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.

Interview: Andrew Einspruch (The Light Bearer)

An Interview with Author Andrew Einspruch

Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing author Andrew Einspruch (The Purple Haze), author of the wonderfully quirky fantasy series, The Western Lands and All That Really Matters.

Besides the humor he brings to fantasy—a rarity in a sometimes overly serious genre—Andrew Einspruch is an interesting interview subject for many reasons. One such reason is his other job: that of caretaker for animals in the A Place of Peace farm animal sanctuary.

Cover of The Light Bearer, Book 3 in the series by Andrew Einspruch
The Light Bearer is Book 3 in Einspruch's The Western Lands and All That Really Matters fantasy series.

You recently won an ACT Writing and Publishing Award for 2020 Fiction, for your fantasy novel The Light Bearer (Book 3 in The Western Lands and All That Really Matters series). What went through your mind when you heard you won?

Actually, I missed the email that told me I’d won. I got an email that said, “Come to our office to have a video made of you?” and I was like, “Huh?” 

But, of course I was totally thrilled. It is always lovely when someone likes your work, and it was my first writing prize. I was super chuffed. And then I told myself to get back to writing.

I describe your writing in The Western Lands and All That Really Matters as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for fantasy, but it also has a heart-warming side. Were there any particular books you’ve read that helped you develop your style?

I’ll take being compared to Douglas Adams any day. 😁

Developing my style probably comes down to everything I’ve read and enjoyed. I certainly loved the Hitchhiker’s books. But I’ve always been drawn to wordy, nerdy humour — I’m a big fan of Weird Al Yankovic and Tom Lehrer. Monty Python was a big influence when I was young. I’m a huge fan of William Gibson, and make a point of re-listening to his books every couple of years. But it all mushes together in my brain into a glob of influence rather than a single thing that I can point to.

To borrow a question from Seth Meyers, when did you first know you were funny? Was there an aha moment when you realized you had the ability to make people laugh and entertain them?

In high school, I was involved in my temple youth group’s production of the musical “Two By Two,” about Noah. I played Noah’s oldest son, Shem. I don’t think I was all that good, and I certainly had no idea what I was doing, but somehow — miraculously — on the evening of the performance, I relaxed into the role and brought some life to it. I delivered one of the lines (sorry, can’t remember which) using a funny, mocking voice I’d never used before. It got a big laugh, and the first hints of a light bulb went off over my head.

Eight years later, my good friend Robert Lowe brought improv comedy to Atlanta. We knew each other from our aikido training, and in 1984 he said, “I’m going to start teaching improvisation,” to which I said, “I’d do that.” So I went along to the first class he taught, and it was only a matter of weeks before that I went on stage for the first time. Audiences laughed and I became part of the troupe that evolved from those first classes.

You’re originally a Texan! What brought you to New South Wales, Australia, and how long have you lived there?

In 1986, I met the most wonderful woman in the world, an Aussie named Billie Dean (see: billiedean.com). Eleven months to the day later, we got married. I moved to Oz to be with her, and we’re still together today.

What’s the most Texas sentence you can think of?

“Hook’em horns!” (It’s the chant and finger symbol of the University of Texas at Austin, where I did my undergrad work.)

Having said that, when I meet someone who knows a language I don’t know, I try to get them to translate, “Get yer butt off my Cadillac.” I’m led to understand it is a difficult concept to translate into Swahili.

What’s the most NSW sentence you can think of?

I can’t find the actual quote online, but I once heard that the late NSW Premier Neville Wran once said of politics, “You can’t grow mushrooms in a mortuary in NSW without someone complaining.” Whether he said it or not, I love that quote.

Let’s talk about all those lovely, quirky characters you write. Your characters were specifically mentioned as a reason the ACT Writing and Publishing Awards chose The Light Bearer. What stands out to me is the humanity you give each of them (regardless of species!). Did that come naturally? Or did some characters challenge you a bit more?

Photo of Andrew Einspruch
A native of Texas, Andrew Einspruch helps his wife, Billie Dean, run the Deep Peace Trust, in New South Wales, Australia. The sanctuary faced challenges during and after the bushfires of 2019-2020.

