Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Interview + Excerpt - The Winter Spirits (The Foxfires Trilogy, #1) by E.C. Hibbs

 Today I am hosting an interview with E.C. Hibbs about her latest book, The Winter Spirits.
Read on for information about the book and author, the interview, and an excerpt.

Title: The Winter Spirits (The Foxfires Trilogy, #1)
Author: E.C. Hibbs
Pages: 256 (ebook), 337 (paperback)


 If you sing to the Spirits, be prepared for their answer...

The Long Dark has come and the Northlands will not see daylight for two months. Silence falls with the snow, and Spirits roam the three Worlds. It is a time of beauty, magic, and danger.

When the Spirit of the Northern Lights steals his best friend’s soul, apprentice mage Tuomas is determined to find help. However, his own fledgling power gets the better of him, and he accidentally rips the Spirit out of the sky, trapping her in human form. Alongside his feared icy companion and the mysterious wandering mage Lilja, Tuomas begins a quest across frozen tundra and into ethereal Spirit realms. 

But a terrible shadow lingers just out of sight, its gaze fixed on him. And behind her composed fa├žade, the Spirit holds secrets of her own...

Book Links:

How did you come up with the idea for The Winter Spirits?

I wanted to create a love letter to winter, to the Arctic, to shamanism; to everything about the frozen north which has ever fascinated me. I've always adored the cold and dark. My favourite fairy tale has always been The Snow Queen, and after I crossed the Arctic Circle for the first time I knew I had to write my own kind of icy fairy tale. While I was in Finland, I learned about the legend of a fox which creates the Northern Lights by sweeping up the snow with its tail. That image stuck with me and I was determined to do something with it. It left such an impact on me, The Winter Spirits (and its upcoming sequels) isn't even the first time I adapted it. This time last year, I wrote a short story dealing with the same legend, and it won the Award for Best New Winter Fairy Tale.

Did you do any research for The Winter Spirits?

I always do a lot of research, not just so I can get my facts straight, but so I can become comfortable with the subject and have that confidence trickle into my writing. In the case of The Winter Spirits, I read a lot about Arctic indigenous groups and shamanism, but a large portion of my research came from real-life experiences. I'm very lucky to have spent several winters living in Finland, so I used that time to really take note of the environment; how it looks and feels and sounds. I tasted reindeer meat, had my eyelashes freeze in -30C, and watched the Northern Lights time after time. And I also have several Sami friends from both Finland and Norway, who kindly shared information with me about reindeer, mythology and the herding way of life.

Do you have a favourite character in The Winter Spirits?

All the characters are very layered, but whenever I had to deal with Lilja or Lumi, my heart always sped up a little. They're strong and weak in different ways. Lilja is very wise and powerful, but also misunderstood. Her past is been fraught with darkness and she lives a solitary existence. Despite that, she's very protective of the few people she allows to get close. Lumi, on the other hand, is the Spirit of the Northern Lights. She's usually without a body: formless energy that exists only in the sky. She's one of the most feared and revered Spirits of all; her pride gets the better of her if she is disrespected. When she's trapped in human form, she has to deal not just with being forced into a physical body, but suddenly being weaker than ever; dealing with other emotions such as care and love; and, like Lilja, keeping secrets which she feels are better contained than shared.

What are you most proud of in The Winter Spirits

It's actually something which isn't story-related. The main character, Tuomas is named after my late little brother who was never born. I wrote The Winter Spirits to coincide with the year he should have turned 18. And now, in 2020, it's being released into the world the same year he should have been 21. So even though it's a story which has been coming for a while, on a personal level it means a lot to me, because it's a birthday present to a brother from his sister, twice over.

Do you have any advice for new writers? 

Keep going. Everything about writing has peaks and valleys: motivation, the writing process itself, finding your readership... But it's important to dig your heels in and let nothing stop you. Finish whatever you start. Even if you don't feel it's good enough to be published, the worst thing you create is better than the best thing you didn't create. Learn from your mistakes. Listen to your gut and let it shape your voice. Be open to constructive criticism and allow it to help you improve. There is never a day when someone wakes up and is magically a master author who can do no wrong. Like all art, like life itself, nothing is perfect and we are constantly learning. Be open to that, and you'll find you're progressing even when it feels like you aren't.

Do you have any works in progress?

I'm currently in the planning and research stages of a new dark fairy tale, loosely inspired by The Wild Swans by Hans Christian Andersen. It's early days, so I don't want to give away anything yet. So much can change at this point!

 What's your favourite book?

I can't put my finger on just one, but my top three are The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver; His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman; and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I'm a fantasy-lover through and through, but I do enjoy classic literature too. I adore stories in general which not only tell a great tale in a different way, but also highlight things which make me think and ponder - stories that stay with me long after I've read the last page.


Tuomas sat up, and fright froze him to the spot. 
The sky was as clear and dark as it had been before. All traces of green were gone. But lying by the entrance of his tent was a figure: slender as a sapling, completely white, clad in fabric which seemed to be made from starlight itself.  
It rolled over and revealed a thin feminine face. Two large pointed ears, like a fox’s, protruded from long hair as colourless as the snow. 
She looked straight at him. Her irises were the raging hues of the aurora. 
Tuomas’s heart thundered. He couldn’t move. He glanced between the drum and the girl, unable to believe his eyes. 
She leapt to her feet and flew at him. He recoiled in panic, throwing up his arms to protect himself. 
She paused inches from his face, blocked by the circle he had cast. But that invisible barrier, thinner than birch bark, didn’t fill him with any confidence and he trembled like a terrified child. 
What had he done? 
“How dare you!” the girl shouted. “Put me back!” 
Tuomas stared at her, too scared to move. She bared her teeth and her eyes shone red: the same colour as when the Lights had struck Mihka. 
“Return me to the sky!” she demanded. “Now!” 
Her ferocity shocked him into action. He hit the drum desperately, striking out a tuneless beat. But his hands trembled so much, he dropped the hammer. 
The girl snarled. “A fine mage you are trying to be! Put me back!” 
“I… I can’t!” Tuomas stammered. “I’m not a mage yet…” 
“You brought me down here! You put me back!” 
“Please, I can’t!” 
She locked eyes with him. The redness blazed across her face, throwing strange shadows onto cheekbones which might have been chiselled from ice. Everything about her spoke of coldness, control, authority. The longer she glared, the more Tuomas’s fear grew. 
“You summon a Spirit – confine a Spirit – and do not even know what you did?” she said incredulously. “You should have the power!” 
Tuomas frowned.  “What? But I told you… I’m still training!” 
“But you should know!”  
There was a swooping motion behind her, and Tuomas noticed for the first time that a bushy white tail had appeared from beneath her skirt. He regarded her ears again, and realisation gripped him.  
Fox fires. 
Somehow, he had trapped that very Spirit in human form.

About the Author

E. C. Hibbs is an award-winning author and artist, often found lost in the woods or in her own imagination. She adores nature, fantasy, and anything to do with winter. She also hosts a YouTube channel, discussing writing tips and the real-world origins of fairy tales. She lives with her family in Cheshire, England. 

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