• Sarah Driver

    Sarah Driver



    JUNE 2018

    In this page-turning, world-saving fantasy adventure, author SARAH DRIVER brings us a fabulous new world, an engaging heroine and thoroughly dark villains.

    The trilogy follows Mouse, her brother Sparrow and the friends they make in their quest to recover and return three opals, to restore balance to their world, Trianukka.

    Look out for Wilderwitches, moon-sprites and merwraiths during their adventure-laden journey through Sea, Sky and now Storm, the concluding book in the trilogy which publishes this month. The trilogy is ideal for fans of authors including Angie Sage and Abi Elphinstone.

    We asked author SARAH DRIVER to tell us more about THE HUNTRESS trilogy:

    Q: What is your 'day job' other than writing, and what brought you into writing? Have you always wanted to be an author?

    A: I've always wanted to be an author - or maybe it's more accurate to say that I've always been a writer (since around the age of six) but as a kid I didn't know that being an author was even a Thing, and I definitely didn't think it was something within my reach.

    I'm now a midwife but it's actually an 'any time of the day or night' job and I don't really consider it a day job as it's another wonderful part of my life, though it can be tough. I'm very lucky.

    I decided to take writing more seriously when I felt a strong 'now or never' pull towards trying to become an author, because the writing bug never went away and I wanted to devote more time to it. I enrolled on a master's degree in writing for young people and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

    Q: Your first book, The Huntress Sea, sees the start of Mouse's epic quest for three missing pearls - and her father. Why did you decide to write it as a trilogy rather than a single book?

    A: The idea was first suggested to me by a university tutor (thank you!) who I think could see I was struggling to fit all my ideas for the story into one book.

    I knew straight away that it would work better as a trilogy because of the three Storm-Opals that are central to the story's plot. Also, Mouse and the other characters were really great to write and I didn't want to limit that experience to one book!

    Q: Was setting off on this quest with your characters a daunting journey for you as a debut writer? How important was the creative writing course in your development as a writer, and for confidence?

    A: It was definitely daunting at times - I think anything is if you view it as one scary big mountain to climb all at once.

    The brilliant thing about the course was that it took that feeling of fear away, and placed an emphasis on experimentation, finding a 'voice', discovering more about your characters, getting back into the mindset of a child, and building a writing community.

    The course was infinitely important in building my confidence. I'd never really shown my work to anyone before and it was incredibly validating to even be called a 'writer' and for other writers to be so encouraging about my work.

    Q: During Mouse's journey in The Huntress Sea, we learn that by separating three magical opals, the humans set in train events that have a devastating impact on their world - reflecting our current problems with our environment. Why can fantasy stories be such a strong vehicle for exploring issues in our 'real' world and why did you, as a writer, want to explore this?

    A: I think fantasy can work well to achieve this because the issues are so well encompassed within the worldbuilding, whereas sometimes when issues are tackled in a 'realistic' or contemporary setting the story can be labelled as that type of 'issues' book...a lot can be covered in fantasy but you also get the escapism element.

    I wanted to explore environmental issues because they're something I've been aware of since the age of about six or seven, and something I've always been passionately interested in. I found writing The Huntress also allowed me to explore other real-world issues I'm interested in, such as childhood illness.

    Q: You create some stunning homes for the people living in different settings such as the ice caves in the Iceberg Forest and the mountain fortress of Hackles in The Huntress Sky. Is there one environment that stands out for you in the series?

    A: That's a tough one! It would probably actually be the Huntress ship. I feel a really emotional pull towards the ship and I enjoy how she feels (to me) like another character in the books.

    I had so much fun researching ships and drawing my own, especially adding all the cabins and the Hoodwink for the sea-hawks.

    Saying that though, I really love the Skybrary and would love to spend a day or two skating around in there!

    Q: What are you top tips for young writers in creating a believable fantasy setting?

    A: First of all, don't limit yourself and let your imagination run wild. You can always scale it back if necessary later. Think about what type of setting you'd really love to explore - for me, it started as a desire to turn an imagined ship into my own personal 'playground'. Also think about the people who live there and how they've shaped the setting, and also how the setting has shaped the people.

