Interview with Andrea K Höst


About the Author: Andrea K Höst was born in Sweden but raised in Australia – mainly in Townsville, Queensland. She now lives in Sydney.

Andrea writes fantasy and science fantasy and enjoys creating stories set in worlds which slightly skew our social expectations, and most especially give her female characters something more to do than wait for rescue.

You can catch the latest news from Andrea at her site:

Find Andrea K Höst on the following platforms:

Thank you Andrea K Höst for taking the time to talk with us about your writing career and what’s to come next! Be sure to stay tuned for her next novel, Snug Ship as well as check out her Touchstone series!

Sierra Jackson: What led you to write Sci-Fi and Fantasy?

Andrea Höst: I’m a book-a-day reader when I don’t have other commitments, and this mass inhalation of fiction seemed to lead naturally to stories of my own – stories with characters or resolutions that particularly suited my taste. It wasn’t until the gift of a small typewriter when I was in high school that I started to seriously write a book. I’ve written steadily ever since. The choice of SFF is both because it’s the genre I like the most, and one that suits me best to write.

SJ: Some of your books are written in different kinds of formats, like journal entries. How does writing in that kind of close, first person style differ from writing in the third person?

AH: The diary in the Touchstone Trilogy is a very different kind of writing to any other I’ve done. Unless you hand the book over to a different character to complete (a possibility that does not seem to have occurred to many) your readers will not feel there is any real threat your narrator. Finding the character an opportunity to write also lends a very different tone to many situations – by the time the narrator is in any state to reflect and record, any number of other events may have occurred to change the way they view what has happened. And the story is always what the narrator chooses to write down, which colours the tale rather immensely.

Most of my books are in tight third person, so first person is a relatively rarity for me. It is, of course, a voice that allows you to really sink into personality. First person stories seem to divide into two big branches: a tale told to a specific audience, and stories being told apparently to the air. The ‘audience’ in these stories can add layers and layers to the tale. Is it a tale to an interrogator or a suspicious lover, full of evasions? Or ramblings about albatrosses, poured into some unwilling ear? In Touchstone, Cass is talking not quite to herself, but an imagined narrator, out of a need for an outlet, and she is far more honest than she would be to almost any other listener.

My other first person efforts are narrated to the air, or the universe, and not anyone in particular: little secret histories of the mind, not there to be read.

SJ: If you could spend the day with any one of your characters, who would it be, and what would you spend the day doing?

AH: Dio, playing tourist. That’s an unfair answer from me, since Dio is a character in my next release, and not known to my readers. But Dio would undoubtably be the most considerate and enjoyable of companions, with the most scope for showing a lazy writer the time of her life.

Most of my other characters I would find fascinating to watch, but intimidating to try to have conversations with. Any of the Devlins would be fun – particularly watching new episodes of The Hidden War with them, but if I had to pick just one from my published work, I think I’d really enjoy having high tea with Rennyn, and discussing the merits of the various cakes.

SJ: I’ve read on your blog that you like gaming, how does the kind of storylines in games correlate to how you write your novels?

AH: Rather depends on the game. Just lately I’ve been watching people stream Player Unknown: Battlegrounds (I’ve played it as well, but I’m not great at competitive shooters, so it’s more fun to watch), and I’m definitely not someone who writes the same story over and over again with variations of viewpoint. Many games have multiple endings, which is not at all a way I write. I do think through many possibilities when writing, but I usually have some idea of the ending before I’m very far into the story, and work my way into defining it – and not many games will let me sample the end first. And I recently abandoned a very beautiful little puzzle-sneak game called Ghost of a Tale, thanks to the game-stopping bug that prevents me from finishing it – perhaps that could be considered writer’s block. J

Writing would be a lot easier if it was like playing games! If every conversation came with a little dialogue wheel of options to select from, and then whole reams of text came spilling into the draft. But a game-driven novel would also be enormously difficult to write – killing dozens of wolves and giant rats to finish chapter one, and having to get through a series of increasingly difficult boss fights up to the climax. That sounds like a lot of effort. Typing is easier.

SJ: Are there any books you have read that have greatly influenced your life or your writing?

