Empathy at the Heart of Fantasy Novel, Healer’s Touch

Recently I chatted with New Zealander Debbie Howell about her Fantasy-Western novel, Healer’s Touch, which the U.K.-based Kristell Ink released today. Healer’s Touch centers around a young woman, Llew, who can heal herself of any injury … but at the cost of siphoning the life out of something else. The novel is intended for a young adult or older audience.


Q: Tell us about your inspiration for Healer’s Touch.

Debbie: I like to “feel” what I’m writing. I’m very empathetic… it can be a problem, especially since I’m also arachnophobic. So when a spider wanders in, I have a dilemma. I am not one of those people who can pick them up and put them outside. I just can’t do it. But I can’t stand them running around my house, either. Healer’s Touch is a reflection of that—with my character Llew wondering, Can I bear to take the life of a healthy plant, an animal … or worse … in order to heal a scratch or cut on my body?

Q: Hmm—that makes it interesting should Llew get seriously hurt. The dilemmas she might face.

Debbie: Exactly, but I’m not going to spoil it. I will say that there are people after her—trying to possess her for her power—which puts her power, her wisdom in using that power, to the test.

Q: What was your favorite aspect of writing the novel and why?

Debbie: The characters—I fell in love with them early on. The need for me to tell their story—and tell it well—is what drove me.

Q: What was the most difficult aspect of writing the novel and why?

Debbie: Llew’s power. I remember pulling my hair out (not literally) trying to figure out how to deal with it at times. I’d ask myself “Why did I give her such a destructive power?” and I’d think “I could just change it… I can do something else…” But I found I couldn’t. I had to stick with it, and I had to deal with it. Just as she does.
And because of her power, and the attention it attracts, she’s a really difficult character to give a happy ending to… She’s going to have to do a lot of growing in order to truly find her ‘happily ever after.’

Q: Okay, this time, what EXTERNAL stimuli did you harness … or is it “channel”? … into Healer’s Touch?

Debbie: At the time, I was watching a lot (and I mean a lot) of The Young Riders, so I started with the Wild West setting and went from there. Some of my characters started out loosely based on characters in that show, but the story has gone through so many changes over the years, they’ve grown into themselves.
Oh, and music. I love music that invokes an emotional response. I wanted to achieve that with my writing. Hopefully it does for some.

Q: I hope so, too. Any special talents or life experiences that went into the creation of Healer’s Touch?

Debbie: I’ve spent my life loving and studying horses. I was never fortunate enough to have one, or do riding lessons, but I paid attention whenever one was near. I’d like to think this has allowed me to even give the horses in Healer’s Touch their own personalities.
Otherwise, yeah, sure. Shadows of many of my life experiences have gone into Healer’s Touch, and are going into the follow-up, “Warrior’s Touch”. But, again, I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

To check out Healer’s Touch, please visit–



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