    Have fun with sensory details. Really imagine your character in the setting and try to see the different objects and people they're interacting with.

    Q: You give some of your characters special powers related to nature. Mouse can 'beast-chatter' - talk to animals - and her younger brother Sparrow can sing with the whales and has an affect on the weather. There are other skills too, like shape-shifting, among your characters. But they all come with a price. If you had to have one of their skills, which would you choose?

    A: Well spotted that it comes with a price! If I could choose one, it would be shape-changing, but I'd have to be careful not to lose contact with my human self.

    Q: There are some wonderfully magical creatures in the trilogy - from the merwraiths of the ocean to the moonsprites created from moonlight. If you could bring any of them home with you, what would you choose?

    A: A moonsprite! True, they would cover everything in silvery dust and footprints, would be noisy and rude and probably try to get into fights, but I would still love to have a moonsprite companion. A perfect reading light and really beautiful. You have to be careful not to keep them in a bottle or jar for too long though - it's very cruel.

    Q: You have created some great villains, from the Wilderwitches and the Protector to the mystics and of course, Stag. Which have you enjoyed creating the most?

    A: It has to be Stag. I feel like I've been on such a journey with him and know the most about his character and backstory - it's said that every antagonist thinks they are the hero of the story - so you should really know your main villain as well as you know your main character.

    Stag is quite an interesting character, as well as obviously being thoroughly evil. In Storm, a bit more of his backstory is explained.

    Q: Your latest book, Storm, concludes the trilogy. How much planning did you do before you wrote book one to shape the series, and how closely did you keep to your plan by book three?

    A: I didn't do much planning before I wrote book one. I had a rough idea of the very basic shape of the plot over the three books, with the fundamental ending but little more than that. I wrote lots of it as I went along, discovering things. I think it's important to let yourself deviate from a plan.

    Q: Has there been a stand-out moment in the series for you, either in the actual writing of the books or in being a published author? What has the 'journey' of writing the trilogy been like for you?

    A: This is a brilliant question. The whole journey has been almost as epic as Mouse's own adventure. In July 2013 I had half a page of writing in the voice of a girl who told me her name was Mouse, that she lived aboard a ship and that she helped her grandmother by diving for pearls.

    By December 2014 I'd won a prize for 'most promising writer' at the end of my MA course, for a manuscript called The Huntress. That's how I met my agent, who secured my book deal with Egmont.

    My stand out moments from writing this trilogy are:
    Meeting my writing friends
    Finally finishing a whole novel (instead of starting new ones all the time!)
    Learning to believe in myself
    Going to meetings at publishing houses where they had dressed whole rooms to look like a scene from my book, complete with pearls, shells, moonlamps and cinnamon buns!
    My book launch for Sea, which was full of friends and family from all over the world.
    Making my parents proud.

    Q: Where has most of The Huntress trilogy been written? Where is your favourite place to write - and can you describe your dream 'writer's shed'?

    A: Most of it has been written at my very messy desk, overlooking the garden. But lots of Sky was written in the shed at the bottom of my garden, or in bed. Lots of scenes from Sea and Sky were also drafted on planes, trains, on my phone while walking, on retreats in Scotland, Wales, Northumberand (and even Mexico!)

    My dream writer's shed: warm, full of natural light (and moonlamps after dark), an open fireplace. Hot chocolate coming out of a tap (!) sofas, comfy chairs, at least one cat. A range of deluxe snacks magically resupplied.

    Q: What kinds of events are you doing around The Huntress books (ie when you visit schools, what do you cover with the children?)

    A: I love visiting schools! I usually do a talk including reading a chapter, showing photos, talking about my research process and the world of Trianukka before getting the audience to have a go at some creative writing (or drawing) activities.

    Q: Now that you have completed The Huntress books, what are you writing next?

    A: As usual I have a bunch of competing ideas, so it's just a matter of untangling them all!

    I'm working mostly on a couple of stand-alone (not a series this time) ideas which are fantasy again, featuring female main characters, friendship, magic and adventure, for 8-12s like The Huntress.

    Thank you so much for the questions!