I’m so excited to share this interview with you all! If you haven’t had a chance to read the first book in the Legends of Abreia series, definitely check it out! I’ve left Amazon links at the bottom of the page.
Let’s get started!
Hi Kenley! I’m so happy to have you here today!
Hi Shari! And hi to all of Shari’s awesome readers! It’s so fun to get to hang out on the blog today!
Could you tell us a little about the new world you’ve created for Legends of Abreia, your all-new fantasy romance series?
Of course! This is incredibly fun to get to talk about, because Legends of Abreia is actually my first original fantasy series—I’ve written fairy tale retellings in two different worlds, but this was my first time getting to really build everything from the ground up.
Despite it being new, I really think this world will feel familiar to a lot of readers, because it was built out of a longstanding love for the fantasy staples I grew up reading. Personally, I find that there’s something incredibly happy about a world filled with castles and swords and elves and dragons and magic. And while I love exploring these worlds, what I love most about being a writer is exploring characters and the relationships between them. I wanted to create a world for those characters to live in that would feel comfortable and familiar to fantasy readers, while leaving room for some fun surprises along the way. The world of Abreia is wide and varied enough to be home to all different kinds of stories (and yes, I already have way more ideas than I’ll ever be able to write), whether it’s girls riding dragons, elf romance, or assassins in an imperial court. (Disclaimer: I can neither confirm nor deny whether these examples will be represented in actual books, present or future)
When did you come up with the idea for The Faceless Mage? Did you realize the story would turn into a series?
The idea for this story has actually been around since before I began publishing. I checked through my files recently, and discovered that I first began playing around with the idea almost ten years ago. That was while I was still scribbling down story fragments every time I turned around, but hadn’t actually finished anything yet. (I still have quite a few of those half-formed story seeds that I’m hanging onto in case they ever decide to turn into a real book.) The Faceless Mage looked a little different back then (it was originally and oh-so- descriptively titled The Replacement Princess), and the world wasn’t nearly as big—I had no idea how many supporting characters would pop up or how many other stories there would turn out to be. I definitely wasn’t thinking in terms of a series at the time—the idea of finishing just one book seemed like a monumental task!
How is this series different from your fairy tales? When it came time to sit down and write The Faceless Mage, did you tackle it differently?
So I think the biggest difference (besides it being an original story) is that these books will not all be standalones. There will be one main story thread that will carry through the entire series, even though the individual romance plots will each be resolved in one or two books. There will also be a lot more magic than in the majority of my fairy tales, and a stronger romantic element.
When I first sat down to write this book… OK, I’ll confess—I started it because I was running away from the book I was supposed to be writing at the time. Sometimes my brain just doesn’t want to behave, and it’s way more fun to write the shiny new idea than the next book in whatever series I’m on at the moment. And also I think this year was just NOT a fairy tale year. I couldn’t figure out how to write another fairy tale, and I needed to try something else to help me get unstuck. So there was much lack of planning involved, and also a lot of “let’s see where this goes!” I didn’t know how long the story would be, or how many books there would be, just that I’d been in love with a few of the main characters for years and I wanted to finally find out what happened to them.
Like me, you’ve mentioned you’re not a strict outliner. What do you do to prepare for a book? How do you get to know your world and your characters?
I wish I could say I prepared for all my books, but the truth is, my level of preparation changes a lot depending on where I am in a series.
In general, I’m more of a discovery writer—I need to learn about some aspects of the characters and the story as I go. Because The Faceless Mage was first in a series, writing it was all about charging headlong into a completely unknown world. Which, honestly, is about as fun as it gets for me. I love finding all of the fun twists and mysteries hiding in the pages of a new plot, and meeting all of the new characters that pop up along the way. The best characters are always the ones that just show up—they sort of explode onto the page with names and faces and backstories, and they rarely ask permission first.
The further I get into the series, though, the more planning and prep is required. For Book 2, I had more of an outline (which is to say a few pages of rambling about what I was pretty sure needed to happen), and for Book 3 I will need even more detail as the main story of the series continues to progress and there are more plot threads that have to remain woven together.
But the one thing that continues to be true is that I’m always finding out new things about my characters and my world as I go. Sometimes I have to stop in the middle of a book and change the rest of my outline because of something new I’ve just learned, but that’s actually a good thing. I NEED the story to be able to surprise me, or writing turns into more of a chore than a joy.
What does an ideal writing session look like for you?
My work days have looked a lot different this year than in the past, which is probably true for many of us. Instead of having working hours, I’ve set myself the goal of writing a certain number of words each day, but give myself a lot of flexibility in how and when that happens. I think it’s helped me a lot to not even pretend that I’m going to have a specific writing time, but instead to focus on making that little bit of progress whenever I can each day.
What’s really been fabulous and fun though, is that starting last year, I got my very own little writing office! Before that I mostly did my writing at the kitchen table, or wherever else I could fit, but it’s so wonderful to have someplace I can go and close the door and really focus on work. I would love to claim that my office is cute and homey and decorated, but mostly it’s just my desk, my bookshelf, and my “thinking” couch (sometimes I have to stop writing and think my way through a thorny plot issue and this is the perfect place). Oh, and my bulletin board, which is currently full of adorable dragon art hand-drawn by my daughter. (She constantly asks me what she should draw, and I pretty much always say dragons)
Whenever I enter my office, it’s usually with some form of coffee in hand. I’ve been known to drink tea on occasion, or whip up a chai latte, but coffee is my primary fuel, without which no words would ever be written (Shari can attest to this—she got to listen to me freak out when I quit coffee for several weeks and realized that writing had suddenly become impossible). I’m not saying that coffee is magic, but… yeah, actually, I’m pretty sure it is.
And I do listen to music! At least most of the time. But I have to be careful—my writing tends to take on the mood of whatever I’m listening to, so I’ve curated a playlist of dramatic instrumental tracks for writing action scenes or intense confrontations (lots of Audio Machine, Thomas Bergersen, etc.). I typically have to turn it off if I’m trying to write a slower, more thoughtful scene, or I end up creating more tension than I originally intended.
Do you know how many books will be in the series?
I literally have no clue (cue hysterical laughter). I suspect that I’ll wrap up the main plot for this one in about five books (ish). But I can already tell there are numerous other stories that need telling after that, which might look like a couple of novellas, or a new spinoff series or two. Technically I could make it one long series, but I really like the idea of making clean breaks between multiple shorter series, so there will be many possible entry points for readers. As a reader (and as a writer) I sometimes struggle to remember all the relevant details after two or three books (let alone 8-10), so I personally love the idea of multiple shorter series in the same world.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about the series?
Fun side note… I’ve noticed other authors making Pinterest boards for character inspiration, but this was the first time I’ve done that for one of my own books. I had a few pieces of art in particular that I felt like really represented my main characters well, but never showed them to anyone before I got the book covers designed. Cover art is usually done blind—the artists are professional designers who have never actually read the book, they’re just going off a basic description and doing their best to find models and backgrounds that fit. Typically, we’re limited to the available choices, and covers often don’t match the vision we have in our heads. So I almost could not believe it when I got my cover art back for the first two books… the two main characters almost EXACTLY matched the art I’d picked out for them. So in case you were wondering… Yes, that’s really what they look like!
A big thank you to Kenley for stopping by today! The Unseen Heir, the second book in her Legends of Abreia series, comes out January 5th. You can pre-order the book here. If you’re new to the series, click here to read the first book, The Faceless Mage!