5 Quick Questions with Cassie Hart

Cassie Hart (aka J.C. Hart and Nova Blake) is an award-winning speculative fiction writer with ten novel and novellas under her belt who is teaching place as character at the upcoming Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat. Her next book Butcherbird, a supernatural suspense set under the watchful gaze of Mount Taranaki will be released by Huia in 2021 and if you read on you’ll find about another book which we should get to read soon!

What attracted you to writing?

I think words run in my veins.

Most of my family excel at oral storytelling, for me, it’s words on a page. Something about that transference of thought to screen or paper helps me to assemble the story in a way my mouth often fumbles with. I need more time with the words to make them right. It feels like one of those stock answers or cliches to say that I’ve always considered myself a writer, but it’s still the truth. I was always the kid inventing worlds for my cousins and friends to play in, the one developing the characters and setting before we set off across the farm to act the story out. Those are some of my fondest memories and the joy created from that time has meant I’ve never stopped writing.

What’s your favourite place?

My favourite place is Back Beach in New Plymouth. We live very close to it, and over the years it’s been a huge balm to my soul; I actually got married on the cliff tops above it! Back Beach is a surf beach and one of the few places dogs can run off leash as well, so it’s not the kind of beach people sit on blankets with umbrellas all day. I love the wildness of it, the looming cliffs, the islands, the crashing waves, black sand between my toes, the evening murmurations of the sea birds, and the sun-sets are to die for.

If I need to clear my head, reconnect with the moana, or detangle some plot threads, I head down to Back Beach.

Robots or Fairies? Why?

Fairies!!! Why? Because magic!!

I love magic. And I feel like that should be explanation enough.

But, if you want more, I think it’s because growing up I always felt ‘other’ and the fey folk are other as well; ethereal, magical, outside of this world, toes dipped into mystical realms, and so very grounded in the environments they come from.

I felt a lot like I just didn’t belong here. I had a loving family, a wonderful childhood aside from a few things, and yet… there was this sense that I was too different to fit. I was pretty sure the fae folk were going to come and steal me and I was both terrified and excited by the prospect.

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on finishing up a draft for a book that I’m releasing next year. It’ll be self published as part of a shared world project under my pen name. It’s a fantasy romance, with heist elements and I’m having a great deal of fun writing it! I’m also working through the final proofs of Butcherbird so I can get that back to Huia. It’s kind of surreal to see my book in its final form. It’s a book! A traditionally published book! Still blows my mind. I can’t wait to see it in print next year.

Tell us about the workshop, what should people expect?

People can expect to have some fun exploring setting and the way that it can be used to enhance their stories. I was so excited when I was asked to teach and am very much looking forward to helping people see how they can use real world settings for stories, particularly those with speculative elements.

It might be full on urban fantasy, or maybe it’s horror, maybe it’s slipstream that you’re wanting to engage in.

Maybe the pandemic has made you start imagining what the future might look like and how our landscape could play into that.

Maybe you want to add just a little magic into your stories.

And maybe you’re quite content with the real world but you want to figure out how to add depth to your story by bringing your setting to life.

Or, heck, maybe you want to go full on alien invasion, or write vampires and shapeshifters. We can do that too. We can do just about anything. And I’m really looking forward to showing you how.

Keen to join Cassie? Register now for the 2021 Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat