Interview: Thomas Heasman-Hunt

As the night’s draw in and the temperature falls, the best thing to do is look to spring. So, we settled down for a chat with our author Thomas Heasman-Hunt, to talk about writing, life, and his fabulous Cynefin Road debut, Legacy, which is set for release on the Spring Equinox 2017…

Image: Thomas Heasman-Hunt

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Keep doing it. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realise the connection between the times when I was writing regularly and my general mood. In fact, I still forget sometimes even now… Plus writing is like anything else: you can read all the reference books and blog posts and #writetips you want, but unless you actually sit down and put one word in front of the other, you’ll never achieve anything.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I remember identifying very strongly with characters in books when I was young. I was an only child and quite introverted, so maybe I was trying to find something to latch onto, but I definitely felt the tragedies and triumphs of my favourite characters on a very visceral level. I’m a great proponent of the theory that the human mind is structured around narrative, and I think the fictional realities we experience when we read a story can sometimes be just as valid as what we see and hear in the real world. Certainly from a brain’s perspective anyway!

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

That depends a little bit on how you count them! I don’t have too many unfinished works because I tend to simply write a story from start to finish, and I write like I read, so if it doesn’t grab me in a short time, I’ll abandon it. But the sequel to Legacy is already completed, and the third book is half done. Beyond that, I have another novel set in the same universe but with different characters, an ongoing fantasy series, a dozen or so novellas in various genres and more short stories than I want to count! A few of these I’ve collected together and self-published, but most of the rest are on my blog. I also have my attempt at a first novel – a sort of picaresque magical-realism quasi-philosophical epic, which is complete, but also completely unpublishable! I wrote it just to prove I could really, and it was useful…but won’t ever see the light of day…

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

One of the joys of writing speculative fiction is the world building, which allows you to create a story with all sorts of layers and connections. It’s nice to show that work off sometimes, but you also have to keep some of it back and tease the details out where they’re relevant. Also, if you’re anything like me, you often don’t actually write any of the background anywhere and basically make it all up as you go along. So there are ‘secrets’, yes, but I think of them more as continuity nods that improve the verisimilitude of the worlds I’m portraying.

Does your family support your career as a writer?

They certainly do. Everything I write is for my wife – we have similar taste in books, so I try to write stories I know she’ll enjoy. My proofreading process is reading what I’ve written aloud to her to check the rhythm and flow of the story, so she’s party to everything I produce. Besides her, I think my mother is more excited about this book being published than I am!

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

My first novel – took me over a year from start to finish, writing in fits and starts as my enthusiasm for the work waxed and waned. That was a slog. I realised after finishing it that I needed a more productive method, so I switched to writing short fiction. Once I did that, it was like I’d opened a door in my head: I was churning out stuff daily, and for around two years I was averaging 50,000 words of prose a month. Legacy wasn’t actually written in one continuous stretch, but adding up the time taken for the separate parts, it took me just over a month to write it. The final book is mostly unchanged from that original version.

What is your writing Kryptonite?

Planning. I mean that literally. If I write down any part of a story before I actually get to it in the normal course of the narrative – even just a brief outline – it kills it for me. If I commit anything to text, something in my head no longer feels any desire to write it properly. This was one of the reasons my first novel took so long: I decided I ought to sketch out some idea of where I was going, and from then on, the process dragged interminably. I have to write intuitively, as if I’m reading the story myself, that way I know the surprises and twists work…

What is the most unethical practice in the publishing industry?

I’m a writer not a publisher – I don’t know enough about the industry to say too much about its practices either way! But, speaking from a writer’s perspective, there’s definitely a problem in this age of instant sharing and viral content with creators not being paid for their work. There’s such a glut of stuff out there, and when anyone can publish a few hundred words in the form of a blog post or thread of tweets, it’s very easy for content to be used without permission (or sometimes even attribution) by unscrupulous media for clicks. Pay your writers!

Tell us about Legacy…
It began, strangely enough, with a conversation on Twitter with a fellow writer, Emily Benet (@EmilyBenet). She was working on a short story about a woman who finds out a dark secret about her father after he dies and we riffed back and forth a little, with me joking that I might do something silly like put a sci-fi spin on it. A while later, I was putting together some of my short stories into a collection for Kindle and felt I needed something that I hadn’t put on my blog to round it out. I decided I wanted to do some good, old-fashioned space opera, and so I reworked the ideas we’d discussed into a short story that later became the first three chapters of Legacy, which was also the title I gave it then. In honour of the person who’d helped spark the idea (and with Ms Benet’s permission) I named the main character Emily.

Some months later, again stuck for something to write, I returned to Emily Ajax’s world and started writing another short story about her and her adventures. I didn’t pick up exactly where I’d left off, instead treating it like an episode of a TV series, even deliberately dividing the story into three acts. Happily, I found that Legacy (the original short story) naturally split the same way. I wrote six such ‘episodes’ altogether, each in three parts. That original structure remains in the book, which has 18 chapters, and can be divided into six distinct narrative arcs. I later added the prologue to round out the story and create more resonance for the ending, since it wasn’t even conceived of throughout most of the writing process! Once it was collected together, I called it ‘The Ajax Legacy’, but since losing the different titles for the episodes, it’s come full circle and is now just Legacy again.

