Nephy Hart is one of the first people I met writing LGBT fiction. She was a featured author on Gay Authors when I joined. When I emailed her out of the blue with a question, I was more than a little surprised when she answered. But she did and we’ve gone on to be good friends.  She’s previously published under the name Cheryl Headford and Nephylim, but is now using one pen name – Nephy Hart.  Having her kick off my 2015 guest interviews is a great way to start.  So with that, let’s get to it.

Welcome back Nephy. I know you’ve been writing for a while, how long would you say you’ve been writing seriously?

That not so easy to answer. I’ve been writing off and on since I’ve been able to write. One of the teachers in my primary school used to joke that I should dediate my first book to her. Fortunately, I didn’t agree to that because when it came to it there were just so many others before her in the queue. However, I did think about her, as I have a lot since, and her encouragement for my writing.

Over the years I wrote a number of stories that never got read, then I found an online writing site – Gay Authors. How I came to get there is a long story, but that’s where my serious writing began. To put it quite simply, I got addicted. I was addicted to the writing, to the feedback, to the community. I made some great friends there, including you, and it really was the springboard to my writing career. Since I started writing there I haven’t looked back.

I want to say, that was about five years ago, but I have an uncomfortable feeling it was longer than that.

So this past year you’ve released quite a few books, talk a little about some of them.

Project XMy memory is most dreadful! What books did I release last year?

Well, there was Project X. That was a story I originally posted on Gay Authors, in the Premium section, so it was only visible to those who paid a subscription. Thankfully there have been more and more of those over the years, and because of them GA has developed and grown. It was kind of my first attempt to ‘write what you know’. I did a law degree, so I decided to write about law students, based on people I’d met on my degree and set at the university I attended. It really didn’t turn out that way.

Yeah, sure it started out at the university, and it began with exploring relationships between three students, but one of them didn’t even do law and the whole ‘write what you know’ thing went out the window when the whole thing dived into science fiction. Who would have thought that?

My favourite experience in working on Projext X with the wonderful people at Wayward Ink Publishing, was designing the book cover, which was an adventure on its own that’s documented in a blog post, if anyone’s interested.

Then there was the Stranded anthology with WIP and that one had a rather strange beginning. I started writing it at the UK Meet in Bristol last year. It was quite overwhelming for me and I hid in a corner and started writing. The story is set at the meet and, although I haven’t used any of the people I met there as characters, I have used the setting and experiences I had. Unfortunately not the naked waiters.

Again, that story shocked the hell out of me. My trip to the UK Meet started with a dead hamster and a storm, as did the story, but from there it got weird and I turned into a transsexual angel with pink and blue hair, who fell in love with someone very unusual indeed. Oh Gods, I wish I knew Ari.

Then, of course, there was Memories of Forgotten Love. That one, too started out on Gay Authors, and came second in their first novella competition. It wentCH_Memories_of_Forgotten_Love through quite a change with Featherweight Press. This is the second book published with Featherweight, the first being The Face in the Window, another GA veteran. On both occasions I had a fantastic experience with my awesome editor, Christie, and the amazing cover designers.

This book started as an article I read how comas are not depicted accurately in fiction. I set out to write a situation that was as accurately depicted as I could get it. One of my favorite parts of writing is research, learning new things and applying them in new ways. I had a blast with this one. I discovered, by the way, that coma is, indeed often treated unfairly in fiction. Either it’s skated over, or totally misrepresented (cue the immaculately made up woman who after months in a coma opens her eyes and is instantly back to normal), or has no real consequences.

Yet again, the story wriggled out of my hands and took an unexpected turn. My simple story about a boy recovering from a coma, became a deep mystery with deceit, danger and distraction all around. Everyone thinks Noah tried to kill himself by jumping off a balcony – everyone but Noah. While struggling to regain his memory and physical abilities, he fends off psychiatrists who are trying to persuade him to admit to his suicide attempt, tries to persuade his ‘best friend’ that their argument hadn’t pushed him to the brink, and all the time, trying to work out what did, actually happen. Then, when the truth comes to light, the danger becomes even more present and the story taked another, completely different twist. Phew.

You might have realized from this that I am not the kind of person who sits down and plans out her books before she starts writing. I get a kernel, an idea, a character or something that sparks of the writing frenzy. Then I sit down and write. I’m often surprised by the way the story goes, and it does it right under the pen, so to speak. I find myself writing things I’d never planned or expected, and that makes the writing experience all the better for me.