AH: My stories and characters have been shaped by a handful of writers, but if I had to point to a novel and say: “Reading that changed me”, it would be The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. TDoT is a very unlikely novel, with what sounds like the worst premise for a novel imaginable: a hospitalised detective reads history because he is bored. But Tey both makes this tale fascinating, and very much reveals the ‘story’ part of ‘history’. I’ve never quite thought about the world around me in the same way since.

SJ: Your novels create very intricate and interwoven worlds, what is the kind of writing process you use when world building? Any tips for any aspiring writers?

AH: I’m a discovery writer. I start off with an idea, a scene, a premise, a sentence, and work from there. This is not a blind process of uncovering the next word and the next event, every one a surprise, but of building forward. I introduce a person, a scene, a place, and have some vague idea of the ‘starting problem’ of the story, and it’s like opening the front door of a great mansion that I begin to sketch in broad strokes even as I explore it.

Hunting, for instance, started with the premise of wanting to write a super-talented female protagonist – someone with enough confidence, bravery, smarts and common sense to succeed at almost anything – and at the same time vaguely wanting to write a story about a herbalist, and to write a fantasy murder mystery. And so I put my smart girl in the home of a herbalist, disguised her as a boy (in part because I had read so many books where girls weren’t allowed to be the super-talented hero that the disguise seemed necessary), and then killed the herbalist. Who was the girl, and why was she dressed as a boy? Why had the herbalist been killed? I didn’t know, though I knew that the reason had to be something to do with herbalism. I found out plenty about the girl in the first few chapters, and only thought up a reason for the death of a herbalist about halfway through. I only really got to know the herbalist in a re-write, when I shifted the locale to a valley fed by a glacier river, and decided that my original metaphysical set-up (a good Goddess and a faceless Adversary) was painfully simple, and spent a little while exploring how death and mourning works.

For aspiring writers, I think the best worldbuilding tip I can suggest is to take out the garbage. Where do you take it to, what happens to it? What’s in it? There’s so much to be found in a world in the mundane facts of life. Even if you don’t want to explore it in any depth, or even mention it, you need to remember that someone is taking out the garbage – or your characters are living in it. Where is the food coming from? Is clothing a matter of bulging closets, or so costly and rare that you have an outfit and a spare ‘for best’? If you make something hard to get, what are the knock-on impacts of that? If you take away cane sugar, how much more delightful is honey?

SJ: How did the Touchstone series come about? I know that for myself, it was a revolution of reading in the Sci-Fi genre, I have never come across anything like it, or anyone quite like Cassandra—who is one of the best protagonists in YA, of any genre.

AH: I’d been writing novels for years, and had been trying without success to get them published. Trying to get published is a disheartening process, and I was also a little bit stuck in the book I was trying to write (Bones of the Fair) so I decided to take a step back from it all and just write for fun for a while.

I decided I wanted to do a fiction blog, and because the fiction blog format lends itself to a diary format, I decided I would do a diary, one that wasn’t written to the usual conventions of novel writing (ie. obeying the Chekov’s Gun dictum to only place things in the story that are going ‘to be used’), but instead a diary that recorded every day as it came, irrelevant detail and all. Then I shoved a genre-savvy schoolgirl through a portal, and wrote down her reaction.

SJ: Your next novel, Snug Ship, is much anticipated—for any Sci-Fi lover, or MMO lover, or both. What kinds of MMOs have you played in preparation for this novel?

AH: I’ve played many different MMOs, and in prep for Snug Ship I went back to Final Fantasy XIV – and then promptly spent more time playing FFXIV than I did writing the novel. I had to put myself on a strict ‘no MMOs’ prohibition to finally make any progress.

I also did more general research into the current gaming world, and how it’s changed since I was last active. That meant watching a lot of YouTube and Twitch, goggling at entire worlds of gaming life that weren’t happening when I started playing games. Gaming with an audience has become very widespread, and there’s much talk about the potential demise of my favourite type of game (big budget single player narrative focused), because the big devs get so much more profit out of ongoing competitive games where they can just keep selling rather than developing.

Virtual reality has even shifted a little while I’ve been writing Snug Ship, with the release of VR Chat. We’re still a long way to the kind of VR games I’d like to play, but I fully expect to one day be strapping on a cumbersome set of goggles – and probably wishing it could be The Singularity Game explored in Snug Ship. Just without the price. 😉

PRR Writer, Sierra Jackson