Louie Stowell started her career writing carefully-researched books about space, Ancient Egypt, politics and science but eventually lapsed into just making stuff up. She likes writing about dragons, wizards, vampires, fairies, monsters and parallel worlds.
She lives in London with her wife Karen, her dog Buffy and a creepy puppet that is probably cursed.
Otherland (Nosy Crow Books)
Discover Otherland, a world of magic and fairies like no other.... This is a fast-paced magical adventure with plenty of heart and humour - and fairies without any heart at all...
Author Louie Stowell tells us more!
1. What is your new adventure, Otherland, about?
It's a funny portal fantasy about two children on a quest to rescue a baby from the Fairy Queen of Otherland. While lots of scary stuff happens in it, I'd say the tone keeps it lighter, so it's not TOO scary. There may be death around every corner, but there's also people joking about death.
2. Was there one moment or image that helped inspire the story?
I went to a lecture at university by a woman called Diane Purkiss, about the darker side of fairies. It stuck with me and became the germ of this idea. But many moments led to this book - it's the culmination of everything I read and watched growing up, as well as my love of the outdoors. Otherland is 90% outdoors, with the fairies living in glades rather than houses.
3. What are your main characters like? Why did you decide that Myra and Rohan would be such opposites?
Myra has zero impulse control, and is driven by a strong need to be exciting and charismatic... while also worrying she's 'too much'. Rohan is a worrier, always thinking about the consequences, and scared he'll lose what he loves.
I love 'odd couple' stories, where people are thrown together - in this case by their families and an accident when they were born - and have to find ways to get along in spite of their differences. I don't know how conscious it was to make them opposites, they just came out that way! Perhaps because I have a lot of friends who are very different from me?
4. Who were you most like as a child - Myra or Rohan?
Honestly I'm not sure. Aspects of both. I was pretty well-behaved like Rohan and liked nerdy stuff, but very outgoing like Myra, always happy in new situations and meeting strangers.
5. How did you go about creating Otherland and what it would be like?
Very gradually! I wrote Otherland over a period of 20 years, and the world grew with it. I did draw a map maybe five years ago, with all the different parts of Otherland.
I only ever ended up using a very small part in the book itself, but I like knowing where everything else is, even if it's only mentioned in passing and the characters never go there. (For example, where the vampires live is near where the fairies live, but we never meet a vampire, we only know they were once at war.)
Worldbuilding for me is about creating an entire universe but only putting exactly what's needed for the story into the book itself.
6. Which part would you visit, if you could, and which parts are best avoided?
I'd love to visit the court of the fairy queen. Terrifying but they throw the best parties. Avoid the Lost Wood - and if you can't avoid it, stick to the path. The monsters that live either side of the path eat faces.
7. Your fairies are far from sweet and kind, how did you decide what they would be like?
That comes down to fairy lore - and that Diane Purkiss lecture I mentioned. (Her book, Troublesome Things, is particularly good if you're interested in fairies as troublemakers.)
Everything from every culture that has fairies or fairy-like creatures says that they are horrible and best treated with extreme caution and respect or they will ruin your life (and steal your babies).
8. The Fairy Queen is wonderful - what did you enjoy the most about creating her?
Writing a character who essentially has no conscience and no care for anyone else's feelings was incredibly freeing. Not that you can fully judge fairies by human standards - being wonderful and beloved is all that matters to them. So as long as she's those things, she's doing the 'right' thing!
9. What is your favourite sentence (or two) from the book?
"Where's your sense of adventure?"
"I left it in my other jacket," said Rohan. "It's in the same pocket that I keep my desire to plummet horribly to my death."
10. What have you got planned next for Otherland?
Currently, I'm planning events, based on the Knight Game - the challenges that the fairy queen throws down that Myra and Rohan have to endure in order to win Rohan's sister back. Watch out, anyone who's coming to my events. You will face terrible trials! (OK, probably a lot of drawing and some scavenger hunts.)
11. Where and when do you do your best writing?
I think 11am and 5pm are my most productive. At the moment I only write at home because everything else is illegal but I think cafes are my favourite place to write. The more boring the better, as arty cafes are too distracting.
12. What keeps you at your desk when you're writing; are you easily distracted?
Very easily distracted. Nothing keeps me at my desk. I just write in very short bursts in between distractions.
13. What escapes are you most looking forward to post pandemic?
The sea! Oh I miss the sea so much!