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A Face in the Leaves - Interview with Nina Oram

Let’s start from the beginning. Who were the writers who inspired you to become an author?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a child, so I suppose the first authors to inspire me to write were Susan Cooper and Alan Garner. I loved the atmosphere they created, and the connection to ancient history and mythology. The imagery in ‘The Dark is Rising’, and the idea of an ancient, Pagan winter, still remains with me today.

What is the very first piece of fiction you ever wrote?

The very first piece of fiction I remembering writing is a poem at the age of 8, called “Have you got a cat?” Using words like ‘bad’ and ‘lad’, some of the rhyming is a little dodgy, to say the least, but my partner proudly keeps a copy of it in his drawer beside the bed. Looking back, it was a little girl’s craving for a pet, when she was only allowed a budgie called Buck. (Named after the painfully tight-trousered Buck Rogers in the 70’s series, of course.)

What is the hardest part of writing, in your experience?

For me, the hardest part of writing is honing and redrafting. Pulling everything together; all the characters and the plot lines, (because my plots are always complicated), and making sure I’m not leaving the reader with any unwanted questions. Also, weeding out the unnecessary scenes or descriptions, the things I really like, but don’t go anywhere.

Tell me about your book. What was the inspiration behind it?

There are so many inspirations for the book, it’s hard to know where to start. Ultimately it stems from my passion for ecology, my love of trees, woods, and forests. As I was a child, I was fascinated by English folklore and in particular, the story of the Green Man. Growing up in the countryside, playing in the local woods, I loved the idea of an ancient, pagan God, protecting the trees and the animals of the forest. But also, in there, is North London, where I lived for several years, and the parks and streets I walked through. And women, the different women in my life who inspire me every day.

Is there a particular character in the book? What makes it so?

The main character in the book is called Lily Goodfellow and I love her. Being a woman in her late fifties, in the middle of the menopause, she’s an unlikely heroine in a Folk Horror/Dark Fantasy book. I don’t know exactly where she came from, apart from the fact that we were born in the same decade, but she’s the kind of character that appears on your doorstep and before you know what you’re doing, you’re inviting her in and giving her the spare key to the house.

Think back at your debut book. How did you approach the ‘getting published’ process? Any tips, resources that you can share with our readers?

I think the main tip is to try different ways. Don’t get stuck on the agent to big publisher dream. A friend had a horrendous experience with an agent, then got a publisher by herself. While writing my first book, I branched out with short stories, and found a publisher through them. I guess, like everyone says, do your research re: agents and publishers, then just keep writing and keep sending, and most importantly, keep learning, keep honing your craft. The last thing, if the opportunity presents itself, ask, even if it feels a little cheeky or pushy.

How did you find the publishing process, in general?

I was very lucky. Through my short stories, I found a publisher who I have total regard and respect for. Who believes in me, seeks to develop my abilities, and who always takes my thoughts and opinions into account, even though the final decision must ultimately be theirs. I think independent publishers are so important, and a lifeline for most emerging writers. They are so often the ones that take the risk with new authors and consider writing large publishers don’t.

What do you think is the status of publishing today? I’m referring to issues such as representation, diversity, etc.

I think it can be difficult for new and/or different voices to break through. Diversity is an area that needs continued, concerted work, but I’m concerned that this will be treated as a fashion, an issue that allows some people through, but is then quickly forgotten again. However, it does feel very special to be published with a publisher that not only actively seeks diversity in Sci-Fi and Fantasy but works hard to draw attention to it.

What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I’m working on a Dark Fantasy novel. It’s a bit of a departure for me and doesn’t really include any Folk Horror elements at all. It’s more dystopian, but as with most of my writing, has a strong ecological theme. Although, this one is more political, with the rich and powerful definitely in the firing line!

If you had to recommend an author and/or a book, who would it be?

There really are so many authors to choose from, but I would have to say Margaret Attwood. The Handmaid’s Tale is brilliant, but there’s so much more to her. She can write anything, in any style or genre. If she wrote a 300-page book about making a cup of tea, I’d read it. She’s a genius.

Nina Oram
Nina Oram

Originally from the UK, Nina Oram lives in the West of Ireland with her partner and a black cat called Cara.

Passionate about ecology and Climate Change, her work is inspired by the natural world, and the idea that the beliefs, folklore, and mythology of our ancestors are still with us, lying beneath the everyday.

Set in Ireland, her YA Fantasy Trilogy ‘The Carrowkeel Series’ is published by Luna.

In 2016, she won the Luna Press Publishing Short Story Competition in the UK, and the Metamorphose Short Story Competition in the US, and was published in the subsequent anthologies.

Also twice shortlisted in the Aeon Award Short Story Competition, and Over The Edge Writer of the Year, in Ireland, she has had stories published in The Ogham Stone Literary Journal, Ireland, and Horla, horror magazine, UK.

Having completed a book of short stories, and her first horror novel, “The Crooked God”, she is currently working on her first adult Fantasy novel

Find her on Facebook, official website and Twitter: fishcoattales @ninaoramstories.

About A Face in the Leaves:

“This forest was home to thousands, millions of life forms, a colony, a vaulted, green, cathedral-like, city. Surely she knew all this, and yet, she’d never thought of it before, never really noticed. The woods and forests were just somewhere pleasant to walk, to be surrounded by nature, in the beautiful, lush quiet. As if it was made for her, and the people like her. But it wasn’t. It wasn’t made for any of them.” Art journalist Lily Goodfellow is excited to have discovered a young artist with the gift to capture nature, beyond what the naked eye can see. As she tries to unravel the secrets of North London’s woods, Lily finds herself confronted by ancient forces, bent on protecting their own boundaries at all costs. Watch the YouTube Book Launch here.

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