Some Thoughts with … J. E. Hannaford

1 Sept 2022

The Author/s

J.E. Hannaford

J.E. Hannaford

J E Hannaford is powered by coffee, dragons, and whisky. She teaches Biology in the real world and invents fantasy beasts to populate her own.She lives in Suffolk, UK, and pines for the coast and mountains of Wales.A love of nature and the ocean washes through the pages of J E Hannaford’s stories and pours out of the characters who live in it.

Her debut series is The Black Hind’s Wake Duology.

The Interview

Welcome again to my favourite section of the blog, interviewing different authors so we can get some insight into the books. Today we are accompanied by J. E. Hannaford, author of The Skin, and the recently released The Pact.

Let’s dive in!

1.- What made you decide to go for the self-publishing route?

A few different things pushed me that way. Black Hind’s Wake is an unconventional structure and difficult to pigeonhole into a genre so I didn’t think it was a good fit for trad. publishing. I did start to try for a traditional route with it, but changed my mind after sending it to a few agents, and pulled my remaining queries.

Once it was in other people’s hands I realised I wouldn’t be happy unless the book looked exactly as I had dreamed and planned it to be. Some of my pacing choices are stylistic to reflect the mood of the environment the characters are in and I was certain that someone else might ask for that to be changed.

I know a lot of amazing self-pub authors and chatting with them helped me make the decision. Before querying, I’d already spoken to the interior artist, an editor, and a cover artist, I just think I queried because I thought I should but, my heart knew what I really wanted, so I self-published. I’m still happy that I made the totally right choice both for me and my book. 

2.- Which parts of writing/publishing do you find more difficult to deal with?

The Skin was a very steep learning curve. Trying to work out the sequence of steps involved in getting the book printed, and doing it in a time frame – that I had underestimated – was incredibly stressful. I still find it hard to deal with the promotional part and marketing involved in building an audience. I tried to launch with a big dramatic bang and a tour, not having factored in how early I would need copies of The Skin for the tour. I didn’t send out ARC copies anywhere except the tour until other author friends kicked me into action. A year later, I still find the marketing aspect the hardest. 

3.- After writing a second part, would you say the process become easier?

Yes. I know what I need to do from a publishing perspective. I built in extra time for my plans, which was needed. I’ve been able to move on to other projects this summer, so I know I am in a better, calmer place. I say this after a total meltdown at a friend over timelines I  messed up, but in actual fact, I am quietly calm about it. I know The Skin has found some of its readers, and so the fear of throwing my work into the unknown and waiting for a response is not as bad this time. 

4.- I find interesting the way The Skin is narrated, as you used different POVs in 1st person, did you find any additional challenge due to it?

 Lots, trying to keep a variation in tone of voice and not crossing the previous experiences of the POV threads unintentionally was hard. But a large part of that was due to the structure.  I am more comfortable writing in 1st POV, it just feels more natural to me. In The Pact I switched styles with one in 1st Person and one in 3rd, as that felt right. I prefer working in 1st, as I feel much more involved in the story, but again it was a structural decision. I’d seen multiple 1st POV done well before, so I knew it could work. 

5.- Let’s talk about the world of The Skin, despite being fantasy, it is situated in the future, what could you tell us about it? 

It’s our world. Maybe the Old Ones are actually out there now. Waiting, watching, hoping they don’t have to intervene. Have you looked in the nearest seal caves recently?

The World of Black HInd’s Wake is filled with a blend of folklore and fantasy, taking the elements of regional folklore and saying ‘what if they were real, what if they had to come back out of hiding, and we found them? British folklore has many stories where there is interaction between the improbable and the mundane. Where heads of champions are carried for weeks and continue to talk. Often the folklore is inexplicable and unlike modern fantasy. Not every aspect of the magic is explained to the reader. I wanted to bring the feel of the old lore into our world where Old Ones once again walked alongside humans, So I considered what it would take for them to reveal themselves. Having decided that would have to be an event that put their very survival in jeopardy, as we already live in a world on a tipping point- I just pushed us over it, then gave it a little time to recover.

6.-Why did you choose the Selkie myth for this particular book?

Because I was at a con with a panel on mythical creatures back in 2019, and the Selkie was called out as the most useless fantasy creature. I already had a short story with Georgie and Sirena in, so it was a short step from hearing that statement to the characters screaming that they wanted to show that selkies weren’t useless. It’s amazing how loud characters can shout at you sometimes, so eventually, I gave in and wrote The Skin. 

7.- Who designed the cover? And the small chapter arts?

Paul Trif at Trif cover designs made both covers. He did an incredible job making my vision come to life.

Carina Roberts did the chapter artwork. Both of these artists are amazing and I am so lucky to work with them. Carina is passionate about seals, so I knew she would be perfect for the chapter art, and I have to say that her drawing of Môr in banana-pose for The Pact is one of my favourites, she has raised the bar even higher in The Pact. 

8.- What could we expect from J E Hannaford in the future?

For those who want to re-board Barge, there will be more Black Hind books. But I’ve not yet decided whose story they will be. If I travel outside Europe – which is likely, I also need time to fully research the folklore of the places the crew voyage to.  In the meantime, ‘The Aulirean Gates’ is the next series. It’s an epic fantasy trilogy with dinosaur-like creatures, interplanetary gates, and space dragons as well as found family and psychic hounds.

The first book, Gates of Hope, is finished, and I’ll tentatively say it will be out in the first half of 2023. The second book is partially done, but I am doing a detailed editing pass with fresh eyes on both as the series was paused for a very loud Selkie.