Every Tuesday, get to know a bit about the stories behind the books you love, and discover your next favourite novel.
Sabitha: Today we’ll talk to Henry Mitchell about his newest novel, The Winged Child. Henry, can you introduce us to your book?
Henry: Thanks, Night Beats, for letting me talk about my book. Talking about writing isn’t as much fun as writing, but it comes close.
The Winged Child, is a novel about Millicent McTeer, who might know how to fly, Joshua, her father, who might be a machine, her mentor, Simon Ryder, a neurobotanist who might be a dragon, a host of other characters human and other-than-human, and their adventures in a world that might be falling apart, or maybe is being born.
Sabitha: What was your favourite thing to write in the book?
Henry: I first met Millicent McTeer in my short story, Precocious, about a little girl who was convinced she could fly, in a collection, Early Dark, published by Alfie Dog Fiction. It was love at first sight, and I knew I would eventually have to give Millicent a novel of her own.
My favorite thing to write in the book was Millicent’s interactions with the other-than-human characters in the tale, ghosts, púca, dragons, and trees.
Sabitha: We have a lot of writers in our community. What’s your writing process?
Henry: I’ve never planned a book or written from an outline. I agree with Stephen King that “plot is the last resort of a bad writer.” I usually start with a place, a scene, a bit of landscape, a street corner, a room. If I am patiently observant, a character will come along and inhabit the scene. The character eventually must do something, go somewhere, and I follow along. I may not know how the story ends until I’m writing the last page. I figure if the tale surprises me, it will surprise the reader.
Sabitha: It sounds like your story-telling process is very organic. Is there anything in particular that changed from when you started writing to the published version?
Henry: Although The Winged Child is Millicent McTeer’s story, Wendl VonTrier is perhaps the character who resonated most strongly with me. Wendl is a púca, a benevolent prankster, ever an oddity in human company, and delights in being so. His part in the tale expanded as I wrote. I haven’t had my fill of Wendl yet. My current novel-in-progress, Among the Fallen, gives him more room to play in.
As a child, Millicent was convinced she could fly. Her father, Joshua, referred to her as his Winged Child, and that became the title of the novel. Originally, I planned for the Winged Child to be a story about a childhood, but Millicent led me on until she grew into an old woman.
Sabitha: What advice would you give someone who’s querying?
Henry: I sent out two hundred queries before my first novel was accepted. Regard a rejection as a reprieve, one more chance to make it better.
Sabitha: What do you most want your readers to take away from reading your book?
Henry: I hope the tale will convince readers to live their own life, and not the one expected of them.
Sabitha: Thanks for sharing your story and your process. We’re looking forward to reading The Winged Child – and Among the Fallen when it’s written! Where can the Night Beats community find you and your book?