Melissa Ragland is the critically acclaimed author by the A Crown of Lilies fantasy series.
In this interview, we will delve into her journey as a writer, her inspiration, and her thoughts on fantasy writing.
So grab yourself a cuppa and let’s get started…
What inspired you to start writing in the fantasy genre?
I’ve been making up stories since I was a little girl. By the time I began writing them down, the subject matter had begun to trend toward the types of books I loved the most: fantasy. From the dragons of Pern to Anne Bishop’s dark epics, tales of magic and adventure have always resonated deeply with me. I wanted to paint those kinds of worlds, those kinds of characters, with a brush of my own.
How do you approach world-building in your stories?
I’m obsessed with world-building. For my own part, I work out every piece of the universe I want to write in. Politics, culture, traditions, religion, wars, geography, you name it, and it’s probably scribbled in a journal somewhere. I think it’s important that the author understands their world to that extent. I think it’s equally important not to dump all of it on the reader, though.
Giving some context about a nation’s history is one thing, but readers don’t need to know the main export of the neighboring province of the main character’s second cousin. The payoff for your restraint, as a writer, is those little moments where you get to reveal another critical piece of this vast world you’ve built to the reader. You know that they’ll experience a little ‘aha’ moment, and become even more invested in the universe because they understand a bit better how all the pieces work together.
Can you walk us through your writing process?
I started as a pantser, only plotting out the next chapter as I went along. My desk was a mess of notecards and ideas scribbled in journals. When I started the edits for my second book, I realized what a mistake that was and my organizer-brain took over. Now I’m a strict plotter and I use Dabble to keep my outline and notes in order.
As for the process itself, I’m pretty Plain Jane. I know many authors jump around their manuscript to keep writing when they get stuck, but I can’t do it. I have to start at the beginning and work through it. Even though I outline, there’s a lot of nuance that comes out in the actual drafting and by jumping around, I feel like it’s too easy to drop those threads.
Would you survive in your own fantasy world?
I’d like to think so! I’m resourceful and a good problem-solver. Honestly, though, I have absolutely no poker face so I’d be worthless at court. Maybe I’d be okay if I was incarnated as something mundane like a dressmaker’s apprentice or a stable hand.
What themes do you explore in your work?
I like to think that humanity is the primary theme behind all my writing. Fiction has a tendency to portray characters and events in terms of good an evil, but human nature spans such an immense range between the two that those concepts almost lose all meaning. Most of our actions in life fall in the gray space between. That is where I believe the greatest strength of our species lies: in enduring, in making mistakes, in facing our failures and striving to be better.
What do you consider to be your biggest influences as a writer?
Music can get me into the flow when nothing else can. I don’t always listen to music when I’m writing, but I’m gearing up for a session or doing some brainstorming, it’s a must.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve had to research for your stories?
For book 2 (Lazerin), I spent hours researching how thatched roofs are made. I watched dozens of videos on YouTube, read articles about historic buildings, crawled through blog posts. In the end, it ended up only impacting a few paragraphs, but I learned a lot!
What do you hope readers take away from your stories?
Entertainment, of course, but also inspiration. I hope my characters inspire readers to look at themselves and their lives in a more forgiving light. It’s possible to make all the wrong choices, to make costly mistakes, and still be a force for good. Keep getting back up. Keep fighting. It might not always work out, but keep trying to do the right thing.
Would you rather have a pet dragon or a unicorn, why?
Dragon, of course! But maybe just a small one because I don’t think my grocery budget can support a Game of Thrones level dragon. Meat is expensive, these days!
If you could have any magical ability, what would it be?
Immortality. I’d spend centuries learning every language, reading every book, writing all the stories in my head, and perfecting my chocolate chip cookie recipe.
If you were stuck on a deserted island with one of your characters, who would it be and why?
Aubrey! Because if Pirates of the Caribbean taught us anything, it’s that deserted islands always have hidden stashes of rum and Aubrey would be the most fun on a multi-day bender.
What would you name your pet dragon?
Assuming it’s a small library-guardian sort of dragon, I’m gonna go with Frank.
Where is the best place to start reading your work?
All my books are free to read on Kindle Unlimited and I also offer review copies on Story Origin.
About the Author:
A voracious reader from her youth, Melissa Ragland has spent her life absorbing stories. In libraries and bookstores, she devoted three decades to the study of fiction, dissecting the weave and weft of good storytelling.
Now, after a long stint in the much-beloved heat of Austin, Texas, Ragland has returned to the Midwest woodlands of her youth to pursue her lifelong passion for writing. Her lush and unapologetic debut fantasy series has earned accolades from readers and fellow authors alike, with book one (‘Traitor’) being selected as a Page Turner Awards finalist and earning a Reedsy Discovery five-star review.
Find Melissa online