The SPFBO competition is well under way and the reviews are started to flood in from the judges. To help raise awareness of some of the entrants I’m interviewing them! This time it’s the turn of E.L. Haines, author of Stranger Back Home.

  • Hi E.L. Haines, tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write?

I’m sure I’m not the only one here who is coming from an RPG-playing background! When you’re running a campaign, there’s something thrilling about leading an audience through conflicts and a setting that you have prepared for them, especially if they keep coming back for more each week.

When my roleplaying group broke apart a few years ago, I was suddenly overwhelmed by all of the unrealized plots in my mind that we had never played out. I also had a treasure trove of unique characters that was going unused. I decided to write a short story for my players to enjoy, and they loved it so much that I wrote more, produced a novella, and self-published.

At the same time, I was living in the Middle East and travelling around Europe and the Mediterranean region. I was experiencing a lot of local folklore, and it naturally made me question how our characters would react to some of the historic events that I was learning about. So I wrote a second novella while in rural France (Episodic Sleep Disorders,, about the Beast of Gevaudan and the Strasbourg Dancing Epidemic.

Now, everywhere I travel, I absorb some of the local culture to include in my books. I’m currently living in Egypt, which has nearly limitless potential for inspiration.

  • What appeals to you most about the fantasy genre?

My personal theory about the fantasy genre (and I’ve given this a lot of thought) is that it offers readers the thrill of discovery without the rigors of academia. This means:

Learning about ancient civilizations without drudging through boring history texts

Learning about fantastic beasts without dissecting frogs in a smelly lab

Understanding how the magical forces of nature work without performing those oft-unsuccessful scientific experiments and data analysis

Fantasy allows each reader to become their own Einstein, their own Steve Irwin, their own Howard Carter, and much more.

  • Tell us a little bit about your latest project and the challenges you’ve faced putting it all together?

I’m in-between projects right now. After submitting my SPFBO 7 entry, Stranger Back Home (, I’m soliciting reviews and creating targeted ads (I think those are the challenges that all indie authors face the most).

  • What type of characters do you like to write the most and how much of yourself do you put into them?

My protagonist, Sparrow, is a self-insert. I have no problem admitting that. Hopefully he is relatable and likeable. If not, then don’t bother coming to my next birthday party.

Of course, he differs from me in several ways: he’s short, has less social anxiety, and maybe has time-travel abilities…

  • For any wannabe writers out there what’s the most useful thing you’ve learned?

You’ll never be a good writer unless you’re a good reader. I read a lot of indie fiction and interact with a lot of indie authors, and I can tell the ones who don’t make time for recreational or educational reading. If you are struggling to move past a plot point, pick up a book and see how other authors do it. And don’t think that your favorite Netflix series or video games will teach you the same thing—you’re working with words on a page, and you need exposure to that exact medium to learn how to do it best.

  • What writing tricks do you utilise to hit your deadlines and keep your stories on track?

What’s a deadline?
I’ve heard that other authors dedicate themselves to a few thousand words each day. That’s never worked for me. I’m a big fan of the day-dreaming style of writing, where I just meditate on my story each night before I go to sleep until I give myself insomnia, sit up, and get back to work.

  • Are you a plotter or a pantser (make it up as you go)?

50/50. I try to figure out the setting first, then the main conflict and resolution at the end, and I jot down notes for all of the minor elements that I hope to include in the book. Then I just write, and I plan a few chapters ahead when I can.

  • What plans do you have for the future? A new series or perhaps a dip into other genres?

Actually all of my books so far have been dips into other genres. My upcoming plans include a murder mystery set in an Egyptian palace, an interactive fiction for kids about dolphins and sunken treasure, a spy thriller on a Persian Gulf cruise ship, and a time-travel sci-fi about assassinating Hitler.

  • 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’m not sure what this ‘way of the world at the moment’ is. I feel that the vast majority of the tragedy shown to us in the media is more fictitious than my books, though, and I’m envious of their narrative storytelling success.
I love reading darker elements in fiction, but sometimes the author makes the entire book about the darkness, and that’s like preparing an entree made entirely of salt.

  • What’s better, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Star Wars?

I see three franchises that have been expanded far beyond their respective authors’ original scope in order to exploit their audiences. But I’ll give each one an award anyway in the three important categories:

Character development—Luke Skywalker

Setting—Middle Earth

Plot—The resistance against the emerging Death Eater rise to power

Follow E.L. Haines –



Amazon author page:

Goodreads page:


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