Every Friday, we meet a member of the BFS and peer deep into their soul (or, at least, a form they filled out). Want to be featured? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Name, including preferred pronouns
Halla Williams (she/her)
Which region are you based in?
Genre you write
If you don’t write, what do you do?
I also edit and sing
Are you drawn to any specific SFFH sub-genres?
High and epic fantasy
Tell us about the book/film/thing that got you into SFFH: What was it? How old were you? What impact did it have on you?
I was lent Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings by a friend while still at primary school. I’d always read fantasy with my mum (thank you, Mum!) but this was the first book I explored that didn’t come through her. I fell in love with fantasy then, though I read sci-fi too (Majipoor, Galactic Milieu, Culture and Imperial Radch are some favourites). When I read The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay in my teens, I knew I would be reading fantasy decades later. Janny Wurts, Robin Hobb, CJ Cherryh, Jennifer Roberson, Katherine Kerr, Sheri S Tepper, Mercedes Lackey and more fantastic women writers inspired me to see myself in that space as a creator. As an English teacher, I encountered some astonishment that I could appreciate good literature and yet choose to read and write fantasy. I think that stigma is gradually fading, as it definitely should.
How does that early influence show up in your work now?
Cherryh’s Morgaine influenced one of my main characters in The Wild God’s Gambit with her strength and complexity and the figure she cut. Kerr’s reincarnation stuck with me and is vital to the universe I am writing in. Kay’s lyrical prose made me want to deliver something beautiful to read. Hobb’s subtle and in-depth character development is something I aim for. I’ve really tried to crib from the greats and weave my own style out of it all!
Pictured above: part of Halla’s book shelf.
Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?
I come from an acting background and I sing regularly, so the power of voice and performance is always present in my work. Getting up and being on stage brings me alive and that energy can go on the page. It’s wonderful to see so much fantasy as part of widely-appreciated popular culture and, since I don’t have much visual imagination, seeing fantasy worlds on the screen has been marvellous.
I saw Joe Abercrombie speak at a bookshop in Bath many years ago, then again at a Gollancz Writers’ Day, and he definitely inspired me because I love his work and his style and he’s so encouraging.
Going to cons means meeting amazing people who inspire me to press on when things are hard.
Being friends with people whose work I admire is really inspirational and the BFS retreat this year allowed me to add some lovely folks to that company.
(Pictured right: retreat-goers at dinner)
Who do you look to as a genre hero? Why?
Steven Erikson. How he got Malazan Book of the Fallen published is a delight and a mystery to me. It is such an incredible series and he shares his craft knowledge so freely, I can’t help but admire him.
You’re stuck in an elevator for 60 seconds with that hero, and they want you to describe your work. Give us the pitch.
A pitch that would appeal to Erikson? Subtle development of complex characters in a high fantasy world of meddling gods and inter-species conflict, where an agent of chaos can tip the balance in wars both mortal and divine. More straightforwardly, Game of Thrones meets The Witcher might give a good sense.
What are you working on right now?
(Pictured below: Halla’s writing desk, where the magic happens)
With my first novel, The Wild God’s Gambit, finished but not yet picked up, I’ve started a standalone in the same universe called The Sharper Path. It’s about Iria of the Arangh, a hero of her people, who loses her god and her lover in the same battle and must make some hard decisions about how to help her people and their allies survive.
All the characters are non-human, which is a challenge, but at least one character crosses over from The Wild God’s Gambit, giving me some familiarity to work with.
Thinking about all of your stories/work you’ve done, which one sticks out most in your mind? Why?
There’s a story where I took one of my point-of-view characters from the main series and imagined him as a child. He’s a bard with flexible morality so it was wonderful to write him still innocent and hopeful. It’s called The Right Song and it really encapsulates what I feel about how we can communicate with anyone if we can find the right song/means/language. It’s the free story when you join my mailing list on hallawilliams.net.
Where and when do you create/are you at your most creative?
I am a night owl by predilection but I have a child and cats so my schedule is dictated by others. If I could, I’d write from 11pm ‘til 3am—and I used to, but now I have to find time and energy amidst everything else. I need at least an hour because I have to read/edit what I’ve recently written before I move on so I can get back in the headspace and flow.
What’s the best advice you’ve received about creativity?
Not everyone is going to like what you’ve written, so make sure you enjoy writing it: please yourself.
What’s your writing soundtrack?
The soundtrack for Robin of Sherwood by Clannad really worked for the mystical aspects of The Wild God’s Gambit. The Sharper Path needs something tougher so I go with The Dusk Brothers (dark swamp blues with some wonderful character-building and storytelling in the lyrics—pictured right). I don’t listen while I write but I listen to get in the mood or when fumbling around a tricky part of the story.
The quickfire round
Sci-fi, fantasy or horror?
Quiet or loud?
Dark or light?
Strict lines or genre blend?
Whatever floats your boat. I kind of love science fantasy.
(Pictured left: Halla’s bookshelves)
Awards or bestseller?
Good stories, great characters, never mind the hype
Fiction or non-fiction?
Poetry or prose?
Poetry by a hair
Plotter or pantser?
Reading or listening?
Notebook or computer?
Computer, but I do make notes on the move in a gorgeous notebook (both pictured right)
Favourite SFFH book of all time?
The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay
Last book you read?
At Eternity’s Gates by David Green
Any SFFH author on auto-buy?
The home stretch
What’s the best thing about being a SFFH writer?
The extraordinary at your fingertips.
Time to plug your stuff! Where can we find you and your work? What have you got coming up? Consider this your advertising space.
- I have a story called Draw the Dead in the BFS anthology Portraits of Patriarchs which is my first published work.
- My website is hallawilliams.net and you get a free story if you join the mailing list. I will not spam you.
- I’m on Facebook as Halla Williams fantasy writer (where I have a video of me reading The Right Song) and I’ve moved from X to Bluesky as @hallawilliams.
- You can listen to me reading one of my stories (Silver Tongue) and being interviewed on The Tiny Bookcase podcast (11 and 18 December 2023).