11 Questions with Anastasis Blythe

11 Questions with Anastasis Blythe

With her new book, Guardian of Talons and Snares, debuting just yesterday, prolific Kindle Vella author and romantic fantasy novelist Anastasis Blythe was the perfect person to interview. Known for her romantic stories, her East Asian-inspired fantasy world Zheningai and the rambunctious cats that punctuate her videos on social media, Anastasis has earned the notice of romantasy queen Sylvia Mercedes as well as her many readers. I sent the questions about her new book, her process and what’s next off via email, and Anastasis replied with her usual cheerful and accessible demeanor.

To learn more about this author, visit anastasisblythe.com and read on below!

The mockup cover of Guardians of Talons and Snares with candles, a Kindle and a plush background
Guardian of Talons and Snares (The Zheninghai Chronicles #1), by Anastasis Blythe, began life as a Kindle Vella serial

Guardian of Talons and Snares is your latest release, but you’ve set multiple stories in Zheninghai now. When did you first develop the idea for this setting?

Yes! Originally, almost two years ago now, I was brainstorming a Sleeping Beauty retelling where the main character could leave her body while she slept. That story wound up being the three books that follow Princess Meiling in the middle of the Zheninghai Chronicles (that has almost nothing to do with Sleeping Beauty at this point!) I spent quite a lot of time setting up the world before I wrote a single word of the story, and in the process of trying to understand a prominent character, I ended up with the story of Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses. Then, the more I worked to fill in my understanding of the world, Guardian of Talons and Snares was born. 

Which came first, the characters or the world-building?

In terms of the whole series, the characters of Meiling and Shang (who will be introduced vaguely in this book, and featured as main characters later in the series). But by the time I wrote Guardian, I already had much of the world developed, so for that book, the world came before the characters.

Important question I’ve long wondered about: Is it pronounced Zhe-ning-hai, or Zhe-nin-ghai?

LOL, the most important question! It’s actually pronounced Jen-ing-hai. The “zh” makes a “j” sound. 

You recently announced that you are now a full-time author! First of all, congrats! Second, how has writing becoming your day job changed your process?

Thank you so much!! It’s a dream come true for sure. Writing full time has honestly been wonderful. Most days fly by and it’s hard to tear myself away from my computer to go make dinner (though not every day, mind you! Sometimes I’m dying to be done!). The main thing that it’s changed about my process is that I can keep up with admin things better now and I’m able to make faster progress on manuscripts.

The amount of sleuthing in Guardian of Talons and Snares had my British detective drama-loving senses all a-tingle! How did you handle writing the mystery portions of of the story?

LOL! I’m glad to hear that! It definitely helped that I’d already written a trilogy around the overarching plot featured in Guardian, so I already knew exactly what was going on behind the scenes. The challenge was finding ways for them to discover “clues,” as it were, without revealing everything at once or without it being too easy. I won’t lie: the sections involving the mystery were the ones I rewrote and banged my head against the wall the most over. 

Cover of Blade of Dusk
The recently revealed cover of the forthcoming book in The Zheninghai Chronicles

This book was originally one of your many titles on Kindle Vella. What’s your favorite part of writing in an episodic format?

What’s funny is that I actually don’t love writing in an episodic format! I prefer to fly through a first draft, and writing week by week isn’t as exciting to me. With that said, it’s really nice for difficult drafts because you HAVE to finish that week’s episode or else your readers will be unhappy and you won’t get paid! If I hadn’t been writing in an episodic format, I’m not sure I would have ever finished Guardian. So even though I don’t love writing week by week, I do love releasing stories that way. It’s exciting when you have a particularly juicy episode up your sleeve that you cannot wait to share! I think the episodic format makes every chapter more exciting since you have to wait between them. I love the way it makes me look forward to certain days of the week like, “Ahh! Tomorrow is Monday, which means a new episode of that webtoon or Vella is releasing!”

When I read Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses, I was sure you had martial arts training! How did you write your fight scenes so accurately?

You are too kind! I’d get so beat up if I wandered into any kind of martial arts . . . anything. LOL! Since I have no training, I just watched a LOT of YouTube videos. Both training videos and choreographed fighting scenes. Seriously, we’re talking like over an hour of videos per fight scene. Sometimes I’d watch two hours worth of videos, pausing and rewinding and slowing down, just to write a few paragraphs. Now my husband will randomly send me videos like, “Here’s a good fight scene as inspiration for your novels!” (He’s the best!)

One of my goals is to take jujitsu lessons, though. So maybe someday I’ll have some training!

The romance in GoTaS falls firmly in the enemies to lovers trope—much like the setup of The Assassin Bride. Is this your favorite trope to write?

