Monday, May 30, 2011

Guest Post: Helen Stringer + A Giveaway

Helen Stringer grew up in Liverpool, England, and currently lives in Los Angeles. She is also the author of Spellbinder. You can visit her online at
*Bio taken from Macmillan's website

I am thrilled and excited and overjoyed to have Helen Stringer here today. In case you missed my reviews of both Spellbinder and The Midnight Gate, you can click the links, check out my love for the series, and read on for more about:

Myths, Legends and Belladonna Johnson

One of the things that is almost impossible to predict is exactly what will pique a child’s interest and get them cavorting merrily down a path that otherwise might have held no charms at all. For me it was moving house and discovering a book that the previous owner had left behind.

That’s right – a book. One. They moved everything out and left a single book. How weird is that? Even stranger, it wasn’t some tatty old paperback that might had fallen behind a cupboard, but a stonking great tome of a thing: “Larousse World Mythology.”

Like most kids, I’d learned a bit of mythology at school: some ancient Egyptian stuff (mostly to do with their burial practices, of course), quite a bit of ancient Greece and Rome, and a smattering of Norse legend. But this book opened windows into worlds I had never even heard about. One of the first chapters was “The Problem of Prehistoric Religions.” What? I’d just assumed that they’d maybe worshipped fire. The book is lavishly illustrated and each chapter is divided into short sections, which makes it great for just dipping into. (It’s also really big and heavy, which was cool.) It covered the mythologies I’d heard of as well as the ancient near east (Sumeria, Mesopotamia, etc.), Persia, India, Slavic and Eskimo legends, Siberia, the Americas, Africa, Asia and Australia.

I still have the book and it continues to fascinate me and provide a great resource. I think that one of the things that really influenced me was the sheer range of mythologies and the robust nature of the characters within them. The Sumerians, in particular, were really good at naming their gods – The Queen of the Abyss comes from the ancient Sumerian title of the queen of the dead. Her name was Ereshkigal and her sister was Ishtar (who is comparable to Isis in Egyptian legend and Aphrodite/Venus in ancient Greece and Rome). “Queen of the Abyss” is just so much better than plain old “Queen of the Dead!”

When I began to write “Spellbinder,” I knew that The Queen of the Abyss would play a part but I wanted to create a world in which everyone had been right, in a way. All of the ancient myths and legends existed together, so there really were oracles and allus and keres. Everything had its place. I also wanted to include some British and northern European creatures, too. Many people say that Britain doesn’t have a mythology, just folk legends, but I think that’s a bit dismissive (not to mention ridiculously hair-splitting). That’s why the Wild Hunt is there. Legends of night riders can be found all over northern Europe and have a variety of different names: Odin’s Hunt, Arthur’s Hunt, etc. They even traveled to the US and can still be seen in songs like “Ghost Riders In The Sky.” There are also dozens of stories of mysterious black dogs, night ravens, stone circles and many, many ghosts.

Although Belladonna and Steve travel to the Land of the Dead where they expect to meet strange creatures, they also discover that their everyday world is also home to things that most people believe to be imaginary (if they think of them at all) and that even the most ordinary and seemingly unimportant person might actually be an ancient god or goddess who has lived since time was young and seen humanity grow from a piece of slime to the kind of people who build empires, discover new worlds…and watch TV talent shows.

Oh, and as for the charnel sprites – I made them up, mostly because I think that’s the way things should be organized when you die.

Who knows? Perhaps I have inadvertently stumbled upon the truth!

Perhaps, indeed! I, personally, loved the Wild Hunt. And if they're a part of British mythology or folklore, even better. Seeing all kinds of mythology, from so many different cultures, mixed together to help create Belladonna's story is wonderful. Each piece of mythology plays off the other and has made the series that much more special. Thank you so much for writing this up Helen :)

Find Helen Stringer online:

Buy it online:

Thanks to Barbara and Sarah from Blue Slip Media, I have a giveaway to tell you about:
Spellbinder series giveaway! Three lucky winners will receive one copy each of THE MIDNIGHT GATE and SPELLBINDER along with some bookmarks!

To enter, send an e-mail to In the body of the e-mail, include your name, mailing address, and e-mail address (if you're under 13, submit a parent's name and e-mail address). One entry per person and prizes will only be shipped to US or Canadian addresses. Entries must be received by midnight (PDT) on 6/17/11. Winners will be selected in a random drawing on 6/18/11 and notified via email.

*Please note that I am not running the giveaway, only hosting it here. The Giveaway is run by Blue Slip Media.


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