This time we head to the Emerald Isle for some words with fantasist Holly Evans.
Who are you? Where are you? What kind of stuff do you write?
I’m Holly Evans, an English expat with a love of blades, fae, and predators that hide in the shadows. I’m currently living in the Republic of Ireland. I write Urban Fantasy, mostly with LGBT+ casts, and mostly set in a huge fantasy kitchen sink world that I refer to as my Ink World.
Do your Ink World books tell an ongoing story or is it a shared universe with lots of separate stories going on?
I’m careful to keep the Ink World series separate so none of them spoil any of the others. If you look closely and read all of the books you’ll see there’s a larger arc there, but it’s kept far in the background. So really it’s more the latter, a shared universe with some overlapping locales and characters.
Tell us about your most recent book, story, or other project.
Seers Stone is book one in a new series. It follows treasure-hunting alchemist Kaitlyn Felis. It’s something I’ve wanted to write for years. It’s a quick-paced, adventure-focused Urban Fantasy set in my Ink World. Kaitlyn’s a vibrant character who has such a lust for life, she’s amazing fun to play with.
In Seers Stone she takes a new job in Prague and is sent to retrieve the mythical Seers Stone for her new boss. That takes her across Europe and sees her in a lot of fun situations along the way.
In what genre do you primarily write? Why did you choose that one?
Urban Fantasy. It’s what I naturally write, I can’t imagine writing anything else. I love the mix of myth, magic, and mayhem, all set in the modern world. The idea that magic and adventure could be hiding just around the corner is too good to ignore. If you know which shadow to slip into, or which door to knock on, you can be transported into this amazing new world. How can I not love that?
Tell us briefly about your writing process, from once you’ve got an idea down to having a finished product ready for publication.
I don’t really have a set process. The idea gets written in my planning book. I’ll jot down broad strokes, scenes that pop into my head, and everything I can about the protagonist. That will involve lots of colour, my brain loves colour. That will sit and percolate in the back of my mind for a while, while I work on other things. When it’s time to write it I’ll return to my planning book and make more notes. They’re not usually too organized at that point, it’s lots of colour and notes on scenes that call to me. From there I’ll start pulling together an outline and then writing.
I tend to write roughly the first 10k pretty quickly, then I’ll pause, update my outline, and carry on. Once I hit the 20k mark I start wailing about how much I hate writing middles. I’ve started writing the endings before the middles as my ADD means I get bored and frustrated which leads to rushing the ending. So I’ll write the opening as much as I can, then the ending, then go back and gnash my teeth through writing the middle!
From there it goes over to my editor. I have a language-based learning disability, so my books require *a lot* of copy editing. My editor gives the draft a copy editing pass then a developmental pass. It’s rare that the developmental will call for anything more than tweaking a few sentences and expanding on a couple of scenes. Once I’ve done that (usually that takes me about 48 hours) it’ll go back to my editor for two more copy editing passes. I’ll then format it, and it goes on Amazon.
Have you ever had a situation where you wrote the beginning, wrote the ending, then in filling in the middle part decide that the ending you wrote doesn’t work anymore?
I came really close to needing to rewrite the end of one of my Infernal Hunt books. I wrote the book completely out of order from four different points. Fortunately the end only needed tweaking not a complete rewrite but it was a close call for a moment.
What’s your strategy for publishing a series (i.e., do you release each book as it comes, hold them all until the series is done, etc.)?
I release each book as they come in a series. I held onto the first three books of my first series so I could release them quickly, but after that I just release them when they’re done. I’d rather have regular releases than hold books back.
Who is the favorite character you’ve created? Why?
I’m so hopeless about picking favourites! I think that’s a tossup between Tyn and Kaitlyn. Tyn’s a secondary character in both my Ink Born and Hidden Alchemy series. He’s my broken little kitten. He’s a Cait Sidhe (a fae cat) with a really tragic backstory, he’s so snarky, and broken, but also sweet, fierce, and incredibly loyal.
Kaitlyn’s amazing fun. She has such a lust for life. She lives to have adventures, and she’s just so vibrant, so incredibly alive.
What’s the weirdest subject you’ve had to research as a writer that you never would have otherwise?
I don’t do much research for my writing. I have a pretty good knowledge-base of myths and such from spending my childhood and teenage years devouring everything I could find on that. I can’t think of anything to be honest.
What’s the one thing you’ve learned, the hard way, as a writer that you’d share to help others avoid?
If you want to make readers happy, you have to keep them in mind. I wrote some books that were for me under another name, and they didn’t make readers happy. Looking back, I can absolutely see why. It’s so easy to go, ‘well I’m an avid reader, of course I know what readers want!’ and then it turns out that well, actually…
I suppose that really comes down to why you write. I’m a storyteller, I write for my readers, so I want to make sure that I write books readers love. If you’re writing more for the pure love of writing, then do what makes you happy.
What’s the best way to find out what makes readers happy?
Ask them 😛 I survey my newsletter subscribers on a semi-regular basis and ask what they enjoy, what they want, etc. I try to offer as many methods for engagement and reader feedback as I can. Reading reviews, your own and those of bestsellers also helps a lot. You can look down the top 100 in your genre and read the reviews, positive and negative. You’ll see some trends.
If you won $1 million (tax free, to keep the numbers round and juicy), how would it change your writing life?
My husband and I want to become digital nomads, if I won that money we’d pack our bags and start travelling the next day. I’d visit all these wonderful places I want to visit, and I’d put them all in my books.
What’s the last great book you read or new author you discovered?
I’m not normally an eRom reader, but a friend had a new book out that people were raving about so I picked up a copy. It was fantastic. Finn by Liz Meldon is exquisitely put together. I’m really impressed with how much character development she managed to pack into a little space.
What do you think your next project will be?
I’m bouncing back and forth between the Ink Born series and the Hidden Alchemy series, so it’ll be whatever sequel is due along those lines. Right this very second that’s Ritual Ink (Ink Born 4). That being said I’m really tempted to start a third series in my Ink world, I’m weighing up the pros and cons right now.
Check out Holly’s blog here.