Hamish Downie’s Five Questions With ARK Horton


Editor Note: Hamish has another in his series of Five Questions With…

Hamish came up with this idea because he was accumulating too much material for his Famous News Sushi column and asked if he could do these mini-interviews. Why would we say no?

Thank you Hamish for being such a trooper for us. We really appreciate all for your hard work.

Let us know what you think of these interviews in the comments below.

TGG: I’m pleased to share an author with you this week who is both perfect for PRIDE month and perfect for this website and community. So, without further ado, could you please introduce yourself to our readers?

AH: For the most part, I’m a fantasy writer. I started off with an epic fantasy series called The Telverin Trilogy, but now I’m moving on to urban fantasy, which feels much more like me. I also love genre bending. If it will enhance my story to add a splash of science fiction or horror, I absolutely will add it in. I think that’s evident in my latest book, Heroes & Harbingers.

In my author bio, I refer to myself as a small woman made of round shapes and long sighs. I often think of myself as a human marshmallow, happily swimming around in a sea of dark poetry. I think that comes across in my writing voice. I enjoy dipping my toes into the wistful, melancholic, and gothic waters, but I’m light and humorous. My readers go on a pretty wild emotional journey because of that.

TGG: Just from that description, I can tell that I want to read your novel! So, can you pretty please tell us about it?

AH: My latest novel is a series starter called Heroes & Harbingers. I have a passion for world mythology, folklore, history, and religions. I wanted to incorporate more of that into my writing. So, I used that in this book and will continue to do so for the rest of the series.

It’s set in a different reality of Jacksonville, FL, where magic is as common as electricity. So, magic is taught at public schools. One school acts as the main location for most of the book.

I have three main characters that have their own point-of-view scene in every chapter.

Pavlina Sirin comes from Russian mythology. Sirins are bird-women who act as harbingers of death. Yet, Ms. Sirin is an empathetic character. Teaching is her day job, and she uses her calling as a death harbinger to make the transition to the afterlife as painless as possible.

Finn MacCool is modeled after the legendary hero from Irish mythology, but in my book, he’s an immortal. He got in trouble with the Council of Pantheons (a worldwide government) and is now reluctantly serving a hundred-year community service sentence as a high school teacher.

Bree Castille is modeled after students I have had in the past and my own children. She’s Afro-Latina but doesn’t know much about her own heritage. Her mother was a foster kid and her father’s family has lived in Jacksonville for many generations. In this book, she’s picked as this century’s Chosen One.

The story is different from other School of Magic stories for a few reasons. The story focuses mostly on adults and their responsibility to their students. I often refer to it as a book for adults who grew up loving the magic school genre but want characters they can relate to more.

Another difference is that I’m not shy about where they are on the LGBTQIA spectrum. Ms. Sirin is bisexual and once was in a long-term romantic and sexual throuple previous to this story. Bree, being fourteen at the beginning of this story, is beginning to realize that the reason she’s never had a crush is because she always assumed it would be on a boy. She learns who she really is in this novel and will continue to discover more about herself, her gender identity, and her sexuality as the series progresses.

TGG: Sounds like some great representation there. What did you learn while writing this novel?

AH: In this novel, I learned mostly about myself. I have a strange relationship with death. I’m terrified by its uncertainty, but I can’t help feeling intrigued by it. Writing this book helped me come to terms with this inner conflict. It’s a journey I will personally take as I write more books in the series.

I also learned that it’s okay to like your creations. I spent years researching and pouring love into this book. I deserve to love it. I wish more authors would love their books. Too often, I hear talented voices call their work trash. Take a moment to celebrate!

I also found my true voice in this novel. In the past, I was always trying to sound more serious than I actually am. It’s okay to dive into uncomfortable, even frightening, stories and soften the blow with humor. As a survivor of multiple suicide attempts, I understand how important it is to laugh when wading around in the dark. This comes out in my writing.

Most importantly, this book gave me the courage to come out as a queer writer. Though I’ve been in romantic and sexual relationships with people all over the gender spectrum, I’ve never been fully out. Now that I’m married to a man, I’ve felt that I had to give up my personal identity as a pansexual woman, but just because I’m in a hetero-appearing relationship doesn’t change who I am. So, this year I officially came out to everyone in my life, and I’ve never felt so free.

TGG: Congratulations! Coming out is a liberating experience. So, the question everyone hates… What’s next for you?

AH: I’m currently working on the sequel to Heroes & Harbingers. This one is called Portals & Pantheons. I will also work on a non-fiction companion piece to the series, which goes into detail about the myths, folklore, religions, and history behind the stories. On top of all this, I’m deep into writing an experimental piece. It’s a post-apocalyptic fairy fantasy heist. I’m having so much fun with it.

TGG: Finally, how can we best support you (where can we follow you and where/when can we buy your book)?

AH: You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. I have the same handle everywhere – @arkhorton. I also have a website with links to all my work – arkhorton.com. To directly find Heroes & Harbingers, go to https://tinyurl.com/yfxeez77.

TGG: Thank you for talking to us, and Happy Pride!


For Pride, here’s a little self promotion from Hamish Downie – the Dubtronic remix of “Unite” from his film “Matcha & Vanilla”

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