I am extra super excited for today’s interview because Heather is not just a fellow writer, but also my sorority sister and good friend! We are both scientists who love writing fiction. In her spare time Heather enjoys hiking, and she’s a Harry Potter and Dr. Who fan as well. Check out an excerpt from her novel GOD’S PLAY at the end of the interview – it definitely left me wanting to read more!
Her blog: Throw This Book At Me
Follow her on Twitter.
SL: When did you first start writing stories?
HD: For as long as I can remember. I’d buy cheap notebooks in elementary school and write down cheesy stories about magical animals — then I got a computer and upgraded to floppy disks. With the internet came fanfiction, writing contests, and better critiques. Taking rhetoric classes cleaned up my style. I don’t think I’ll ever be done reinventing my stories and the ways I write them. But the best way to start writing is to grab a dollar store notebook and see what happens.
SL: Who or what most inspires your writing?
HD: Extraordinary places and everyday life — the sense of wonder that this world exists is why I write fantasy. Because the manic energy in my brain refuses to let go of certain stories. It’s like I’ve got a book in my brain, and I’m constantly transcribing it — getting it as close to the one in my head as possible.
SL: On a similar note (pun intended), what music (genre, artist, etc.) most inspires your writing?
HD: I love folk and indie rock music. Sound tracks and classical music are great when I don’t want to hear a specific voice in my head, though.
SL: Which of your own stories is your favorite?
HD: The one I’m currently writing, of course.
SL: Who is your favorite author?
HD: I should never try to answer this question — I love too many books! I suppose the authors that influenced my early writing were Garth Nix, Robin McKinley, and JK Rowling (not so much her style but getting involved in the HP fan community). Currently? It’s everything from ancient history documentaries to Shakespeare to Monty Python. I have a very active GoodReads page.
SL: If you could be bffs (best friends forever) with any fictional character, who would it be?
HD: If I was one of the Doctor’s companions, I could theoretically travel to all the fantasy worlds I’ve read about and meet my favorite characters. But of course, traveling with Bill and Ted might be less dangerous. (I’m also under the opinion Hermione and I would get along famously.)
SL: What is your ultimate goal as a writer?
HD: To sell my work — and give a bit of it away for free. I want to share my stories in a way that ensures they’re read. Some money and success would be nice, too.
SL: If you could be anything you wanted (besides a writer lol), what would you be and why?
HD: I’m already a scientist, which is one of the best jobs ever because I get to discover new things in the world. I get paid to use my brain, read papers, listen to other people’s discoveries, and talk to people about their research. I also love to hike, so I’m always scraping out as much time as possible to travel and explore nature. (With an audiobook or two, of course!)
SL: Tell me about your current work-in-progress and what your plans are for it.
HD: I’m currently shopping GODS’ PLAY around — so it’s in limbo. Here’s the ‘official’ blurb and an excerpt:
With a touch of his hand, Toby can lift the magical protection shape-shifters use to disguise themselves as human. It’s an unusual skill for a hunter, and he prefers to kill monsters the old-fashioned way: with a blade. Because of his special skill, Toby suspects he may be a monster himself. His suspicions deepen when William, a jackal-headed shape-shifter, saves him from an ambush where Toby’s the only survivor. And Toby doubts William helped him for purely altruistic reasons. With his list of allies running thin, Toby must reconcile his hatred of shifters and the damning truth that one saved his life. It’ll take both of them to track down the monster who ordered the ambush.
My mother has this butterfly knife, silver ends capping a well-worn pearl enamel grip. She grew up learning its feel, doing tricks with it like some girls do with batons. She never uses it in the kitchen, never to cook, but when she’s thinking — her brow knit up and her eyes hard — the knife materializes in her hands, and she palms it like rosary beads before flicking it open. Some people bob their legs, pace the room, or pull their hair. My mum twirls her knife.
“You know why we train with knives?” my mum asks one day, when I cut my palm pulling the knife from a target. “Knives, not guns?”
I wipe the blood stains on my track pants, another smear to add to the collection. “Henry is teaching me how to shoot,” I remind her.
She holds up the hunting knife and turns it in her palm, the steel glinting in the afternoon sun. “Monsters have claws, they’re quiet, deadly. They get close to you, slit you open with their own nails. You need your knives because, when they pull their claws, you have yours. We can be just as silent and stealthy. With our claws, we’re deadly, too.”
She’s an artist when she flings the knife into the target, burying it to the hilt. Her eyes are sharper than that blade when she glances at me. “Being a hunter and being the hunted is a fine line.”
That afternoon, sitting on the Northern line heading into town, my mother palms her knife. She doesn’t take it out of her pocket, not on the train, but she caresses the pearl handles, clutching it like her safety blanket. I tap my own pocket; my wooden handled knife presses against my leg. Sheathed in leather, it was a gift for my sixteenth birthday. I know its balance, the feel of it in my hand, how to make it stick in a mark. Every time the knife sinks into the wood or Styrofoam target, I feel like I’ve pierced it with a piece of myself; my will made into steel.
