Author Interview: Our Divine Mischief by Hanna C. Howard
Our Divine Mischief by Hanna C. Howard is a Celtic-inspired historical fantasy, steeped with mythology & folklore, and even a whimsical wish-granting talking dog! We had the amazing opportunity to chat with author Hanna C. Howard so check out her responses below. Our Divine Mischief is hitting shelves next Tuesday the 17th and if you want a signed and/or personalized copy you can order from Magic City Books!
Our Divine Mischiefby Hanna Howard
Published by: Blink
on October 17, 2023
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology, Romance, Young Adult
A sweeping YA fantasy inspired by Scottish history and culture, Our Divine Mischief takes readers on a journey told in three voices: a determined heroine, an outcast young man, and a talking canine. Their adventure spans a fishing village to the king's court in a story about identity, belonging, and the love between a human and her dog.
The Goddess Trial is designed to push young people to their edge and mark their coming of age, but Áila LacInis is ready for whatever it brings. She sets sail from her small fishing village to the island of the goddess Yslet, fully expecting a divine encounter, but what she finds is ... nothing at all. The goddess is completely absent, and the only thing on the island is a dirty, mangy dog. Suddenly, everything Áila has ever known and believed is upended and her future becomes shrouded in uncertainty.
Hew already completed the Goddess Trial and received the designation of Unblessed. He is an outcast in the village, until he is tasked with assisting Áila through a series of Ordeals the town elders designed to compensate for her failed Trial. For the first time, he has hope he can make something of his life.
Orail isn't quite sure who or what she is. She remembers little before Áila's arrival on the island, and now all she knows is that she'll never leave Áila's side. But as she begins to realize and remember, she discovers powers--and an identity--she never could have imagined.
Told from three perspectives, Our Divine Mischief is an epic fantasy inspired by Scottish history and mythology that includes political intrigue, a sweeping love story, and an exploration of the powerful bond between dogs and humans.
Our Divine Mischief is:
- A YA fantasy adventure for fans of Rebecca Ross's A River Enchanted, Garth Nix's Abhorsen books, and the Outlander series.
- Told from three points of view, one of which is a mysterious, poetic canine.
- Perfect for readers 13 and up.
Author Interview: Hanna Howard
1. The worldbuilding in the story is almost a character itself. What was your research like? Are there parts of the world you found yourself especially immersed in?
I loved writing this world! My husband and I visited the Inner Hebredian island of Islay (in Scotland) on our honeymoon in 2018, and I was so arrested by the place. It’s a small island, steeped in Scottish culture and history, but revolves entirely around the Scotch whisky trade. Nearly everyone on the island works for one of the local distilleries in some capacity, and sometimes people in the same household work for competing brands. Obviously that’s modern, real-life Islay, but I wanted to fictionalize the place in a fantasy way, so that was the original seed my worldbuilding grew from. I also read a lot of Scottish folklore and fairy tales (such a hardship, lol), some history to beef out my plot ideas, and most critically, a book called Whisky Island by Andrew Jefford which is a gorgeous, holistic portrait of Islay, from its history, to its weather, to its flora and fauna. I think that led to my favorite part of the worldbuilding, which actually came last of all: replacing small, sometimes single-word imagery with more locally accurate language. For example, I originally wrote something along the lines of “I cradle it as gently as I would a robin’s egg,” but then eventually changed the sentence to “I cradle it as gently as I would a corncrake’s egg,” because corncrakes are common on Islay, but robins are not. For me, those small changes were so immersive, and took me out of Oklahoma and dumped me squarely in the Scottish isles, where everything from the flowers to the birds are different from what I know.
2. Aila’s canine companion in the story thinks in poetry. How did you decide that and what was your creative process like?
When I was beginning to draft this book, I had the joy of reading an early version of Into the Heartless Wood by my friend Joanna Ruth Meyer. In the book, she has a character who begins her story as a tree–and her chapters are all in disjointed, free-verse poetry. That got me thinking about my dog character, who I wanted to give an actual POV in the book, and I wondered what it would be like to give her, not just a poetic voice, but an evolving poetic voice. So as she grows, her poetry actually matures alongside her. I had based the dog, Orail, very closely on my own beloved (and completely ridiculous) dog, whom I had lost earlier that year, and getting into her psyche and translating it to words seemed to me to require something other— a form of language that wasn’t particularly human. But poetry seemed to be just right, because so much of poetry is figurative language, imagery, sound, smell, and rhythm, which all feel very doggish somehow. You can leave a lot out, or leave it to the reader to decipher–and isn’t that exactly what it’s like to interact with an animal you know and love? There’s a lot you can feel sure of, more you can guess at, and yet still a good amount that will always be unknown.
3. Which of the characters did you have the most fun writing? Were any of them particularly challenging?
The dog, Orail, was both the most fun and the most challenging. I was delighted by how effective poetry was in communicating her thoughts, but I am not a natural poet, so I had to work really hard at the forms– especially when I got into iambic pentameter in the Shakespearean sonnets. I would spend an entire writing session (the length of my son’s naps, since I was drafting during the pandemic) writing one of Orail’s short chapters– sometimes up to two and a half hours writing two pages. It was grueling. But also so satisfying. Hew’s chapters were fun to write, too, because he has incredibly high moral standards and is very self-critical, but also has compassion out the roof. I loved getting to know him, and writing him was a treat; his voice came very easily to me, and I could always understand where he was coming from, even if I didn’t agree with him.
Thanks so much for having me, Christy and Kelly! <3