The characters’ humanity emerged quite naturally. I live with hundreds of animals, and the philosophy I’ve adopted from Billie is that we treat them with respect, dignity, reverence, and a sense of equality. Bringing that to my fiction was not any kind of stretch, it was an extension of who I am.

Animals play a large role in the Western Lands and All That Really Matters series. They also play a role in your day-to-day life. Tell me about the Deep Peace Trust.

The Deep Peace Trust is our family-run charity that fosters deep peace and non-violence for all species who share our planet. Our compassionate action is running A Place of Peace, Australia’s largest farm animal and wild horse sanctuary (see deeppeacetrust.com). We have cows, horses, goats, sheep, cats, dogs, and geese, all of who faced a not-great future until they came here.

In February 2020, your newsletter about the bushfires appeared on this blog. How did the bushfires of 2019-2020 change the sanctuary and the landscape around you? Have you seen much recovery since that time?

The fires were devastating to our part of the world, both physically and emotionally, especially since they came at the end of three hard years of drought. We lost most of our bushland to it, around four kilometres of fencing, and our cattle yards. 

But we were lucky. The sanctuary animals were all OK, and while there were certainly wildlife losses, we were able to put out food for those who survived to help them keep going. Others, even neighbours, were hit much harder than we were, and it was a very scary time. Still, we’re here to tell the tale and the bush is showing its resilience in the year and a half since.

Humanity is living at the sharp edge of climate change. We all have to do what we can to address that problem in a serious way or things will only get worse.

What are the biggest challenges you’re facing at the sanctuary right now?

The biggest challenge for us is always to make sure we have enough hay and feed to carry the animals through winter and other tricky times. So, fundraising is a constant need for our not-for-profit charity. The animals are our first and last priority, and making sure we have the means to provide for their sanctuary is issue #1.

After that, it’s making sure that everything we need for their care is in place, whether that’s fencing for the paddocks or supplements for challenged or special needs animals.

Wondering what brumbies are?

A brumby is a well-adapted feral Australian horse and a cultural symbol. Concerns about overpopulation and over-grazing mean brumbies face some of the same challenges as American Mustangs. Want to know more? This article from ihearthorses.com gives a summary.

Have the animals at the sanctuary inspired any of your characters?

Absolutely. The wombats here inspired the Wombanditos (the fiercest gang with bad eyesight in all the realms! Heeyahhhh!). Our geese inspired a character in the not-yet-released book five named Headlong Helda. And our brumbies have influenced my thinking about the horse characters, like Hector and the Nameless One.

You recently said you’re 87k into book five of Princess Eloise’s story, which for you is only three-quarters done. Coming from a middle-grade background, was learning to write longer works ever a challenge for you?

It wasn’t even middle grade. My kids books were for primary aged readers, mostly. And yes, writing longer was definitely a challenge. I had to learn that if the characters were here, and you wanted them over there, you had to write the bits to connect those dots. Plus, I had no idea how long these stories were going to be. When I started, I thought, “Oh, this’ll be a little 35,000 word YA book.” The Western Lands and All That Really Matters books are more like 125,000 words each.

When all’s said and done, how many books do you think will be in the Western Lands series?

There are three books that are out (The Purple Haze, The Star of Whatever, and The Light Bearer), plus the two standalone prequels (The Wombanditos and The Thorning Ceremony).

As I write, book four is just about to go to the editor. Book five is now 106,000 words into its draft, and I’ve written the first 2,000 words of book six. So, definitely those six. After that, I’ll have to see.

Do you have an idea for your next series?

The above books will likely keep me busy for a while. I have vague ideas for other stories to set in the Western Lands. But there are other books whispering to me, asking me to give them attention. I’ll use the time that it takes to finish book six to figure out what’s going to be written after that. 

The Purple Haze Book Cover
Cover of The Purple Haze (The Western Lands and All That Really Matters #1)

Thank you so much for joining me today. For your final question, I’d like to give you the same challenge I gave to the authors in my first interview. Please fill in the blank:

They lived happily ever after and were kind to all they met.

The next installment in The Western Lands and All That Really Matters will be released later in 2021.