Actually, not necessarily. I do love writing enemies to lovers, but sometimes I get frustrated when my characters are so SET on being enemies and REFUSE to become lovers. Every time I write an enemies to lovers, I inevitably hit a point where I begin to doubt if they’ll EVER become lovers. I definitely hit that point with Kai and Aranya from Guardian multiple times, and it’s been even worse with Assassin Bride! But I think we’re getting there. 😉

Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses Cover With Background
The author's debut: Maiden of Candlelight and Lotuses (Click the image to read my review.)

What other tropes would you love to tackle?

I’m excited to have a few projects ahead of me with “insta-click.” This is DIFFERENT from insta-love, ha! But I just love it when the characters immediately hit it off and are so obviously perfect for each other, even if it takes them time to fall in love.

Ok, this is the part where you finally tell me everything about Bride of the Fae Prince! Is this a new serial coming to Vella?

This might be a new serial, yes. 👀👀👀 I don’t have a release date yet, but I DO have the cover and it is STUNNING. My prettiest cover yet, I think! Here’s a little teaser:

A shy, dutiful human princess. A cunning, vengeful Fae prince.

Will their arranged marriage cost them their hearts . . . or their lives?

Thank you so much for joining me for this interview! I always like to end with a challenge: Tell us a story in 10 words or less!

Whyyyy do you do this to me.

Fine. Here it goes.

I wanted ice cream, so I got some. The end.

Thanks so much for having me, Caitlin! <3

10 Questions with Chesney Infalt

10 Questions with Chesney Infalt

As the author of two fairytale retellings and a Victorian romance, indie fantasy author Chesney Infalt has a lot to say about writing, including her latest release, The Fox and the Briar (you can read my review here). I interviewed the author shortly before the Sleeping Beauty retelling debuted. Here’s what she had to say:

Your new Sleeping Beauty retelling, The Fox and the Briar, follows another, The Heart of the Sea. You’ve said you plan to write more fairytale retellings. Is there one particular fairytale you can’t wait to draw from?

I have a (long) planned list of fairytales I’m excited to write! Snow White is currently in the works, and I’m really looking forward to writing Red Riding Hood and Alice in Wonderland.

As a nearly life-long Cheshire Cat fan, this may not be a question so much as a request. Can you tell me more about the Cheshire Cat and his role in Faerie?

In this series, the Cheshire Cat, although he is in everyone else’s business, keeps his secrets to himself. He seems to fancy himself as a sort of balance keeper for Faerie, adding just as much chaos as he does order. This is definitely not the last time you will see him—he enjoys annoying Toussaint far too much.

Author Chesney Infalt

You’ve also written Victorian romance with A Different Kind of Magic. What about that era speaks to you?

I think I love the aesthetic—the clothing, the societal expectations, the dances and parties. 

Do you think any of those Victorian sensibilities carry over into your romantic fairytale retellings?

I think so! Both stories mention the main characters having chaperones, and while the women in them are independent and strong-willed, society has expectations of them getting married to beneficial matches and starting families. 

Are there other eras you’d like to set a fantasy novel in?

I’d love to do a more medieval setting. I had a high fantasy series I started but am rewriting, and that setting is a lot closer to that era. Honestly, I am open to writing whatever era speaks to me. If the story calls for it, I am willing!

As I’m writing this question, I’m more than two-thirds of the way through The Fox and the Briar. Can you tell me why I’m rooting for Tristan, who is set up as the villain, to get the girl?! And was this the reaction you were hoping for?

In the beginning, The Unseelie King was not meant to be likable at all—but it’s not fun if the villain isn’t interesting. I started fleshing him out and giving him a reason for wanting to curse Briar Rose, and that evolved into me writing chapters from his perspective. One of my critique partners (the marvelous L V Russell) suggested early on that I add a prologue from his perspective, showing the curse being cast, and from then on, I adored him! (He is my favorite character from this series so far…) As for the romance… I didn’t ever see Tristan and Briar Rose having a romantic connection, although I figured some might see it that way. I think they are drawn to one another, but not as lovers. I hope the readers see and appreciate the complexity of both Tristan’s character and his connection to Briar Rose. 

Character art from The Fox and the Briar, depicting Tristan

Let’s talk crafting characters! I think Loren has such a Darcy-esque social unease and sweetness, but at the same time he is easily led by emotion. Tristan, meanwhile, is full of well-calculated plans and responses, yet has so much confidence and villain swagger! Did you always intend for the half-brothers to be such perfect opposites?

I love the way you described them! Their personalities developed as I wrote. Tristan was really easy for me to write, but one of my betas (the fantastic Katherine Macdonald) pointed out that Loren read a little flat at times, so I am grateful she helped me backtrack and flesh him out more. I like to find songs that remind me of my characters, and as soon as I realized that “I’m Still Here” from Treasure Planet perfectly captured Loren in my mind, he came alive to me in a whole new way. It was fascinating to see how these half-brothers deal with the sins of their parents and the roles they have been pressured into. 

