How did you become a writer?
I’ve wanted to be a professional writer since I was 12 years old and read THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkien for the first time. I wrote poetry and lots of short stories and novel extracts for years but never tried to sell anything. When I was 34 I decided I wanted to write and sell a book before I was 35. I wrote BLACK WINGS in about six weeks, mostly during the time when my son was napping. I spent eight months shopping around for an agent. I couldn’t find one so I decided to submit directly to Ace/Roc, since they published many of my favorite fantasy novels. I submitted a query letter and ten pages; a week later an editor contacted me and asked for the full manuscript, and a week after that she called to offer me a three-book contract. I’ve been with Ace/Berkley ever since, and have published ten books with them.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).
Tolkien is probably the biggest influence, since his books were so inspiring to me as a young reader and writer.
Robin McKinley was also an early favorite – she taught me that girls could fight dragons (in THE HERO AND THE CROWN), defeat armies (in THE BLUE SWORD) and change their fate (in SPINDLE’S END).
I adore Angela Carter – I always say that anyone who has ever read my books ALICE or RED QUEEN will recognize this immediately – and Shirley Jackson and Daphne DuMaurier. I re-read Ray Bradbury’s SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES every year – it’s not October without it. I’ve also read pretty much every Stephen King and Agatha Christie novel.
When and where do you write?
I write chronologically and by hand in a standard college-ruled notebook. I started doing this when my son was small, because I could take him to the park and let him play in the sandbox and I would be able to sit on a bench and write while he played. The system worked for me so I still write that way, and take my notebook wherever I go so if I have downtime I can write. These days I mostly write at our dining room table. Once I’ve got about 50 or so pages into the notebook I transfer it to a typewritten manuscript and edit it as I go, and then the process starts over again in my notebook until I’ve completed the book.
What are you working on now?
I just finished edits on THE MERMAID, which should be out next year. It’s a story about P.T. Barnum and the Feejee Mermaid, except in my story the mermaid is real instead of a hoax. It’s pretty different from anything I’ve written before – there are no large action set pieces, no horror, no bodies, no blood. The magical element is slight (there’s a mermaid; that’s it!) and the book is mostly about relationships. It was a challenge for me to write but I wanted to try something different. Trying something new is the only way I know how to improve as an author.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
No, I would say I probably have the opposite problem – too many ideas and not enough time to write them!
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
To forget about the audience. If you worry about what people will think of the book you’ll never get it done – it can become paralyzing – so just write what makes you happy.
What’s your advice to new writers?
Persist. The most successful writers are the ones who never gave up even when they were rejected or were dropped by a publisher. If you believe in your work just keep pushing forward.
CHRISTINA HENRY is the author of the CHRONICLES OF ALICE duology, ALICE and RED QUEEN, a dark and twisted take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as well as LOST BOY: THE TRUE STORY OF CAPTAIN HOOK, an origin story of Captain Hook from Peter Pan.
She is also the author of the national bestselling BLACK WINGS series (BLACK WINGS, BLACK NIGHT, BLACK HOWL, BLACK LAMENT, BLACK CITY, BLACK HEART and BLACK SPRING) featuring Agent of Death Madeline Black and her popcorn-loving gargoyle Beezle.
She enjoys running long distances, reading anything she can get her hands on and watching movies with samurai, zombies and/or subtitles in her spare time. She lives in Chicago with her husband and son.