Friday, May 30, 2008

Interview With Imogen Howson!

With ebooks becoming more and more popular, I thought it would be fun to chat with my friend and fellow author, Imogen Howson, author of one of my favorite YA stories, Falling.

Immi, thanks for visiting The Fictionistas! Give us your standard bio—and then add some little nugget that you don't usually tell people:

Standard Bio:
As a child, I loved reading so much that I not only read in bed, at the table and in the bath, but in the shower and - not so successfully - on my bicycle.
I enjoyed books in a slightly unorthodox way, too - many of my childhood books have ragged edges where I tore paper from the margins in order to eat it.
I wrote my first book at eight. It was entitled The Dragon in the Teapot and would probably have been a huge hit if I hadn't lost the only copy on a family day out.
Some years later, I'm pursuing a career as a writer with more success. I write stories for young adults and adults - in the genres of fantasy, science fiction and romance, for preference. And I always make copies of my work.
I live with my partner and our two children, near Sherwood Forest in England. I still read in most places, but I no longer eat paper.

Some little nugget…hm. Well, generally people don’t know how cross I am! It’s not their fault they don’t know this, because I’m hampered by such extreme politeness it’s pretty much a social disability. But underneath the non-committal smile and the slightly detached stare-into-the-middle-distance expression, I’m often seething with rage and offendedness—about injustice and racism and classism and sexism and rudeness and people who don’t try to put themselves in other people’s shoes and people who repeat every little incorrect stereotypical soundbite as if it’s a proven fact they’ve personally researched themselves…
Um, yeah. Deep breaths. Let’s talk about something fun now!

Ha-ha....look, I got her all worked up. Now tell us about your Young Adult novella, Falling, and how people can buy it.

Falling is a futuristic version of Rapunzel. In it, my heroine, Linnet, is trapped, not by the wicked witch of the fairy tale, but by the social expectations of the world she lives in. I had a good time writing this, translating the fairy tale elements into science fiction ones. I’m particularly fond of my twist on Rapunzel’s hair! The book is available for download at Drollerie Press – – for $1.99, as well as my short fantasy story, Frayed Tapestry, and my upcoming dark fantasy romance, Fire and Shadow.

I read Falling and fell so in love with the richness of your worldbuilding and the fact that this isn't your Grandma's Rapunzel. What draws you to rethinking fairy tales? I was fascinated by the social commentary, also. Do you layer that in after, or was that the goal from the beginning?

Well, first, thank you for the compliments!
I love rethinking fairy tales partly because some of them are just so weird. They leave all kinds of unanswered questions. What was wrong with Rapunzel’s father, that he could so easily give her away? Why did the witch want her to stay in the tower her whole life? It’s a fun challenge to think of convincing reasons for some of the things that, in the fairy tale, ‘just are’. I had to do that in my most recent story, The Path, a version of Red Riding Hood, because it suddenly crossed my mind that it makes no sense for the wolf not to attack Red Riding Hood when she’s on her way to her grandmother’s—why does he have to wait until she gets there? And why would a normal mother send her daughter into such danger just to visit her grandmother?
The social commentary just kind of creeps in while I’m writing—probably from all that repressed anger I mentioned earlier! It’s certainly never a goal from the beginning—I don’t think I’m skilled enough to do that without it being clunky or tedious. And, you know, fiction’s primary purpose is to entertain—there’s something a little icky about deliberately setting out to convey a ‘message’ instead.
But once the social commentary makes its way in, I’m very happy to let it stay. I like layers.

What draws you to Epublishing? Are you content to stay there, or are you still looking to go to print?

Epublishing is great for my shorter works—the print market for short stories and novellas is pretty limited. Also, it’s fabulous to write a short story and have it released as an individual book, with its own cover art and everything.
I also like that my stories are instantly available to anyone, anywhere in the world.
And I love my publisher, Drollerie Press. They specialise in what is one of my favourite niches—fairy tales and myths, woven into shiny new stories.
However, while epublishing continues to be my chosen medium for my short stories, I’m aiming at the bigger print houses for my longer works. Too many people simply won’t read ebooks—I want to reach those readers, too!
Also, the ebook format means that the books generally aren’t available in libraries, and never in second-hand bookshops. So I have some ethical issues with my books only being available to the relatively well-off (those with computers and internet access).

