The fate of the world rests in his hands.
Today I’m thrilled to be joining in with the Storytellers Roadies to show off the stunning debut fantasy novel from author Mark Cushen, Little White Hands. I remember spotting this cover prior to its release, and I instantly fell in love with everything about it. With the promise of an epic adventure filled with fantastical creatures to be enjoyed by all ages, the tale of Garlan Greatheart is one I CANNOT wait to read. Every once in a while we need those feel-good stories, amirite?! This seems like it fits the bill perfectly, and I’m very much looking forward to hearing what everyone thinks of it.
Mark was kind enough to stop by to chat about this story of his, the research he’s done to shape the tale, some awesome books he’s read, what lies ahead, and more. So, keep scrolling to learn more about the book and author, check out the awesome interview, and enter to win yourself a print copy of Little White Hands!
For more info, visit the official event page at Storytellers On Tour.
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.
Little White Hands by Mark Cushen
SERIES: Garlan Greatheart (#1)
PUBLISHED: May 1, 2021
Meet The Author
Mark Cushen has loved the fantasy genre since he accidentally stumbled onto Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion masterpiece, “Jason and the Argonauts”, while channel-hopping one Christmas-time Saturday afternoon, somewhere between the ages of 5 and 8.
Ever since then he has been obsessed with stories of sword-wielding heroes battling monsters in fantastical lands, and is now attempting to create his own. Little White Hands is the first of (hopefully) many.
Thanks so much for stopping by for a chat, Mark. Since we already have your official bio, can we have the MC(s) from Little White Hands introduce you in one sentence?
Thanks for having me ☺ Hmm, I think Garlan would probably introduce me as a lover of all things magical and monstrous, otherwise why on earth would I be putting him through the trials and hardships that I do? And he would be correct, so that is a fair intro.
Give us an idea of how Little White Hands came to fruition.
Little White Hands began as a short story, originally. It was going to be part of a larger collection of short fairytales (which I’m still working on), and the plot was very basic – a young kitchenhand sets off to rescue a kidnapped princess. Over time, though, other stories pushed Little White Hands into the background, and I abandoned it for a long time. And then one day, I got an idea for a separate story, and realised that I could combine it with some of the concepts from the original short story, and that is how Little White Hands the novel was born.
Can you share with us something about Little White Hands that isn’t in the blurb?
Well I’ll try and not get into spoiler territory, but there is a very large cast of fantastical characters and creatures that we meet along the way, which I distribute throughout the book in an episodic fashion, in much the same way that Bilbo Baggins encounters a new character or creature in each chapter of The Hobbit. This was deliberate on my part, as The Hobbit is my favourite book. So over the course of the story, Garlan meets, among other things, a living scarecrow, some faeries, a talking fox, witches, and a massive swamp monster. And I will say no more than that 😉
Was there any specific research you’ve done or inspiration you’ve pulled from for this story of yours? If so, did you learn anything fun or interesting?
Since Little White Hands is a fairytale-fantasy, I done quite a bit of research on traditional fairytales. I was really inspired by how they did not shy away from dark and grim (pun intended) moments, and did not always have happy endings the way that Disney movies would have us all believe. The original fairytales could often be really violent and disturbing, and I wanted Little White Hands to follow in that same vein. Not for gratuitous reasons, but because it didn’t seem realistic to me that in a story where a child protagonist goes on an adventure in a world riddled with monsters and other dangers, that he would not have to spill some blood or witness some horrific things along the way. So like those original fairytales, I wanted to portray those darker and more gruesome moments, because Garlan’s quest wouldn’t have been very believable without them.
What do you hope your readers take away from Little White Hands?
I just hope that they get as much joy from reading the adventure as I did writing it. I hope that it satisfies whatever curiosity it is that made them pick it up in the first place, and I hope they enjoy it enough to want to come back for more and revisit the characters again.
What comes first, the plot or the characters?
In the case of Little White Hands, actually what came first were the set-pieces, and random ideas for cool or interesting scenario ideas that I had. I then came up with a plot afterwards to tie those scenarios together, and then I threw in the characters that I felt would flavour the plot the most and make it even more magical. It’s quite a backwards way of doing things, I’m sure, but I don’t really concern myself with “writing rules.” Quite a few of my stories have actually evolved from just a single picture of a scene in my head, with the plot and characters coming after.
What do you think makes a good story?
I think it all depends on what kind of story you’re looking for. If it’s horror you’re interested in, then it’s all about the atmosphere—you’d be hard –pressed to find a good horror story that doesn’t set a frightening atmosphere. But for fantasy, I think that if the story can make you feel like you’ve actually been along for the adventure with the characters, and if it can make you feel like you were there in that world and made you forget about your real-life surroundings for a time, then it has done its job well.
If you could go back and change how you approached writing your debut novel, what’s the one thing you’d do differently?
I’ve thought about this before, and honestly, I don’t know. I could for sure have been more disciplined with my writing schedule because then I would have written the book quicker, but at the same time, I think that if I had finished it earlier than I did, it wouldn’t have been the same story. My lack of structure and a proper writing schedule stretched the writing of this book out for a long time, but over that span of time I got much better at writing than I was when I started. If I’d forced myself to write more and got the book finished quicker, it wouldn’t have been as good. So honestly (and I know this is a cliché answer) I wouldn’t have changed anything, because if I did, the end result wouldn’t be the same. And I’m very happy with the end result I got ☺
Writing can be a stressful pursuit. Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?
Don’t chain yourself to your desk. Get away from the writing for a bit. More specifically, get outside. Go for a walk, ideally as close to nature and as far away from roads and pavements as you can. I broke through many a writer’s block by just going for a stroll through the woods. And if that fails to work, it may just be that you’re burnt out, and in that case there’s nothing wrong with just chilling on the couch with some good movies until you feel like you’re ready to go again. But certainly don’t force yourself to write if you’re not feeling it – that’s a sure-fire way to make yourself resent the whole process, and that’s the last thing that any writer wants.
Have you read anything awesome lately?
I’ve read several awesome things lately. My last two reads were from fellow self-published authors: a collection of short fantasy stories called The Shield Road, by Dewi Hargreaves, and Dear Annabelle, which is a short horror tale by Scout Dawson. Both were absolutely fantastic. Before them I read The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro, which is without doubt one of the greatest fantasy books ever written. It’s absolutely stunning, and I actually plan on re-reading it again soon. Currently, though, I’m reading another self-published fantasy called The Oath and Blood Price: Part 1, by Peter-Shaun Tyrell. I’ve not finished it yet, but I’m really enjoying it so far. Any fan of fantasy should pick up all of the aforementioned books, if they haven’t already.
Thank you again for taking the time have a chat, Mark. Tell us what lies ahead for you!
Thank you again for having me ☺ I’m currently working on the sequel to Little White Hands, which is called Faeland’s Champion. I’m hoping to release that in May 2022, and then I will be straight onto book 3, which will complete the series. I have a few more things planned for after, but I’m not sure which order I’ll do them in. I’ll just need to wait and see ☺
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