Interview with Heidi C. Vlach

What is your e-reading device of choice?
My iPhone or, failing that, my laptop. I like the way multitasking devices can just happen to also have books in them — in case I feel like reading long-form fiction but didn't plan ahead enough to bring a paperback.
What do you read for pleasure?
A varied diet. Discussion blogs, original fiction, fan fiction, random science and culture trivia — all sorts of stuff I find online. When I read a "real book", it's usually something unusual or nichey. Ideally a fantasy work but I'm very, very picky about what I read to the end.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
1) Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. The book is inspiring already, but the icing on the cake is its journey to publication. It's an odd story that no one thought would sell — but it caught on in a big way and a lot of people found it meaningful.
2) His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik. I'm not usually interested in historical fiction, but I think the use of dragons to question human society is a great move. I also appreciate the sense of realism, where changing social norms is a complex, frustrating endeavor and you can't just solve everything with one flashy act of heroism.
3) A Left-Handed Sword by Phil Geusz. It's a short novella, but it's still a beautiful look at the human spirit and how the little things matter.
4) A Fire Upon The Deep by Vernor Vinge. I struggled with the denser metaphysical parts of the story, I admit, but the alien races! They're unusually-designed beings who are well-developed in their own societies, and the narrative treats them like they're as valid as humans. That kind of development in a story always delights me.
5) The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. I just read it recently and I absolutely loved the whimsical nature of magic and the poetic voice.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I understand that traditional publishers have (very large) bills to pay, but I think it's sad that they're so focused on mimicking past successes and jumping on bandwagons. I've been told that my Stories of Aligare should be "like Redwall" or "like Game of Thrones" — by people who don't know or care what my stories are actually about! But I say why bother writing and publishing new books if there's nothing new in them? I want my publishing endeavors to be focused on characters and worlds, not on copying someone else's financial success. As an independant author, I'm proud that I answer only to myself and I'll never be forced to write something just because it's "what sells".
Describe your desk
I don't have a desk, per se. But when writing, I sometimes sit at my kitchen table, which is a cluttered mess of fresh fruit, bills, Tupperware and paper maché artworks-in-progress. Empty workspace means an empty mind, you know!
How do you approach cover design?
I try to keep it clean and simple. Some beautiful commissioned artwork or a custom-made prop, plus text in a clean, appropriate font. I also pay a lot of attention to the colour palette, to make sure the cover looks striking and is pleasing to the eye. It bothers me a lot to see covers with garish red text clashing against the background!

Before publishing my first Aligare book, I thought long and hard on whether to depict my characters. I decided to go with broader images — such as a gemstone emitting magical light in a lonely-looking place. That way the image is more symbolic and open to the reader's interpretation.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Bringing a uniquely crafted experience to someone else, getting them all excited or delighted or upset about these words they've just read, and knowing that wouldn't have happened if I had just given up and watched TV.
What do your fans mean to you?
I love that there are people who find my work valuable — in an intellectual, artistic, or emotional way, that is. My absolute favourite thing is when someone asks me questions about the Aligare world or cracks a joke about one of the characters. Being a part of someone's vocabulary just makes all the effort worthwhile.
What are you working on next?
I'm working on a novel tentatively called Tinderstrike. It's the story of a middle-aged farming woman in a mountain society (in a fantasy world loosely inspired by China, Tibet and Nepal). She is gradually transforming into a deer — which is normal for an aging human — and running out of time to save for her retirement. So when a phoenix steals her most valuable possession, a jewel-handled knife, the woman has to give chase. But the phoenix isn't just a dumb animal who stole a shiny object. The phoenix has debts of her own to pay.

Tinderstrike will be my first original novel that isn't a Story of Aligare. I thought I'd try something different — that, and I think older protagonists are interesting! They don't show up often enough among the fantasy sea of rebellious youths. I hope to add some interesting angles to our perceptions of mortality and personhood.
What are your plans for your writing career?
I'm going to keep writing unusual speculative stories with a focus on non-human characters. With enough time and persistence, I hope to be one of those authors people know of as "weird but good".
Published 2014-06-22.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Tinder Stricken
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 89,700. Language: English. Published: May 26, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
Esha is a farmwoman struggling to save for retirement while she gradually transforms into a goat. But her retirement fund slips away when a phoenix steals her priceless heirloom knife. Desperate Esha forges a deal with a back-alley diplomat, and the two women journey to find the wild bird. With tact and translation magic, they might retrieve Esha's knife — and help the phoenix with her own debts.
Serpents of Sky: Nine Stories Of Dragons
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 34,340. Language: English. Published: May 19, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Short stories, Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
Dragons can be monsters, deities, or even beloved friends. This short story collection explores dragons in their many roles, across fantasy and science fiction. Contains 9 original short stories, including Raise, a novelette set in the Stories of Aligare world.
Render (A story of Aligare)
Series: Stories of Aligare. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 101,240. Language: Commonwealth English. Published: May 6, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » General
Rue is a young woman coming of age in a struggling mountain village. Her race, the insect-like aemets, are passive folk who fear the strangely aggressive forest wolves. But Rue is through praying and hoping for luck. She resolves to search out a solution in the forest — and she'll need help from Felixi, a reclusive dragon who knows more about the wolf attacks than he's willing to share.
Ravel (A story of Aligare)
Series: Stories of Aligare. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 14,930. Language: English. Published: December 16, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » General
Aster has a new family of her own, rooted in the small town her insect people have lived in for generations. Then, on wandering winds, comes the merry avian bard, Llarez. Perhaps he's too merry, since he sparks the thoughts of freedom Aster has never known what to do with.
Remedy (A story of Aligare)
Series: Stories of Aligare. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 94,970. Language: English. Published: February 14, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » General
Peregrine, a deaf and aging dragon, wishes he could set Tillian free. He needs his keen-eared adoptive daughter to relay the world to him. But when plague strikes a neighbouring village, there is no time for a gradual change. Peregrine must fly for supplies on weakened wings and Tillian must nurse critically ill strangers -- separating the two for the first time in Tillian's life.