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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Gemmell Legend Award Nominee: Helen Lowe

Gemmell Legend Award
Helen Lowe writes epic fantasy, a tough genre for women to break into, but she did when her debut The Heir of Night won the international Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012 for Best Fantasy Debut. She also has the distinction of being the first woman to ever win a Gemmell writing award. 

Now, one year later, book 2 The Gathering of the Lost has been nominated for the international Gemmell Legend Award. 

I invited Helen here to tell us a little more about the Gemmell Awards and what this means to her.

Sharon: Congrats on being long listed for the Legend! Tell our readers a bit about the Gemmell awards.

Hi Sharon—thank you for having me back on ismellsheep and for the congratulations: I’m still feeling a little giddy from seeing The Gathering of the Lost come out on the long-list [fans self!]

In terms of the awards, they were established to honor heroic fantasy author David Gemmell who passed away in 2006. There are three classes of awards, all named after his books: the Ravenheart is for cover art, the Morningstar is for the best newcomer, and the Legend Award is for the best novel, published in the preceding calendar year, in the epic, heroic, or high Fantasy genres.

One of the reasons it’s so exciting for me to see Gathering on the list is not just because I've made it into the open category, but because there are so many other fabulous authors present whose work I've “hearted” for some time—the wonderful Robin Hobb, Steven Erikson with his Malazan series, Juliet Mckenna and Trudi Canavan, to name just a few! Alternatively, as my partner Andrew would put it, I’m now in the ring with some “heavy hitters.” :) 

Sharon: How does a book make it to the short list for voting?

Once the longlist comes out, every step thereafter is by “audience voting”—so for The Gathering Of The Lost or any other book to make it to the shortlist, it will have to be “voted in.” A further round of voting will then commence for the overall winner—who receives a battleaxe as the award, just by the way! How awesome is that—although I imagine you wouldn't want to drop it!

“But seriously,” a big part of the Gemmell Award process is to get readers and lovers of the genre discussing and discovering new books, all as part of celebrating the genre. The voting provides an incentive to do just that, which is enhanced for those books that make it to the shortlist. As for winning… Ooh la la! 

Sharon: The Heir of Night (book 1) won the Gemmell Morningstar, and now The Gathering of the Lost has been nominated for the Gemmell Legend. How does this feel as an author? Can we see a pic of the Gemmell Morningstar award you won?

You can indeed see a copy of the Morningstar and here it is: it’s “shiny.” <G>  

You know, I do sometimes reflect on the relationship between writing and awards and ‘why they matter.’ Arguably, at one level they don’t, because the reason I write—and I imagine it’s pretty much the same for other authors—is because of the delight of storytelling, and because the stories are just there “in the air” and demand to be told. And sometimes you get the occasional ‘message in a bottle’ that lets you know you have connected with a reader; that he or she loved your story, which is what it’s all about.

Yet when I found out I had won the Morningstar it was just such a buzz, not just knowing “my story” had won an international award, but realizing people I had never met must have cared enough to vote for it.

And because writing is essentially a very solitary occupation–I sometimes refer to it as ‘the loneliness of the long distance writer’— winning an award like the Morningstar is a tremendous affirmation that you are, through those solitary scribblings, connecting with people around the planet. It’s the ‘message in a bottle’ scaled up a hundredfold, which is amazingly motivational and humbling at one and the same time!

Another aspect to the Morningstar win that was “kinda cool” was that I was the first woman to win either of the Gemmell book awards, the Legend or the Morningstar. In terms of the Legend Award, Juliet Marillier and Kristen Britain have both made the shortlist before—and given the number of fine women authors on this year’s longlist, 2013 may see a breakthrough to ‘take the axe.’ So in the spirit of the battleaxe: let the games continue! 

Thanks to Helen for stopping by. 

Want to help Helen make the short list for voting? 
It is as easy as one-two-three! Go to the voting site and click in the circle above The Gathering of the Lost, then scroll down and hit Vote and you are done! (The order of the list changes every day so you may have to look near the bottom of the very long list.) 

Voting closes on July 31, UK time.

If Night falls, all fall . . .

In the far north of the world of Haarth lies the bitter mountain range known as the Wall of Night. Garrisoned by the Nine Houses of the Derai, the Wall is the final bastion between the peoples of Haarth and the Swarm of Dark—which the Derai have been fighting across worlds and time.

Malian, Heir to the House of Night, knows the history of her people: the unending war with the Darkswarm; the legendary heroes, blazing with long-lost power; the internal strife that has fractured the Derai's former strength. But now the Darkswarm is rising again, and Malian's destiny as Heir of Night is bound inextricably to both ancient legend and any future the Derai—or Haarth—may have.

Tarathan of Ar and Jehane Mor, ride into the great city of Ij in time for it's grand Festival of Masks. But soon after their arrival they witness a terrible slaughter as their fellow heralds are targeted an assassinated. They must flee for their lives across the city as they discover Swarm agents at work as they attempt to destabilise the entire River Cities network for their own ends. And five years after her great flight from the Derai Wall, Malian remains hidden to those who seek her. But she has not been idle. Her goal is to muster all Derai magic users that have fled into exile rather than face destruction. Only by uniting against the Swarm menace can they hold their own against the dark tide and she has hunted down every rumour of their presence. And she has developed her own powers that the Swarm must learn to respect ? and to fear. For Malian won't see her people fall to a dark tide of twisted magic as demonic forces subvert a way of life.

About the Author:
Helen Lowe's first novel, Thornspell, a critically praised retelling of Sleeping Beauty, was published by Knopf Books for Young Readers in September 2008. Thornspell was a Storylines Notable Book 2009 and won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novel, Young Adult 2009; Helen also won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best New Talent in the same year. Helen Lowe lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, and writes fantasy and sci-fi novels, poetry, and short fiction.


  1. Fingers crossed.........

    The Gathering of the Lost deserves recognition.

  2. OMG i just adore Gathering Of The Lost, hearts & armor & darkness & So Much Action i do hope it makes the shortlist

  3. Thanks for the best wishes and support, zzebra138 and Marisa: fingers crossed!

    And thank you to Sharon for hosting me; it's always a pleasure to drop in on ismellsheep. :)

  4. I hope The Gathering of the Lost makes it onto the short list.

    I really enjoyed reading it.

  5. I really enjoyed The Heir of Night and am looking forward to reading The Gathering of the Lost. I wish you every success and congratulations on the nomination :)