I’m getting ready to release my first novel, Order of Seven. Helena Hann-Basquiat is preparing to release Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two, and as a bonus, the Shakespearean-style play, Penelope, Countess of Arcadia. They sat down one morning to chat.
Overheard over coffee at Helena’s…
Okay, well, in light of recent, shall we say, revelations on my part, I think we should clear the air on one matter. Are you now, or have you ever been, a man?
I have not, but I do have a giant set of huevos.
Dammit. So, just me then? We’ll get back to your eggs later. How’s your coffee?
Smooth and creamy. Just how I like my… coffee.
So, I’m very excited that your book is almost ready. How long have you been working on it? And is this your very first?
I wrote a novel in 2009, and am polishing that one up now. So, no, Order of Seven was technically not my first. I started Order of Seven in 2011. It was a short story I threw together for a writing group. My husband read it and said, “I want to know more.” So, on and off, I worked on it the next two years and in 2013, I sent it to beta readers, serious and determined to publish it.
Wait a minute. Order of Seven? You’re writing the new Aquaman movie? (Have you seen Jason Momoa’s Aquaman yet?)
Oh wow! I haven’t seen that. *drool* oh Jason….
Right? I’m straight as an arrow and I’d be his Khaleesi.
But seriously, Order of Seven — sounds like some sort of secret society or coven or something. What’s it all about?
Order of Seven is about a girl who has a paranormal gift that she doesn’t understand. She and her brother were adopted as toddlers from South Africa, and raised in Odessa, Texas. Although Caucasian, Devi, the main character, has a reoccurring dream about a night in their past–prior to adoption, where she’s in the middle of a native African tribal ceremony.
The story is her journey to find their biological family in hopes of making sense of that dream and understanding her gift, with more than a few twists and turns along the way, like an ancient legend that appears to link to her birthright, a sizzling romance with someone she can’t be with (ohhhh taboo romance is the best, amirite?) and a possible purpose for her gift more imperative than she ever thought possible.
There’s archaeological mystery, romance, and suspense. I tell people it’s like Da Vinci Code, Sixth Sense, and Girl with a Dragon Tattoo had a foursome with Percy Jackson that resulted in the birth of Order of Seven.
That’s very original. I’m always interested in things that stand out. How much would you say you knew from the very beginning, versus how it turned out? I know that with my novel CHUK, it almost seemed to evolve on its own there for a while, until I reined it in.
Yes, this novel evolved as it went. When I handed it to beta readers, it was 135,000 words!! In a year, I whittled it down to 74,000. That’s an entire novel I cut out!
Editing is a process I’ve come to respect, but am not good at. Of course, writing a novel is such a different thing than what I’ve done for the Memoirs. They’re more like a television series, with story arcs that can span several episodes, but then with standalone episodes thrown in. It’s a greater task to hold everything together for a novel.
It’s been a titanic learning experience!
I think a series, like Memoirs, can be just as challenging.
Tying it all together can be challenging. Volume One, I admit, wasn’t as cohesive as I hope Volume Two is. I’ve learned a lot as I go as well.
Now, your short description has me intrigued, but whom would you say is your audience? And what authors do you read? That is, who do you read and say “THIS! THiS is what I want to sound like!”?
The main character is eighteen and deals with a lot of issues that age faces, but also more mature things as well. I tell people it’s for ages 16–106. I’m unabashedly obsessed with Leah Raeder at the moment. Her writing is visceral. You are there, saturated with her words, her experience. She’s brilliant. I also love Neil Gaiman. There are so many more, though. I read a lot of genres. Oh and OF COURSE Helena Hann-Basquait. You seem to write a lot of creepy, and strange, and even downright scary. Is this your favorite to write?
Kiss ass. Yes, when I write fiction, my major influences are strange horror. I was always a big fan of the Twilight Zone, so with my short fiction, I often start with the twist ending and build around that. CHUK actually started out in my head as a sort of Tales from the Crypt style black comedy/horror. Stephen King of course, has influenced me most of all — the conversational tone of my narrators, the inner monologue. CHUK, however, pays homage to several writers, like Anne Rice, Peter Straub, and of course, H.P. Lovecraft.
Oh, and Neil Gaiman’s great – when you mentioned Africa I wondered if you’d read Anansi Boys.
You mentioned all my favorite horror/thriller writers! I read everything Stephen King wrote up until the age of about 25. I still read him, but not every book. Just read Revival, it was good.
Oh and I haven’t read Anansi Boys…YET.
I got Revival for Christmas, but haven’t read it yet. You want to read a great book, see if you can put your hands on a book called Nighteyes by Garfield Reeves-Stevens. It’s like an X-Files episode.