The train lurches to a halt, the conductor announces a stop, and I follow my mother onto the platform. We merge with the people streaming towards the WAY OUT signs and ride the escalator to the exit gates. Ascending a last set of grime-stained stairs, we reach the surface. In our travel across the city, the fog rolls off the river, bringing a premature darkness. We cross the street, but instead of going over the bridge with the crowd, we descend the sloping path leading below the bridge, down to the water’s edge. The fog squats on our heads, keeping out any last rays of sun. Not that we want light. It’s better for the predators — us — to lurk in shadows. When you’re on a hunt, the best cloak is a silent footstep and a steady heartbeat.
Three figures, two large and one small, emerge around the corner of the capillary sized lane. The short man is only a few years older than me and compactly built. “You’ll be the sister, Sharron, with her boy. That’s it then.”
The woman is the oldest of the three, but she’s tall, even if her face looks doughy and round. The other man with the dark eyes and salt-and-pepper hair I know: he’s my uncle Henry. He nods to my mum, but they don’t embrace, not on a business night like this. Henry pulls a folded piece of paper from his coat, flattening it with his palm. He hands it to my mother. I glance down at the address. It’s not far, maybe only a ten minute walk.
The other man pulls off a black back pack, unloading several more knives made for hunting. There are two guns, both with silencers. He hands one to the doughy-faced woman and keeps one for himself. I take a small pocket knife, slip it into my hand, and strap a Bowie knife at my waist; my hoodie covers it. My mother does the same, making sure her black trench hangs down over her sheath. Clad in black coats, denim, and trainers, we’re not a stealth squad, but we blend well as poor urbanites.
I mouth, How many? Henry holds up a single finger. Five to one: good odds.
Henry takes the lead, and my mother follows him. The other boy and I go next, and the big woman takes the rear. I pull my black baseball cap lower on my head, tugging the sweater’s hood over top. The other man tilts his head, the black hood obscuring his features and making him look like a sinister wizard. I pad over the concrete, light on my feet, my treads soft and soundless. I palm the pocket knife, planning to throw it first before I pull either of the larger blades.
We stick close to the river, keeping it on our left. I step over a puddle, not wanting to leave tracks. My mother’s black hat bobs in front of me. She’s tucked her usual ginger pony tail into it, not wanting to be a neon sign in the washed-out twilight. We approach a warehouse, fronted by a furniture store. A sign in neon green reads END OF SUMMER CLEARANCE! BEST DEALS, 50% OFF BEDS, DESKS, SOFAS! 70% OFF LAWN FURNITURE! Two of the windows are boarded up, and a third one is cracked, glass spider-webbing out from the impact point. In the final display, a metal patio table with black lattice work is already rusted around the edge.
Henry circles around back, and at the side entrance, he takes out a key and swipes through the security code. The pad flashes red. Henry hits some numbers, and it turns green. He presses on the handle, and we queue up behind him. My mother takes out her knife in one hand, a flashlight in the other. Henry darts in, and my mother and the other man rush in after, weapons raised. I flick my knife out, ready to throw. The woman covers the rear, shutting the door quietly behind us. We fan in a semi-circle, pressing into the warehouse; it’s dank, carpet muffles our steps, and the only sound is a pair of rats padding away from the flashlight beam.
Empty. I mouth the word to my mum. She shakes her head, twirling the knife in her left hand, keeping the flashlight steady in her right. The other man pulls out his flashlight, scanning the other side of the wall. We don’t want to turn on the store lights and get a call put out on us; the cops consider this breaking and entering, even if there’s nothing worth stealing. I grab my light, shining it around, checking inside of the wardrobes near me.
“Bad lead,” the man says. I meet his eyes and nod. We were both hoping for a kill, the first since winter. It’s been a slow year for hunting monsters.
Motioning with the barrel of her gun, the tall woman takes the man and goes to search the back. My mother shakes her head, but she’s examining the beds with a sharp gaze worthy of Sherlock Holmes. Henry and I fan out around her, and I check behind a stack of mattresses double my height. My mum continues to comb through the place with practiced eyes. “No sign of habitation. Bad tip, brother.”
Henry shakes his head, still scanning with his flashlight. He turns to her and mouths one word. Father. My mum frowns, the shadowed creases in her forehead half-lit by the dual beams. Henry treads without so much as a shoe squeak towards the front of the store; mum and I sweep out, moving like a single pair of headlights.
A door shuts. I jerk my head up. A thump from the back of the warehouse, and something crashes over. The woman shouts. There’s a gun shot.
There’s more than one.
Thanks again to Heather for playing and to all of you for checking in with us! Until next time, check out my past interviews here!