Interview with Fox N. Locke (THEIR HEART A HIVE)
Fox N. Locke entered his thirties at a cross-roads and finally took the plunge to self-publish. When he isn’t writing, or working his marketing 9 to 5, he can be found listening to music, reading, or spending time with his husband and daughter.
Twitter – @foxenlock
Website – www.foxenlock.com
Welcome to the Hive, Fox! Let’s start with the basics: tell us about Their Heart A Hive. What can readers expect?
First and foremost, I wanted to write a gothic: so we’ve got a manor house pulling influences from the 1800s, we’ve got ghostly wailings in the night, and the protagonist wandering around in a nightgown. Then there’s the blood, vampire and werewolf.
During the writing, it became apparent that this was also a slice of life story, with chapters dedicated to tasks in Honeymoore Manor. Whether that’s making honey, mead, or attending the Austen-esque Honeymoon Ball.
As with everything I write, I wanted to present a queer normative society where characters are free to be themselves. From the most minor background characters to the protagonist, queerness is simply part of the world-building.
Your world is inspired by the landscape of South-East England, but also Cornish mythology? In which ways have you married these two influences in your work?
One of the big early inspirations for the story was half remembered childhood holidays to Devon and Cornwall. The latter especially is an undeniably mythic place, as though it exists partly in faery. I knew the story belonged in this world, so I started researching Cornish folklore, listening to folk music from the region, and imagining what a world would look like if all of it was real: piskies, mermaids, giants etc. Cornwall is also a key part of the Arthurian myth, which is key to the book’s world-building. The challenge was making sure I was being sensitive to these stories and not simply co-opting them.
Let’s discuss your characters: introduce us to Lowen and Tamorna!
Lowen starts the book mourning the loss of his father, whose fishing boat was swept out to sea in a storm. At fourteen, he’s been cast as the main breadwinner for his family. Between his apprenticeship, and tumbles in the grass with a local landowner’s son, he’s going nowhere – not until he accidentally kills a most unusual honey bee. With Lowen, I wanted to write a character that was kind and empathetic, but one that realistically embodied being a young teenager. He’s so certain of his own reading of the world as truth, his own narrative, that he never stops to question his own decisions. I was particularly inspired here by Seth in Philip Ridley’s cinematic masterpiece The Reflecting Skin.
Tamorna Rosen Roane, on the other hand, is the immortal genderqueer aristocrat that owns Honeymoore Manor and the surrounding lands. The story really grew out of this character, their struggle of wanting a family but pushing people away as a form of self punishment.
You list Jane Eyre and Dracula as influences, but are there any other modern fantasy authors who inspire you?
Oh, for sure. One of my biggest inspirations is Becky Chambers, although she’s a sci-fi writer. She gave me the confidence to not only write smaller, character-driven stories, but realise that there was a home for these stories.
In terms of style, Angela Carter has been a big influence and, more recently, S. T. Gibson’s luscious Dracula re-telling, A Dowry of Blood. Patrick Rothfuss is always a source of inspiration. I think I’ve read Name of the Wind four times.
As a self-published author, you have to encompass many roles yourself: what aspect of self-publishing do you find the most difficult? Alternatively, which have you enjoyed the most?
Great question! Selling myself has never been easy. Last year, I started a job in marketing, so I’ve been trying to use some of those skills to get my book out there. That’s still difficult, as I always feel like I’m bothering people (it was the same when I was asking for beta readers). At the end of the day, I just want to share this strange little story. In terms of enjoyment, working with an artist on the front cover was a blast. She intuitively got what I wanted and delivered something beautiful. I think I might have cried a little bit when I first saw it.
Speaking of covers, what is your process for choosing a cover for your book? Do you have a clear idea of how you want it to look, or do you give your cover artist full creative licence?
With this cover, I had a pretty clear idea about what I wanted. As much of the book takes place in summer, it had to have a summery quality, whilst also conveying the Regency-style setting. The crucial part was playing with vampire iconography. So, instead of the drop of blood from the mouth, it was honey, while the bee sting is used as a surrogate fang. It took a while to find the right artist, but she really blew me away.
Strong Lestat vibes!
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?
Writing is my favourite thing to do, providing endless joy and fulfilment. It’s also therapy and Their Heart A Hive was one of three novels I wrote during lockdown. But it isn’t always smooth sailing. Some days, when my mental health is playing up, or motivation is down, I’ll try and use music and/or yoga to shift my headspace. It might take all day, sometimes the hour before bed, but if I can write, I always feel better. Sometimes, it doesn’t happen. I used to beat myself up about that, but I’m a lot kinder on myself now. To other writers, I’d say that it’s okay not to write. Sometimes you just need to put other things first (especially you’re own wellbeing).
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?
I’d spend the time with my husband and daughter. Maybe a picnic in the woods, or making crafts or cakes inside.
One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
I love this question! Keeping to Cornish folklore, it would have to be perched on a giant’s shoulder. Being on a minotaur’s back would also be pretty cool.
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress?
I finished an adult fantasy crime novel last month, which I’ll start editing soon. Right now, I’m tweaking a contemporary fantasy about ghosts and necromancy which I’m planning to self-publish next year. There’s also my 1920s inspired fashion fantasy that I’m currently submitting to agents.
Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing?
Hope. I want to uplift readers, make them feel like they’re not alone, that they’re okay. If Their Heart A Hive has a key message, it’s that no one is ever beyond help. We all deserve love.
Thank you so much for joining us today!
Their Heart a Hive is available now from:
It isn’t until meeting Lowen, a lowborn boy dealing with grief and battling bad luck, that the immortal genderqueer aristocrat, Tamorna Rosen Roane, can face the shame of their past lives and move towards catharsis.
Inspired as much by the rugged beauty of south-eastern England as Cornish folklore, this cosy gothic portrays a queer-normative society with an 18th century flair. A story of shanties and secrets, of long dead giants and merfolk that mind the sea, where piskies provide luck and the beast of Brasbudfand stalks the night.
Balancing the macabre, the cosy and the absurd, this unconventional coming of age story promises twists and turns and lyrical prose aplenty. A story about the power of kindness and empathy and how no one is ever beyond help.
If you’ve a love for Jane Eyre, Dracula and queer-centric stories, this debut YA novel may just be for you.