Author Chat: Mark Cushen

Last year, I had the chance to read Little White Hands by self-published author Mark Cushen, which follows a young kitchen boy as he takes up a quest to restore the seasons to their balance. I absolutely loved this story and the way it felt both classic and fresh and, well, you can see what else I had to say in my review!

As those regularly following me will now, the month of May means Wyrd & Wonder, and this year we are all out on our forest fantasy theme! Little White Hands definitely features some enchanted woodland settings, and I know that it will play an even bigger role in the sequel, Faeland’s Champion, so I was delighted when Mark agreed to have a chat with me about his inspirations. So, without further ado, I am happy to welcome Mark Cushen to The Book Nook!

Hi Mark, thank you for agreeing to join me on my blog today! Would you like to introduce yourself firstly? 

Hi Ariana, thank you so much for reaching out for this interview, I’m very honoured to feature on your blog 🙂  So first thing’s first, the intro: I’m Mark, and I’m a self-published fantasy writer from sunny (lol!) Scotland. I’ve been writing since I was around ten or eleven years old, when I would write my own short Goosebumps stories (I LOVED that series), but I finally published my own original work on May 1st of 2021, with my debut novel, Little White Hands.

And speaking of Little White Hands, it’s a wonderful tale of a young boy setting off on an adventure! Where did the idea come from initially?  

Little White Hands actually began as a short story in a collection of fairytales that I started writing (and am still working on) several years ago. The premise of the story was very basic, and typical of many adventure-based fairytales: young boy of humble origins goes on a quest to rescue a kidnapped princess. As the short story collection grew, however, and newer and stronger ideas came to me, Little White Hands slowly faded into the background, and eventually I fell away from it entirely. I returned to it a few years later with the intention of mining it for parts to add to other stories, but I realised that some of the newer ideas I had at the time could actually be added to Little White Hands itself as they shared similar themes, and so I decided to just keep working on it to see what I could make of it. Over time it grew and grew and became a much grander adventure that it was to begin with, so much so that I eventually got a full novel out of it. 

In his adventures, Garlan steps through a Stone Circle and ends up in the valley of the dryads, where the High Seasons live in the great Seasonal Tree. He also ventures through a much darker and scarier forest. These, and all the other elements of folklore you imbued your story with, really appeal to me and are especially relevant as our blogging event Wyrd & Wonder has focused on a forest fantasy theme this year! Did you take inspiration from particular stories, legends, or locations for these elements? 

Forests play a massive role in Little White Hands (and the sequels to come) – in fact, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a fantasy adventure story that doesn’t feature forests in some capacity. They play such an important part in the mythology and folklore of so many cultures  around the world, and provide an endless supply of possibilities for story ideas. They represent everything from mystery and magic, to danger and wonder, it’s almost impossible to not draw inspiration from them in some way.

It’s hard to pinpoint a single source of inspiration for the forests in Little White Hands because there were quite a few, but among the main ones were the Legend of Zelda series of video games (which always feature some kind of forest-like location that are home to sentient trees and other magical creatures), Mirkwood from The Hobbit (my favourite book), and the forest sanctuary in the film, Snow White and the Huntsman. With regards to the realm of the dryads in particular, the main inspiration for the look and feel of that is actually a place that exists in the real world – the Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. I visited it several years ago and was blown away by how magical it is. Check out pictures or videos on Google or Youtube and see for yourself –  it’s like something out of a fantasy book.

(BRB – Booking tickets to Croatia, that looks stunning!)
I know you’re currently working on the sequel to Little White Hands; could you tell us a little bit about your process and how it’s going? Maybe give us a little peak at what Garlan will be facing next? 

The sequel to Little White Hands is called Faeland’s Champion, and I am aiming to release it sometime this summer, though I haven’t settled on a date yet. The process is coming along nicely. I’ve finished the first draft, and am carefully working my way through it again to tighten it up before sending it off to an editor. I have also received the artwork for the cover, so hopefully the whole thing will come together before too long. This book fits in really well with the forest theme of this year’s Wyrd and Wonder, because the main thrust of the story takes place in a forest location of some kind – without getting into spoilers, it is the fate of a particular forest that draws Garlan and his friends back out into the wide world for their second great adventure.

Along the way, Garlan will meet some familiar faces as well as plenty of new ones, and because he has grown in experience and ability a little bit since the first book, the dangers he faces this time around have ramped up to challenge him even more. Faeland’s Champion is more action-packed than Little White Hands and is also darker in tone, but it still retains enough of the charm and lightheartedness from the first book, so it doesn’t feel like a complete deviation from what has been established of the characters and the world already.

I cannot wait to see what all the action is about and what Garlan finds himself caught up in! And I especially look forward to seeing all your wonderful settings again! Thank you so much for joining me, again, and good luck with your writing!

About the Book

Almost five hundred years have passed since the Seasons were at war. Half a millennium since Winter defied Spring, and lost. Generations have come and gone, not knowing the bitter freeze and howling snows of Winter ever existed. But now, after centuries of silence, the participants in this ancient struggle have resurfaced and reignited their feud on the doorstep of an unassuming little kitchen boy.

Garlan’s dreams of being just like the knights he idolizes may not be as impossible as he has always been led to believe, when he is chased from his home and thrust headlong into the kind of adventure he had only ever read about in books. Setting out on a journey that spans the entire kingdom of Faeland, Garlan will traverse impossible mountains and stormy seas and battle terrible monsters, all to keep the world he knows safe from an enemy who will stop at nothing to bring about a never-ending winter.

With a cast of fantastical characters to aid him in his quest, can Garlan overcome his self-doubt and find the courage he needs to rise above his humble station and become the hero he always dreamed of being? The fate of the world rests in his hands.

To find out more about Mark Cushen, you can visit his website where you will find purchase links for Little White Hands and other updates. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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