Author Spotlight – Lucy Holland (SISTERSONG)
Lucy Hounsom is the author of The Worldmaker Trilogy. Her first book, STARBORN, was shortlisted in the 2016 Gemmell Awards for Best Fantasy Debut. Her fourth book, SISTERSONG, a reimagining of the folk tale ‘The Twa Sisters’ is set in Devon and is published by Pan Macmillan in 2021. She works for Waterstones Booksellers and co-hosts the intersectional feminist podcast ‘Breaking the Glass Slipper’, which won Best Audio in the 2019 British Fantasy Awards. Lucy lives in Devon.
Welcome to the Hive, Lucy. Let’s start with the basics: dazzle us with an elevator pitch! Why should readers check out Sistersong?
I fail at elevator pitches, so here’s one from my awesome audiobook narrator, Robyn Holdaway:
Magic and Saxons and Trans Rep, oh my!
Which covers…quite a lot actually.
Tell us a little something about your writing process – do you have a certain method? Do you find music helps? Give us a glimpse into your world!
No music, mostly because I’d procrastinate trying to find the right kind! I prefer writing in the mornings – before showering, getting dressed, or indeed doing anything remotely civilised. Tea is important though.
Tea is important.
Speaking of worlds, tell us more about what inspired your worldbuilding. Do you have a magic system/s? If so, can you tell us a bit about it?
One of Sistersong’s themes is about restoring our lost connection with the land, so the magic system is tied into that. It involves identifying patterns – of earth, air, fire etc – and learning to manipulate them. But it must be done with care and respect, or an individual could be overwhelmed by the sheer power of nature. Elements appear in almost every magic system. I think it’s because humans are desperate to control their environment, to find ways to dominate nature. We’ve made a mess of it lately, haven’t we?
What (or who) are your most significant female fantasy influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
My most formative influence is Ursula K Le Guin. The Earthsea books are phenomenal works of worldbuilding that deal in archetypes, feminist issues, gender politics and philosophy. An author who shaped my writing itself is Patricia A McKillip. I am always striving to make my words as lyrical and poetic as hers.
Every writer encounters stumbling blocks, be it a difficult chapter, challenging subject matter or just starting a new project. How do you motivate yourself on days when you don’t want to write?
I say to myself: how lucky you are to do what you love best: tell stories and be paid to tell them! But we all have off days and sometimes they are your brain telling you to mull things over instead of charging full steam ahead. A surprising amount of book writing goes on in your subconscious.
We always appreciate a beautiful book cover! How involved in the process were you? Was there a particular aesthetic you hoped they’d portray?
Funnily enough, I wasn’t involved in the UK process at all this time around. However, I could not be happier with the cover and am deeply impressed that it features not just the magic system but all three protagonists – because their stories are so intertwined.
Who are your favourite female characters in literature or pop culture? And do you have a favourite type of female character you enjoy writing?
I’m a big fan of Studio Ghibli women, who are always complex and interesting – from Only Yesterday’s frustrated Taeko to Princess Mononoke’s San and complicated Lady Eboshi. I set out to write people first and foremost and always strive to give my characters agency, especially if they’re female. Even if they’re in restrictive situations, I don’t like seeing women utterly powerless and abused because historically we’ve experienced enough of that. [AMEN] But at that same time, it’s important not to erase female struggle. So my favourite female characters are generally headstrong, intuitive, independent women with a struggle in their past, seeking to find their place in the world or to make one for themselves.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
Skyrim! Hades! Dragon Age! Miscellaneous video RPGs! And then binge watch the latest Chinese historical fantasy drama in the vein of The Untamed.
I used to love Skyrim. But then I took a six year old to the PS4. And it crashed and died and my husband had to wipe it clean…
One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
Flight is an absolute pre-requisite so probably a giant raven. I admit there’s a certain practical appeal in riding a huge black bird of carrion into battle. Afterwards it could graze on the field of victory.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
Paige L Christie’s Draigon Weather. Female education as a source of power and societal good? Tick. Explores the dangers of toxic masculinity? Tick. Fascinating non-linear narrative? Absolutely. It asks: what if the maiden tied to a stake, ready to be sacrificed to a dragon, wanted to be there? This series deserves more readers.
Can you tell us anything about any upcoming projects? Or can you tell us a few teasers for your sequel?
My next book is a companion novel to Sistersong set 180 years later. It’s a dark sapphic love story that reimagines the myths of the Erlking and the Wild Hunt – folktales I’ve always wanted to explore! Expect more Saxons, more Britons and this time…the Otherworld.
Are you planning anything fun to celebrate the release of Sistersong? Do you have any upcoming virtual events our readers may be interested in?
The online launch of Sistersong is tonight – 1st April @ 7pm BST! Tickets are still available and I think it’ll be lots of fun.
I am also doing a Waterstones IG Live chat with fellow author Vic James on 14th April and an event with Forbidden Planet at the end of the month (details to follow).
I am also continuing my collaboration with visual storyteller, Becky Pepperdine, who is bringing the bone harp from the Two Sisters ballad to life. Watch this space for regular livestreams!
Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing?
I have no special messages to impart except to say isn’t it wonderful that we share our world with so many different people, each of whom has a story to tell. I hope I can help weave just a small corner of that tapestry.
Thank you so much for joining us today, and good luck with the launch!
Thank you for having me!