Author of Waking Ursa Minor.
Join me as I chat to Helen (This could get confusing with two Helen’s but we’ll do our best!) about her debut novel Waking Ursa Minor, the first book in her Riverda Rising epic fantasy series which releases on February 22nd! It is available on preorder now!
Helen: Welcome Helen! To start us off, tell us about your new book.
Helen RP: Waking Ursa Minor is the first book in my epic fantasy series, Riverda Rising, as well as being my debut novel. The paperback and ebook versions are available on 22nd February, (pre-order is available now on most major retail sites) and I am hoping to release a hardback version around May and who knows, maybe even an audiobook.
As Gesland swelters in extreme heat, Serakela watches the nomadic clans make their way across the plains on their annual pilgrimage and resigns herself to the monotonous life of servitude at the institution which raised her. But Serakela is not the orphan she always believed herself to be. On the night a crazed assassin tries to kill her, her heritage is revealed catapulting her into an island-hopping fight for survival, and the search for the fabled Stone of Riverda.
The sundered islands of Riverda are dying. The earth magics that protected and sustained them before the Rivening are unbalanced; dwindling in some areas whilst stifling others. As time runs out and tensions rise, countries teeter on the brink of war, starvation and extinction. A way to save them has just arisen from the realm of rumour but Brother Okrafkus of the Separamus cannot allow this to happen.
Not only will Serakela’s quest lead her to her long-lost family, rumour has it that she who wields the Stone will restore the islands of Riverda to their former glory. Rumour also has it that in doing so, she will unleash the evil that split them.
Helen: This sounds amazing! Congratulations on releasing your first novel. It is a very special feeling! What was the inspirarion behind the cover design?
Helen RP: The wonderful Franziska Stern of Cover Dungeon Rabbit did my cover and all I can say is she did a wonderful job. A huge thank you goes out to her for all her hard work and for putting up with me throughout the process.
It was quite hard to come up with a cover as the book takes place over various different islands, each with their own distinct culture and aesthetic. I’m also not a huge fan of characters on the cover of books so that was very important to avoid, even if it goes against current trends.
I can’t actually say too much about the cover’s meaning, I’m afraid, as it does contain certain images of items/characters/ places in the book that I don’t want to spoil for the readers, but I love the way Franzi managed to get the books darker undertones into the cover.
Helen: This being your first novel, is Fantasy your first love?
Helen RP: I write fantasy, or to be more specific, epic fantasy with a darker side. I’ve always loved fantasy since I really got into books at about 9 years old. I love that you can go absolutely anywhere, you aren’t bound by the laws of nature and physics of our world. I also like how a lot of fantasy harkens to a pre-industrialised, almost medieval setting, as I’ve always been fascinated with history and how people lived. The combination of magic, mythical beasts and historic settings…what more do you need?
Helen: I couldn’t agree more! An irresistable combination. What made you first start writing?
Helen RP: According to my mother, I have been telling stories since before I could even write. They gave me a notebook at nursery which I filled with strange symbols and squiggles: stories that I could recite perfectly to anyone that asked. This continued when I learnt the real alphabet and I actually have a lot of my early writing. If you are at all interested, please check out my “Quotes of Christmas Past” challenge on Instagram from December 2020.
Creative writing (in our English classes) was my favourite class at school and I am very sad that it disappears from the curriculum the older a child gets.
Waking Ursa Minor actually started with a “novel” I wrote when I was 11 years old involving a plane crash where the teen protagonists find themselves on an island called Utopia. I am very pleased to say however that only two things remain from the original book; a character name and one event which I won’t mention as it contains spoilers.
Helen: How wonderful that you were able to evolve your original novel into your debut. Such an achievement. If you didn’t write fantasy what would you like to write?
Helen RP: Easy, historical fiction. When I was younger, I was obsessed with ancient civilisations and wanted to be an archaeologist (a small part of me still does, but I think it might be a bit late now). I’ve always been inspired during or after museum visits, my fingers literally itching to write. The only problem is I wouldn’t know which era to start in!
I do also like books which blend the historical and fantastical, such as Barbara Erskeine’s and Kate Mosse’s novels. So maybe that’s a route I can go down too.
Helen: Who is your favourite character from your book?
Helen RP: This is such an interesting and difficult question. I suppose an author should say the protagonist but I loved writing Okrafkus. He was so much fun and he has so many layers, that I am still uncovering. I also really like Cheskia for her sheer determination to survive.
Helen: When not writing, do you have time for other hobbies?
Helen RP: When I’m not writing and looking after my two young children, I of course love reading, but also enjoy crafts. I knit, I sew, and more recently I have fallen down the rabbit hole of making yarn and cloth from stinging nettles.
I also enjoy going for walks in the countryside, which in rural Norway is literally on our doorstep.
I’m currently having a little break from drawing and painting as creating my own picture book, A Whiff in the Woods, as fun as it was, rather took it out of me. Although I have drawn my own maps for the Riverda Rising series.
Helen: You are keeping extremely busy!! You said you read. What is your favourite book?
Helen RP: My favourite book and the one that really got me into fantasy is The Hobbit. I have a beautifully illustrated edition and it doesn’t matter how many times I read it, I am always transported back to sitting on the floor at 10 years old, hanging on every word the teacher (who I didn’t like very much) read. I was absolutely transfixed!
Helen: Thank you so much for chatting with me today. I wish you all the best with book launch. Just to close, what advice would you give new writers?
Helen RP: Get that first draft finished, just write it. Don’t stop to think how awful it is and try to edit it, just write the damn story. You can fix it later.
Don’t tell yourself that other writers are better than you, that no one wants to read your book. All writers had to start somewhere and I can promise you that there is someone out there, possibly even a whole fandom who want to read what you have written.
Lastly, don’t be lonely. The best thing I did to give my writing the kick up the bum it needed was to find like minded people through the writing community. It doesn’t matter that I live in a remote village in Norway, I have writing friends, mentors, and cheerleaders across the globe, and trust me on this journey you are going to need them!
About the Author:
Reading and writing are two things Helen Rygh-Pedersen has been heavily involved with from a young age. She could always be found with her nose in a book or with a notebook in hand, especially on long car journeys as her family moved from place to place.
She graduated from the University of Exeter with a BA in French and Italian and after a brief career teaching languages in the UK, she moved to Norway with her family. It was here that she really reignited her passion for creating worlds. She dipped her toe into the publishing process by first releasing her dystopian short story, Heifer, and a picture book which she illustrated herself, A Whiff in the Woods, before taking the leap with her debut novel. Waking Ursa Minor is the first book in her Riverda Rising epic fantasy series.
When she isn’t writing she can be found spending time with her family, sewing and knitting or catching up on the latest fantasy series.
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If you enjoy fantasy books then you will love my books which are available in eBook, paperback or hardcover: Book One: Sentinals Awaken. Book Two: Sentinals Rising. Book Three: Sentinals Justice. Book 3.5: Sentinals Recovery. Sign up to my newsletter and download a free novella called Sentinals Stirring and get notified when my next book releases.
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