Legacy is an adventure. A lot of what I write skews quite dark and cynical – and the book certainly has its share of moments that live up to that – but I wanted it to be fun and exciting, maybe even a bit pulpy. It takes a lot of careworn sci-fi tropes and hopefully reworks them enough to create something new and interesting. It has one or two larger-than-life villains and some genuine gung-ho heroics (‘swashbuckling’ is the term I keep coming back to), as well as introducing a vast and believable galactic setting that has a lot more to it than you’ll read in this book. But what I found to be most important and most enjoyable as I wrote it was the characters and their connections. Beyond all the spaceships and lasers and ancient relics of lost interstellar civilisations, Legacy is basically about friendship, and about the complex relationship between a woman and her incredibly famous father. There’s a smattering of romance and some butting heads in places, but the story is centred around three women who couldn’t be more different from one another, but who forge a bond through adversity and change the fate of an entire galaxy.

So it’s a bit daft and pays homage to a lot that’s familiar in the genre, but I’m rather pleased with it, and I hope you’ll enjoy travelling to the Four Quadrants as much as I did, and continue to do.


We are seeking contributions to a very special zine, Audacity, which is being put together in this tumbledown world of ours.

The topic for the fourth edition is LOVE.


Curated By


We are looking for writings of up to 500 words, photographs which speak volumes, and art which shouts a thousand words at a time.

Our submissions deadline is October the 31st, so there isn’t long to get your creative on.

I suppose people will be asking: what are we going to do with all this creative love? The answer is simple…

Audacity may well be a zine, and completely pro-bono, but it will be freely distributed across the world in electronic form. Call it a showcase, call it an anthology, call it a collection. Call it what you may, we’re going to take this inspiration, this creativity, this love, and we’re going to add a little magic and set it free on the winds. Where it belongs.

Sometimes people only need the faintest glimmer to get their hearts racing again. That and a little audacity…

News on the road home…

Wow! What a busy and beautiful month it has been since the magical full moon of September saw the launches of our debut titles Forever Completely and The Star Princess And The Kitchen Witch! We are ecstatic to see these fabulous books getting the five star praise they deserve and look forward to their very bright futures.

Having just sat down to administration for the first time since launch week, we are also pleased to be able to share a brief over view of our launch schedule for the next six months. Let’s just say we like to keep ourselves on our toes…and we are open to submissions too!

Of course it has been a busy old time for our authors as well…

Image Credit: Ruby Lilith

Stephanie Shields has been busy tweeting the socks off her gorgeous debut children’s book (The Star Princess) and her dad is doing a fabulous job promoting her in schools where she grew up! We also know there is a fantastic interview with Stephanie coming soon on the beautiful Quiet Radicals blog, which will be quite something for us all to look forward to. The reception her book has received so far is wonderful, a resounding five stars across the board. One reader was so taken with the allegorical she has donated a copy to a domcestic violence refuge.

Image: Cynefin Road

Of course, the illustrators have been busy too, presenting Mrs Meacock – the literature loving headmistress of their Essex primary school – with a signed copy for the school library.

Processed with MOLDIV
Image: Cynefin Road

Meanwhile, J.J. Patrick has been busy talking all things poverty and words.

In this Belper News article published at the end of September, he spoke to the home town crowd about whistleblowing, losing everything, and creating a new world for himself out of the ashes. Not being one for a rest however, he rushed over to the award winning Linda’s Book Bag to prove what a disobedient little so and so he can be, before taking the reins from the Hazardous Hippo for a guest spot on life, the universe and writing novels on a sofa. His unique tale is also getting the five star treatment, with readers left wanting more…and a film…

So, that’s a quick update on the news from the road home. See you all soon!




As a publishing outsider from the age of fourteen, sitting in my room until late at night disturbing all and sundry with the distinct sound of the dot matrix printer churning out perforated pages, I always looked at it with hope.

Hope that telling a story was as simple as writing it. That you could send off one envelope of pages and receive the life changing offer of a publishing deal from the first person you wrote to, because the process was simple and magical.

It’s not like this at all and it’s taken me some twenty-three years to get to grips with.

there has developed this alternate reality where a literary agent has become the arbiter of what makes a good story.

When you take a look around, most houses have become part of the big publishers who won’t deal direct with writers. Those who remain independent are brilliant but working with limited resources so have had to introduce the safety buffering of solicited material via agents. Some now run the agent model for profit too, having introduced mandatory creative writing courses and the like.

While the agent system is valuable, to a degree, the industry has created a itself a rather unique situation where it can only ever see what the agent allows it too. And agents have often taken this role too far. Sure they have money to make, so have to consider the financials, but there has developed this alternate reality where a literary agent has become the arbiter of what makes a good story.

This isn’t a dig at agents, but there is a clear conflict here, and it exists because of nothing more complex than human nature. An agent has to make money from the publisher, and the publisher has to make money from the submission, so the odds are stacked in favour of fads. Every book has to be the next something or other, because it’s a replicable sales model, a safe bet, an easier pitch. This is a real shame because it means people are often so focused on finding the ‘next…’ they don’t see the potential in front of them. Everybody knows the Jo Rowling fable of rejection, but feel free to tell me I’m wrong and give me a different view.

People also, of course, know just how rapidly the self-publishing market has grown. It’s huge and largely driven by writers who have failed to get the lucky and magical break into the mainstream industry. Some of it, admittedly, isn’t great but it sells and the rapid expansion should have gone a long way to becoming the wet kipper the industry needs.

All I’m really interested in doing is finding good authors, with interesting stories, who’ve written great books. I’ve no interest at all in publishing the ‘next…’ because it’s not why I’m sitting here.

I’m looking to adopt a family of writers and create a home for them. No fads, no barriers, no replicable sales models. Because readers deserve great stories and it’s not for anyone but them to decide whether a book is great or not.

We are open for unsolicited and unrepresented submissions because the process really is simple and magical, as long as you don’t care for fads.

JP for CR.