Hello everybody! Today, I’m hugely excited to be interviewing the lovely Sinéad O’ Hart, almost 4 years after reading her debut the Eye of the North and interviewing her on the blog tour. Anyway, onto the post!
Hi Sinéad, thank you so much for being here!
Thank you for having me, Amy!
1. First off, can you please describe Skyborn for us in 5 words?
Mystery, Shapeshifters, Circus-thrills-and-spills, Friendship, Courage (and if I can cheat a bit more, I’ll add ‘Airships’!) 2. I was lucky enough to interview you back in 2017 when the Eye of the North came out, and one of my questions then was what was your favourite moment of your writing career so far. So, almost 4 years on, I’m going to ask you the same thing! Has it changed or stayed the same? That highlight is still a definite highlight (the day I got my UK book deal with Stripes/Little Tiger Press), but I think I’ll also mention the school event I did in my own former primary school. My publicist at the time, Beth, told me quite casually as we walked in the gates: ‘Oh, by the way, you did know you’ll be speaking to 300 pupils all at once, right? Annnnd, the school has no facility for your PowerPoint presentation, so you’ll have to wing it.’ I didn’t have time to panic, and it went on to be one of the best school events I’ve ever done! So much fun. It remains the largest group I’ve ever spoken to in person all at once, and I’m really proud that it was in my own school, in my hometown in Wexford, south-east Ireland.
3. Skyborn is a prequel to the Eye of the North, focusing on Thing back when he was known as Bastjan. What made you want to write a prequel? Did you take any inspiration from famous prequels, and are you a fan of prequels in general?
Skyborn as a prequel to The Eye of the North came about because my editor at the time, Katie Jennings, wanted me to write one. I’d been joking on Twitter with Vashti Hardy, an author I’m sure you’re a huge fan of (as I am myself), and we’d been talking about ‘fantasy projects’, things we’d love to write. She mentioned she’d love to write a prequel to her first novel Brightstorm and I said how much fun it would be to write a prequel to The Eye of the North, focusing on the parents of my protagonist Emmeline Widget. My editor saw this and was enthusiastic about the idea but wanted me to focus the story on another character – Thing, the ‘boy with no name’ who meets Emmeline on her quest in The Eye of the North. Who is Thing? Where did he come from? Why does he have such incredible acrobatic skills and why, despite being an ‘urchin’, does he have such a loyal, courageous heart and such a capacity for love? I knew Thing had a great back story, filled with people who had loved and cherished him, and from whom he’d been somehow separated – and I was excited to tell it. Skyborn is the result.
4. Perhaps on a similar note, are there any books/films/TV shows you’d love a prequel for? Which character(s) would it focus on? What do you think it’d be about?
Well – I’d love Vashti to write that prequel to Brightstorm! I think she’d do a great job focusing on the parents of Arthur and Maudie, and the things they might get up to in their youth. I’d actually still like to write the story of Emmeline’s parents, Eloise and Martin Widget, and their own teenage escapades, so perhaps we should write a crossover novel. One of my favourite films is Stardust, the adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel. I’ve often wondered about the sons of the King of Stormhold, who are portrayed with so much humour in the film, and how great it would be to have the story of their younger days (and that of their other sibling – no spoilers!) told in a prequel or a spin-off film. It would be fun to see the mischievous and ingenious ways in which they would try to assassinate one another.
5. Much as I love both your other books, I have to admit the Star Spun Web is my very favourite, so I wanted to pop in a question about it too. My favourite character in it was Violet, and I noticed you have an excellent animal companion character in Skyborn too, with Wares. What are some of your favourite relationships between animals and children in fiction?
Ros Robert’s Digger and Me is a very special book about a boy and his dog, Digger, who becomes his only constant in an ever-changing world. I really loved their relationship. I’m always going to be a fan of Moll and Gryff the wildcat in Abi Elphinstone’s Dreamsnatcher books, as I think they’re both well-written and also a perfect match for one another. There was also a novel from a few years back, The Twistrose Key by Tone Almhjell, which featured a whole array of animal sidekicks, and their strange adventures with their children.
6. Moving back to Skyborn, I’d love to know what inspired the circus setting. I loved Bastian’s found family and how much they all cared for each other. Are you a fan of found families in fiction? Who are some of your favourites?
Thanks – I loved writing about the circus. I found the setting came alive in my imagination and it was very enjoyable to set a story there. And I loved Bastjan’s found family, too, particularly Crake the strongman, who has a very special place in my heart. I do love the idea of found families, and for some reason they crop up regularly in my stories (even though I’m from a very traditional family set-up myself!) I recently read Hana Tooke’s The Unadoptables and I enjoyed it, particularly the bond that the orphans have and the loyalty and love they show one another. I also loved the familial bond that develops in Tim Tilley’s Harklights between Wick, the escaped orphan, and the Hobs, who are the guardians of the forest. They become a real found family, despite all the differences between them.
7. Something all your books also have in common is the feeling that they’d make incredible films, with their brilliant plots and vivid settings. What tips would you give to writers so that they could achieve a similar writing style?
Well – thank you! That’s very kind of you to say. I guess what makes a scene come alive is the small details that round it out and make it seem real. So, it’s important to remember all the senses: don’t just describe what something looks like, but think about how it might smell, or feel, or taste. If you’re describing an ensemble scene, where several of your cast of characters are present, drop in small touches like what someone was wearing, or whether someone else was sitting or standing, or the expression on someone’s face, just to differentiate them and make the scene feel 3-D. It can be hard to do this when you’re on a tight word limit, so really gentle brushes of detail are important. As to how to develop this writing style? By being observant of the world around you and practising being the type of person who notices things. I’m an introvert who is always looking at things and taking them in, so that naturally comes out in the way I write.
8. Our last interview was actually before I introduced this regular question, which is mad to think about!! What is your writing routine like? Do you have any unusual habits or quirks?
I’m a parent to a young child so I don’t have a writing ‘routine’, as such. My child is at primary school now (finally!) so during term-time, the mornings are a blessing as I have a couple of hours free to work and write. During school holidays a lot of my work gets done at night, at weekends, and whenever I can use the TV as a distraction for an hour or so (though I do try to avoid that as much as I can!) Having said all that: I’ve written more since I became a parent than I ever did while I was child-free, so being a parent hasn’t impeded me. It’s just helped me to learn how to make the best use of my time (no bad thing). I have no unusual habits, besides that I write in the kitchen. The Star-Spun Web was written entirely with my laptop balanced in front of my toaster on my kitchen counter. I now use the kitchen table, mostly!
9. Finally, can you tell us anything about what you’re working on at the moment and/or will be releasing next? I’m very excited for it already!
2021 has been a very busy year for me, writing-wise, though not all of it is guaranteed to be published! I have a fourth book coming from Little Tiger Press, probably in 2023, and I can tell you it’s the story of a girl named Mara and her father, Gabriel, who have a unique ability to travel through time (sort of…), and the trouble that ensues when a shadowy figure from the past re-emerges, wishing to steal that power for themselves. This is a story I’ve had in my head for almost twenty years, and which I’ve tried to write five times, but which I’ve never been able to finish before. I managed a complete first draft in May, and I was delighted with myself! I hope the finished product will be lots of fun to read. I’ve also just finished the first draft of a book I was lucky enough to gain an Arts Council of Ireland Bursary to write. It’s a story set in modern-day Ireland, featuring lots of Irish mythology and folklore, and I really loved writing it. It’s called The Silver Road, and with any luck it will be published one day. I’ve also been working on some exciting projects for younger readers, but I can’t share anything about those just yet (though keep your fingers crossed for me).
Favourite ice cream flavour? Boring old delicious Vanilla.
Going to the beach or to the park? The park, so long as there are plenty of trees to cast some shade for me to sit in! I am not a sun person.
3 fictional characters you’d invite to a summery picnic? Ooh. Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables, Coraline from Coraline (obvs), and my own Emmeline Widget (if that’s allowed). I think that would be a fun, and slightly weird, picnic.
Top 3 books of 2021? Between Sea and Sky by Nicola Penfold, Otherland by Louie Stowell, Crowfall by Vashti Hardy.
3 books you’re dying to read, whether they’re already released or upcoming ones? Fireborn by Aisling Fowler, The Battle for Roar by Jenny McLachlan, Libby and the Parisian Puzzle by Jo Clarke.
Thank you so much for reading! Are you a fan of Sinéad’s books? Are you planning to read any of them, if not? I’d love to hear in the comments!
2 thoughts on “Author Interview with Sinéad O’ Hart”
Great interview even if she did get the best flavour ice cream wrong 😂
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Thank you so much! and you know, I don`t actually remember a time when someone`s ever got it right, apart from 2 members of the Borders when I interviewed them 😮