Interview with Heather Fawcett (EMILY WILDE’S ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF FAERIES)
Heather Fawcett is a Canadian author of books for adults, kids, and teens, including the Even the Darkest Stars series, Ember and the Ice Dragons, The Language of Ghosts, Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries, and more. Her books have been translated into more than ten languages and somehow all include dragons in one form or another. She has a Master’s degree in English Literature and a Bachelor’s in Archaeology. She lives on Vancouver Island.
Welcome to the Hive, Heather. Firstly, congratulations on your latest historical fantasy, Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries! Can you tell our readers a bit about it? What can they expect?
Thank you! Emily Wilde is light academia with a lot of winter coziness; sometimes I describe it as Jonathan Strange meets Holly Black. It’s set in a world where faeries are real and the subject of academic study (a field called dryadology), and the main character is a dryadologist who is brilliant in her field but not so good with people. Readers can expect a winter fairytale with plenty of footnotes and a side of romance.
Just for fun, can you describe your book in five words?
I would say it’s a whimsical, cozy, light academia fairytale.
Emily Wilde is set in the 1900s on a remote Scandinavian island within a small close-knit community; had you always planned on writing a historical fantasy within this setting? What aspects influenced your worldbuilding?
I don’t think I’d always had that place in mind—though certainly I’m fascinated by Scandinavian folklore—but I’ve always been interested in the Edwardian era as a setting for historical fiction. I think partly because you don’t see it as often in fantasy as, say the Victorian era, but also because it’s just a really fascinating period in history when so much was changing. It was the beginning of the modern world as we know it.
In terms of research, I read a lot of Scandinavian folklore. I also did research into the geography of what an island like Ljosland might look like; it’s off the coast of Norway, about the same latitude as Iceland, and similar in size to the Faroe Islands. So coming up with something that felt like it would fit into that region was important.
If you were a Fae, which kind would you be and why?
I love forests, so I’d probably be one of the ones living in a cozy tree somewhere with a lot of books and a wide selection of faerie teas.
That would be my choice too!
Let’s talk about your characters! Both Emily and Wendell are accomplished scholars, yet they are both so different from each other. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind their personalities?
Emily and Wendell are each other’s opposite in many ways, but they’re complementary opposites, which is probably why they like each other so much (while also getting on each other’s nerves). As such, I came up with them together rather than separately. Emily is an example of a character archetype I’ve always found fascinating, which I guess you could call the socially inept genius. This kind of character brings a lot of built-in friction to every relationship, which makes for a great story, because friction is interesting.
Absolutely! And I think Emily has many traits which readers can relate to. I know I did!
As for Wendell, I don’t mind saying that he’s partially inspired by one of my favourite fantasy heroes, the Wizard Howl, who also loves his clothes and—while talented magically—would prefer to avoid hard work.
I’m so glad you confirmed this because I definitely noticed Howl vibes whenever Wendell appeared!
Two side characters I have to mention are Shadow and Poe, who are both so adorable! How did you find crafting their characters?
Thank you! I’m glad you liked them; they’re also two of my favourites. With Shadow, I just find that I always enjoy the writing process more if there’s an animal character involved. I’m an animal lover myself so I think that’s where it comes from.
Poe was just pure fun because he’s this very shy, gentle character on one hand, while on the other being somewhat terrifying. His inherent contradictions are representative of the Folk as a whole.
And out of the villagers who was your favourite character to write and were there any you found particularly difficult?
The rude and/or difficult characters are generally the most fun to write. I liked writing the scene where Emily meets Krystjan because they’re so different and yet snarky in their own ways. I don’t know if I had difficulty with any of the characters in the sense that I couldn’t figure them out, but I can say that a character who proved a bit unruly was Poe, mainly because I initially imagined him having a minor role in the story, so much so that I didn’t even mention him in my outline, but somehow he came to be very important to Emily and the story itself.
I loved how you took fairytale tropes and twisted them. How much fun did you have writing them?
Thank you! It was a lot of fun, not just invoking old fairytales but playing with the concept of what a story is—stories being highly important to the Folk; they’ll often use them as patterns for their own behaviour—and generally being a bit meta about things.
Whilst I was reading Emily Wilde, I actually pictured it as an animated film, much in the style of Studio Ghibli. If your book was to get an adaptation, which medium would you prefer: anime, feature film or tv series? Do you have any actors in mind who could play your characters?
A Studio Ghibli production would be the absolute dream! I’m really bad at coming up with actors for my characters; I think because doing so can kind of narrow how readers might perceive them. Ultimately, once my books are published, they belong to the readers, and I want readers to picture the characters however they wish.
Ah yes, this is true.
Ok, we have to mention how gorgeous your covers are, both the US and UK artwork is so whimsical! How involved in the process were you? Was there a particular aesthetic you hoped they’d portray?
Thank you! For both covers, my publishers sent me a kind of draft version that the artists put together, so that I could get a sense of the concept and provide feedback. Then they sent me the final, and I provided feedback again. Fortunately I was pretty happy with both covers, so I didn’t have much in the way of substantive changes to suggest. I think you used the perfect word: whimsical. That’s what I was hoping for, and both artists, Bex Parkin for the UK cover and Vera Drmanovski for the US, delivered in different ways!
One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
I mean, is there any other answer than a dragon? You’ve got flight, firepower, size—they’re the perfect companions.
So Heather, what can you tell us about the sequel to Emily Wilde? Any teasers you can share?
So, I can say that Wendell’s door becomes very important in Book 2. I can also say that the sequel is set in a place that’s very different from Ljosland, and that there are some clues in Book 1 as to where Emily and Wendell may go next.
Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing?
Honestly, I just hope that they enjoy the journey. I think every reader will take away something slightly different from every story depending on who they are and their expectations. If they’re looking for a cozy escape, I hope they find that; if they’re looking for an exploration of the importance of stories and relationships, I hope they come away satisfied.
Thank you so much for joining us today!
Thank you so much for having me!
Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries is out today! Order your copy HERE