Just read Neverwhere, and LERVED Ocean at the End of the Lane
Do your self a favour and find the BBC adaption of Neverwhere (Audio Book, starring James McAvoy and Cummerbund Bandersnatch).
Really?? Ok! I’m intrigued!
I love audiobooks.
So, would you consider yourself a genre writer? I mean, you’ve just got this one so far, but is this your niche? I mean, I may dabble in everything from erotica to Shakespearean plays, but I’m really at home writing horror.
So far, yeah, this is my niche. I get restless in the mundane. All my characters have something either strange or paranormal happening to them, or are a part of them. I like spirits, and oddities, and the fantastical. I love journeys you can’t go on in real life.
I would love to write a nitty-gritty twenty-something story someday. Really delve into an experience. Heartbreak. Sex. Obsession. Losing yourself in an entanglement.
I also have a short children’s book I’m working on, inspired by my youngest’s struggle with anxiety.
I think my journey as a writer is just starting. I want to be bold and fearless. I want to ignore trends and write from my heart. The sky’s the limit, really. I just have to trust my voice.
The nitty gritty one sounds like something you should try for NaNoWriMo if you can. I never thought I could write a novel in a month, and while it was exhausting, writing something like that ALL AT ONCE was a great way to avoid losing track of things. I would think that writing your own personal 9-1/2 weeks would be best written at one go. I’m glad you’re ignoring trends. I think you’ll attract more interesting and interested readers by not writing about sparkly vampires.
Ohhhh I love that idea for NaNo! You’re so right about being submerged in your work that month…incredibly productive and an amazing whirlwind.
What have you written during NaNo?
My first in 2009 was a NaNo novel. It started there, anyway.
About two years ago, I started getting an idea of a trilogy of novels about a pre-Columbian culture (loosely based on the Arawaks/Caribs but with a supernatural twist). It’s a matriarchal society that actually keeps men as either breeding stock or slaves. I wrote the first novel this past November. It’s on the editing pile now.
What an intriguing concept! LOVE.
Mix in human sacrifice, poltergeists and strange sea creatures that are worshipped as gods, and you’ve got a taste of what it’s about.
I need more. Hurry with that editing!
And I am looking forward to Order of Seven. When and where can I pre-order it?
Order of Seven will be available for pre-order the week of March 2, and published April 7. I also have a Goodreads giveaway live right now through March, 23. Seven people have a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Order of Seven!
Exciting! I’ve got to look into those Goodreads giveaways!
You said you were working on revamping your first novel. What else is on the horizon for you?
A shit-ton of marketing for Oo7, and writing, writing, writing. When I get this other novel fleshed out, it’s going to the editors. I’m hoping this second experience goes much faster than my first. I’m a bit more knowledgeable now, and I have my team, you know?
I’m sure it will get easier — the writing, anyway. It’s good having a team of people who help you shape your work. Thanks for coffee, and best of luck with the marketing of Order of Seven.
Beth Teliho is a writer, artist and tree hugger who lives in Texas with her husband and two adventurous sons. Restless in the mundane, she writes about the abnormal, paranormal and otherwise fantastical because that’s what quickens her heartbeat. She laughs at inappropriate jokes, and prefers spicy food and margaritas to almost anything. One day, she hopes to live in a tree house where she can be an eccentric introvert with at least seven cats.
Order of Seven:
Eighteen-year-old Devi Bennett is surrounded by mysteries: her unknown heritage, a recurring dream about an African tribal ceremony, an inexplicable attachment to a certain tree and a psychic ability she’ll never understand—unless she finds her biological parents.
Things take a shocking turn when she meets Baron, an intense and alluring energy healer who receives prophetic dreams which all seem connected to her. Devi must rely on an empath, a seer, and Baron to help research her roots to discover who she is and what she is capable of. But when Baron’s visions lead to an ancient legend which may link to her birthright, Devi learns her gift is more imperative than she thought imaginable.
Equal parts suspenseful and sexy, philosophical and adventurous, Order of Seven delivers a story that will leave you questioning everything you thought you knew about the hands that carry fate.
Some people attribute the invention of the Ampersand to her, but she has never made that claim herself.
Last year, she published Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One, and is about to release Volume Two, along with a Shakespearean style tragi-comedy, entitled Penelope, Countess of Arcadia.
Helena writes strange, dark fiction under the name Jessica B. Bell. VISCERA, a collection of strange tales, will be published by Sirens Call Publications later this year. Find more of her writing at http://www.helenahb.com or and http://www.whoisjessica.com Connect with her via Twitter @HHBasquiat , and keep up with her ever growing body of work at GOODREADS, or visit her AMAZON PAGE