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In the Spotlight: Interview with Jess Hyslop

Jess Hyslop's new novella, Miasma, will be released on February 7, 2023, as part of the Luna Novella series. You can order it through our site, or through all the usual retailers, in print and digital.

The launch for the 2023 novellas, is on YouTube, and you can watch it here.

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

Oh, that’s a tricky one! I certainly know which writers got me reading, but it’s harder to say which ones got me writing. You know, it might be an odd mix of Tolkien, Terry Pratchett, Anne McCaffrey, Alan Garner, and Robin Hobb. I think reading their work at a youngish age made me realise the varied and expansive possibilities of fantasy and inspired me to try and create my own worlds of wonder.

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

I believe it was a short story called ‘Tyger’. It was about a robot tiger. I don’t remember what happened but I remember thinking it was terribly clever at the time. (Narrator voice: it was not.)

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

For me, it’s fighting the self doubt. That part where you’re writing a first draft and you suspect (or know!) it’s terrible but you have to keep going because if you don’t you won’t ever finish and have anything to revise. When I was younger and focussing on short stories, I used to be confused at the common advice to write a ‘bad first draft’--I was one of those writers who polished my prose as I went along and ended up with a decent story at the end of it. But then I tried to write a full-length novel and, well, you know what they say about pride before a fall. Now I embrace the ‘bad first draft’ mentality, even though I find it hard to keep going when I don’t think I’m producing good work. But I’ve become better at revision, which is obviously the key to that particular writing strategy.

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

I’ve spoken before about how the story seed for Miasma was the word ‘cataphract’ and the image of a knight in hermetically sealed armour, travelling through a toxic environment. I wanted to write fantasy that was a little weird, a little creepy, that gestured to an expansive and strange world in which my characters only inhabit a small and specific part. I love fantasy that makes you feel as though the world off-page is vast and mysterious. Gene Wolfe was certainly an influence, as was Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. I’m not saying Miasma is particularly similar to either of those, but the atmosphere of those books was certainly lurking in the back of my mind as I wrote.

What is your take on social media, when it comes to being an author? Do you think that an author should have at least one channel of communication with the readers?

I don’t think it’s necessary, to be honest. Many writers seem to be blissfully free of social media and still do well. Of course it’s lovely to get the dopamine hit of knowing when someone has read and liked your work, but I am not sure that being on social media carries a great deal of benefit to you as an author other than that. Perhaps if you write short stories, which tend to be read by a smaller community of people, it might help with making your work more visible. But novels and longer works? I’m not sure. Whether it benefits readers is a different question. As a reader, I have enjoyed following authors I admire and hearing about their processes. If they were to disappear from social media I would miss those insights, but I would also understand their decision. Social media can sometimes feel like a poisoned chalice.

What are you working on at the moment?

I am finishing revisions on an adult fantasy novel. Blimey, it’s been difficult to write. But I hope it’s decent. I’m at the point where I’m finding it difficult to tell so I’m just crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.

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

Gosh, that’s hard! There are so many authors and books I admire. Tell you what, I’ll recommend a book that came out in 2022 that I really enjoyed: Second Spear by Kerstin Hall. It’s the second in her ‘Mkalis’ cycle, the first being the novella The Border Keeper, and it’s a fast-paced action fantasy set in one of the strangest, creepiest worlds I’ve come across in the genre. I really recommend both books!

You can order Miasma and the Luna Novella books, here.


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