Elizabeth Gilbert talks about book ideas like they’re these spirits of muses that come to writers, insisting to be born. I like that idea. I also think stories reflect paths our collective unconscious has taken. Sure, it’s all fiction, but in a way, it’s also all true. We find ourselves in characters, in their struggles, in their lessons. I wouldn’t claim all that magic stems from my imagination alone.
Lea Falls – 25 September 2021
The Back Flap
Free will is a relic of the past. Souls have a prewritten path to heaven. If they miss it, they are doomed to roam the lost realm of limbo as splinters of their former selves or worse—as demons.
Their only hope is the reaper Alames, whose own soul shattered when her celestial lover, Balthos, usurped their creators to make them gods. In her absence, he builds a pantheon of monsters and tricks the mortals, whom he blames for his grief, into worshiping him. But when a new generation defies Balthos’s law, Alames’s splinters appear among them.
Brilliant physicist Ally longs for progress and innovation, but the Council controlling her nation strips the “Mad Princess” of power. Pregnant and uncertain, the unrivaled Captain Se’azana abandons her career for the false promises of love. The starving serf Richard makes a deal with a Fae demon to save his son. And teenage rebel Vana trades her guitar for a blade when faced with ruthless nobility.
When worlds tear and hearts break, will they defy the gods’ narrative to create a brighter future or will they obey the lies preached and doom their souls forever?
For fans of The Stormlight Archive and The Priory of the Orange Tree comes a fast-paced epic fantasy with a diverse cast of underdogs fighting demons, gods, and oppression.
About the book
What is the book about?
You’d think after a year of working on my blurb, I wouldn’t still panic at this question. I love talking about my book, but doing so about the plot in a concise way is a mystery to me!
Goddess of Limbo is, at its heart, about oppressed mortals (humans, elves, orcs, and fae) reclaiming their agency and rejecting the false beliefs they’d been taught. Everything starts because the world’s two reapers, Alames and Balthos, are dissatisfied with their duty. Balthos usurps the original gods, creates a new pantheon, and forces the mortals to worship him. He does so to please his lover Alames, but this isn’t what she wanted. She longed to be a part of the mortal world, to live and love among them. Seeing her world in shambles destroys her as well. A millennium later, people question the corrupt ways of the world and a new era begins with Alames, secretly, in their midst.
When did you start writing the book?
I began writing it in fall 2017. Most of these early chapters didn’t make it into the final draft, but around that time, I started creating the world and getting to know the characters.
How long did it take you to write it?
I finished all major rewrites by November 2019, then went to query and research for a bit. A few months later, I picked it back up for finer edits. In June 2021, it was ready for ARC readers and hence fully finished, although a couple of typos might still be corrected. By the time of publication, it’ll have been a four-year journey.
Where did you get the idea from?
My wife is to thank for that! After graduating college, I was going through a tough time with no creative outlet. To bring some play and storytelling back into our life, my wife suggested a D&D game with our friends. She created this beautiful world that inspired the setting of Goddess of Limbo. I loved my character and her love interest so much, the actual sessions weren’t enough for me anymore. I ended up writing “fanfiction” about them, and slowly but surely a storyline emerged. In the end, these two characters barely appear in the book. It became their parents’ story. But it was the initial passion for them that got me to commit this novel.
Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
The hardest part was sorting out the plot after the first draft. It was an utter mess. I ended up deleting two characters and split this book’s story into two, saving half of it for the sequel. It took about a month of color-coordinating the plot points and stringing it all together before I had a solid idea of how to continue. During that time, I contemplated giving up, but I loved these characters and their stories so much, and I knew that if I just stuck to it, I could create something beautiful. Once I had a fresh overview, the complete rewrite went much quicker than the initial drafting.
What came easily?
I love writing dialogue! I studied acting, which included play analysis and some screenwriting classes. All of that helped me greatly when it came to depicting realistic communication. Letting the characters speak freely and discovering the nuances of their relationships is one of my favorite parts of writing. Sometimes I write a whole scene in dialogue first and then flesh out everything around it.
Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
I feel like characters have such a mind of their own, they come out of some idea cloud. That’s probably an eccentric view, but it’s how I experience it every time I write. Elizabeth Gilbert talks about book ideas like they’re these spirits of muses that come to writers, insisting to be born. I like that idea. I also think stories reflect paths our collective unconscious has taken. Sure, it’s all fiction, but in a way, it’s also all true. We find ourselves in characters, in their struggles, in their lessons. I wouldn’t claim all that magic stems from my imagination alone.
I definitely don’t base characters off of people I know. I admit, I took inspiration for the physical description of two villains from people I knew, but that’s it. My best friend insists he sees a lot of Ally in me, but I can’t even do simple math and am much more of a pacifist than she is, so I don’t see it.
We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
One of the first books I fell in love with was A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Her way of depicting tragedy and struggles without losing sight of unwavering hope definitely influenced my own writing. Katharsis is very important to me in writing and while I love feel-good books as well, I believe moments of characters rising from the ashes are so empowering and valuable to readers. They surely are to me. As a teenager, I absolutely adored Les Miserables and Victor Hugo’s work in general. His writing has the same quality. Despite the terrible events he portrays, there’s human resilience and love that carry you through the hardships. He also taught me how wonderful it is to sink into a story of epic dimensions. While my writing has a much faster pace than Les Miserables, I strive for a similar epic span with the interweaving narratives in Goddess of Limbo.
Do you have a target reader?
Goddess of Limbo is for readers who love immersive fantasy worlds and the epic scale of interweaving narratives. Those who crave strong friendships, complex characters, and a big pay-off at the end. Above all, it’s for readers that enjoy high fantasy but wish the genre offered more intersectional queer stories and diverse representation.
It’s not for readers that dislike multiple POVs and don’t have the patience for extensive settings and large casts.
Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
My writing process has consistently evolved as I learn more and discover which techniques work for me and which don’t. I don’t expect that to stop, and I also think the book you’re writing influences how you write.
That being said, there are some consistencies. I time my writing sessions because I find it much easier to sink into a scene without wondering how long it’s been or if “I’ve done enough” already. The first ten to twenty minutes are the hardest for me, so when I push myself to do thirty-minute sprints, I know I’ll get past the nervous stage and it becomes easier to dive back in during the next sprint. I also celebrate after each writing session. Not necessarily with anything in particular, but I make sure to take a moment and be proud of the progress I made. It doesn’t matter how much it is. Taking that moment encourages me to return to the work, whether later that day or in a month.
I try to write daily as well, but due to chronic health issues, that’s not always possible. In the past, I’ve experimented with daily, weekly, and monthly word count goals, but I’ve noticed that they tend to burn me out. Instead, I now make sure I feel tangible progress each week, and that’s best measured by where I’m at in the story. When I’m at a certain plot point for a while, it can become demotivating, but as long as I make steady progress, I know I’ll get there, regardless of the word count.
Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
I started out as a pantser with no outline and have since been experimenting. A short chapter beat outline was vital in my revision process of Goddess of Limbo. In my latest WIP, I tried out general pantsing with bullet points whenever I started a new chapter. For Goddess of Limbo‘s prequel, however, I’m trying out the Snowflake Method. So in summary, I sort of outline, but I’m chaotic. I 100% believe in letting the characters take the reins. They know the story best. Even when I have an outline, I’m always open to surprises and sudden changes. I like to have a general idea of where I’m going and then update that picture frequently along the way.
There is so much debate on what outlining method works best and how one should approach a novel, but I truly believe it depends on what works for the writer and where they’re at in their journey. I’m glad I started from a pantsing place because it taught me to listen closely to the characters every step of the way, but now that I trained that skill, I’m grateful for more structure. I’d recommend finding what works for you and not listen too much to the absolutist advice out there.
Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
Only after I finish drafting! I think in most cases, editing as you go is a bad idea. It’s important to separate the writing and editing parts of your brain–one is intuitive and creative, the other is analytical. In writing, you want to stay in tune with the possibilities of the moment, with all the ways a scene could go. When editing, you search for errors and areas you want to improve. I think mixing the two causes a lot of unnecessary anxiety. That being said, if the editing feels like a completely unmanageable feat, editing as you go might be the better option. It’s definitely not for me. I trudge along and then read the whole draft twice to fully understand what changes I’d like to make.
Did you hire a professional editor?
Yes, I worked with Natalia Leigh from Enchanted Ink for Goddess of Limbo. Professional editing is a big investment, but I don’t recommend publishing without it.
