A Conversation with Helen Garraway

Enchanting Realms and Intricate Tales

Delve into the mind of USA Today Bestselling author Helen Garraway, as she shares insights on world-building, inspirations, and her journey in the realm of fantasy literature

We recently had the pleasure of conducting an interview with Helen Garraway, a USA Today Bestselling author whose name has become synonymous with the enthralling world of epic fantasy. Helen’s illustrious Sentinal series, which first graced the shelves in 2020, has since garnered a steadfast following and critical acclaim. In 2022, she expanded her literary universe with SoulBreather, the first book in her fantasy romance SoulMist series, debuted as part of the Realm of Darkness boxset.

As the USA Today Bestselling author, she has enchanted readers with her epic fantasy series, Sentinal, which first graced shelves in 2020. Her craft further blossomed with the release of SoulBreather in 2022, a fantasy romance that became part of the celebrated Realm of Darkness boxset.

Garraway’s journey into the fantastical began in the cradle of her childhood, nurtured by a mother’s shared passion for diverse genres of fiction. This love affair with storytelling guided her through a distinguished academic path at the University of Southampton, where she majored in Politics and International Relations, and continues to engage as an esteemed alumna.

Her literary influences are as vast as the universes she creates, drawing inspiration from the intricate world-building of Lois Bujold McMasters and Michelle Sagara. Garraway’s own works are tapestries woven with threads of suspense, romance, mystery, and political intrigue, set against backdrops of complex magic systems that beckon readers to immerse themselves fully in her creations.

Despite her success, Garraway remains grounded in her roots as a voracious reader, eagerly anticipating novels like Michelle Sagara’s Shards of Glass and Jasmine Young’s A Banishing of Kings. She recalls her childhood, spent devouring books from literary giants across genres, shaping her narrative voice—a voice that distinctly refrains from echoes of Tolkien, allowing her Sentinal series to resonate with unique authenticity.

Choosing the path less traveled by, Garraway embraced the autonomy of self-publishing. This decision not only accelerated her journey to readers’ hearts but also positioned her as a guiding light for fellow indie authors through her role with the Alliance of Independent Authors.

As we sit down with Helen Garraway in this exclusive interview for Reader’s House magazine, we delve into the mind of an author who has not only crafted award-winning tales but has also woven herself into the fabric of contemporary fantasy literature. With upcoming projects like OblivionGate and a prequel to the Sentinal series on the horizon, Garraway’s quill shows no signs of stillness. Her writing career is a testament to the power of perseverance, creativity, and the enduring love for storytelling that connects us all across time and space.

You’re organizing a party. Which two authors, dead or alive, do you invite?

I’d love to meet Lois Bujold McMasters and Michelle Sagara. They are both prolific and complex world builders, and I’d love to understand how they went about creating their worlds and the characters within them.

 What genres do you especially enjoy reading? 

I read many book genres. As a writer of Fantasy fiction I think there is an element of all genres in my writing and I write what I love to read. Fantasy, especially epic fantasy in amazing worlds with complex magic systems. I want readers to be immersed in my stories, experiencing the environment my characters are. But within that world, there is political intrigue, suspense, romance, mystery. Reading a book which makes you respond emotionally is the type of book I love to read.

What book are you planning to read next?

I am very excited to read Shards of Glass by Michelle Sagara. A new novel in the world of Elantra that I found by accident in Vancouver as my daughter bought up the local bookstore! Voracious reading runs in the family. I am also looking forward to reading A Banishing of Kings by Indie author, Jasmine Young.

What kind of reader were you as a child?

I was a prolific reader as a child, reading any book that came my way. My mother instilled in me a love of reading and I’ve never stopped. I read any book she brought home from the library, from Georgette Heyer, Mary Stewart, and Alistair Maclean to David Eddings and Anne McCaffrey. All of whom influenced the way I write today.

What books do you find yourself returning to again and again?

My comfort reads are actually a science fiction space opera. The many books which make up the Liaden Universe written by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. They have created a rich and complex universe, with amazing characters, male and female, who go out into space and face what you would think were insurmountable challenges. The complex plot lines, which run through many books, the different cultures with accepted behaviours and concepts of balance deliver a rich and varied storyline and many characters you can’t help but love.

What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?

I have never read Tolkien. I tried to read the Hobbit and never could. I put it down and never picked it up again. In some ways I am glad, as I haven’t been influenced by how and what he wrote, and my epic fantasy series has been written in my own voice.

Where do you get your inspiration from? How did you first come up with the idea for your first book?

My inspiration comes from my surroundings. One day when I was walking through a local ancient woodland near where I live, I wondered what tales those trees could tell if they could talk. Centuries old, twisted and gnarled, they have watched history evolve. And then I thought what if there was a man asleep in that tree, and he awoke many years into the future. What tales he could tell. And so was born the Sentinal series.

Why did you decide to Self-Publish your books?

I did investigate traditionally publishing, but once I learned how long it could take to publish a book, and that I would have to relinquish control of characters I originally wrote for myself, I decided self-publishing was the route for me. I started writing later in life, so I didn’t want to waste ten years waiting for my debit novel to be published! Although self-publishing is quite a steep learning curve, I love it, and now I am an ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors, supporting other indie authors. 

What are you currently working on?

I am currently writing book three of the SoulMist series, OblivionGate, and I am about half way through at the time of this interview. I am also working on the prequel to the Sentinal Series which is looking like it will be two books. A standalone Dystopian fantasy novel is in editing and will hopefully release in Spring 2024. As I write this, I realise that’s four books to publish this year. I also have ideas for a brand new epic fantasy series, so plenty more words to write. If you want to learn about my writing plans first, then sign up to my bi-monthly newsletter via my website: helengarraway.com and download two bonus novels set in the Sentinal world of Remargaren.

What are you most proud of in your writing career?

There are many moments I am very proud of since I began publishing my books. Publishing Sentinal Awaken, my debut novel, was a major milestone. The first time I held that book in my hands was an epic moment. Achieving the USA Today Bestseller list with SoulBreather was an amazing experience as was collecting the Readers’ Favourite gold medal and the Global Book Award gold medal for Sentinal Justice. I have been very fortunate that my books have been so successful and that inspires me to write more.

Cover Photography by Jeff Krotz

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