Chat with Laura Sullivan, author of Under the Green Hill

Today I’m chatting with Laura Sullivan, who is offering a book giveaway of her brand-new fantasy, Under the Green Hill! Post a comment on this interview, and we’ll randomly choose one lucky winner to receive a copy. Please be sure your post links to your e-mail or website so we can contact you, or check back on Sunday’s post to see the winner.

CE: Laura, please tell us about your books.

LS: Thanks so much for having me on The Spectacle!

Under the Green Hill is an upper middle grade fantasy about fairies, sacrifice and the fate of the world. When a group of American children are sent to England to stay with relatives they find themselves in the middle of a fairy war. Their great-great aunt is the Guardian of the Green Hill, the last bastion of the fairy courts. Rowan, the eldest, is chosen to fight to the death in the Midsummer War against a mysterious opponent. His sister Meg is determined to save him. But everything that lives and grows depends on the Midsummer rites. Will she risk her life and the world to save her brother?

This is my first novel, and will be released October 26 from Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. The sequel, Guardian of the Green Hill, comes out Fall 2011. After that is a bawdy young adult historical, Ladies in Waiting, set in 1660s England.

CE: Why did you choose to write in this genre? What inspires you?

LS: I hope this doesn’t sound too corny – or psychotic – but my life is a fantasy. There’s never a time when there’s not a story playing in the back of my mind, not competing with the real world, certainly never confused with it, but providing a backdrop. Possibilities are always there, if you know what I mean. You meet a person, see a tree, and you think, what if? And of course that what if can be anything – glorious anything! Sometimes it translates into a book, but the plots create themselves, building, brewing, regardless. Some of the stories are fantasies in the genre sense, but they are all fantasies in the traditional meaning of imagination unrestrained. So I’m inspired by everything around me.

I consider myself so very lucky that daydreaming is my full-time job!

In the more literal sense, I was inspired to write my first book about the fairies of the British Isles after taking a folklore class taught by Alison Lurie at Cornell. Before that I had been more concerned with mythology, but that class opened me to the traditions and beliefs of the people in their hearths and homes and gardens, not in shrines and temples. The story lay dormant for almost a decade, but it finally sprouted.

CE: Are there special challenges in writing speculative fiction? How do you deal with them?

LS: For Under the Green Hill and its sequel, the biggest challenge was how to combine fact, as it were – the centuries-old fairy mythos – with fantasy. I needed to create a world within a world, a fiction within an established folklore. I did tons of research on the fairy tradition, but I couldn’t let myself get bogged down in retellings. Finding the balance of accuracy and originality took a delicate hand.

CE: Have you found any special challenges in finding publishers? In reaching readers?

LS: My book is just about to come out, so we’ll see how well I can reach readers! As for publishing, my book had two incarnations, one a crashing failure, one (so far) a smashing success.

When I first wrote the book years ago I couldn’t get any interest. I was sure it was brilliant (I was less modest in my youth) and decided if no one wants this, I must not be the writer I thought I was. After I failed to find an agent I actually gave up writing entirely (and remember, being a writer is the only thing I ever wanted to be) and determined to have an adventure. I became a deputy sheriff. It was wildly exciting, exposed a previously hidden facet of my nature… but I couldn’t do it forever. I fell briefly in love, had a baby, left law enforcement, moved to the woods, and began to write again. When I took another look at UNDER THE GREEN HILL I was pretty sure my original assessment had been right, and sent it out again.

This time the whole process from query to agent to signed book deal took just under two months. Why did it work this time? Who knows? I guess the market is ripe for fairies.

CE: If you could live in a sci-fi or fantasy world not of your own making, which would it be? Why?

LS: Hmm… probably Narnia or The Neverending Story. They are favorites of mine, of course, but from a more practical perspective those worlds offer considerable variety, and since I have trouble even deciding what to eat off a menu, I should probably allow for a lot of mind-changing in my fantasy world.

If I can range into television, give me the Deep Space Nine setting of the Star Trek universe.

CE: What would readers find surprising or interesting about you?

LS: The things that would truly surprise you have to stay secret!

You can learn more about me on my web site,, and I love to make new friends on Facebook. Search for Laura Sullivan – I’m the one with the pink fairy wings. I’ll be having lots of contests in November to promote Under the Green Hill.

CE: Don’t forget to leave a comment, for the chance to win a copy of Under the Green Hill.

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6 responses to “Chat with Laura Sullivan, author of Under the Green Hill

  1. Congrats on your book! Loved your talking about the process and how finding a publisher has changed. I think it’s a lot of hard work these days, but also interesting how things not saleable years ago are now and the other way around.

  2. Natalie Aguirre

    Thanks for sharing your inspiring story Laura. I’m an aspiring middle grade fantasy writer wondering if I’m going to have the same experience you did a few years ago. You’re inspiring me not to give up.

    I’d love to win. Your book sounds fascinating and the type of fantasy story I love. Good luck.

  3. Grace Radford

    Thanks for sharing with us Laura. I can’t wait to read your book. <3

  4. Pema White

    I can vouch for that lifelong fantasy, I was a unicorn in the enchanted forest with Laura 2 decades ago when we were kids. So excited to see some of those fantasies come to life! I’d love to share the story with my girls!

  5. Whoa. The cover is so gorgeous! It looks like something I would totally read!

  6. Anonymous

    I just finished the book with tears in my eyes. It was fantastic. And I am not a kid; I’m an adult and 5 kids of my own, 3 adults myself. A great story with great messages subtly woven in.

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