There are plenty of misunderstandings between Briar Rose and Loren early in The Fox and the Briar, plus an arranged marriage trope. What are your favorite tropes to write about?

A few of my favorites:

    • Arranged Marriage/Marriage of Convenience

    • Fated Love

    • Friends-to-Lovers

    • Enemies-to-Lovers

    • Found Family

    • Redemption

You’ve shared on Instagram that you’re working on a Howl’s Moving Castle-inspired gothic fantasy. Can you tell me, I don’t know, everything about that?

I am so excited about that project! Howl’s Moving Castle has been a favorite of mine for a long time, so it really isn’t surprising that I got an idea inspired by it. I actually woke up from a nightmare, and instead of calming myself down and going back to sleep (it was 3 am!), the idea for a gothic romance began to form. I wasn’t done editing TFATB yet, so I didn’t let myself go further than jotting down notes and writing a blurb (and making a few moodboards) until after that was done.

I don’t want to say a ton about the project yet, but I’ll list a few things “The Magic Collector” will have:

    • Marriage of Convenience

    • Ghosts

    • Curses to break

    • Touch-starved MC

    • A castle that doesn’t like to stay in the same place (or time!) for very long

Thanks for joining me today! As a final question, I’d like to issue a challenge: please write a short story in 10 words or less.

Using my three wishes bound me in servitude.

Chesney Infalt is the author of The Heart of the Sea, A Different Kind of Magic and The Fox and the Briar. To learn more about Ms. Infalt, visit chesneyinfalt.com.

The Fox and the Briar release info

10 Questions with author Anna Velfman

It’s high time I (virtually) sat down with the fantastic indie fantasy author Anna Velfman (Avalanche). With Atheist’s Angel, the first in a new romantic fantasy series, set to release on May 29, 2022 and a 99c promo for Icedancer (Pler Series #2) beginning today (April 15-22, 2022), there couldn’t be a more perfect time! And it so happened I had a lot of questions, especially where world-building is concerned.

For more info on the promo and an ARC reader opportunity, check out the special offers at the bottom of this post. But for now…

10 Questions with author Anna Velfman

Okay, I have to ask the obvious question first: your flagship series, the Pler Series, used to be the Pler Trilogy. Was there a key moment when you realized three books wouldn’t be enough?

Yes, about ¾ of the way through book two, Icedancer I realised the scope of the story was about to widen out. As this was my first series, I was learning about myself as much as the books and characters. As I made some major plot decisions, the entire world I had created cracked open and I suddenly had so many more options, options I was excited to explore.

When I started writing novels, I was also unsure if I could sustain writing. Three books seemed like a reasonable goal. As I am planning on releasing my fourth and fifth book this year, I decided to trust my instincts. The story needed more books.

How many books are you currently planning?

That’s a tough question. Pler series will probably end up with 6 books. Double what I was planning, but the creative process can be chaotic.

Anna Velfman
Author Anna Velfman

Could that change? Or might we see a spin-off at some point? (*cough cough* Lucas!)

Yes—I have so many potential ideas. Lanna’s brother has a story to tell, so does Lucas, but I also have an idea for characters based around the Haven Isles and pirates. I have a weakness for the found family trope, as well as stories of redemption and people finding how to accept themselves.


This spin-off ticks all those boxes—but it would require significant research. My nautical knowledge needs improvement. Also, pirates are fun to write, especially as the Empire is attempting to ‘civilise’ the region. It gives them something to kick against. Seriously, I need to find more time in the day to get all these books written!

In your latest book, Avalanche, readers got to see a lot more of the science fantasy underpinnings of the world. Did you always see Pler as a fantasy world with sci-fi elements, or was it the other way around?

Pler was always intended to be a science fantasy, but with the characters knowing so little about what went before, the first few books would be better classed as low fantasy. I am excited to get book four, Blizzard out in the world. Lanna meets rebels, decides on her level of involvement and the direction of change she wants to see. However, she is aware it is ancient technology that gives her the respect of these people and that is a blow to her ego. Book five will dive into true science fantasy because that is when she come’s up against Lucas’s people for the first time—but I can’t say much more on that, I must avoid spoilers.  

You got your start as a fan fiction writer. What lessons did you take with you when you began crafting your own worlds?

A developed solid writing habit. Being a fanfiction writer trained me how to sit and get words on the page. How to manage my time and how long it took me to produce a finished chapter.

Best lesson I learned, get as many eyes on my work as Icould. At one point, I had a team of volunteers checking every chapter. I got used to getting feedback and taking criticism. (Some of those reviewers were harsh!)

