Author Spotlight: Hannah M Long (HALL OF SMOKE)
Hannah M Long is a Canadian fantasy author who loves history, hiking, and exploring the world. She inhabits a ramshackle cabin in Ontario with her husband and dog, however she can often be spotted snooping about European museums or wandering the Alps.
Hannah is the author of numerous books, including HALL OF SMOKE, TEMPLE OF NO GOD, and the upcoming BARROW OF WINTER. She also writes fantasy set in the 18th century, Edwardian period and science fiction.
Welcome to the Hive, Hannah. Thank you for joining in on our Women in SFF feature! Can you tell our readers about your books, Hall of Smoke, and the sequel, Temple of No God please?
Thanks so much for having me! Absolutely, I can. Hall of Smoke is an atmospheric Viking-inspired fantasy with cinematic action, meddling gods in the flesh, warring clans and an indomitable warrior priestess protagonist. Temple of No God picks up the story ten years later and follows our priestess, Hessa, as she poses as a mercenary in a crumbling empire and vies to control the vast power at its heart. Both books stand alone with self-contained stories and will be followed by Barrow of Winter, coming January 17th, 2023, and a fourth installment January 2024!
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!
My method changes a lot depending on the book and the circumstances I’m writing it in! But generally, I write every morning for 3-4 hours. I often listen to music (film soundtracks, etc) and take breaks to read if the creative well is running dry. I guard my writing time viciously and tend toward the hermit side – I don’t mind writing in a cafe here and there, but my best work happens in complete solitude.
Speaking of worlds, your series focuses on Norse mythology, priestesses, gods and Vikings. How much research did you have to do to create your world? Were there any particular or favourite Norse and Viking tales which inspired you the most?
The Hall of Smoke world has a definitely Viking feel, but I took my inspiration originally from the Germanic tribes and the Roman frontier. Even then though, I did not want to base the world I was creating directly off any one culture. I wanted it to feel like our history, but without any stark lines. So my research was more the outpouring of a lifelong love of history, many days spent wandering museums and watching documentaries.
Can you tell us more about your main protagonist, Hessa? Over the course of the series have you found it easy to develop her narrative arc or are there elements which were tricky?
In Hall of Smoke, we meet Hessa at her lowest – an disgraced priestess who has disobeyed her goddess. Unless she redeems herself, she faces exile not only from her home, but from her people’s afterlife. She’s faithful and sacrificial, but young and deeply naive, and her journey is one of painful discovery. Temple of No God, jumping back into the story ten years later, finds the capable woman and leader Hessa has become. But the choices before her now test the limits of the faithful and sacrificial nature that defined her in the first book. This arc (and all its little details) felt very natural to me, and was honestly one of the most satisfying parts of writing these two books!
Hessa’s ability to turn her enemy’s bones to dust with a scream is one that’s equal parts terrifying and really cool! Can you tell us more about how you crafted this ability please? How much was inspired by powers the Norse gods possessed and how much was your own creation?
I honestly can’t say where the inspiration for Hessa’s powers came from! I was simply writing chapter two and it… happened. This is often the way of things for me though, discovering these details about my characters and their worlds as I type.
Ok now a fun one! If you were transported into your own fictional world, how do you think you would fare?!
I would have already died many deaths! I have some other worlds for other projects that I think I might fare better in, though!
What (or who) are your most significant female fantasy influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
Tamora Pierce’s books defined a whole chapter of my preteens. I absolutely adored all her work! Nowadays my favourite female fantasy authors include Robin Hobb, Melissa Caruso, Adrienne Young, Marie Brennan, Samantha Shannon and Katharine Arden. I’m not sure how I’d fare doing a collaboration, though!
In the past two years Tik-Tok has been a great platform for authors to talk about their upcoming releases and build a substantial following. In what ways do you think Tik-Tok has benefitted how your series Hall of Smoke has been received? What advice would you give to authors who are thinking of joining Tik-Tok?
I think TikTok has had a very positive affect on my books, as a whole. It’s generated a lot of visibility that I simply wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise, particularly during a global pandemic, and I’ve connected with so many readers there. Also just on a personal front, being part of a bookish community like BookTok has been wonderful!
For authors venturing onto TikTok for the first time, I’d advise to really immerse yourself in the community for a bit before you begin posting. See what works for others, what’s the best received, and go at creating content as professionally as you can.
We see such varying opinions from authors when it comes to the time of editing their books. How have you found the editing process? Enjoyable, stressful or satisfying?
This varies a little depending on the book, but for the most part I find editing very satisfying. It’s the time that I can really dig deep, fix and change and add and delete most freely, and I love seeing the book come together at this stage.
The cover for your upcoming third book, Barrow of Winter, which was revealed in May, is stunning. What was your immediate reaction when the cover was revealed to you? Was there a particular aesthetic you were hoping for with all your covers in the series?
The cover for Barrow of Winter is exactly what I was hoping for! I definitely shrieked when I opened the email, and teared up a bit. Generally as an author in traditional publishing, you don’t get much of a say in cover art. I wasn’t involved in the development of the covers for Hall of Smoke or Temple of No God. But this one I did have a significant influence, and it’s extra special to me because of that.
As we’re talking about Barrow of Winter, can you tell us a few teasers for what readers can expect in this next instalment?
Barrow of Winter follows Thray, daughter of a fallen deity, and her clan of vengeful, mischievous demi-god siblings. This book will have all the wintery atmosphere, howling winds, icy wastelands and terrible beasts, along with the cinematic action and Viking feel of Hall of Smoke. I can’t wait to share it with readers!
One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
To answer this would be absolute spoilers but – look for my answer in Barrow of Winter!
Ooh cryptic! I really like that!
Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing?
I hope my readers close my books feeling that little ache, that little bit of awe and glimmer of potential that I feel when I finish a new favourite read. Like I’ve just lived out an incredible journey, and I’m newly inspired to take on new adventures in my real, daily life.
Thank you so much for joining us today!
Thank you so much for having me!