Joining me around the campfire today is American fantasy author Merri Halma the creator of the Indigo Travelers series. We settle down for a chat about the world of fantasy writing and what inspires her.
- Hi Merri__ tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?
I am originally from the Yakima Valley in Washington State. I’m now residing in the Treasure Valley, Idaho. I was inspired to write as a way of being heard. I grew up with a severe speech impediment and often I felt like others weren’t interested in what I said. But if I wrote down my ideas or stories, I found an audience. Sometimes younger kids in my neighborhood would gather around me and I would read them my stories or tell them a story I hadn’t written down yet.
- What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?
I like the freedom to let my imagination go and the challenge to make the impossible real. I like having animals that can think, talk and guide humans so they have a real relationship, which grows. They challenge each other to be better. Also having plants and rocks that can move on their own, think, talk and have feelings.
- Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?
My latest project is Ian Temple and the Search for the Wisdom Trees, An Indigo Traveler Series Companion Novel. I have been working on this off and on since 2014.
Ian Temple hears the calls of the trees and tries to follow them. He knows they are in danger and the Temple of the Wisdom Trees, in another world, has vanished. But he doesn’t know how he will get to that world. A strange cat appears in his room and points out the shadow that is lurking in the corner. The cat calls Ian an Indigo teen and says Albagoth, the Creators of All Worlds, are looking for the original Wood Sprite. Ian doesn’t think that is him, but Ian does heal plants that are ailing or hurt.
Shadows see Ian as a threat. His parents are hiding who they are and who Ian really is. They are afraid if Ian were to find a way to their world, they will not see him again.
Ian doesn’t have a release date.
There is newly released anthology that I have three stories in, Table by the Window by the Caldwell Writers Group, which I belong. The Caldwell Writers Group has both seasoned authors and those new to writing striving for more exposure. One of their authors has had stories published several times in various Chicken Soup for the Soul books as well as other anthologies.
The titles of my stories are: My Life, an essay; The Mysterious Chest, a horror; Thirteen Again, an essay I wrote when my son was 13 and I was reliving my life at that age.
- What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?
I like characters who usually feel alone, isolated in a way, and feel like they do not belong in the world because they see themselves so different than others. There is usually a part of me in each of my characters, except the antagonist. Majority of my characters are on a deep spiritual quest to unite part of themselves that they have lost. One of my characters was born on another world, but had to her genes altered to appear human and pass as human. As she nears her 15th birthday, a gene turns on that will eventually bring her home to go through an initiation into her birth culture.
- What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?
I work for myself, so I set or don’t set deadlines for myself. I tend to blow past my deadlines. I keep a good idea of what I want to do, but seldom set a specific date to finished.
- Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?
I am a pantser, but I do some planning and plotting, but do use the main ideas of my pervious drafts in my re-writes, while keeping in mind what I want to change.
- What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?
I plan to do another rewrite of the latest draft of Ian Temple and the Wisdom Trees and I have two more stories to write for the Caldwell Writers Group’s next anthology. The theme is Idaho. I will probably attempt some literary fiction with one of the stories.
- With the world the way it is at the moment what sort of tales do you prefer? Ones with heroes where good triumphs over evil or ones that take a darker approach?
I prefer fantasy with deep characters. Though, I am reading a non-fiction book on Trees Magic by Iva Kentaz. This is research for my fantasy series since Banyan trees play an important role in each of the books.
- What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?
I would have to say Harry Potter wins in the magic, fantasy and awe hero journey story. The awe of Harry learning to fly on a broom and fight with his wand was outstanding. Lord Rings scores higher points for Tolkien spending years developing an Elf language and using it throughout all of his books, inspiring so many children and adults. Star Wars is okay, but he really failed in the last two sequels of his original story.
Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit are classics. I love them for setting the bar high for those of us who desired to write epic adventures.