Back in November, Katie Sullivan released her long-awaited first novel Changelings: Into the Mist, the first in a series of adventure novels that blend the fascination of historical fiction with the wonder of Celtic mythology. While she is working on the second book, due out this Fall, she’s also been writing a serial thriller called Three Ghosts, which she will publish as both a paperback and e-book this month. Helena Hann-Basquiat currently has a Pubslush campaign taking pre-orders for Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two, and is also publishing a Shakespearean-style play, a tragi-comedy called Penelope, Countess of Arcadia. They sat down one evening to chat.
Overheard over coffee at Helena’s…
Okay, then, well, I’ve just made myself a double cup of Chai Latte and the whole room smells like cinnamon and licorices.
Yum. I love chai. I make it with coconut milk, because although from Wisconsin, dairy and I don’t get on, but even without that problem, coconut milk in chai is divine!
I’ll bet. If I ever buy one at Starbucks, I usually get a soy chai latte. That is kind of criminal, you living in Wisconsin and not eating cheese. But then, the leading cause of death in America is actually heart disease, if the film Thank You For Smoking has taught us anything.
Oh, cheese is exempt. I can only give up so much (wheat, most grains, tomatoes, peppers, ice cream). I’ll happily die from heart disease for cheese.
Sounds like you’d be difficult to plan a meal for. But I’m sure you’d make it very worthwhile with the pleasure of your company. It occurs to me that we are coming up on having known each other for two years. But this is really the first time we’ve actually had a chance to sit down together and chat about the writing. Tell me about Three Ghosts. Where did that come from? How is it different from writing about D (your LONGTIME companion)
Two years, that is crazy! Three Ghosts had a sort of round-about genesis (don’t they all?!). The germ of the story started when I was 18, with a young woman who moved to Ireland and fell in love with a rable-rousing charmer, who ended up dying for his ’cause’ forcing her to go underground. Well, I quickly realized at 18 that I had no idea what I was talking about – even if I was a young woman who moved to Ireland and fell in love with a charming rabble-rouser! Fast forward more years than I care to count, and a friend issued me a challenge via text message: “tell me something interesting.” I did, and he turned around and said: “That’s the first line of a a story your going to write. I want 500 words tomorrow.” Bossy. Anyway, I couldn’t stop at 500, and even after 1000 I was having trouble wrapping it up. Then I went to serialize it on the blog and realized there was more. So, the blog gets the serial, and then it will be downloadable in its full form on March 17 – on its own and as part of a promotion for Changelings.
That’s a great idea. A musician friend of mine gave me some advice one time, and that was PUBLISH PUBLISH PUBLISH. Make sure you’ve always got something new or something around the corner. So I’ve been trying to do the same — e-books, novellas, etc…
And I’ve taken my cue from that – believe me!
Can you give me a brief “what’s it all about?”
Sure – Deirdre O’Brien, an Irish-American political activist, married the wrong man – and had to kill him to save the lives of thousands. Fifteen years later, he’s back from the dead, with a horrific plan to destroy the tenuous peace between Belfast, Dublin and London. She only has three days – three days, and three ghosts. She will confront them, or risk becoming one herself.
That sounds amazing — like a thriller starring a young Harrison Ford or maybe that guy who plays the new Captain Kirk. And I really enjoyed how you started it off with the Dickens allusions — very classy.
Thank you – it carries through, but only faintly – I can see which ghost is past, present and future, but none of them are particularly nice men! And yeah, Chris Pine can totally be in it – even as a bad guy, I’m okay with that!
The cover art debuted on the blog last week, graciously crafted by Casey T. Malone. It has a subtle, classic aesthetic that I really like and can never seem to achieve on my own.
So you are going to do a print copy, then? That’s great! And then, will it be back to Changelings II – The Wrath of Khan?
Yes, the print copy is sort of my conceit. I just really like doing it! And yes, Changelings 2, Benedict Is Dubh (almost as good as Richard Armitage) is underway. It has sat in the drawer for long enough and I’m almost eager to let D have his way with my inner dialogue again.
