Your short story Angel Blood will soon be published in Australian Literature: A Snapshot in 10 Short Stories. What can readers look forward to in Angel Blood?
Angel Blood is a paranormal story with a bit of mystery and just a dash of romance. The protagonist is being sought by a demon because of her blood, the only problem is she can’t tell the difference between the demon trying to kill her and the angel trying to protect her.
Could you tell us a little about your fiction writing and what point you’re up to now with your writing?
Although I’ve been writing fiction for as long as I can remember, it’s only in the past couple of years I’ve really started getting serious about it—mostly because I finally have the time to focus on it. I studied Writing as a major at university years ago, but I’m finding I’m learning a lot more from being involved in the writing community online (through Twitter, writing blogs and online conferences).
For the most part, I’m drawn towards writing fantasy, but I dabble in other genres as well. I love writing for children (picture books through to young adult), though my short stories are often aimed at older readers.
I’m lucky enough to be able to write almost every day, even if only in little spurts. I’ve been dividing my time between writing short stories, picture book stories and a couple of young adult novels. At the moment I’m preparing to query a completed young adult fantasy novel and a picture book.
In Angel Blood, you have written largely about a dilemma in trying to distinguish an angel from a demon when both angel and demon claim to be the angel. What do you think tends to work well in angel stories, or what is an example of a story which you appreciate and what made it work for you as a reader (or viewer)?
To be honest I can’t recall reading any novels about angels, though I’ve been meaning to read Fallen by Lauren Kate, as I was given a copy of the sequel Torment (I also have Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series on my ‘to be read’ list). However, I have seen a few movies about angels in the past (Michael, Dogma and Constantine come to mind).
My main experiences of angels come from the Bible, and that’s where my fascination with them stems from. Angels and demons really personify the eternal battle of ‘good versus evil’. Angels are viewed as protectors/guardians/messengers of God, while demons are mischief makers/ foot soldiers of the devil.
I think angel stories work well because these divine beings are brought down to human level. How do these heavenly creatures react when put into our less-than-perfect world? It’s an interesting question to explore. There’s also the element of the paranormal that brings with it a sense of mystery and intrigue. The rules are different when dealing with paranormal characters and it can often feel more dangerous because they’re unknown entities.
What kinds of fiction do you most enjoy reading and do you have some favourites?
I’m a huge lover of fantasy, particularly if it includes mystery elements. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling sits at the top of my favourites list. Ms. Rowling is a very clever writer. The way she weaves clues throughout the series and each individual book, while building this fantastic magical world, is something I really admire in her writing. I love anything by Emily Rodda, particularly the Rowan of Rin books. I recently read the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris, and really enjoyed those; I felt the characters were well developed. And although he doesn’t tend to write fantasy, one of my all time favourite writers and inspirations is Australian author John Marsden. I started reading Marsden as a teenager and have always admired how he writes in such a way that you feel like you’re living the story with the characters.
What is an interest you have beyond writing fiction and how has this helped you with the content or style of your writing, or with your writing process or attitude to writing?
I like some artistic pursuits, such as drawing and graphic art. I’m actually not very good at art, but I enjoy it. When I was younger I liked to draw, and this always fed my writing because I would draw character sketches or location sketches for whatever story I happened to be working on. I always felt this helped with my descriptions because it created a clearer image in my head. More recently I have been dabbling in graphic art. I tend to create chapter images, mock up book covers or general scenes from my stories. Creating these scenes not only gets me thinking about developing visual imagery in my story, it also helps me delve deeper into the plot because I’m thinking about the key elements of the story or scene to include in the graphic.
Who is one of your favourite fictional characters and why?
Jo March from Little Women has always been one of my favourite characters. Whenever I read Little Women when I was younger I always identified with Jo, not just because we share the same name, but because she loves to write and has this big imagination. I still do identify with her in that regard. Like any good character, she is flawed, but she’s also a very strong character—she loves her family and, even though she doesn’t always get along with her sisters, she would do anything for her family.
What is one of your favourite books on the craft of storytelling or written fiction and why?
I really like The Writing Book by Kate Grenville. It includes chapters on the various elements of writing, such as dialogue, character and description. Each chapter contains examples and writing exercises. It’s handy if you’re trying to improve a current work-in-progress and need some direction. Also, if you’re lacking inspiration, the exercises in each chapter can be a great starting point to get the creative juices flowing.
What is next for your fiction writing for the rest of 2011?
I’m currently working on a YA thriller about a girl who starts at a new school where students are turning up dead. I’m also working on a chapter book about zombies for primary school aged boys. I’m always working on picture book and short story ideas.
More on Jo Hart and her fiction can be found at http://thegracefuldoe.wordpress.com.
The Australian Literature Review