Risingshadow has had an opportunity to interview H. M. Long about her epic debut fantasy novel, Hall of Smoke.

About the author:

Hannah M. Long is a Canadian writer who loves history, hiking, and exploring the world. She lives in Ontario, but can often be spotted snooping about European museums or wandering the Alps with her German husband.

About Hall of Smoke:

Epic fantasy featuring warrior priestesses, and fickle gods at war, for readers of Brian Staveley's Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne.

In a world of hostile clans loyal to meddling gods, Hessa is an Eangi: priestesses of the Goddess of War with the power to boil a man's brain and turn his bones to dust with a scream. Banished for disobeying her Goddess's command to murder a traveller, Hessa prays for forgiveness alone on a mountainside.

Until raiders burn her village to the ground, leaving nothing of her future but ash. Without her Goddess's favor, Hessa has no place beside her family in the High Halls of the afterlife. She is the last of the Eangi.

Warriors from the cities to the south plow through her homelands, slaughtering everyone in their path. With legionaries, deceitful gods, and newly-awakened demons at every turn, Hessa burns through her enemies with the Eangi Fire in her soul. But her journey reveals a harrowing truth: the gods are dying. The High Halls of the afterlife are fading. And Hessa's trust in her Goddess weakens with every unheeded prayer.

Thrust into a battle between her Goddess and the old gods she imprisoned, Hessa realizes there is far more on the line than earning her place in the afterlife. Bigger, older powers slumber beneath the surface of her world. And they're about to wake up.

AN INTERVIEW WITH HANNAH LONG

- Could you tell us something about yourself in your own words?

Sure! I’m Hannah, and I’m Canadian. I’ve loved reading and writing since I was a child, and though I enjoy travelling and seeing the world, I’m a bit of a hermit. I make my home in a little cottage in the forest, a couple hours north of Toronto, and from there I write my books.

- Your debut fantasy novel, Hall of Smoke, will soon be published by Titan Books. What inspired you to write it?

I wanted more books with warrior women who were complex and fierce, full of heart but armed with axes, and I wanted to explore the concept of mortal, fallible deities. So… I sat down and wrote a scene, which turned into the opening pages of Hall of Smoke.

- Could you tell us something about the protagonist of the novel, Hessa? What kind of a protagonist is she?

Hessa is a warrior priestess of the Goddess of War. Relating back to the question above, she’s fierce and passionate, armed and determined to prove her devotion to her goddess at any cost. But at her core, it’s her people, her friends and family that drive and sustain her.

She’s also gifted by her goddess, not only with substantial skills as a warrior, but with a scream that shatters bones.

- Hall of Smoke features an exciting and well-constructed fantasy world. Was it challenging to create this unique fantasy world?

I want to say a very cheerful, “No, not at all!” but then my early readers would throw things at me. Overall, the world of Hall of Smoke was something that I kind of came across during writing, so in that way it was quite natural. I’m very much a discovery writer, and it was a joy to watch the shape of this world emerge as I typed. After that, the insight of my early readers was invaluable in making sure that the complex mythology and structure of the Hall of Smoke world met the page as it should.

- What is the target audience of Hall of Smoke? How would you advertise it to potential readers?

Hall of Smoke is an epic fantasy with a Viking flavour, packed with plenty of action, meddling gods, and an atmospheric world of pines and mountains and creatures that want to eat you. Readers, if you’re a fan of Brian Staveley, Robin Hobb, Tasha Suri, and RJ Barker, you will love Hall of Smoke. Gamers? If you’re into Skyrim, God of War, or Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Hall of Smoke is for you. Binge-watchers? If Vikings, The Last Kingdom and Netflix’s Barbarians are your thing, Hall of Smoke will be too.

Hall of Smoke is written for the adult crowd, but YA readers looking for something more adult will also love Hessa’s story.

- Because Hall of Smoke is a wonderfully crafted fantasy novel, I'm curious to know are you planning on writing more novels that are set in the same world?

Yes! A stand-alone sequel set in the Hall of Smoke world is drafted and slated for release in early 2022. I also have some other Hall of Smoke stories floating around in the wings, but I can’t say much about those yet.

- Is there anything you'd like to add?

A big thanks to Risingshadow for hosting this Q&A! It’s been a pleasure.

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