A Fantasy Author's Adventures in Fiction & Life

Tag: indie author books

Natalie was one of the last fellow fantasy author’s I was lucky enough to meet before Twitter imploded. We face similar chronic illness challenges, but are still making steading progress bringing our fantasy books out into the world. This Fantasy Author Feature Natalie Kelda talks about mental health, the theme of finding joy and belonging in her SFF books.

Tell us a bit about you. Where’s home and what’s your life like outside writing? 

I currently live in West Yorkshire, UK but I was born and raised in Denmark. I moved to the UK to study some 7 years ago and somehow landed a job through volunteering and love it here too much to leave. Outside my 9-5 office job I spend most of my time writing or talking my adventure cat, Barry, on walks. Due to some ongoing health issues I don’t hike or do any martial arts at the moment but I hope I can return to these activities eventually as they give me a lot of joy and I certainly miss them.

What drew you to your genre/audience age?

Worlds different to our contemporary one have always been what drew me to reading fiction so it makes sense I mostly write fantasy, sci-fi and historical fiction. I love exploring the other and getting a break from modern life and nothing is more immersive than creating those new worlds yourself. While I enjoy reading everything from MG to adult, my voice and the themes I usually explore lend themselves best to adult audiences. I have dabbled in MG and YA but find it difficult not to become too whimsical when writing for younger audiences and I don’t enjoy having to mind the layers and themes I imbue a story with. So basically, I enjoy as much creative freedom as possible.

What are some big themes your writing explores?

I tend towards the dark side of mental health and the human experience. I enjoy scrutinising humanity’s faults and weaknesses. Sometimes this means my main characters are very morally grey and stepping on the fine lines between good or bad. Other times the main characters are the ones fighting a corrupt and (often) incorrigible society that tries to kick them back down when they’re straining to stay upright. Most of my main characters have poor mental health. Not only are they fighting an unfair system, they’re also fighting their own inner demons and these can prove a lot more difficult to get rid of or live with than the crooked government.

Found family and a sense of belonging are secondary but almost as strongly recurring themes. The sense of being lost and directionless, of not having a place to fit in, of being other and different to everyone around them. Their stories regularly revolve around finding ‘their place’ and ‘their people’.

What drives your point of view characters? 

I think it usually boils down to finding happiness and a place to belong. Sometimes external forces trip them up but often they lay down booby traps in front of themselves, never even seeing the tripwires they need to dismantle in order to find that place of joy they’re searching for. They might know the end of the road they want to reach but can’t see what’s right before them. They’re also often fiercely protective of the people they call family – at least once they find those people. 

How much do your point of view characters resemble or differ from you? 

It varies between each character. I don’t purposely add something of myself as my main characters (and often most of the side characters too) appear in my mind like preformed people. Some will have one small thing – Merlon struggles with insomnia, Tara and Balfour with anxiety while Cali has my touch and noise sensitivity – others won’t really have much at all in common with me. Iolanthe believes slavery is fine and Torhildr thinks those who she judges unworthy deserve to be killed, obviously neither of those are things I would ever agree with. I do notice I have certain types of characters appear more often than others and this usually matches with my own personality. Most are depressed or anxious, many don’t like being the centre of attention and would be described as “reserved” or “quiet” if someone met them.

What influenced the settings they inhabit?

In my space fantasy series, Inner Universe, I have created a huge world with enough planets and galaxies I can take full advantage of all the travelling I have done. I have been extremely fortunate that I saved up enough (by working 3 jobs while studying) to move abroad, alone, at age 21 and from there on I worked in countries all around the globe. This means I have first hand experience with both Outback Australia and working outdoors during Canadian winter. I can pull on skills learned while doing martial arts and Viking reenactment when I write fight scenes and know what it’s like to forage your own food or live without electricity and running water for months at a time. I noticed a shift in my writing from before I had all those life experiences to after and definitely hope I’m not done raking up knowledge first-hand by going out there and doing the things most people only read about.

What do you gain from writing your books and what do you hope your readers will gain from them? 

This ties back to the main themes in my stories: mental health and belonging. I suspect I’m autistic and have never truly fitted in anywhere. I struggle a lot with chronic depression and moderate anxiety but the one thing that consistently helps and keeps me afloat is writing characters who keep fighting even when they face much larger challenges than I (hopefully) ever will. It’s my hope that my stories don’t just bring catharsis and healing for myself but also for other people who find life difficult – because it’s really bloody hard sometimes and it can be nice to read about characters who aren’t so different to yourself.

Where can we find your books?

Author hand-stamped paperbacks and my free short stories are available on my website(https://nataliekelda.co.uk/shop) while ebooks of River in the Galaxy and Outer Universe can be found on Amazon and they are available through Kindle Unlimited as well.

Fantasy Author Feature: Natalie Kelda

Author bio

Storytelling and inventing new worlds has been a part of Natalie’s life since before she could read or write. Nowadays she mostly writes in English but you’ll often discover hints of her native Danish or some of the other languages she has picked up along the way.