Andrew Einspruch is the author of The Western Lands and All That Really Matters fantasy series and both fiction and non-fiction books for young readers. He lives in New South Wales, Australia. To learn more about this author, please visit https://andreweinspruch.com.

Want to help the Deep Peace Trust? Visit deeppeacetrust.com/donate or, for their current fundraiser, https://chuffed.org/project/winter-in-your-hands. To learn more, visit deeppeacetrust.com.

Interview: Helena Rookwood and Elm Vince (An Enchantment of Thorns)

Today, I get to bring you all something special: an interview with An Enchantment of Thorns co-authors Helena Rookwood (The Thief and the Throne) and Elm Vince (Tapestry of Night).

This interview was conducted via email with the Scotland-based authors. True to form, they’ve even written many of their answers together!

An Interview with Helena Rookwood & Elm Vince, authors of An Enchantment of Thorns

First of all, congratulations on your new series! How does it feel to be writing together again?

Helena Rookwood and Elm Vince: It feels GREAT. We had such a fun time writing Desert Nights, and working together on a new project has been a dream. We haven’t been able to see each other as much as we usually would with the pandemic, so having this joint project has been a nice excuse for (almost daily) regular catch-ups online!

You’re both long-time friends who ended up as writers. How long have you known each other?

Helena & Elm: Too long *cackles.*

Literally our whole lives—we have photos of us as babies together. Our families are friends and we went to school together, then we ended up both moving to Scotland around the same time.

We’ve always had the same reading tastes, and have run a few creative projects together in the past, so moving onto writing together seemed like the natural next step!

Your first collaboration was the Desert Nights series, a retelling of Arabian Nights. Did both of you want to tackle Beauty and the Beast next, or were there other contenders?

Helena & Elm: We’d spoken about a Beauty and the Beast retelling before we’d even finished Desert Nights. We plan to cover other fairy tales in this new series, but we already had the kernel of an idea for a Beauty and the Beast retelling—and it’s one of the most popular fairy tales for a reason!

So what convinced you individually that Beauty and the Beast was the right story to work on together?

Helena: Aladdin was always Elm’s favorite fairy tale and Beauty and the Beast is mine, so I was really excited to move onto this one next. I’ve been wanting to write a Beauty and the Beast retelling for a really long time, and it’s a fairy tale I can’t read enough versions of, so I’ve loved working on this one.

Elm: When I think of these two fairy tales, I can’t help but think of the Disney movies, which were such a huge part of my childhood. Aladdin was my favorite, with Beauty and the Beast a close second. I was always drawn to the dark-haired, strong-willed princesses!

Right from the beginning of chapter one, Rosehill and the Folkwood felt fully fleshed out, and the Cursed Court was its own unique world. How did you develop these settings as a team?

Helena & Elm: The setting was the thing we’d discussed before we’d finished writing Desert Nights—we both had this really clear picture of an enchanted forest and a woodland court. Luckily, we’re usually on the same page with these things because we tend to read the same books!

At the start of a new series, the worldbuilding happens quite organically with us having open-ended conversations, “What if…” or “How about this…”, with one of us (Helena) scribing, until we land on something we’re both excited about writing.

Partway through plotting An Enchantment of Thorns we did have a sudden panic that maybe we were picturing something quite different, so independently drew out how we imagined the Folkwood and the Cursed Court to double-check. We had almost identical drawings!

In the best-known versions of Beauty and the Beast, Belle starts out as a kind and dutiful daughter and not much more. But Aster, her counterpart in An Enchantment of Thorns, has a life of her own, from an ex-lover to a full-time job. How important was it to give Aster her own life and profession?

Enchantment of Thorns cover
An Enchantment of Thorns is the first book in a new series by indie authors Rookwood and Vince.

Helena & Elm: Part of what draws both of us to the Beauty character is that she’s a dreamer; in the original fairy tale, when her father promises to bring her and her sisters gifts, her sisters ask for dresses and jewelry while Beauty asks for a single rose. In that version, and a lot of the retellings, she’s also often quite an alternative character—she doesn’t always fit in—and that was something that appealed to us both, too.