When I started writing for myself, I knew I needed feedback on my draft. I went to wattpad and joined book clubs. I went to scribophile and critiqued other authors’ work and others did the same for me. Slowly, I learned more about the craft of writing rather than just throwing sentences together. I read dozens of craft books, took notes, watched youtube videos and all the while I found other authors to talk to. SoSnowblind took four years, and I don’t know how many rewrites before it hit the bookshelves. I am faster now I know what I am doing!

have to
talk about your forthcoming romantic fantasy novel, Atheist’s Angel. On the surface, it appears to be completely different from the Pler Series. Are there any common threads between the two?

Well, they are very different, but they both centre around a woman who is somewhat lost. Both Lanna and Gabriela need to find their way in life and shape a future for themselves. The villains in both books also share similarities. I am fascinated by power and its corruptive influence. The Emperor in the Pler series and certain Gods in the Celestial series suffer from hubris and the arrogance that they know better than the little people.

Books by Anna Velfman
The Pler Series so far: Snowblind, Icedancer and Avalanche

There is certainly romance in the Pler Series, but always with politics and schemes getting in the way. How would you characterize the romance in Atheist’s Angel?

Much more healthy!

I did not want the Pler series to have a strong romantic subplotbecause it was more about Lanna finding her way in the world, making mistakes and learning to do better. Her romantic relationships turn fairly toxic, but that is all part of her finding she deserves better.

Atheist’s Angel is much more romance driven. Two people meet, are attracted to each other but an ocean of complicationsget in the way. They have a mission and a time limit. Despite all that, they draw out the best in each other, even when circumstances test them to the limit. It’s an action-packedslow burn that will be the start of a long running series focusing on a large cast with interconnected stories all featuring strong romance elements.

I’ve always loved the world-building in the Pler Series. It’s so imaginative! Was it challenging to write in a real-world setting for Atheist’s Angel?

Well without going into too many spoilers it starts in the real world, but soon moves elsewhere. It was a challenge to mesh the fantastical and normality in such a way that a reader can suspend their disbelief.

It opens with our conflicted hero, Tararus helping end a bloody conflict between his people and a demonic race. He ends up in our world and discovered by Gabriela. She’s soon sucked into his world and her whole perception of what reality is must shift. She lives in a multiverse, but only a select few humans can access it.

This gave me a lot of creative freedom. I do write the dialogue drafts with a writing partner. She prefers not to be involved with the rewrites into novels or any of the publicity, but half the ideas of character and setting are hers, I just take them and run with them. So, the worldbuilding is not all mine, it’s a joint effort and I think it’s all the richer for that.

Can you give us any hints about what we’ll see from your books in the future?

Atheist’s Angel cover
Atheist’s Angel will be released May 29, 2022

The next Pler book is ready for drafting, I will be starting it as soon as Atheist’s Angel is with my editor. We will get to see more of the continent and more of the issues Lanna only heard about in the palace- also the fan favourite, Lucas, gets to finally take centre stage with her, I honestly can’t wait to write him as a free entity and not trapped as he has been for three books.

The Celestial series has 7 possible books so far and counting. Myself and my writing partner have been working on these stories as a fun side project since 2018 and they were never intended to be seen by anyone but us… that was until I entered a contest with a novella based on Tararus and Gabriela’s adventures—10,000 people read it and it got shortlisted.

That was when we took it seriously and I decided these stories needed to be put out into the world as books. It’s been a long process of rewrites and agreeing on lore, magic systems and story direction, but it’s all come together finally. I’ve even had a developmental editor involved who worked for Pan Macmillan. These are also the longest books I have put out so far, over 100k but the people I have collaborated with have given me the confidence to pull this story together for a wider audience.

With each book, the universe expands. I’ve started a massive series bible just to keep track of all the races, places, languages, gods, religious and cultural details. I am really looking forward to getting these books out into the world and seeing what readers old and new think of them.

Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy writing schedule to answer my questions. I like to finish my interviews with a challenge: write a story in ten words or less!

Regrets? Not washing the blood off the blade.

Special Offers

Icedancer (Pler Series #2) is on sale for 99c from 4/15-4/22/22, and Snowblind (Pler Series #1) continues to be free. To purchase, please visit the Universal book link for Snowblind  and the UBL for Icedancer.

To become an ARC reader for Atheist’s Angel (the first 50 readers receive a free ebook and a book art postcard!), contact the author via her email (contact [at] annavelfman.com) or on social media (links can be found on annavelfman.com) prior to May 1, 2022.

Anna Velfman is the author of the Pler Series and the forthcoming Celestial Series. To learn more about this author, visit annavelfman.com.