Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, and interviewer. She has twice won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for achievement in SFF, for Thornspell (Knopf) in 2009 and The Heir of Night (The Wall of Night Book One) in 2011 and is currently the writer-in-residence at the University of Canterbury. Helen posts every day on her Helen Lowe on Anything, Really blog. on the 1st of every month on the Supernatural Underground and occasionally here on SF Signal. You can also follow her on Twitter: @helenl0we.

Celebrating Epic Fantasy & Publication of The Gathering of the Lost

Over the past year I have been honored to contribute to SF Signal through both guest posts and a couple of Mind Melds. Today I feel doubly honored to be here again with a post that celebrates both epic fantasy and publication — yes, it’s today, yippee! — of the second novel in my The Wall of Night series, The Gathering of the Lost. And also, incidentally, to kick-off (together with a launch post on the Orbit blog) a blog tour marking simultaneous publication in North America, Australia and New Zealand. Publication in the UK is close too — the book will be out there in just nine days time. So to celebrate I’ll be e-traveling to visit a number of friends and fellow authors in two hemispheres and at least three countries (details here.)

As an SF Signal contributor it feels absolutely right to be starting the North American leg of the tour right here. And the reason I want to celebrate epic fantasy is fairly straightforward: I love the genre. But although I have talked about this enthusiasm here before, I haven’t specifically discussed the style of epic I enjoy reading, which (again, surprise!) is also the kind of story I best like writing.

I love big, sweeping, adventurous stories where there’s a lot at stake and what’s at stake matters. I love stories of heroism, and friendships that endure in the face of darkness and despair — but sometimes fail, too. I love sword fights, and glorious charges, and forlorn hopes, and “bands of brothers” holding together through the “thick and thin.” I love magic, too, and if comes with a thread of darkness, danger, and the surreal, then all the better. World building is also really important to me, and not just landscapes but cultures as well: I want the world and the societies to be real for me when I’m reading and that’s what I strive for in my own writing. And I like a bit of romance — not big R romance which has it’s own genre, but what I call “little r” romance, which is integral to all our lives and definitely has its place in big book epic. The Gathering of the Lost may be about magic and danger, roof top pursuits and forced marches by night, tourneys and battles, bands of brothers — and sisters — but it’s also about love.

So what else do I want in my epic fantasy? If we equate books with films, then I would have to say that although I enjoy a good special effect as much as the next moviegoer, special effects on their own leave me pretty cold. For me, a good film or a good book is always about the emotional power in the storytelling, and the depth and subtlety of the characters. Do they feel real and believable, do I lose myself in what is happening in their lives — because those are the characters I want to meet in my reading and bring to life through my writing. Again for me, much as I love heroism, it’s about writing human characters — like Druss, who may be a legend, but is definitely feeling his age, or Mara of the Acoma who survives, not just because she is smart and more than a little ruthless, but also because she is capable of compassion.

So there you have it: epic and adventure and magic, battles and flights, world building and emotional power, friendship and love. If you enjoy any or all of these things in your reading, then you may just find something in The Gathering of the Lost that you will like. I hope that you may read and find out for yourself — and to help that along I have two copies of the book to give away to a readers who comment on this post.

And over on my blog right now, here, there are several book and related giveaways up for grabs, as well as the opportunity to enter a draw to give your name to a character in Daughter of Blood: The Wall of Night Book Three.


GIVEAWAY: Win a Copy of The Gathering of the Lost!

SF Signal has 2 copies of Helen Lowe’s new novel The Gathering of the Lost to give away to two lucky SF Signal readers!

Here’s the description:

Garrisoned by the Nine Houses of the Derai, the towering mountain range called the Wall of Night is all that separates the people of Haarth from the terrible Darkswarm.

Five years have passed since the Wall was breached and the Keep of Winds nearly overrun. Five years since the Heir of Night, Malian, and her friend and ally Kalan went missing in the wild lands of Jaransor.

Now, in Haarth’s diverse southern realms, events are moving. From the wealthy River city of Ij to the isolated Emerian outpost of Normarch, rumors of dark forces and darker magics are growing. As the great Midsummer tournament at Caer Argent approaches, Haarth will have one opportunity to band together against an enemy in which few believe . . . or be lost forever.

Here’s how you can enter for a chance to win:

  1. Send an email to contest at sfsignal dot com. (That’s us).
  2. In the subject line, enter ‘The Gathering of the Lost
  3. In the email, include your mailing address so the book may be shipped as soon as possible. (No geographical restrictions.)
  4. Anyone may enter, but please, only one entry per person. Duplicate entries will be handed over to the Darkswarm. Trust me, it won’t be pretty. If you’ve won something from us in the past, please give someone else a chance.
  5. The giveaway will end Monday, April 2nd, 2012 (09:00 PM U.S Central time). The winners will be selected at random, notified, and announced shortly thereafter.

Good luck!

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