In real life, it’s important to know when to take a stand. But sometimes it’s just as important to know when to stop taking that stand. Such is the position that we find Hessa in H.M. Long’s new epic fantasy novel Hall Of Smoke (paperback, Kindle, audiobook). In the following email interview about it, Hall discusses what inspired and influenced this tale, and where she sees things going in the already announced sequel.
To start, what is Hall Of Smoke about, and what kind of world is it set in?
Hall Of Smoke is about Hessa, a disgraced warrior priestess of the Goddess Of War. She’s outcast for refusing to kill a traveler at her goddess’s command, and while she’s away her entire village is razed and her loved ones lost. In order to win back her goddess’s favor, and reunite with her family in the High Halls Of The Dead, Hessa must hunt down the traveler and fulfill the task she originally failed: to murder him.
The world of Hall Of Smoke has some strong Viking vibes, and the landscapes were cobbled together from various real-world locations I spent a lot of time in, mainly my foresty Canadian home and the Alps.
Where did you get the idea for Hall Of Smoke?
The original idea for Hall Of Smoke was very vague. I’m a discovery writer, and I didn’t know much more than the book had a warrior priestess and she was disgraced, and she was kneeling in a meadow of poppies. As I wrote, the world unfolded one scene at a time, expanding and growing more complex until Hall Of Smoke was.
It sounds like Hall Of Smoke is an epic fantasy story. Is that how you’d describe it?
Broadly, I think epic fantasy fits Hall Of Smoke quite well. I mean, it’s certainly epic, especially in the climactic final chapters.
But beyond genre, it’s also a journey story, of a lone woman traveling from A to B and trying to understand who she is and what she believes along the way. It’s action and adventure, with untrustworthy gods, roving raiders, and a demi-god bear at large. And it’s heavily mythological, with the gods and deities and religious structure of the world playing a vital role.
As Hall Of Smoke is your first published novel, I’m legally required to ask you about your influences. So, what writers do you see as being your biggest influences?
Authors like Garth Nix, Madeline Miller, Pierce Brown, Adrienne Young, and Samantha Shannon have all influenced my work. Garth Nix is likely the most profound, with the Old Kingdom books being the backdrop to most of my teens. They’re still my go-to comfort reads.
What about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or games? Did any of those things have a big influence on Hall Of Smoke?
More so than books, actually. I tend to read very little while I draft to keep my focus narrow, but I watched a lot of Vikings in the lead up to writing Hall Of Smoke, along with The Last Kingdom. I’d also begun to listen to the Skyrim score, though I hadn’t played the game yet (I later devoted several months of my life to a few playthroughs) and the feel and imagery of Skyrim definitely had an influence on the Smoke world.
Now, you’ve already said you’re working on a sequel to Hall Of Smoke. First, does this series have a name?
The series does not have a name yet.
And is this going to be an ongoing series or will it be a set number of books like a trilogy?
So there is a sequel coming, but the series isn’t a series in the traditional sense. It’s a set of stand-alone books set in the same world, with totally separate stories and situations. Though the events of Hall Of Smoke certainly shape the world in which Book 2 takes place, there’s a decade of time between the two and their plots are quite separate. I’d like for there to be four books eventually, but we’ll see what the future holds. I’d be open to more, or less.
Earlier I asked if Hall Of Smoke was influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. Has there been any interest in adapting this story into a movie, show, or game?
I can’t disclose much on this front, but I can say that I think Hall Of Smoke would do magnificently as all three. Cinematic action sequences, epic battles between gods and humans, an atmospheric world of forests and mountains and a muscled warrior priestess with a bone-shattering scream? Hall Of Smoke is ready to go.
Finally, if someone enjoys Hall Of Smoke, what epic fantasy novel of someone else’s would you suggest they read while waiting for your second book?
Greta Kelly’s The Frozen Crown. A princess-general from the icy north sets out to save her kingdom. And though it’s not quite epic fantasy, I would highly recommend Genevieve Gornichec’s The Witch’s Heart. That one’s got some serious Circe vibes, Norse Mythology, and a witch facing down Ragnarok.