Author H.S. Norup shares how she went about creating the fantastical creatures in her new book 'Into The Faerie Hill'
Into The Faerie Hill is a story about a rootless boy called Alfred, an eco-warrior girl who calls herself Saga, and a community protest against a motorway tunnel that will harm nature and disturb the faeries. The fearsome faeries!
In fact, the book is full of faerie creatures. There are mysterious water sprites, grumpy tree sprites, vicious pixies, shapeshifting animal creatures, and imposing high faeries. Some of them are helpful, while others are tricksy or downright spiteful. All of them share Alfred’s and Saga’s wish to protect the environment and nature.
And that’s where I found the creatures: in nature. Not actually found them (obviously) but imagined them. I think there’s something magical about the outdoors, and I get many of my ideas when I’m out walking. So, while I was writing this book, I went on long walks in my local forest and daydreamed about fantastical creatures hiding just out of sight.
Of course, most of the work and invention happens at my desk, where I describe the creatures and flesh them out as characters. I treat them like human characters, and that is what I think makes them come alive. I try to discover who they are and what they want by asking myself (and them) lots of questions. Why are they in the story? What is their role? Are they hindering or helping Alfred and Saga, and why are they doing that? One question leads to the next. If in doubt, I always ask ‘why’.
One of the most important faerie creatures in the book is Saga’s tree-sprite companion. He’s called Mr Tumbleweed. (You can see an illustration of him on the book cover.) He has been with Saga since she was a baby, but everyone else thinks he’s a toad, which is how he disguises himself. Alfred is the first person besides Saga who can see what he really is, and Alfred describes him as an enlarged lichen-covered stick insect with knots as eyes and a gash mouth. When I came to decide on Mr Tumbleweed’s voice, I asked myself how someone like that would sound. So, when he speaks, he groans like wooden floorboards in an old house. I couldn’t imagine someone with that kind of voice being happy, so he’s pretty grumpy most of the time. That led me to asking why he was grumpy. From these initial ideas about Mr Tumbleweed sprang many other questions, like why can Alfred see him? Why does Mr Tumbleweed stay with Saga if he’s unhappy? And why is he important for Saga’s and Alfred’s quest?
These questions and many more ‘why’s about the creatures are answered in the book. You can purchase a copy of Into The Faerie Hill here!
Imagine if you had a fantastical creature as your companion. Can you write about the first time you met and how you became friends? When you describe the creature, include how they sound and smell and feel. Try to find out who they really are, what they want, and why. Do they need your help? Or are they helping you? Why do they want to become your friend?
Keep asking ‘why’, and, if you lack ideas, go for a walk!
Find out more about H.S. Norup on her website!