I interviewed Hermione Lee for the release of her debut novel, the award-winning In the Name of the Otherworld. Therefore, after reading the second award-winning novel in this series, I interviewed Lee again. Here are her answers to my questions:
1. This book continues the epic narrative begun in In the Name of the Otherworld. Where did you get the inspiration for this story?
I derive inspiration from everywhere. For Marvels of the Underworld, I simply needed something to do to vent my creative energies. I planned the outline in December, 2019, but could not write it because there was this national high school entrance exam in May 2020. Tired of being confined to a classroom every day, I wanted to do something wild and insane, which led to my planning a novel that seemed ridiculous, involving an unexpected invasion, a haunted manor, a romantic confession in a dark forest, a whimsical mountain with magical vines and a transfigured water wheel, a technological center in a fantasy world, a conservatory chase, and a murder mystery. I suppose it’s my way of coping with the immense pressure—spinning stories that are bigger-than-life.
2. The story seemed very ambitious to me and combined genres very well. Was this something that you had planned in the beginning?
Yes, it was. I thought it would be fun, and I was ready for a challenge. I also felt the need to test my limits and see how many more milestones I can achieve as an author. I’m still challenging myself to new heights recently, and I plan to never stop doing so.
3. Do you have a favorite character of yours, or someone you feel is underrated in your books?
Eric Williams, an extremely brave character who stood up to his evil mother, is very underrated. I wrote a companion novel for him (Eric’s Tale), which takes place between In the Name of the Otherworld and Marvels of the Underworld.
I also feel that his girlfriend, Eileen Spencer, is an obscure character rarely noticed or favored by any readers. She, too, will have a companion novel dedicated to her in the future.
4. You’ve also started a Facebook page called Writing and Writers to promote indie authors. Why is this something that is important to you?
World Castle Publishing has published some of the best books I’ve ever read, and I hope that with more promotion, more people will get to peruse those wonderful, thought-provoking works.
It’s a pity that indie authors and publishers receive so little attention. In my opinion, many World Castle books would put the New York Times bestsellers to shame. Although my fledgling page is still quite new, doing something to help these authors is better than doing nothing at all.
5. Do readers need to familiarize themselves with In the Name of the Otherworld before they read Marvels of the Underworld, or do you feel they will still be able to follow the narrative?
No, that is not necessary, although some of the character development in In the Name of the Otherworld will make the readers realize and acknowledge each character’s growth more compared to Marvels of the Underworld‘s predecessor. I did include some brief explanations of the events in book 1, but of course, reading book 1 before starting book 2 would certainly offer the readers a more complete insight of the plot and characters.
6. The next book in the series, War of the Chaotic Worlds, was actually broken into two novels. Although the release date is not currently available, do we have this to look forward to as your next project?
Yes, it will be my next publication, although it isn’t my “next” project. I finished War of the Chaotic Worlds last August, then moved on to complete Once Upon an Enchantress, Helen’s Tale, The First Buds of Spring, Eric’s Tale, and Zack’s Tale, challenging myself to penning comedies, psychological horror novels, romance novels, adult novels, and novels focusing on male characters. Those are very new endeavors for me, and I enjoy expanding my potential and experimenting with these interesting ideas.
7. How long did you plan Marvels of the Underworld before beginning the writing process, and how long did it take to write the novel?
I planned the outline in December 2019 and started working on it on October 9th, 2020. I finished it after four months, on February 8th, 2021. I also made February 8th the birthday of Helen Edmunds, the second female protagonist of the Otherworld trilogy, for this very reason.
I keep track of my writing achievements and important dates in my iPad’s Notes, so they wouldn’t get lost in my hazy memory. I like having something to look back on when strolling down memory lane in the future, which is why I record and value every milestone in my journey.
8. When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Where do you find your inspiration?
I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was 10. I wrote a book, which I intended as a novel then, but bagged it after two months. I then started writing again when I was 13, though the quality of my manuscript was rather poor. The book I wrote at 13 turned out to be In the Name of the Otherworld, and is quite unrecognizable compared to its first draft. As for the book I started at 10, I am trying to rewrite and find an agent for it. It’s a middle grade fantasy novel about sibling rivalry, and how stories have the power to heal relationships and connect hearts.
I don’t find inspiration; it finds me. People always say, “You have to experience more to write well,” which I find highly patronizing. I believe that writers are writers not because they experience more, but rather because they feel and derive more from what they experience. For instance, you may see an escalator descending into a subway station. I think of it as a silver river pooling into a vast gray cave where underground trains run. And ding! Here comes a bout of inspiration.
9. Where do you usually write your novels? Do you have a favorite place to write?
I write them mostly in my room, but I get out my iPad and write whenever I feel like it. I absolutely love writing in Starbucks and at my grandma’s house. They have a certain charm on me and my work, and I can produce lots of high-quality writing in both places. Chalk it up to the magical latte, which my grandma always lets me have!
10. Do you have any hobbies or anything you do when you are not writing?
Reading! And sometimes, drawing. I rarely read fantasy or sci-fi, but if the book or story is well-written, it stays with me. I never read romance or erotica unless it’s written by my friends. I’m fine with horror and mystery, but not very obsessed with either genre. I adore thrillers, especially legal thrillers. My favorite books consist mostly of YA novels without a specific genre. Bridge to Terabithia, Nineteen Minutes, and Defending Jacob are my top three.
Marvels of the Underworld is available in multiple outlets, including Amazon.