I had the pleasure of speaking with Elizabeth Varlet about her latest work. Check out our interview and an excerpt from Abounding Dawn. One lucky reader can win a free copy of the book!
E: First off thank you for speaking with me today. What inspired you to write Abounding Dawn? Have you always been a fantasy fan?
EV: As a teenager I preferred horror (R.L. Stine books were my fave) and borrowed copies of historical romances, actually. Although fantasy movies have held a place in my heart ever since one Christmas when my brother and I received a copy of Willow and spent the entire day watching it, over and over and over again.
I think my first real foray into fantasy fiction was Lord of the Rings. My then boyfriend (now husband) introduced me to the series during our first visit to Europe to meet his parents. There were days when we didn’t have much to do and his old battered copies were sitting on the bookshelf. So, I picked them up and started reading. I was instantly hooked. From there, I read authors like Tad Williams, Terry Brooks, and Robert Jordan. However, I always finished the books wishing there had been more romance.
I guess I’ve always been a tender-heart. Eventually, I decided to write my own epic fantasy where the romance would play a bigger role. I signed up for NaNoWriMo and set about doing just that. After ten years, that story has morphed into an entire series set in the universe of Sevenworlds. It is epic with a capital “E”.
E: The story is MMF. What made you decide to go this route for the story? Did you consider a love triangle at any point or did you know from the beginning that you wanted to do a poly relationship?
EV: I knew from the beginning that Abounding Dawn would be a ménage. It was originally titled (in my head) Josie and the Dragon Kings. This was most probably due to my addiction to all things M/M and MMF. I blame this on a lovely author, Denise Rossetti, whose Phoenix series was my introduction into the genre.
E: What came first for you, the characters or the plot? How did you go about crafting each character? Which character was harder for you to write?
EV: Abounding Dawn came about because where I live there is this massive, ancient looking doorway in a back alley not too far away from our apartment. Whenever I used to pass it, my imagination would run wild. It’s never open and I just kept wondering, what’s behind those doors? The world of Odren sprang forth in my mind and a heroine with a secret past and an adventurous heart.
Finn was the most difficult for me to write. He is, to me, the most complex. And his issues were deeply hidden at first. It took me a long time to figure him out. What was he afraid of? Why couldn’t he let go? What was keeping him from his HEA? Once I understood him, the story flew out of my fingertips.
E: Writing a poly relationship can be hard. There has to be a balance between all three characters, otherwise it can feel like one character is left out. How did you overcome the hurdle of making it a solid relationship between Brax, Finn, and Josie?
EV: I feel like the three of them need each other. Without Josie, Brax would never have been able to overcome the indoctrinated fears from his youth. Without Josie, Finn would never have been able to see himself as a worthy king. Without the love they all have for one another, they wouldn’t have had the courage or the power to defeat the obstacles in their way.
While I was writing, I kept a list of reasons why they each fell in love with the other two characters. Those lists were long so I won’t share them here, but I think having those reasons in the back of my head helped the relationships develop organically and realistically. At least, I hope so.
E: What would you say is the hardest part about writing an epic fantasy?
EV: My biggest challenge was creating a world that felt so alive it actually became another character. That is my favorite thing about reading fantasy books. The worlds always feel so dynamic and interesting. But man, that’s hard. It takes so much time and thinking and rethinking and more time. Still, somehow I learned to love it. Now, worldbuilding is one of best parts of my writing process.
E: An important part in fantasy stories is creating a believable world. Abounding Dawn is set in your Sevenworlds series. What was the hardest part about building the world? How did you overcome this and what kind of advice would you give for aspiring fantasy writers?
EV: Sevenworlds is a universe that consists of seven different worlds, one of them being Earth. In Abounding Dawn – Odren’s Unrest: Book One, I only explore one of those worlds, but others are mentioned occasionally.
I did a ton of research about worldbuilding when I first started. Many of the details came about through writing or brainstorming. Some came from inspirational images which I built cultures around. I started with my goal for the story. I knew I needed a culture where a triad royal family would be accepted as normal. From there I built the religion for the Amendal Empire. I knew I needed conflict, and what kind of epic fantasy would it be without some kind of war or battle? So I built other cultures and more religions which opposed the one I’d created for Amendal.
I think the most difficult part, for me, was the scope. So, my advice for newbie authors is to KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way. I mean SEVEN worlds? How crazy am I? 😉
E: Can you tell us about any future projects you may have?
EV: I’m writing the rest of my Odren’s Unrest series which features Josie’s long lost siblings. Imperious Shroud – Odren’s Unrest: Book Two, is about her oldest brother and the two people he teams up with to solve a mystery plaguing Odren.
I also have a contemporary M/M series called Sassy Boyz in the works about a group of androgynous male strippers in NYC who struggle through dark pasts and bad choices before they can find their HEAs. The first book, Damaged, is completed and submitted to agents as we speak.
E: Lastly, do you have any pearls of wisdom you’d like to share with our readers? Any advice for aspiring writers who are trying to break into the market?
EV: I would like to encourage readers who are unfamiliar with M/M or MMF to give the genre a chance. I never imagined I’d enjoy it, but now I’m addicted. It has been a very eye-opening experience.
For authors, just keep at it. If you have a story in your head bursting to come out, write it. Sign up for writer groups, join a class, and take workshops, read books. Especially, read books! If you set your mind to something the only thing that can stand in your way is yourself.
Bind the Chalice and harness the dragons… Josie returns to her birthplace and is named the Chalice, destined bride to Amendal’s two kings. But no matter how attracted she is to both men, the fate of the kingdom is not her problem.
With their nation threatened by war, the kings, Brax and Finn, must summon their mythical dragon forms to save their people. But with Brax tormented by a lifelong indoctrination against same-sex coupling, and Finn crippled by the fear of being unworthy, a true union seems impossible. Without it, they are left with no weapon to stop the tide of death.
When the final battle erupts, the kings fight to protect their fleeing citizens, but their army is a meager defense against the enemy’s dark magick.
An impending war. Two kings desperate to save their people. A centuries old legend. And the woman who unites them all.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elizabeth Varlet is a nerd at heart and spends way too many hours binging on episodes of her favorite television shows. If you love Doctor Who, Supernatural, Stargate, Star Trek, Sherlock, or Firefly you are already her best friend.
She started writing stories in high school and hasn’t stopped. Now, her characters like to get frisky under the covers – or the stars, they’re not picky. She’s a thirty-something, newly married, world traveler who devours books like they were candy.
To contact Elizabeth, send her an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or follow her on any of her social media sites.
Website – http://www.elizabethvarlet.com/
FB Author Page – https://www.facebook.com/EVarletAuthor
Twitter – https://twitter.com/ElizabethVarlet
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/elizabethvarlet/
FB Reader Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/ElizabethsEntourage/
Want to win a copy of Abounding Dawn? Just go to the rafflecopter for a chance to win!