Sean Sweeney: 'Ello, Love! You have a rather excellent series going, one that I love--not because you mentioned the sexy counterterrorism agent in the first book. Let's talk about Paranormal Investigations: What's it about, how you got the idea, etc.
E.H. Walter: I love Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files and wondered what a British, female version would be like. Thus Leo and her world came into being. I didn’t have much time for research, as I wrote all of Paranormal Investigations 1 during Nanowrimo one November, so set it where I lived and in the places I saw every day. Leo also took on some of my theatrical background. I guess other ideas must have been bashing around my subconscious for a while because it was very easy and enjoyable to write. Quickly after PI1 was published I realised there was a demand for more, so I kept going and have written three more to date. I love writing them but with every book Leo’s world gets a bit bigger and there are more characters to remember – it gets harder! I know the writer Jasper Fforde struggles with the same thing and has his wife helping him, covering books in notes and post its. I think I need a wife!
SS: One of the underlying themes of PI is her deal with the Fae, and it turns out she has been warned, time and again, about this. What is it about this series of events involving the Fae that keeps readers turning pages?
EHW: The Fae weren’t really meant to be so important in PI, but they have now got their own thread running throughout the series which will become clearer in PI6. I blame Jamie really, he keeps building his part up. I don’t know why the Fae catches readers’ interest, but the paranormal generally holds a great deal of fascination for people – myself included.
SS: Let's talk about some of your other books, because you have a few solid tales that don't involve Leo. Break them down for us.
EHW: I try and write one PI book and one non PI book a year. Non-PI books include: Fallen – what would happen if Lucifer fell into modern London and tried to get revenge on God? The ReedBed – two mismatched individuals fall in lust in the Victorian countryside. Snowbound (to be published soon) – a London teenager gets snowed in rural Wisconsin as the world ends. I also publish a few short stories and have about three other novels to edit and publish at some point in the future (a historical fiction, a Victorian crime/thriller and a YA werewolf trilogy). I’ve also written a film script. It’s about the Scottish football team full of amateurs taking on the World Cup, when the professionals get fired for asking for too much money, but haven’t had any takers on it yet. I like to write something completely different every time which can be a problem for mainstream authors as publishing houses are notorious for pigeon holing you into one specific genre. Being self-published gives you a great deal more freedom. I can write the stories I want to tell, the stories I want to read – which are spread across many genres.
SS: Earlier this year, I wrote a blog post about the changes that I've gone through as an author these last few years, and I know that you've gone through a few changes, too: You've become a mother, you've moved from Barnet to a cozy flat, etc. Let's talk about the changes that you've had to make regarding the writing, and balancing it with motherhood.
EHW: Wow. Motherhood. People insist on telling you how hard it is going to be and you never listen. The thing is, they weren’t right when they told you how tough it was – no one can; it’s worse! I managed 60 000 words last November by writing as soon as my then-four-month-old fell asleep. I wrote in bed on my iPad (which presents its own problems) and set myself a strict daily target. I’ve since managed to finish that novel (Snowbound) but you definitely need discipline. I also find bets based on cake and coffee are good motivators with other writing friends. I don’t like giving away cake. I like eating it.
SS: Who were your literary heroes/heroines growing up? I'm sure there are loads of great characters in British literature that pulled you into their worlds.
EHW: My favourite ever books growing up were the Anne of Green Gables series – I just loved them. I read them so many times the spines were lined and the covers bent which says something as I’m one of those people who never cracks spines! I also read the classics such as the Brontes, Austen, DuMaurier, Conan Doyle and tried Dickens, who I have never gotten on with. I have a theory you must read the classics by the age of twenty one because life gets in the way afterwards.
SS: Let's go back to Leo's world for just a tick. There's something about one of the stories that so reminds me about my work, because like you, I love digging through the layers of history to uncover little known nuggets in order to help move the story along, and in PI3, I believe, you have Leo and her pals delve into an abandoned portion of the London Underground. What was that experience like, in regards to the research?
EHW: I’ve had a fascination with the London underground since my first trip on it aged nine. I remember it clearly because I was terrified of escalators and at Knightsbridge there was this enormous one. It seemed to stretch for miles underground and so steep you couldn’t see the bottom. I just stood there terrified, blocking everyone – until my Aunty Rita shoved me on and I sailed down loving every minute! It was shortly after that trip that there was the dreadful fire at Kings Cross which finally led to a lot of modernisation on the underground and so this old, rickety world began to be lost. Wooden escalators were replaced and smoking banned! Some stations were too difficult to modernise and the smaller ones, such as Aldwych, were gradually closed. They joined the platforms and whole stations that have been mothballed and are sealed pockets of history. Some haven’t been used since World War Two and still bear the posters from that era. It’s a strange feeling to stand on the platform at Holborn and know through that foreboding, thick, grey door is a whole extra part of the station never used. The abandoned stations are sometimes open for limited tours and, although I’ve never managed to get on one, I study the photos of those who have. I also walk around London a lot and the Piccadilly line stations are easy to spot as they were all bricked in what is called ‘ox blood red’. London is dreadful for destroying its own history in the name of progress so I like to hold on to these little bits that remain.
SS: You're giving me 100 quid when I arrive in London. What am I doing?
EHW: Take a walking tour tailored to your interests. There are lots of different options: a literary tour of Soho, Jack the Ripper’s East London etc. That would only cost about a tenner per person per walk so I guess you could spend the rest on a good play at one of the better theatres (the National or the Old Vic – or for a fiver you can be a ‘groundling’ at the Globe but pick a shorter Shakespeare play or your feet will ache!) and then a walk along the canal in Camden, the Thames or around the London parks. To be honest, you could just walk around London for the day and spend nothing, just taking it all in.
SS: I'm giving you $100 when you arrive in Boston. What are YOU doing?
EHW: I want to see history! Show me where it happened! I also like to be by the water so a walk along the waterfront? Then let me collapse and gorge myself at the best vegan restaurant Boston has to offer.
SS: What is up next for you?
EHW: Next up is the writing of Paranormal Investigations 5: A Faint Whiff of Wet Dog as well as getting Snowbound ready for publication. After PI5 I’ll write something different (probably in November) before cracking on with PI6 and then PI7. I already have titles and the main plot idea for them and can’t wait to get started!
Thanks for stopping by, Liz!