Saturday, July 11, 2020

H. G. Parry

H.G. Parry is a fantasy writer based in Wellington, New Zealand. She holds a PhD in English Literature from Victoria University of Wellington, and teaches English Literature, Film, and Media Studies.

Her novels include The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep and the newly released A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I love the title—I can say that, because it was my agent's idea, and all I can take credit for is jumping on it. A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians is a twist on the 1789 "Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen," so it's highlighting two things: that the story takes place around the French Revolution, and that it's a version of that history with magic. It also highlights that the book centres around people fighting for various rights and freedoms, and that the pages contain a fair amount of politics and pamphlets and parliamentary proceedings.

Basically: history! But magic!

What's in a name?

In this case, most of the characters are alternate-world versions of historical figures (including Maximilien Robespierre, Camille Desmoulins, William Wilberforce, William Pitt the Younger, and Toussaint Louverture), so their names belong to them. They follow their historical counterparts in their essence, but certain things have changed due to the presence of magic in their world—and, in some cases, in their own blood.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

I love this! Both very and not at all. Very, because even though I loved history at school, my teenage reader self wasn't interested in historical fiction—I mostly devoured science fiction of all kinds, from Ray Bradbury to Anne McCaffrey to Douglas Adams to many Star Trek novels, with fantasy on the side. But also not at all, because I was completely obsessed with social commentary and with intense, complicated, banter-filled friendships, and those things are right at the heart of this book.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

Beginnings, by far. Endings are incredibly satisfying—you get to bring all the story paths together and try to make them feel like this was where they were headed all along. Beginnings are stumbling around in the dark without a torch—which is, of course, very exciting as well as terrifying.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

The characters' personalities mostly come from history—either from direct biographical research, or just general research about the experience of people living in those times. I didn't intentionally give them any of my personality traits. But having said that, I tried very hard to empathise with all of them, even the ones who made that difficult, so I'm sure there's overlap in unexpected places.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

History—which is obvious in this book, but in general I love the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Travelling—so far mostly around the UK, but I'd love to broaden that (obviously, that now has to wait a while…). And I'm pretty sure most of what I've done in my life, writing and otherwise, can be traced back to the fact The Fellowship of the Ring came out in theatres when I was twelve.
Visit H.G. Parry's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep.

--Marshal Zeringue