Website Twitter Bluesky


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Related Reading

You’ll find more talk of fantasy characters, setting and world-building inspiration in:

Fantasy Author Features: Nikky Lee (YA SFF)

Debbie Iancu-Hadad (YA Fantasy & SciFi)

Mara Lyne Johnson (Comedy SciFi)

Nikky’s Interview Of Me

Ash Oldfield’s Interview of Me

Fantasy Author Feature: Mara Lynn Johnstone

Mara Lynn Johnstone and I met via Twitter when I was preparing to become an indie author. I was an ARC reader of her debut SciFi novel Spectacular Silver Earthling, which stars a robot with attitude, whom a friend compared aptly to Bender from Futurama. In this interview, she talks about the inspiration for her world building and whacky characters.

Tell us a bit about you. Where’s home and what’s your life like outside writing? 

I live in California, where the weather is lovely when things aren’t on fire or flooding. Husband, son, cats. I do a lot of writing-related things even when I’m not working on my own projects: organising events and anthologies for the local writers’ club, judging for contests, and planning multiple cooperative projects with other writers. Plus I play a lot of D&D with good friends, which is an excellent form of storytelling that sometimes leads to actually writing things down.

What drew you to your genre/audience age?

I’ve always loved reading fantasy and science fiction— all the exciting adventures that I couldn’t expect to do in real life. While I would have loved to grow up to be a dragon-rider, dimension traveller, or shapeshifting magician, I made the decision early on to write about it instead. I’ve never looked back.

What are some big themes your writing explores?

I’m sure if you look closely, a lot of my stories boil down to “Treating others well gets you farther than treating them badly.” That’s a pretty basic trope, but it’s amazing how many different ways you can show antagonists who are cruel and sow the seeds of their own downfall while the protagonists cooperate. Now that I think about it, the last three books I wrote all hinge on the main characters making friends who help make victory possible. It’s definitely something that’s held true in my own life, so I’m not surprised it comes through in fiction. Anyone who’s worked retail can tell you that the nice customers are the ones who get all the favors, while the pushy ones only think they’re getting a better deal. Friendship is magic in all forms.

What drives your point of view characters? 

They often have a catastrophe to avert, a kingdom/species/planet to protect, but sometimes the core conflict is as personal as specific friends that they care about intensely. My characters tend to be optimistic and resilient, though with a definite range on the “dignity to silliness” meter. A good sense of humor is crucial in coping with all manner of crises.

Some are more like me than others, but there’s always a facet that makes them feel familiar on a deep level. An element of “Oh yes, this is what I would do.” That can mean being patient and chronicling part of their life through art, or being the centr of attention with witty things to say, or being ready and willing to befriend any random animal that crosses their path. I like to say I’m an ambivert: just as happy reading alone as dancing on a table with friends. I can see myself in the quiet characters just as much as the wisecracking loudmouths — as long as they’re kind. And I like to think that all of my main characters would make good friends, just in a variety of ways.

How much do your point of view characters resemble or differ from you? 

A Swift Kick to the Thorax Book Cover, floating manuscript pages over outer space background, pen floating below, bite mark in bottom right corner of pages.

And for the record, Robin Bennett of A Swift Kick to the Thorax has the most similarities of any character I’ve written, simply because her first short story was an exploratory bit of nonsense that I didn’t expect anyone to ever see. Ha. It turned out to be great fun, and snowballed into two novels and an endless list of short stories. I regret nothing.

What influenced the settings they inhabit? (What real world places, experiences, studies etc influence your world building?) 

I keep a collection of ideas to use in fiction someday, and that includes many interesting locations. The sandstone beaches and bizarre rock formations in Spectacular Silver Earthling were based on those at Salt Point State Park. The car chase through a lightning storm in Swift Kick was inspired by a photo of thunderstorm weather over farmland. I am endlessly fascinated by how many awe-inspiring sights there are in our world; more than enough to create a whole galaxy of others. I’m always taking note of more. 

What do you gain from writing your books and what do you hope your readers will gain from them? 

I have fun with it, first and foremost. Delightful adventures; memorable experiences; fictional friends who are near and dear to my heart. Since I grew up reading constantly, I’ve lived many a life through other writer’s books, and I hope to bring readers along for the ride with my own. There’s so much to do and see: excitement and drama, exploration and close calls, good times and cathartic emotion. My characters can find things to enjoy in even the darkest times, and they’ll see you through to the other side. Often with a feeling of “Woo, that was intense! Let’s do it again.”

Where can we find your books?

maralynnjohnstone.com/books

Headshot of SciFi author Mara Lynne Johnstone, a white, brunette wearing blue rimmed glasses, a big smile, elf ears and with a blue stuffed dragon perched on her shoulder.

Mara Lynn Johnstone grew up in a house on a hill, of which the top floor was built first. Interested in fiction, she went on to get a Master’s Degree in creative writing, and to acquire a husband, son, and three cats. She has published several books and many short stories. She writes, draws, reads, and enjoys climbing things and can be found up trees, in bookstores, lost in thought, and on various social media.

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Related Reading

You’ll find more talk of fantasy characters, setting and world-building inspiration in:

Fantasy Author Features: Nikky Lee (YA SFF)

Debbie Iancu-Hadad (YA Fantasy & SciFi)

Natalie Kelda (YA SFF)

Nikky’s Interview Of Me

Ash Oldfield’s Interview of Me

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