Some Thoughts with ... C.L. Hellisen

17 Dec 2022

The Author/s

C.L. Hellisen

C.L. Hellisen

Cat Hellisen writes weird, lush speculative fiction for adults and children. They are the author of several novels, including When the Sea is Rising Red and Beastkeeper, and their short fiction and poetry have appeared in various magazines and anthologies, including, Apex Magazine, Shimmer and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Their favourite writers are Ursula K Le Guin, Margaret Atwood, Tanith Lee, and Clive Barker, though they love discovering new writers of the fantastical.

The Interview

Welcome to another post in my favourite section of the web. Today we are able to interview C.L. Hellisen, author of Thief Mage, Beggar Mage, and Cast Long Shadows.

Let's dive in!

1.- How did the idea for Cast Long Shadows appear?
I love fairy tales and love using them as the seeds for my own stories. Sometimes there is a particular thing that gets caught in my head, and I have to write around it. In this case, it was the idea that all Step Mothers are Evil in fairy tales. I wanted to write a story from the evil stepmother’s point of view, and Snow White was the perfect vehicle for that.

2.- Why did you choose the specific setting for this novel?
I didn’t, it just grew that way. I usually start a novel because I have a scene in my head, and this one was of the two sisters on the castle roof, wrapped against the snow, and trying to call down the moon. From there, the world grew as I wrote.

3.- Which part of the process between writing and publishing Cast Long Shadows would you say was the most challenging?
Being on sub is the hardest part for almost any writer, as you have no control over the process. When writing or editing, we put in all the work, we make all the changes, but once it’s out there, you have to sit and wait. So, for me, it’s not the writing, it’s not doing revisions, but putting Cast Long Shadows out of my mind while it was with publishers and working on the next book.

4.- Could you tell us a little bit more about the gods and powers in Cast Long Shadows?
I wanted the magic in Cast Long Shadows to feel on the edge of real, so you weren’t sure if it was just regular ‘humans believing in things to make themselves feel better’, or if the gods really did anything. The god Furis was a masculine, patriarchal figure, while the Three were feminine and feral. I don’t like either group, but if I had to choose which I’d rather worship, it would definitely be the Three.

5.- I imagine Marjeta as a character evolved a lot since the first draft of this novel, could be possible to know more about the process? 
I had a fairly good idea of who she was, so she didn’t change all that much as I revised, though I think she grew better developed and more real. My general workflow is: have an idea, throw all my thoughts at the page, then revise it until it looks like a story.
I like to think of writing as gathering scraps of material and tacking them together. The revision process is shifting the scraps until they are harmonious, making the stitches neat, then embroidering the details.

6.- If I'm not wrong, you also published Thief Mage Beggar Mage this year, could you tell us a little more about it?

Thief Mage Beggar Mage was a book I have been working on for years. It’s something of a pet project. Again, this started with a fairy tale seed -- in this case, my beloved Tinderbox, a Hans Christian Andersen story. It’s a story about power and what people will do for it, and about pain and what people will do to escape it. It’s filled with secret identities, emo mages, scheming dragons, and pretty thieves – a typical Cat book.

7.- What can we expect from C.L. Hellisen in the future?
Hopefully, more books? There’s a sequel to Thief Mage Beggar Mage, which I’m working on, and I have some new books with my agent - these are about mages and monsters, sibling rivalry, and a romance with a decided power-imbalance. So we’ll see. Publishing is never a guarantee, sadly.