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
Yes, almost always! I love finding a soundtrack that gets me into the right mood for the scene. I usually listen to instrumentals, sometimes scores, sometimes classical pieces. Occasionally, a song with lyrics inspires a beat I’m about to write, so I end up listening to it on repeat until I no longer hear the words and just let the emotion carry me. So many different pieces inspired Goddess of Limbo but three of my favorites were the albums of the Canadian band Clann, the score for The Piano, and Tommee Profitt’s music.
Did you submit your work to Agents?
Yes, I did at first, but the project wasn’t right for the trad pub market.
What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
I was back and forth on whether I wanted to indie publish or go the traditional route. Ultimately, I want to have an agent and a trad pub deal, but Goddess of Limbo and the series, in general, fit the Indie market much better. I queried at first but quickly realized that the traditional market isn’t welcoming to epic fantasy debuts, especially with a more unorthodox structure (e.g. interweaving narratives). I also knew that I wanted to publish the whole five-book series. I love this story and I want to tell it to its conclusion. Traditional publishing doesn’t give you that guarantee. So while I do want to work with an agent eventually, I decided the time wasn’t right and focused on Indie publishing. In hindsight, I’m very glad I made this choice. Going indie has taught me a lot and I’m happy to tell this story the way I want to tell it.
Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?
My book cover was designed by Franzi from www.coverdungeon.com. She’s brilliant and has been an absolute joy to work with. I will go to her for all future indie releases!
Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
I had a very detailed marketing plan, but then the pandemic happened, my wife lost her job four times, and I ended up bedridden for six months. All of that chaos put a lot of things into perspective for me. I still have many things planned ahead, but I’m also allowing myself to take each day as it comes. Publishing a book is an exciting, nerve-wracking, and challenging experience. It’s so rewarding to finally get it out there into people’s hands and I’m choosing to trust myself that I’m taking the steps necessary. Marketing feels like an endless task sometimes. There’s always more you could do, but ultimately, I learn as I go and remind myself that this is only the beginning.
Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
First off, you’re writing your book and committing to your dreams—That’s amazing! Congratulations!
When deciding whether to go indie or traditional, keep in mind that both paths come with pros and cons, and people who are saying only one path makes sense are looking at it too narrowly. Indie publishing is a lot of work (treat it like a job!) but there’s power in choosing that your story is worth all that work. If you decide that indie is the route for you, give your book the best chance it can have. Find beta readers, make sure you have proper formatting, invest in a professional editor, cover designer, and marketing. Organize ARCs (Advanced reader copies) and blog tours at least three months in advance. Don’t rush yourself, even if publication day feels ages away. It’ll be worth it. Create a folder with positive reviews that you can revisit whenever you feel self-conscious and let a trusted friend or partner read the negative ones. Don’t read them yourself. Yes, constructive criticism is important, but someone who hates your story is simply not your audience. You’re really brave for pursuing this path. Trust yourself.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in the Rhineland of Germany, an hour away from Cologne. It’s a beautiful area with fortresses and mountains. When I brought my wife there two decades later, she loved it for its fairytale-esque nature.
Then, right before I turned ten, we moved to the North Sea. Our house was just a thirty-minute walk from the water, which was lovely, although I didn’t go as often as I wished I had. Both places were small towns, and while they have their perks, I was very eager to explore the big city when I moved to San Francisco at eighteen. I’m a city lady at heart!
Where do you live now?
I live in NYC with my wife and two kitties. This city has such great energy and inspires me every time I walk through it. I’m excited to soon enjoy it to its fullest extent again. Writing my book in coffee shops among dozens of other freelancers was such a great experience.
What are you working on now?
I currently have two projects I’m working on. The first is a contemporary coming-of-age story about two queer runaway kids finding a home in the streets of San Francisco and in each other. The first draft is a huge mess right now, but I love the relationships, and I’m hoping a big rewrite will fix the issues. The second project is a sequel to Goddess of Limbo set right after the prologue. It’s entirely from Alames’s perspective after she splinters. It depicts the events leading up to the first celestial war. I intended it to be a novella, but it doesn’t look like that right now. The GoL sequel is also in the works already, but I’m planning to fully focus on it in 2022.
End of Interview:
For more from Lea Falls, visit her website.
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