In terms of how we made the character our own, the books we love to read are those with strong female leads. We also knew we wanted to make something more of the roses, which is how Aster ended up as a greenwitch. We wanted her to be kind like the Beauty in the original tale, but also talented and driven, so she could hold her own in a world ruled by fae.

Thorne is a really interesting Beast. I loved that he was humane and fair, yet you weren’t afraid to have him outright annoy Aster and have his bad moods, too. What are your favorite things about Thorne?

Helena & Elm: Thorne has a lot to learn from Aster. When we meet him, he’s kind of given up hope that the curse will ever be broken, but he hides that with this detached, often insolent, persona. The more you find out about his backstory, the more you realize there’s a lot of depth to him and why he acts the way he does.

He’s spent a lot of time wallowing in self-hatred, but Aster brings him back to himself. We like how they challenge each other, but in a good way.

As you were developing An Enchantment of Thorns, did Thorne always walk the line between dangerous and misjudged, or did he skew more in one direction more than the other? 

Helena & Elm: We actually had quite a tough time with Thorne, exactly for the reason you stated. We knew we wanted to make sure he was really fae—and for that to mean he would act in a way that wasn’t always human, not just for him to be really powerful or beautiful—but we also wanted to make sure he wasn’t totally unlikeable.

In the beginning, he probably skewed too far in the direction of being dangerous, so we ended up adding in sections to make his character feel a bit warmer during the editing process.

Helena, you’re two books in to the Carnival of Fae series (The Prince and the Poisoner and The Thief and the Throne), and Elm, you have the Star Cast series (Tapestry of Night), which provides another take on the fae. So clearly you’re both drawn to stories involving fae! What is it about fae that inspires you both?

Elm: I think for me, it’s the creative range. You can have these monstrous kinds of creepy folk that you see in, say, Holly Black’s writing, or the beautiful, almost elf-like High Fae in Sarah J Maas’s worlds. We wanted to include both in our world and explore different types of faeries.

Helena: I love anything involving fairy tales and folklore, so fae books are a natural way for me to explore those interests in my writing. Weaving mythology and plant lore into my books are two of the things I enjoy most, and I find them a big source of inspiration.

The Carnival of Fae and Star Cast series each point to future encounters with fae characters, but haven’t introduced any yet. They share a concept of fae being separated from humans. But in An Enchantment of Thorns, Aster and Laurel have direct encounters with fae from the beginning. How different was it to write a story where fae and humans are neighbors?

In both of our previous series, those worlds had been shaped by past interactions with the fae. That made our world in An Enchantment of Thorns very different to write as we were setting up the fae world and the human world at the same time, so had to give both equal weight!

Both of us enjoyed writing a world where the fae were present from the outset—so you might see more of that from us both in the future.

What’s next for each of you?

Helena: As well as continuing to work on the sequels to An Enchantment of Thorns, I’m also currently reworking an old series that will be re-released under the series title Faerie Awakens later this year. It was the first series in the genre I wrote, and I (shamefully) never got around to writing the sixth and final book, so readers have been waiting a long time for me to get back to this one! Having left it for such a long time, I’ve struggled not to see all the things I’d do differently, so it’s turned into a larger rewriting project than I imagined it would be.

Elm: I’m working on Herald of Fire, the second book in my Star Cast series. I’m also excited to continue with the A Court of Fairy Tales series this year. We have two more books planned following Aster, before moving onto other fairy tales featuring her sisters. The second book, A Trial of Thorns, is already written, so readers won’t have to wait too long to continue Aster’s journey with us!

Thank you for joining me today. I’d like to wrap up with a fun question and a bit of a challenge. Please complete the following sentence individually:

And they lived happily ever after…until the next book, where we throw more drama their way!

(I know you said to write this individually, and we did, but we’d basically written the same thing. That’s how in sync we are!)

An Enchantment of Thorns is available for pre-order, and will be released on May 6, 2021 . To read my ARC review, click here.

Helena Rookwood writes romantic fantasy. She is the author of the Carnival of Fae series, the River Witch series, and co-author of the Desert Nights series with Elm Vince. For more on the author, visit helenarookwood.com.

Elm Vince writes YA fantasy. She is the author of the Star Cast series and co-author of the Desert Nights series with Helena Rookwood. For more on the author, visit elmvince.com.