Your latest release is Draven’s Gate, what is that about?

Cheryl-Headford-Dravens-Gate-FINAL-smallI love Draven’s Gate. It’s about a young man called Keiron, who’s already getting old and set in his ways. All he wants is a quiet life, with a stable job, a nice home and a loving boyfriend. Well, he’s got two out of the three. He’s already coping with a wild Irish lover when he starts seeing things in his garden and his whole world tips upside down when a naked boy turns up on his doorstep telling him he’s to be his slave for three months.

The ‘boy’ turns out to be a fairy, Draven, who is unendingly curious and exceedingly clumsy. Together, they explore a world that Keiron thought he knew, and Draven didn’t know at all. Who knew humans drink milk from cows, and that fairies get high on sherbert?

Unfortunately, Kerion’s boyfriend isn’t too keen on his lover sharing his home with a fairy who likes walking around naked and doesn’t seem to have any boundaries at all. When he gets a face full of thorns he plots revenge and sets off a chain reaction that almost kills Draven and seems set to drive Draven and Keiron apart for good.

In order to save his love, Keiron has to push aside his desire for a comfortable life and take a walk on the wild side into places he never believed existed, let alone felt comfortable visiting.

I had the best fun with this one. Draven was an amazing character to write and the whole unpredictability of the fey really caught me and blew me away.

Where did the inspiration for that come from? 

Fairyland.

Is this going to be part of a series? 

I would love it to be, but I seriously don’t think it will be. Maybe one day I’ll come back to Draven, but there are too many other things in front of him in the queue to make that likely. I’ll never forget him, though. He was such a dream to write.

What part of the book was the most fun to write and why? 

The part where Draven went to the cinema. It had me giggling the whole way through. He gets to interact with some teenage girls, who make Keiron way jealous, freaks out at the whole film experience, then gets high as a kite on a sherbert drink. It was an extremely funny scene that turned black at the end – just as I like it.

The visit to fairyland was fun, too, as I got to indulge my imagination.

What part made you struggle the most?

Honestly, none of it. The whole thing flowed very naturally from beginning to end, but I guess if you want struggle it would be not to indulge in exploring sex with a being that can fly and change his size. As this is a YA/NA book sexual contact is kept to a minimum, but I had to delete quite a lot of fun stuff I’d indulged myself in.

Tell us something interesting that is not in the blurb?

Keiron hates the countryside. He likes order and cleanliness, and hates mud and wildlife. On one occasion he takes Draven out into the country, and he hates every minute of it. Draven, of course, is like a kid in a candy shop. He splashes Keiron in the stream, and acts as a magnet to a bunch of local wildlife. Keiron, is not impressed, especially when the mouse pees in his pocket.

Okay, so moving on to something near and dear to my heart – yes you know where I’m going – Hostage. This was the first of your stories that I read. I’m really excited to hear that Harmony Ink bought the rights. Tell us more.

What can I say? Hostage is a story that’s very dear to my heart. It was my first attempt at YA and also at sci fi/fantasy. My imagination went wild, although it was all contained (I hope) within a very ‘normal feeling’ experience. What do I mean? Well, I’m not sure I can explain it very well, but for me, one of the things that puts me off fantasy and sci fi is that they’re so ‘big’, full of sweeping landscapes and people doing great deeds and living lives that need thought and understanding.

Hostage is full of people doing small deeds, like a camping in the back of a car, riding on a train, and discovering you have ‘abilities’ to manipulate people and matter. We meet princes who behave just like teenage boys, kings who are happy to eat bread and cheese while hiding in the attic of a pub, and a really evil villain with his sights on world domination, although we only meet him once.

I hope that the book had a blend of the ordinary and extra ordinary that will give the whole thing a realistic feel, rather than a fantastical one.

As far as its journey to publication is concerned, well I took it down from GA some time ago. Probably the best part of two years. I first submitted it to another publisher who said it was way too long and had to be under 100,000 to be even considered for YA. I worked hard on it, cutting out everything I could find that wouldn’t materially alter anything, and I still could only make it to about 120k. That’s when I thought – to hell with it, there are plenty of YA out there with more than 100k words, so I’ll try somewhere else.

