An interview with: Helen Blakeman, Co-founder of Heroic Books
1. What can you tell us about the mission behind Heroic Books?
The mission behind Heroic Books is quite simple – we aim to bring the widest possible audience to our authors and their work, whilst keeping writers and creatives at the very heart. We’re a trans-media publisher across the fantasy and science fiction genre – meaning that whilst we publish books, we are also directing our authors work to be adapted across other mediums, from film, to TV, animation and game. As a writer myself, I know how difficult it is to break into the creative industry successfully, so with our contacts, from our brilliant board members to an A-list stakeholder of ours, we hope to make those steps easier for our writers and their work. We also wish to be very inclusive and diverse across the writers that we work with, especially focusing on debut authors and those who have never been traditionally published before.
2. What anthologies/books/projects are in the works?
In October, we’ll be publishing The Tenets of Truth, which is the debut fantasy
novel from Liverpool-based writer Quillem McBreen. In November, we’ll be publishing The Stone Keep, the fantastic debut novel by Irish author S. K. Marlay. We also have lots of fantastic titles scheduled for 2022, including the beautiful Angel from the Rust by Jason Link from the U.S., and Featherfall by Jerry Ibbotson, an intriguing novel set in his hometown of York. More information about each of these titles is available on our website, and it’s always worth following our social media for the latest news.
In terms of anthologies, we have an exciting publication coming out in 2022. Hero is a fantasy anthology with contributions from Michael Marshall Smith, Maria Dahvana Headley, Una McCormack, M Evan MacGrioghair, Anna Stephens, Alyssa Wong and Amal El-Mohtar. Amongst these stellar names, will be short stories from authors who have submitted to us via our recent open call – giving new, and/or unpublished writers, the chance to have their work published alongside exciting and established names. There will be some Heroic authors in there too.
Alongside our publishing, Heroic are also currently developing an international children’s animation series adapted from a fantasy adventure book. So that’s another exciting project.
3. What would make a story stand out for you to make you want to publish it?
For me, it’s always about the writers’ voice and a narrative that draws you in. Whether it’s fantasy or sci-fi, an authors’ distinct style is a huge bonus – as well as characters and a world that actually make you ‘feel’. I believe the cleverest books in the genre are those with a subtle parallel to the real world, those that comment on the bigger picture… and yes, it may sound like a cliché, but it does need to be a page-turner.
That doesn’t mean fast-paced, it means engaging or the possibility to engage. When we first read a manuscript at an early draft, our editorial team may recognise that it still needs further development and the writer may still need further guidance – but if the essence of the narrative is there, and the writer is handling it well then, our editors walk along the path with the writer to achieve their best possible version of the work. As we currently have an open-submissions window, it’s often very exciting when we discover a real gem from a first-time author.
4. What is #Heroic100 and how can people participate?
Heroic100 is our campaign to celebrate the work of fantasy illustrators. Fantasy, and indeed sci-fi, is an exceptionally visual genre and we believe the work of artists and writers ought to be brought together more often. With social media and digital content being such a huge part of our lives now, it seems to us that there’s never been a better time to bring the creatives in this genre together. Authors can no longer just rely on their words to get their work out there. Engaging with fans is about more than that. Using terrific artwork, from character illustrations to epic landscapes, from maps to fantastical beasts, is a way for authors to deliver more to their readers. We want to recognise that artists can play a huge part in the genre. As well as celebrating their work, it’s about bringing writers and artists together in on-going partnership.
We already have an amazing Heroic100 success story – with one of our artist’s work being chosen for a book cover design for one of our novels. Artists can find out more about how to take part in Heroic100 on our website, and you can see some of the amazing artists and their illustrations via Instagram too.
5. What else is on the horizon for Heroic?
There are exciting plans on the horizon which are developing out from Heroic Books and encompassing more of a creative and community focus across the genre. Again, announcements coming soon! But we believe that genre writers, readers and bloggers will be very happy!
Thanks to Helen for talking to us about the heroism going on at this impressive, bold publisher. Find them on social media at @heroicbooks on Twitter and Instagram.
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Words: Rory McNeill.