Hi everyone, welcome to the OneReadingNurse stop on The Phoenix Grail blog tour! I was so happy to interview author Helen Savore, who is obsessed with anything paper and is hilarious on Twitter. Here is her bio, followed by a synopsis of the book, and then the interview! I do hope you guys read through, Helen offers some excellent advice about writing and life in general as well!
Helen Savore writes fantastical worlds filled with a mixture of modern and medieval settings. She explores stories loosely based on Arthurian legends, secretly wishing that King Arthur would return to pull the world from the brink of darkness. An engineer by day, and a gamer when time allows, this paper ninja writes, reads, plays with pen-and-paper RPGs and folds origami. It’s not surprising that her stories are filled with unexpected folds and twists that blend seamlessly with reality.
You can also follow her on Twitter @ImaPaperNinja.
For those who haven’t read the book and author’s note, would you take a second to introduce yourself and explain your motivation behind writing?
Hi, I’m Helen Savore, sometimes known online as a Paper Ninja. I like to call myself a literary engineer. Storytelling is a great form of escapism, and you know we can use a little of that from the world right now. Actually, we can always use more than a little bit of that. We are living in a shared hallucination, so it’s fascinating to slip into different people, different worlds. It’s amazing how immersive a story can be. So that explains why I’m a reader, but a writer? There are stories I would like to experience I just haven’t found. Which sounds insane given all the content we can now connect with through online book stores. Unfortunately once I started ideating I came up with an ever stranger combination of concepts. But hey, I’m always open for more reading suggestions if you can parse the threads I’m weaving into my stories.
Was there a particular book or story that got you interested in the Grail legend and the fae?
The Gargoyles cartoon from the 90s. Mixing the third race, the fae, into Avalon seemed such a fun match. Arthur didn’t interact with the fae so much there, but the ideas came close enough in my mind to want to write about that. I had ties to Arthur from much younger. My aunt brought us these beautiful illustrated books which kills me I can’t find again as an adult.
Is The Phoenix Grail your first full novel? I know there is at least a second book coming, do you have a rough idea of when it will be available?
Lady Leaves the Lake is planned for a September 20, 2019 release. This isn’t a sequel to The Phoenix Grail, but another story within the universe. I’m calling these focuses on a particular character or “historical” event Faerie Forge Chronicles.
Sword in the Throne follows the Phoenix Grail, and that is planned for December 20th.
I’ll be releasing my first five stories over the course of a year, around the solstice/equinox dates. After that I plan to settle into one book a year cadence.
Are any of the characters written in your image? If you had to pick a favorite….and why?
I would say there’s a different aspect of me in each of my main characters. Because of that a favorite is tough. At this point in time I’m going to have to go with Raebyn. Prepping for The Phoenix Grail release I realized Raebyn had most of the best lines.
They [Fae] can physically be anything and anyone, and have been around long enough to have collected a myriad of experiences. They’re playing a long game that has noble intent, but they’ve gone terribly awry. I guess I like to explore those stories of do the ends justify the means. The trick is most people don’t yet know what’s at stake…
Did you pull any real life travel destinations or experiences into the novel?
It was more reverse on destinations. The Arthurian legends have become an amalgam of so 111many stories and traditions Arthur could be from a few different places, but I tend to favor the welsh traditions, so I knew I wanted to go there. I managed a short trip and to Wales and hit six of the northern heritage castles. I had actually studied the google maps walking view so much I navigated one of the towns without map or phone.
There’s a bit of me in each character. When I was young, some things happened and what gave me comfort and rationalization was that these experiences prepared me to do something, and I was on a hero’s journey. As an adult I’ve become disillusioned, there are no simple dragons to slay. But I tried to put that dichotomy into Drea. She grew up with Moralynn, and has known since a child this was what she had to do, and it set her apart from her peers. I’ve had a history of sometimes trying to reach too far too fast, so designed Jamie to have treading in unknown waters. Viviane, who we’ll see more of in Lady Leaves the Lake, constantly goes through surviving a lot of restrictions. From the age of eight into adulthood I couldn’t swim underwater due to ear issues which inspired some of Viviane’s initial curse.
Did you either have to, or choose to cut out any major scenes or chapters from The Phoenix Grail? If so, why?
I’ll just come out and say it, this is half of what was originally one story. It hit a point where it felt two large for one book, and I thought I could achieve satisfying arcs in both. A lot of scenes did move around, this was my first novel so I have learned a lot and did a lot of work on this. I am waiting to see if it’s even recognizable to my beta readers.
In writing a full length book, did you acquire any quirks or pet peeves that you didn’t have before?
I overanalyze storytelling. Granted I am a systems engineer so I make a career of understanding the components and connections of everything. However writing a book meant I’ve gained a lot of domain knowledge in story telling, so I can dissect those elements. Not sure this is a pet peeve but now I absolutely need a Mac so I can use all the good writing and publishing software. I also play a lot less video games, that’s sad.
Outside of writing, what hobbies do you have? Did you pull any of them into the novel for your characters?
An engineer by day, a writer by night, and a gamer when time allows. That’s why I gave Rhys a bit of a secret game obsession, and in future books that’s going to blossom in a lot of fun. How would a gamer handle real magic in the world?. One of my future books even features my favorite Pathfinder character.
A hobby you won’t see in the stories is origami. See I love all things paper. Reading books, writing books, and folding it. It’s very portable art, and my own cute fidget toy no one can be upset about. I do leave paper cranes everywhere, so keep an eye out if we’re ever at the same con!
Do you have any advice on finding a work/life/writing balance?
Ha! Next question.
More seriously, you just have to decide what your life priorities, and segment your time..
I’m also a relatively new mother so that changed priorities a lot. I worked really hard to get a daytime boss I could work with to keep my hours to an appropriate level, but that means I am passing on some opportunities. The dedication is actually in reference to one of my previous bosses who called out my workaholism and straight up told me to cut my hours; I wasn’t being effective. I don’t have a lot of free time otherwise, which meant giving up video games and entire day RPG sessions.
For writing specifically how much progress can you make in a doable unit of time?… then just know it’ll take a lot of those units to achieve your writing goals. It’ll probably take some practice to really get a good idea of your capacity. I’m a planner so I can do that math. If you’re a panster that’ll probably be tougher, so to be safe don’t set your release and editing deadlines until you hit a good level of doneness.
You will have to figure a way to balance the business side too. Does that come out of your writing time? Or is that a different kind of time? For me the energy for business and writing is different so I can schedule those different. I can watch things when I’m doing business math, planning, communication. When I’m writing, very minimal stimulus.
Thank you for taking the time to do this interview! I want to have an open ended question and just ask if there is anything else you want to say either about the book, the characters, writing in general, life, or anything else?
I believe the Arthurian legend is the original fanfiction. So many influences came together to get us to the version we have today. The versions actually. Everyone can have “their” Arthur. I feel both a bit of a responsibility and a joy I might in the tiniest way influence peoples experience with it. Fanfiction is the highest form of compliment and interaction with a story. If you want to get into writing, don’t be afraid to write in the worlds you love first. I grew up in Pern fandom writing in weyrs and I couldn’t be where I am today without that experience. You will not only practice your craft, you are going to find a community. You need a community to bolster you through writing. Creative work is not easy and it isn’t always inherently collaborative so it’s easy to withdraw. So find those people you can share with, help each other, and never let go.
Here is the link to purchase the book:
Thank you guys so much for tuning in, to the publisher and author for including me in the tour, and for any future opportunities to participate!