Female First had an exclusive chat with author Holly Race during which she gave us an insight into how she came up her fantasy trilogy the first of which is due for publication. Interestingly where she sought inspiration including visiting our very own dreams section.

Holly Race credit Alex Beckett

Holly Race credit Alex Beckett

Here's what Holly had to say:

What if when we dream, we enter an alternative universe? What if our nightmares are real? What if, when we're killed in our dreams, we die in the real world too? This is the premise of my fantasy trilogy, the first novel of which, Midnight's Twins, is published on 11th June. In it, teenager Fern uncovers a world where a secret army, known as the knights, protects dreamers from their nightmares.

In creating the dreamworld, known as Annwn (pronounced Ann-oon - the word for 'Otherworld' in Welsh mythology), I spent hours and hours thinking about dreams and studying their meanings. I found myself consulting Female First’s ‘dream’ section more than once, in fact! I also asked my friends and family what they dreamed of, and came to realise that the vivid nightmares I was prone to were not necessarily the norm. My husband is prone to lucid dreams, where he remains in control of what happens, while other friends tend to dream about anxiety issues, like being late for work. It was a revelation – so you mean not everyone dreams about their loved ones turning into goblins, or being eaten by rabid flamingos? Huh.

When creating my dream world, I wanted to honour all of these experiences, while nodding in subtle ways to the meanings we’ve established to various symbols in our dreams.

Annwn is a place of great beauty and wonder, but it can also be dangerous for those who have nightmares, whether that's about massive, fire-breathing dragons or the more pernicious sort of nightmare: the kind where people you love betray or abandon you. How could I embrace all of those kinds of dreams in a world that felt cohesive? That had its own set of finite rules?

My solution was to make Annwn a place that was controlled solely by dreamers' imaginations, via a substance known as 'inspyre'. Characters most often in the populations' imaginations, would grow stronger from the increased inspyre used to imagine them. In my mind, the late 2000s were a good year for handsome, sparkly vampires roaming Annwn. Wizards, gothic castles and broom riding became more dream than nightmare at the turn of the century. Common dreams of being chased became a specific type of nightmare known as a 'stalker', while those of us who have nightmares about walking through places filled with spiders (please say it's not just me who experiences this absolute terror?) are being targeted by a 'swarm'.

It's believed that we process a lot of subconscious baggage when we dream, and I wanted to explore how this might work too. One scene where my heroine tackles a girl who is being attacked by child-wolf hybrids, was partly a takeaway from one of my own nightmares about a werewolf attack, and partly a dream version of the bullies that little girl was dealing with in the 'real' world. For some, this kind of nightmare can be more insidious - it's a ‘poisoner’ – a creature that feeds off our worst thoughts about ourselves. In the most dangerous instances, poisoners can cause anxiety and deep depression.

For every poisoner, though, there is a type of nightmare that can be used to cleanse those negative emotions. How often have we, when emotional, known deep down that a good night's sleep would make us feel infinitely better? This is what some dreams can do - take those negative emotions and thoughts from us: a symbiotic relationship where we feed them our emotions and are healed in turn.

Hopefully Annwn isn’t sounding too bleak here. It can be frightening, for sure, but at its best I wanted it to feel like the sweetest dream. A place that is recognisable but also has the ability to bring joy and wonder - where unicorns graze alongside wild ponies in the New Forest; where exotic flowers bloom from the crevasses of an inner city estate; and where we can run and fly faster than the fastest car if our imaginations will only allow it. What would you do, if you knew such a place was real, and its only limit was your imagination?

About the Book

The first instalment in an endlessly inventive urban fantasy that takes you to a world where dreams and nightmares are born.

Fifteen-year-old Fern has a lot to deal with: her twin brother hates her, she’s had to move to a new school due to bullying and she’s haunted by the loss of her mother, who died when Fern was just a baby. So, when a mysterious huntress from her dreams shows up and whisks her away to another world Fern is more than ready to cast aside the real world for Annwn – the dream mirror of our own.

Here, Dreamers walk in slumber with their dreams – and Nightmares – playing out around them. Annwn and the Dreamers are protected by an ancient order of Knights which Fern and her brother must join and where Fern must fight to prove she deserves a place among them.

Soon Fern discovers that Annwn is a place as full of dangers as it is wonders. As the Nightmares begin to grow stronger and stronger Fern discovers something dark is jeopardising the peace of Annwn – and it must be rooted out at all costs

An epic world, full of suspense, mystery and intrigue. Welcome to Anwnn.

Midnight Twins is out 11th June £7.99 Bonnier Books UK 9781471409165

Author Bio

Holly Race works as a development executive in the film and TV industry, most recently with Aardman Animations. Holly is a Faber Academy graduate, and Midnight's Twins is her debut novel and the first in a trilogy. After spending several happy years in East London, a few streets away from where Fern lives, she now resides in Cambridge with her husband, their daughter and a large black poodle called Nymeria.