One of my altime favourite YA books Omorphi by Cody Kennedy is published by Harmony Ink and that is well over 100k words, so I knew they accepted books of that length. Therefore I thought I’d sub with them. At that time, I had no idea Harmony Ink was an imprint of Dreamspinner Press. If I had I don’t know if I would have subbed, because I thought, and still think Dreamspinner is out of my league. I was unbelievably thrilled when I got the offer letter. I just hope my experience with Harmony will be as great as they have been with the publishers, editors and cover artists I’ve been excited to work with, and not the ones I wish I’d never worked with.

You recently decided to devote your full time to writing. How did it feel making that choice?

It wasn’t really a choice. Well, yes it was, but not one I would have made if the law firm I’d been working for hadn’t closed down. The situation among family lawyers in the UK, with the disgraceful actions of the government in withdrawing Legal Aid, and therefore access to law and justice for the very people who need it most, is dire. More and more small firms are closing, and larger ones are taking on paralegals rather than qualified solicitors.

A combination of a great sense of injustice, the necessity of working in a large firm, and the sheer lack of job opportunities decided me that I wasn’t going to stay in law. I did think about looking for work in another area, but due to ill health of myself and my son, I felt I needed a break from going out to work and I decided to pour my energies into trying to make a business and a living from my writing.

My success has been sketchy so far. I’m not a very organized or a disciplined person, and the problem with working from home is that there’s a great temptation not to. There are always other things to do, housework, shopping, paying bills, going out to lunch with friends etc. My resolution this year is to start treating my writing as a business, and to get to grips with all the things I’m really bad at, like publicity and promotion, keeping my blogs current etc. It’s not going so well so far.

What was the hardest part about leaving an office type job and becoming a writer full time? 

Not having a work’s Christmas party. No, seriously, it’s the social aspect. Being a family law solicitor I met a lot of people on a daily basis, and formed good relationships with many of them, at least to the extend of being able to have a laugh and a joke. Working at home can be isolating, especially as both myself and my son are disabled and we don’t get out much.

What’s your favorite part of the writing process?

Writing. I love to write. I love to sit in front of my laptop and let my fingers take me on a journey. It’s my biggest stress release and greatest joy next to my children.

What’s your least favorite?

Editing. Once the story is written, it’s out, it’s done. To have to go through it again and again, changing a word here and there, cutting out a scene, re writing a conversation. Bleargh! I do recognize it’s a necessity, which is why I force myself through it, and the experience depends a lot on the editor. Some editors can make an unpleasant job an excruciating nightmare, while others can make an unpleasant job, if not fun then at least rewarding.

Since there is always another story to tell, what are you working on now?

Oh Lord, lots. I’ve recently subbed another book to Wayward Ink and I’m keeping my fingers crossed on that one. I have another waiting in the wings and am about to finish the first book in a three book YA fantasy series which I will also be subbing there.

I’m working with Cool Dudes on releasing another book this year, and have a story to sub in WIP’s Angel and Demons anthology.

I’m writing six or seven books simultaneously, three or four of which are almost finished. One of them is Book IV of the Enigma series which is the only one so far to have more than two books in the series.

Unfortunately, at the moment my time and energy is being sucked into trying to get the structure of my business in order…setting up a website, getting into the habit of posting regularly on my blogs, keeping up with social media etc etc. As I am so bad at all of this, and so badly organized it’s taking up way too much of my time and when I do get time to write I’m too tired and drained to enjoy it, so I’m not getting very far. Hopefully that will change gradually as I start to get better organized.

What have you read lately that most people haven’t read but should?

4405563I truly believe that The Statue by Zathyn Priest should be compulsory reading in schools. Why? Because it deals with important issues in a revolutionary way. The story centers on the relationship between a journalist and a young man he meets while doing a story on a mental institution. At first he thinks the boy is a visitor, then learns he’s a patient with paranoid schizophrenia.

Zane hallucinates that a gang of boys is stalking and tormenting him, but has formed a relationship with a man who exists only in his own head, but who keeps the tormentors at bay. Due to the treatment he receives at the hospital, the man in forced out of his head, and he believes he’s been trapped in a stone statue in the hospital grounds.

Throughout the story Zane helps the journalist through his gentle innocence and wisdom, until he suffers a breakdown. No one will listen, that all he really needs is to be allowed his boyfriend, but to the doctors all delusions are bad and have to be stamped out ruthelessly.

