Thank you so much for agreeing to an interview about your debut fantasy novel.

Tell me about your beautiful book cover?

The beautiful artwork was illustrated by Yu-Hsuan Tseng who I happened to find online. I came across her wonderful art from a graphic design website and fell in love with the colours and imagery that she used. The style felt the right vibe for what I was imagining for The Waterfall Warrior. I got in touch with her and she was very happy to create my front cover. I was hugely honoured as it can be hard to find the right image for your work that captures what was originally in your mind, but not in this case. Yu-Hsuan Tseng listened to my ideas and with her talent and unique style she made the most perfect artwork I could ask for.

The Waterfall Warrior is book 1 in the Wilcroft Chronicles, how many books do you anticipate in the series?

I plan to do two more. When I came to write the first one I always had a trilogy in mind. It’s exciting because now the first book is out there, people can find out about this world and these characters I have created. I have lots of ideas for what’s to come. I know how it all ends, but there’s a lot of exciting things to happen before that. 

Can you introduce the main characters, Hannah and Callum:

Hannah Barrington is a twenty-five year old woman who works at a hotel. She roams Epping Forest whenever she is feeling depressed. It brings comfort to her as she has fond memories of staying there with her grandparents and siblings when she was little. One day she comes across a waterfall which seems out of place; she walks through and finds a portal that transports her to a different world called Therrhain. Hannah befriends a Warrior there called Fay. To get Hannah back they must go to Wilcroft University to meet a woman named Carol Wells, but first Hannah and Fay must unveil the secret of the ancient prophecy before Therrhain is destroyed.

Callum Barrington is Hannah’s youngest sibling. He’s currently a student at university in Manchester. He also deals with mental illness. There’s a young man named Elliott Heartwood that he can see through his mirror, and in the early chapters Callum isn’t quite sure if he’s real or if his mind is playing tricks on him.

Is the Epping Forest in your book based on the real Epping Forest? Why did you choose this location for your fantasy book?

Yes and no. It’s real in the sense that in the story Hannah is walking through the actual Epping Forest, but I have added things that aren’t there in real life, such as the house that her grandparents lived in. I chose this location because I needed a forest that was out in the middle of nowhere but also close enough you could travel there from London, and also because Hannah needed somewhere to go that gave off a childlike and magical atmosphere. 

The book includes your main characters facing mental health issues. Is mental health something that’s important to you?

Most definitely. Over the last few years I have been very open about myself having mental health problems. I also used to be a care worker before I became a writer, so I have worked with a lot of people who also have had mental health issues. I think it’s an important theme to put into stories, especially when it’s not the main plot device; the character just so happens to have these issues, but they also are shown to still live a life and have other qualities to them.

What advice do you have for anyone that may be struggling with similar issues to your main characters.

I’m not sure I am the right person to give advice, but I guess all I would suggest is to talk, and not be ashamed of the difficult emotions you are facing. From personal experience when I talked about it I felt better for it. 

Can you share a short snippet from The Waterfall Warrior?

Walking through the forest brought back so many memories. It seemed smaller than it had when I was a child. I remembered the time I had fallen over a branch, the one that was still sticking out menacingly between the trees. It had made me fall and cut my knee. I had cried for hours. I used to play there with Chloe, Laura and Callum. They were my only friends back then. It was a time in my life before I realised you could have friends that were not part of your family. We used to use sticks as swords and playfight with each other. We even made dens with blankets. There was a house there that looked as though it was about to collapse. It used to belong to my grandparents, Grumbles and Numbles I called them for some strange reason. Back then I used to think this forest was their garden. When I passed this area, I could almost smell the cooked dinner that my grandmother used to make. It had always tasted as good as it smelt. My mouth was watering. The memory cheered me up but not for long. I was now further into the forest. I wasn’t very familiar with this part. We were told to never cross this point when we were kids, or we would be in “very serious trouble”. It was hard to believe it now, as this part of the woods felt very innocent and peaceful compared with the rest. The ground was flatter, there were no stones to graze your knees if you fell, and no hills to climb and fall down. I came across the stump of a tree. It was right in the middle, all by itself. Lines of trees standing tall on either side of it, squashed together like sardines. I went and sat down on the stump. Without even a thought I broke down and cried for about ten minutes. I didn’t understand why I suddenly felt so upset. I was feeling low, but I didn’t think I was as bad as all that. Then something startled me. The strangest, but most beautiful sound. Someone was singing.

Where can readers connect with you and discover more about your books?

The best place to do that would be at my book launch. It’s being held at Bristol’s Waterstones on September 28th at 7pm. I will be talking about the book, and there will be readings by two actors who narrated the audiobook edition of The Waterfall Warrior, which is also out soon. I will be signing copies of the book. It’s a free event but you still need to claim a ticket by visiting Waterstones website and going to the event section.

https://www.waterstones.com/events/book-launch-with-owen-b-lewis-wilcroft-chronicles-the-waterfall-warrior/bristol-galleries

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