Born in 1995, Tallinn, Estonia. On a frosty winter day. A spark of joy in the midst of the darkest season.
I was a second daughter to my mom and for the longest time I thought I was second in everything. Up until high school, when my commitment to learning and good grades finally made me feel like I might’ve been first in something. There were always two things I was passionate about: writing and architecture. My mother was the one to say: “you can’t make a career out of writing” so I had my education in architecture. For three years I pushed myself through university – that was incredibly interesting, but absolutely stressful! During my third year I met my boyfriend in an online computer game. A Dutch guy, miles and miles away! I had one more year left to study, but my heart was pulling me to the Netherlands, so I followed it. I might write fantasy, but he is my magic.
Victoria Liiv is the author of Through Hell and Highwater. It is the first book of her series – Through Hell and Highwater. I asked her some questions about her writing career.
1) What got you into writing?
I think everyone who reads a lot has tried their hand at writing something of their own. I love reading. It brings me incredible joy to read someone else’s writing. I believe I was around 13 years old, when I got a conviction that I needed to write a book. I wanted to bring that same joy and connection to fictional characters to others through my writing. It helped that my literature teacher praised my essays and read them out loud for the whole class to hear, reinforcing my self-confidence. I did write several short stories as a teenager and got great feedback on them. It is incredibly funny reading them now.
2) What is your favorite book genre?
3) What was the inspiration for this book and series?
My inspiration and commitment to this story came from a friend of mine who loves writing as much as I do. I read one of her books and came to a realization that there is no reason to stall the inevitable. We came up with this story together and would have written it together with her too, but she managed to get really busy at that time. I was already hooked, though and for once had to finish the story.
4) Who is your all time favorite author?
It is super difficult to choose. If it would come down only on their writing and books I honestly couldn’t decide. Some of my favorite writers are Patricia Briggs, John Green, J.R Ward and Cassandra Clare. However, I am not following any of them on social media. An author that I follow in a stalkerish fashion S.M. Boyce. So sorry if that’s creepy! I simply adore her! I love the way she interacts with her fans and have had the pleasure to have a chat with her! Asdffghj…
5) What challenges did you face when writing ‘Though Hell and
The main thing that I was struggling with was persistence. There were so many things distracting me out of my writing zone and I had to convince myself I want to finish the book way more than watch a YouTube video about cats doing silly things. I found a lot of help from the NaNoWriMo writing challenge. It helped me focus on my goal. I’ve always tended to write when the inspiration hits me and not kept a steady schedule before.
I did keep asking myself if my story is good and unique enough several times during the writing process and up until the last word I was constantly doubting myself. It is great to have had beta readers that enjoyed my book as much as I enjoyed writing it.
You could call the whole publishing process a challenge. I hoped to find a traditional publisher to invest in my creation. I was also worried about cover design and certain I couldn’t possibly make one myself. I did reach out to several publishers and only gave up once I got offered a contribution contract. Now, a contribution-based contract means I’d need to pay the publisher for making my work public. I had no such money to spend, but the offer itself gave me faith.
6) Are you planning to write more books when you finish this series?
I have several other book ideas. One particular idea revolves around a few of the characters from Through Hell and Highwater, but would take place after their graduation in the city of Arcan, the capital for whole of magical communities. It would follow one of the graduates – cough cough Lisanna – in her new occupation as an investigator. I don’t have any details figured out just yet, but I would love to make it into Lisanna and Archer’s story.
After I finished writing Through Hell and Highwater I worked shortly on a psychological new adult piece that is completely outside of my element of fantasy, but I found inspiration for. I would like to finish it at one point, but I think that will be after completing the series.
One more story idea rolls around my head, brought to me by my partner. I would love to write down our story. He suggested adding a sy-fy element to it, and I love the idea. As I’ve never really written sy-fy I need to do a lot of research before I start making real plans for this one.
7) How long did it take to write this book?
From plotting to publishing it took me a whole year, during which I had long writing spurts, recovering and gathering inspiration periods, endless editing and worst of all waiting for publishers to answer my submissions. In the end, I decided to self-publish.
8) What does your family think of your writing?
My mother is happy that I’ve found something that I enjoy doing so much. I believe she is proud of me, too. My sister is probably as excited as I am to call myself an author, I would not be surprised if she is walking around with my book in her bag and showing it to everyone she meets.
9) What was the most interesting thing you learnt while writing your book?
Glow-worms! There really is a cave full of insects that are glowing in the dark. How magical is our world?
10) Did you need to do research for your book?
I was researching a lot about nature parks and caves to figure out places where some of the scenes took place. Waitomo Caves and Bialowieza Forest came to be through google maps and intricate searches. I looked up swords and other random things, too!
11) How did you feel when your first book was released?
Ecstatic! I think I literally jumped around the room for a few minutes and would’ve taken flight had my boyfriend not kept me grounded.
12) Finally, if you could give any advice to future writers, what would it be?
It was really great to do this interview with Victoria Liiv. I hope to do more in the future.