The whole thing culminates, for me, in one conversation regarding the nature of love, and whether love for a flesh and blood human being is any more real than that for someone who only exists inside your head. That conversation is the most powerful I’ve read in a very long time.

I’m also fangirling over Omorphi by Cody Kennedy, and The Shed by Dianne Hartsock, both of which are very powerful books.

If you could meet any writer, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

You, Andy of course, because you’re amazing and I would love to give you a hug and say thank you for all you’ve done for me.

I would also love to meet Ann Rice and talk to her about where she got her inspiration for her vampire books, as well as Ann McCaffrey to talk about dragons.

What’s a fun – non-writing – day for you?

You can have fun when you’re not writing?? I love to visit museums, and so does my son. We share a deep interest in history, although he tends to more modern history while my love is ancient history, especially Iron Age Celts. Before my mobility issues became too bad, I used to belong to a Celtic re enactment society (I think that would be rannaissance group for the Americans) and we’d travel all over the country with living history and fighting displays.

Besides reading and writing, what else do you enjoy?

I like cooking, although I’m not really able to do much these days. I’ve passed my love of baking on to my son, so he’s the one who stands at the counter these days while I shout instructions, and help with the decorating.

I love creating things. I paint, of course, as you know, but I also enjoy cross stitch, embroidery and all kinds of craft projects. I just wish I had more time to do it all.

Last question is all yours – feel free to talk about anything you want your readers to know about you, your book, anything at all.

That’s the hardest question of all. I’m pretty sure that if readers want to know anything at all about me they’ll find it out there somewhere. I’m pretty much an open book. I don’t hide anything, for better or worse.

I’m a vampire, a fallen angel, a slipped goth (ie one who is too old and tired to be bothered with the make up anymore), a mother, a sister, a great great aunt, a freak and proud of it. I’m fat, disabled and lazy, but I have a great sense of humour and I’m full of curiousity, passion and excitement for just about anything.

Um…. Can’t think of anything else to say, so…thank you Andy Mwah. See you all soon somewhere.

Oh, I’m going to be at Second City Signing event in Birmingham in July and at the UK Meet in Bristol in September. I’m very socially awkward, so if anyone is attending and notices a little black cloud hiding in a corner, come talk to me and I’ll transform into a sunbeam in front of your eyes.

Sales Links:

Below are the sales links for some of her books. You can find a complete list of sales links on her website:

The Face in the Window:

Memories of Forgotten Love:

Project X:

Stranded:

Or check out Nephy’s Author Pages on Amazon or Amazon UK for a full listing:

Amazon:

Amazon UK:

About the Author:

Nephy Hart was born into a poor mining family in the South Wales Valleys. Until she was 16, the toilet was at the bottom of the garden and the bath hung on the wall. Her refrigerator was a stone slab in the pantry and there was a black lead fireplace in the kitchen. They look lovely in a museum but aren’t so much fun to clean.

Nephy has always been a storyteller. As a child, she’d make up stories for her nieces, nephews and cousin and they’d explore the imaginary worlds she created, in play.

Later in life, Nephybecame the storyteller for a re enactment group who travelled widely, giving a taste of life in the Iron Age. As well as having an opportunity to run around hitting people with a sword, she had an opportunity to tell stories of all kinds, sometimes of her own making, to all kinds of people. The criticism was sometimes harsh, especially from the children, but the reward enormous.

It was here she began to appreciate the power of stories and the primal need to hear them. In ancient times, the wandering bard was the only source of news, and the storyteller the heart of the village, keeping the lore and the magic alive. Although much of the magic has been lost, the stories still provide a link to the part of us that still wants to believe that it’s still there, somewhere.

In present times, Nephylives in a terraced house in the valleys with her son, dog, hamster and two cats. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but they’re still close. She’s never been happier since she was made redundant and is able to devote herself entirely to her twin loves of writing and art.

Find Nephy at:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SevenPointStar

Facebook: Private: https://www.facebook.com/cheryl.headford.1

Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/Nephylim.author

Tumblr: https://www.tumblr.com/blog/nephylim-author

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4462803.Nephylim

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=140237118&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile

Adult Blog: http://nephylim-author.blogspot.co.uk/

Young Adult Blog:http://cherylheadford.blogspot.co.uk/