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…
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.
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 re–writes before it hit the bookshelves. I am faster now I know what I am doing!
We 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.
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 re–writes 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?
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.
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.