Highfell Grimoires Author Interview: Langley Hyde

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37801-coverThis month sees the publication of Langley Hyde‘s debut novel, Highfell Grimoires, from our friends at Blind Eye Books (publisher of Ginn Hale, Astrid Amara, et al.). Highfell Grimoires is a steampunk adventure set in a private school (with shades of both an orphanage and a workhouse) which floats in the aetheric currents high above the city below:

Q: Your novel, Highfell Grimoires, is set in a boarding school high up in the atmosphere and riding the aether. The story is part steampunk, part fantasy, and part gay romance. Which one of those ideas came first?

Hyde: Oh my. Well, the romance and the characters. The setting developed after that, inspired by my favorite books, my own experiences, and my interests. Then the magic happened. Magic always happen when I write. : )

In college, I always tried to write contemporary short stories because writing classes were all literary. I ended up with hideous literary/fantasy hybrids. Monsters! I’d try to write a literary story about a superbly fashionable girl with a tragic past who’s walking down an alley, navel-gazing (very difficult to do this when walking, she has to be a master at multitasking not to trip) and then all of a sudden she sees a small coat shop, and it takes her to—

Well, not Manhattan. That’s for sure.

When other students encountered my work, often the response was chilly. I even had classmates refuse to read my stories because they weren’t literature (ha, what is?) and once a girl drew me aside to say, in a tone of deep concern, “Magic isn’t real. I mean, you do know that. Right?”

When she asked me that question, I couldn’t help but feel a little sketchy as I looked around, trying to judge exactly what would to relieve her concerns, and then muttered, “Um . . .”

Q: In Highfell Grimoires, your main character claims fantasy aspects like aether and bloodlocks are explained by science, but he still invokes the gods. Why did you choose this approach? 

color with spirals web resHyde: When I created my main character, Neil, I wanted a character with a complex relationship to his society. Becoming a true adult involves negotiating what role a person wants to take in society. This is integral to identity. I think one’s society of origin plays a larger role in people’s decisions than they often want to admit.

In my main character, the young Lord Cornelius ‘Neil’ Franklin, conventional societal beliefs and rules penetrate him more than he’d like to admit.

In real life I’ve yet to meet an atheist who did not once say, “Oh my God!” or use other religiously derived curses or figures of speech like, “It’s my cross to bear,” or “an eye for an eye.” Just because an individual has chosen skepticism as a personal point of view does not instantly erase thousands of years of history or the modern religious beliefs still held by the dominant culture, right?

So I wanted to try and create this same richness of language for Higher Eidoland. And I wanted to use Neil’s invocations of deities like Loxa the Lucky to subtly show that even though he doesn’t intellectually believe in gods, he still calls on them when he’s hanging off the edge of a flying ship in the middle of the night—lol.

Q: What are you hoping your readers take away from Highfell Grimoires?

Hyde: When I was in college, I used to read aloud at open mic. Once, after I’d read a flash piece about a family mourning at a river, a girl came up to me crying. My story had reminded her of her golden retriever. He’d been a happy dog, she told me. A good dog.

For years, her reaction puzzled me. Then, about two weeks ago, I realized: Her dog must have died. At first, I felt terrible. But how she’d thanked me!

I don’t want to write stories with a specific meaning. I want to write stories that are meaningful. And also stories that are fun, sexy, and interesting. Highfell Grimoires doesn’t have a specific meaning for me. But it may for others, and that’s wonderful.

Q: What’s your favorite place to write?

Hyde: I like to migrate as I write. When I’m at home, I’ll move between my desk, the couch, the kitchen nook, the dining table, even the floor. I write at coffee shops, libraries, bookstores. I love sitting with my laptop on trains, even buses. Whenever my mind is stuck, I move my body. Motion inspires me.

Maybe if I get in a real rut, I’ll finally move to Mars like my husband’s always wanted.


Q: What was it like to attend Clarion Writer’s Workshop?

Hyde: It was incredible. Intense. For those who don’t know Clarion, it’s a six-week summer camp for writers. Participants write one story per week and critique five stories a day. So basically I critiqued from eight a.m. to one p.m., got lunch, read for a couple of hours, and then wrote until morning, when I had to do it all again.

It was like having a fever. Actually, that was because I did have a fever. For two weeks. But I’d highly recommend Clarion to anyone thinking of becoming a professional writer. The chance to meet other writers and prepare yourself for the submission as well as the editing process is invaluable.

Q: Do you have any upcoming projects you can share?

Hyde: Yes, I have them. No, I can’t share them. Just joking. I have a superstition where I can’t talk much about what I’m working on or it’ll die.

What I’m working on now has spies, imposters, magic, love—and betrayal.

Langley Hyde first fell in love with steampunk while studying abroad at Oxford University. There she spent most of her time reading about alchemy and heresy in Duke Humfrey’s Library or caressing manuscripts. Langley then lived in London, close enough to the Science Museum that she could regularly gawk at Babbage’s Difference Engine No. 2. Her favorite neighborhoods in London were Soho and Camden Town. She has also lived in New York, where she lurked in the Cloisters on the weekends, and Germany, near the old center of zeppelin manufacturing. Her hobbies include making wire sculptures, talking to cats, and wearing tiny hats. Hyde’s novel, Highfell Grimoires, is available for DRM-free purchase from Weightless Books.


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