What advice do you have for young writers?

Oh, I’m going to be boring here. Read. Read lots. And don’t worry if your writing temporarily takes on the style of whoever you’re reading—that’s part of learning. Your brain soaks up techniques and styles, just as it soaked up words when you were learning to talk, and they’ll end up combining into something that’s uniquely yours.
Also, take all advice with a large pinch of salt. I don’t mean ignore it—writers always have to be able to hear ‘this doesn’t work’. But there’s lots of advice floating around, and not all of it is going to apply to you and your work. Get second opinions, work things out for yourself, and remember that the best writing lessons for you are in your favourite books.

And finally, if you were stranded on a deserted island and your ipod had only three songs on it...which three do you hope were on there?

Well, seeing as I’m on an island and no one is going to be aurally distressed by my singing along to songs I can’t really quite manage, I’d go for West Side Story’s ‘Tonight’, Eminem’s "Lose Yourself’, and Queen’s "Bohemian Rhapsody". And by the time I came off the island I would know absolutely all the lyrics.

Immi is also giving away a copy of Falling or Fire and Shadow (reader's choice) to one lucky commentor before Saturday at 11:59. Winner announced Sunday!


  1. Stephanie6:20 AM

    Ooh, all that anger was scary ;-)

    I love the idea of taking difficult songs to a desert island to learn the lyrics in peace. 'American Pie' is top of my desert island list now!

  2. Fantastic interview!! Immi, we're SO glad to have you visit us! And your cover is gorgeous!!

  3. Hey, thanks for having me, Rhonda. :-)
    Don't be too scared, Stephanie! Remember the extreme politeness and relax. :-)

  4. I love retellings of fairy tales! And I'm really glad you're not eating paper anymore. LOL

  5. Great interview, Immi! You really took enjoying your books to a whole other level. ;)

  6. I used to eat paper too. The corners of the TV Guide.

  7. Hi Immi! I love that stare-into-the-middle-distance-politeness. Remind me to stay on your good side.

  8. Great interview Immi! I'm gla dyou don't eat paper anymore, think how much it would cost you in books?

  9. I notice how your anger is directed at those who...haven't managed politeness...essentially...

    I love the title "Dragon in the Teapot." You should write a new version :)

  10. That's a great interview, Immi! Thanks for being here!

  11. Thanks for having me, Fictionistas!

    Dayna, you're so right, actually. I never looked at it that way before. :-)

    I'm sorry to have to tell you all that my paper-eating even led me into the realms of religious irreverence--I discovered that the paper they print Bibles on is the most delicious ever. *waits for lightning to strike*

  12. What interests you about writing YA stories? Why not stick with adult stories? And what's the major difference for you?



  13. Donna Maloy8:12 AM

    I'm going to be laid up for several weeks with only a computer as a friend. The first thing I'm going to download will be Falling. I love remade fairy tales. I'm really looking forward to it. May I offer you a lyric challenge -- not only to memorize but just to HEAR the lyrics of Louie, Louie? I have no idea what they are!

  14. Hey, Jacquie. :-)

    Writing YA isn't a conscious decision, really. The stories that come into my head generally have teenage protagonists. That doesn't automatically make them YA, of course, but it does mean they appeal to an young adult, as welll as an adult, audience. My twelve-year-old daughter is one of my main test readers, my forty-year-old partner is the other. If they both approve of a story then I feel I've hit the right balance!

    I suspect that the reason I'm drawn to writing about young characters is that I like 'firsts'. First love, of course, but also the 'first' of realising that you're gifted at something, or the first time of realising something--good or bad--about your world. I particularly like 'coming of age' stories.

    Writing YA romance is probably connected to the fact that I met my now-partner when I was eighteen. So I think, for me, that age is inextricably connected with finding 'the one' and starting to live happily ever after. ;-)

  15. Hi Donna!

    Ugh, I'm sorry you're going to be laid up. I hope you enjoy Falling, though! And, if you like, do let me know what you thought. :-)

    I'll have to search out Louie, Louie. I find that if I can't hear lyrics I end up inventing really weird alternatives, though, so I'm a little nervous!

  16. Aimee C9:54 PM

    Awesome interview! I too am a reformed paper eater ;-) Can't wait to read your work!

  17. Thanks, Aimee! And ooh, another reformed addict!