Here’s the latest blurb:
Fresh from their misadventures in Into the Mist, Changelings Maureen O’Malley and Sean McAndrew have been abandoned in a world devoid of magic. Faced with expulsion, Maureen and Sean have nowhere to go but to the McAndrew estate, run by Sean’s mysterious Aunt Margaret.
But even deep in the Scottish Highlands, Faerie whispers spun by the treacherous king of the Fae, Nuada Silver Arm, reach out to snatch them in the night – and this time, returning home is not an option. This time, in order to thwart the king, they must protect the McAndrew family, no matter the cost to themselves.
Slipping between the shifting lands of the Fae, the last days of World War Two, and the heady months leading up to the Jacobean Rebellion of 1745, the war between Man and Fae will come to its dramatic conclusion in Changelings: The Coming Storm
You seem to take your inspiration from so many places — from the news, from history, and from mythology. In Changelings, you wrote about historical events, and then showed how there was a supernatural world behind our own that was influencing those events. It reminded me almost of how Christian mythology supposes that there are angels and demons behind everything, influencing events. Or maybe that’s just that show Supernatural.
That was the idea – it didn’t start that way, but once D came in on the scene, my ex-husband and I had lots of conversations on what it might be like if the myths that make up so much of the social fabric of a slightly older Ireland, were real. Changelings grew from that.
I was wondering what other places you might take Sean and Maureen — Ireland has had such a violent history, especially in the 20th Century.
I can give you a spoiler: After 2, Maureen and Sean are done – they will witness the 1745 Jacobean rebellion, but they evolve to become witnesses and protectors of history and family. Their daughter, on the other hand….
And here I almost hoped I’d see them make it to the swinging ’60s! Anyhow, I think it’s a fantastic concept — that world behind our own, influencing ours — and one which has saturated mythologies and religions of all sorts. I think that such a universal idea is easily grasped by people, because it makes for fantastic storytelling possibilities.
It really does – there are so many ways a story can be told – is this the real aspect, or is that? And of course, you know yourself when you weave stories together to create the Memoirs. Your PubSlush is underway for Memoirs Volume 2 – can you tell me why PubSlush as a vehicle in particular?
I had been hunting for something different — I wasn’t unhappy with Kickstarter, I just wanted to see what other options were available. Pubslush is sort of a “by writers, for writers” community, and it isn’t just about crowdfunding. It’s a place for indie writers to discover each other, promote each other — and when the campaign is over — it doesn’t end there. My book will stay up on Pubslush for people to discover there. They’ve been really personal with the customer service — I can’t say enough good about them.
It seems like an inviting place, which as a customer is always a plus. I know Three was a stretch for me – I’ve never written a thriller before (read loads though), and I know that included with some of your PubSlush perks, is a new Dilettante offering called Penelope, Countess of Arcadia. What is that all about, and where did you get that idea?
Penelope started out as a throw away joke — I thought I might get a blog post or two out of the idea — but it just seemed to CONSUME me — I wrote the whole think in less than two weeks. Without giving too much personal information, we had a pretty bad scare, as Penny was accused of misappropriation and outright embezzling from the student society she had belonged to when she was still in University. Long story short (because the fictionalized version is so much more fun) everything’s okay, and Penny didn’t go to jail, but for a few days there, it was NOT looking good. The person that made the accusation had crossed paths with Penny before — and I’d had so much fun lampooning that event, that I just HAD to do something with this. I wanted revenge on the person we call The Empress, and what better revenge than to be cast as the villain in a Shakespearean tragedy?
I think it’s amazing, and I can’t wait to read it. It wasn’t until my son started reading Shakespeare, and then I picked up a Shakespearean Star Wars that I really started appreciating the form, so when you came out with the idea, I was cheering on the other side of the monitor, because I know you’re going to bring a flair and panache to it – but still make it relatable (a la star wars for me) for people to read. And I think that’s fantastic.
Well, I won’t spoil anything, but I do make a Mulder and Scully reference. And I’ve included You as an actual character so I can break the fourth wall as Helena is wont to do.
