Thursday, 3 February 2011

Author Interview: Michelle Harrison (The '13' Series)

I already interviewed Michelle Harrison once last year, but I love her books so much that I just had to ask her more questions. She's the author of The 13 Treasures, The 13 Curses and The 13 Secrets (which is published today!), and basically she just rocks. If you haven't given her books a go, please do - you won't look back!


Hello Michelle. Thanks for coming back and answering more questions! Now that the 13 trilogy is over, how do you feel? Sad? Relieved?

Thanks for having me, and for all your kind words about the books! I actually feel sad and relieved. Sad because the books and characters have been such a big part of my life for a long time (eight years!) but relieved because I feel the trilogy has ended on a high, and it’s liberating to be able to start something new and fresh.

I found The 13 Secrets to be quite intricate where the plot was concerned. How long did it take you to write?

It’s interesting that you should say that – to my mind the plot felt the most straightforward of the three books. Once I had worked out the roles of the various characters it really boiled down to a ‘whodunnit’ more than anything else. In fact it was written the fastest – the first draft was complete in about four months, though it was an intense four months with a lot of late nights! I should have had longer, but back in May last year I bought my first home which proved a little distracting, and it was a while before I got back to some serious writing.

What prompted the title change from The 13 Wards to The 13 Secrets?

Ha ha! Well, two reasons. Firstly, the Sales team at Simon & Schuster were not convinced that ‘wards’ was a strong or exciting enough word for the series finale, and I was in agreement. Having mentioned the title The 13 Wards online and at school events, I was getting feedback that the word was confusing people by making them think of hospital wards, or wards of state. Worse, it was easily misheard – one of the schools I visited did a write up on their website and referred to it as ‘The 13 Warts!’

We brainstormed a few alternatives, and I was conscious that lots of readers had sent in the suggestion of ‘secrets’. I was dubious as to whether I could make it work to fit the plot, but I think I pulled it off.

Of all the fairie characters in the entire series, who is your personal favourite?

Hmm. I generally liked writing about the smaller house fairies the most. They were good for lightening the mood and adding humour to stop things getting too dark. It would be a toss up between the drain-dweller and the Mizhog. I had a lot of fun writing about how smelly and squelchy the drain-dweller was, along with its kleptomania! The same for the Mizhog, with its fleas and slug-based diet. For some reason I just like writing about gross things!

Do you have plans to ever revisit Elvesden Manor? Would a fan petition help sway your decision? ;)

I would definitely consider it, and I already have a few ideas of where things could go. That said, I’d need to be confident that further stories could match or better the existing trilogy – I’d rather end the series with people wanting more than risk disappointing myself and fans of the books. If it did continue I think it would probably have to be under a new series title – there’s a limit to how many ‘13’ titles are feasible! And of course, it depends on what my publisher wants - and a huge part of that is demand - so yes, I think a petition could make a difference!

What's your favourite scene from all 3 books?

In The 13 Treasures when Tanya discovers the photograph of her grandmother and Morwenna Bloom, and realises that Morwenna, who went missing more than half a century ago, was the very same girl she and Fabian met in the woods only a day or two before. It’s a simple scene but it’s the one that springs to mind, mainly because of how I was feeling at the time. I remember I had that squirming mixture of excitement and fear in my gut when I wrote it, firstly because of the unease of it – I’ve always loved to read spooky books – and secondly because it was at that point that I realised I could actually finish this book. I felt like a ‘proper’ writer.

Will you continue to illustrate your own chapter openings for future books?

I’d like to – I very much want to continue with my illustration and broaden it. My next book is going to be pitched at older readers though, so I’m not sure at the moment. If it were to contain illustrations I think they’d need to be different to those in the ‘13 Treasures’ series – probably a little more sophisticated.

What's been the best part of your time as an author so far?

There have been a lot of highlights: getting an agent after a lot of rejections; meeting with Simon and Schuster and walking out of the building with the knowledge they were going to make an offer for two books; seeing the book in a real, actual book shop (!), hearing from readers who say they weren’t much into reading before they read this series, and of course winning the Waterstone’s Prize. Out of everything, the moment that stands out probably seems bland to other people, but it was receiving a finished copy of the book. I thought to myself, ‘This is it. I really did it!’

For those of us currently addicted to fairie books, can you recommend some other titles you've enjoyed?

I really liked The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff. I was pleasantly surprised by how dark a story it is. Parts of it are pretty haunting, and I love the way the fey characters are never properly labelled ‘fairies’. I thought that was very powerful.

I recently finished The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh, for slightly younger readers, which I absolutely LOVED. It centres around a boy called Will, who becomes involved with the fey world when he finds an injured hob in the woods one day. The hob is just adorable – my favourite character in a long time. I wanted to steal him and bring him to Elvesden Manor to live with my fairies! I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel, The Crowfield Demon.

Your next book is a ghost story - that's quite a change from Elvesden Manor and its inhabitants. Is it going to be creepy ghosts or Casper ghosts? Any info to help with the year-long wait is much appreciated...

Oh, creepy ghosts. For sure. I’m a big fan of horror and thrillers but I find I’m often not scared enough, so I intend to scare myself silly with this. I’m extremely excited that this novel is going to be for older readers as it means I can push things a lot further. The ‘13 Treasures’ books were getting progressively darker anyway, so I think this was where things were heading. It’s being written from a male perspective, which is something new for me. It’s still in the early stages but already I’ve managed to seriously creep myself out, which is a promising start...


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Kate Evangelista said...

I just have to say: She's so pretty!

The Slowest Bookworm said...

As I only really started reading again mid last year, I think I missed out on some great books. I've just been and read your three reviews and now I'm heading over to Goodreads to add them to my wishlist!

Great Q&A. I really enjoyed reading this post.

asamum said...

I have just got 13 Treasures out of the library :D I am so excited for the ghost book. When is it due to be published??

prophecygirl said...

Next year Emma! February/March time, I think. :)