By Lauren Newkirk Maynard
Move over, Bella. Meet Hope.
Hope is the protagonist of the Mythology series, a highly acclaimed new entry into young adult fantasy by author/biology professor Helen C. Boswell (PhD ’99, BS ’94). Like her Twilight counterpart, Hope is a sensitive, thoughtful teen, grappling with good and evil—and burgeoning adolescent feelings of love—against the backdrop of an uncertain world. Unlike Bella, Hope has supernatural powers and plays out her particular adventures on the East Coast—specifically, Buffalo. “It’s a perfect setting for an urban fantasy,” says Boswell, who published her first book, “Mythology,” in 2012, and a follow-up, “The Wicked,” last October. Hailing from Clifton Park, N.Y., Boswell now teaches at Southern Utah University in Cedar City, Utah, where she lives with her husband and two sons.
Why young adult (YA) fiction? YA fiction allows greater
potential for characters to grow and learn. I love the challenge of
making my characters develop throughout the course of a story to
reach that potential. Or perhaps they don’t reach it. I like
to have my characters constantly go through struggles along the
way—it keeps my readers on their toes.
When did you first start writing fantasy? I began my
first fantasy story when I was in middle school. It was a high
fantasy, set in a different world that was made of dreams. I still
have that old notebook somewhere with my character outlines and
part of the story. It serves as a good reminder to never give up
writing, no matter how difficult it seems.
What inspired you to write “Mythology”? My
two main characters, Hope and Micah, go to Delaware Park in one
scene to people-watch, and it was there that they question what
they see in people. I suppose that I was inspired to write
“Mythology” by my own similar experiences. I have
always wondered what truly underlies what I see in people. I took
this concept and ran with it.
The cover art features Shea’s Performing Arts Center
and other downtown landmarks. Tell us about the Buffalo
setting. I lived in Buffalo during my late teens and 20s, and
had rich experiences that have always stuck with me. The main
characters attend Sweet Home High School, which is a real school.
While some of the settings are fictional, readers will recognize
locations such as Elmwood Avenue and Shea’s. There are even
several scenes that take place at UB.
The cover artist, Brian Hoover (MFA ’90), also attended
UB. How did you and Brian meet? We both attended UB but at
different times, and we both wound up teaching at Southern Utah.
Brian’s art contains fantastical themes, so I approached him
when I was working on “Mythology” and asked if he knew
of anyone who could design the cover art. He volunteered to do it
and I was thrilled.
Does your education in the sciences factor into your writing
fantasy at all? If you had asked me that prior to my writing
fantasy, I would have said no, because science and fantasy are so
different. But I actually find myself using my scientific
background to come up with rules and parameters for some of the
magical elements. In “Mythology,” especially, I discuss
scientific themes such as the classic “nature versus
nurture” debate and the impact of genetics and environment on
Did you write fiction while at UB? I dabbled but I never
completed writing a full story. Although I was a biology major, one
of my favorite professors was Dr. Mac S. Hammond, a professor
emeritus of English who died in 1997. I took his honors English
elective called “The Imagination and Dreams.” He was
impressed by my writing and encouraged me to keep at it. I have
never forgotten that.
How many more books can we expect from the Mythology
series? I plan on writing at least three with the possibility
of more. I set up “Mythology” as a story that could
work either as a stand-alone or as part of a series, and as I kept
writing, I realized there was a lot more story to tell.
Why do you think serial fantasy and sci-fi novels are so popular with adults as well as teens? I think that everybody needs a little escape now and then, writers included. Regardless of your age, fantasy allows you to “suspend disbelief” for the few hours that you read a book. You can believe that people can fly, that angels exist, that there are other magical worlds within your own. I think serials are so popular because people get attached to characters. One of my characters, Micah, was even nominated for a “YA Crush” tournament this past summer, which was an honor for him. And for me.