Oh my goodness – that is hysterical, and so very appropriately Helena. Okay, so you have to do something for the Luddite over here: Explain to me the #WhereIsHelena thing. I’m a terrible person and I just found mine in a pile of mail that had been sitting by my other desk (as we were taking up carpets, no less).
Ah.. this is a… well, I don’t want to say failed experiment because I’m still holding out hope that it will continue… as far as I’m concerned it can go on indefinitely. It’s my attempt at viral marketing. Sort of a chain letter/hot potato type thing. Find one, pass it on, but before you do, Tweet, take a picture, post it on Facebook, etc… with the hash tag #WhereIsHelena and I’ve been handing out prizes — music from my collection, e-books, even a paperback copy of Memoirs Volume One to one lucky person.
It’s not necessarily linked to this Pubslush campaign, but more of an ongoing thing.
Okay! That’s a very cool idea – reminds me a little bit of the BookCrossing thing that started several years ago – find a book, read it, pass it on but before you do, there’s this log of where its been online, using the ISBN numbers (or something). Now that I have them, I’m doing my part, but not to be entered in for prizes. Can I exempt myself from prizes?
I forbid it. You can always give your prizes away. So, you’ve been reading a lot as I’ve been posting some of the stories that have become volume two — what are your expectations for the book, how it might be different from volume one. A strange question, perhaps, but I’d like a perspective other than my own.
Well, I definitely feel like the stories have matured in a way. There’s a variety of narrative threads, and while they still run the gamut of human emotion – from ridiculous to heartbreaking, I think this one is going to touch even more poignantly on story – Its been so long since I’ve read them in any sort of order, I’m looking forward to falling back into the life you’ve painted for us.
I remember that we really first started getting acquainted shortly before I’d wrapped up writing on Volume One — this would have been maybe May or June of 2013 — and it probably wasn’t even until that point that I realized what I had. At first glance it was just a collection of stories. True, near the end, I started linking up the narratives — the whole California/Halesowen back and forth storylines — but I hadn’t started out with any inkling that it was a book. When I began Volume Two, beginning very deliberately with Arcadia, I sort of knew what the book’s theme was going to be. It’s still not a novel by any stretch. More like a TV show where there are story arcs, but then they’re interrupted by stand-alone monster of the week episodes. But there is, I hope, a more cohesive feel this time around.
I think it really does have that feel – and it’s one that is approachable. It has a conversational feel that lets the reader feel part of the goings-on – and this was true for Vol. 1 as well. I just finished reading Henry and June, and while obviously vastly different, the immediacy of Anin’s journal entries has that same sort of feel.
I don’t know if it was intentional, or how well I’ve succeeded, but I think a lot of the stories are more heartfelt, as if I turned the irony down to a more palatable level. I hope people relate, I hope they’re moved to laughter, and to tears. It’s my fondest wish that chocolate milk will shoot out of at least one person’s nose.
I’m pretty sure you’re going to get your wish!
Good night, Katie! You’re awesome. Thanks for the chat.
Descended of pirates and revolutionaries, Katie Sullivan is a lover and student of all things Irish. Born in the States, she is a dual US/Irish citizen, and studied history and politics at University College, Dublin – although, at the time, she seriously considered switching to law, if only so she could attend lectures at the castle on campus. She lives in the American Midwest with her son, two cats and a pesky character in her head named D (but you can call him Dubh). She can be found writing with said character weekly at her blog, The D/A Dialogues.
Some people attribute the invention of the Ampersand to her, but she has never made that claim herself.
Last year, she published Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One, and is about to release Volume Two, along with a Shakespearean style tragi-comedy, entitled Penelope, Countess of Arcadia.
Helena writes strange, dark fiction under the name Jessica B. Bell. VISCERA, a collection of strange tales, will be published by Sirens Call Publications later this year. Find more of her writing at http://www.helenahb.com or and http://www.whoisjessica.com Connect with her via Twitter @HHBasquiat , and keep up with her ever growing body of work at GOODREADS, or visit her AMAZON PAGE