimes it means my brain is trying to stop me going down the wrong path, and not that I’m lazy or unmotivated. I also learned that sometimes, getting exactly what you’ve dreamed of and worked hard for can be scary, unexpected and overwhelming – but that it’s always worth it. 

Where is your favourite place to write? 
These days, I write wherever I can! I write with my laptop perched on my knees on the sofa or balanced on the kitchen worktop, after my little one goes to bed or whenever I can get someone else to distract her for a few minutes. I have a home office, too, but getting to use that is a real pleasure! 

How important are stories to you? What do you like to read? 
Stories are almost as important to me as breathing. I’ve been reading since I was very young, and it’s my favourite thing to do. I like it even more than writing, I think, though they do tend to go hand in hand! I like to read children’s books, primarily, and that’s been the case for over twenty years. When I read a book not specifically aimed at children, I like fantasy, historical novels, science fiction, and magical realism. Some of my favourite authors are Angela Carter, John Connolly, Jeanette Winterson, Ursula le Guin, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Jennifer Bell, Catherine Fisher, Diana Wynne Jones, Abi Elphinstone, Frances Hardinge, Philip Pullman, J.R. Wallis, Dave Rudden and Jonathan Stroud – but there are so many others, and I’m always discovering more.

Any website or resources that have been helpful to you as a writer?
I have always found www.writing.ie to be useful and informative, and – like everyone – I love the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and its associated website (www.writersandartists.co.uk). I also think it’s great that literary agencies have their own websites with tips, hints, manuscript wishlists, submission instructions and many other gems. My own agency – www.greenhouseliterary.com – has a fab Question and Answer section which is full of useful information. I also love to make use of my own blog (www.sjohart.wordpress.com) and to follow other writers’ blogs, as I think sharing the process of writing for publication can be really helpful for others who want to follow in your footsteps. Writers on the road to publication can be very honest about the highs and lows of the journey, and they’re always worth following.



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