Angela Boord lives in northwestern Mississippi with her husband and their large family, where she writes most of her books at the kitchen table in between homeschooling her kids.
Her debut novel, FORTUNE’S FOOL, placed second in Mark Lawrence’s 2019 SPFBO 5. She is currently hard at work on more books in the Eterean Empire series, as well as a Cold War portal fantasy series set in the 1980’s.
CONNECT WITH ANGELA
Welcome to SPFM, Angela! Since we already have your bio, describe yourself in three words.
A hot mess.
Summarize your book, Smuggler’s Fortune, using one gif.
If you could recommend three self-published books, which would you choose and why?
This question is torture, because I could recommend a lot more than three! So, I’m going to go with three books I would recommend to someone who is just starting to dip a toe into the vast and deep waters of indie fantasy.
Legacy of the Brightwash by Krystle Matar
Banebringer by Carol Park
Kingshold by DP Woolliscroft
I would recommend these books to anyone who wants to get a sense of the breadth and quality of the indie fantasy scene—especially if you haven’t read much (or any) indie fantasy. These books are all pretty different—Brightwash is character-driven grimdark that keeps the characters’ emotional growth at its heart; Banebringer is epic fantasy with monsters and an excellent slowburn romance; and Kingshold is classic fantasy with a twist—it’s about an election after the king and queen are killed. I think these three books are great entry points to indie fantasy, because they’re all terrific books with compelling characters and excellent stories, but they all three have a very unique voice. And that’s what I like about indie fantasy in general; there’s an indie book out there for every reader’s tastes, an excellent book, a book that’s just waiting to become your favorite.
What is your favorite part, and your least favorite part of self-publishing?
My favorite part of self-publishing is getting to write whatever I want, and knowing that I control whether people are able to see it or not. I can write giant novels and short novels, novellas, short stories, whatever length I want, in as many genres or subgenres as I want. I can play with point of view and story structure, I can experiment with new ideas and really stretch myself, or I can write a story that’s just for fun and comfort. I can focus on telling the stories I want to read rather than worrying about how I’m going to pitch them to an agent, and whether I’m going to have to cut out half the subplot I love because the word count is too long… and then waiting and waiting and waiting only to be rejected. I like that I can publish every single thing I write if I want to and if I decide it’s good enough.
My least favorite part is marketing. It’s very difficult for me, as a shy, socially anxious sort of person who was always discouraged from standing out too much, to suddenly switch gears and become a confident social media extrovert whose job is to make her work stand out (or at least, you know, to mention it so that it’s at least visible to people who might want to buy it.) Ads generate less social anxiety but… wow, is it hard to make them work. Both strategies can take a lot of time, and it’s easy to divert time you ought to spend writing flailing around trying to sell books—which is especially tempting when the KDP dashboard is looking ominously empty. Trying to push past the social anxiety that social media exacerbates and balance the frustration that ads sometimes (often) engender can be exhausting, and it’s something I’m constantly trying to balance better.
How do you approach worldbuilding?
The honest truth is that I make most of it up as I go along. I think that people are surprised when I say this, because lush worldbuilding has become something I’m known for. But really—I start with some basic ideas of how the world will be, which are inextricably intertwined with the characters, and then I flesh out the world as I write. Most of the worldbuilding happens when I realize I need to answer some question I never anticipated while I’m writing a scene.
It goes sort of like this. Kyrra walks into my brain one day, dragging a first line along with her: My right arm is made of metal. This is… surprising. Why is your right arm made of metal, Kyrra? What happened? Why? I chase these questions first, but in answering them, I immediately start building a world. If that’s the reason you lost your arm, then that means the world is pretty harsh… and oh, I think this sounds a bit like Romeo and Juliet, except I hate Romeo and Juliet, so let’s turn it upside down but use the Italian Renaissance, I don’t want to mess with a church that’s analogous to the Catholic church, so I know, they were rediscovering the Greeks and the Romans in the Renaissance, so how about giving them Greco-Roman gods? And oh, what about the Etruscans?? That’s much cooler than a Roman Empire, maybe I’ll base this fallen empire on them… and I just read this amazing piece of historical fiction about silk production in Italy, so what if Kyrra’s family grew silk…
This combination of character, questions, and cool stuff gives me a base to work from. But then as I start writing (and rewriting) the story, smaller, more detailed questions start to occur to me, which I will happily hare off to research. For instance, when I was revising Fortune’s Fool, I wanted to describe Kyrra’s dress as a serf, and I needed to know if she could put it on using only one arm or if she would need help. This was important, because as a noble with two arms, Kyrra could not dress herself in complicated gowns with stays that laced in the back, but as a serf, she would have no servants to help dress her and not even her right arm to help her, the way a non-disabled serf girl would. I needed to know what kind of trouble she might run into… because one of the ways I plot is to figure out, what can go wrong? I really like to use little things in the character’s environment to increase the tension, and as I started really thinking about what Kyrra’s disability would mean for her daily life, it led me to increasingly more basic tasks—dressing, eating, brushing her hair. So, the small detail about what kinds of dresses do serf girls wear compared to noblewomen became something that fit into a much larger issue in Kyrra’s characterization. I didn’t know I needed that detail, though, until I got into the guts of the writing.
So much of my worldbuilding is like that—food and soap, where all the horse manure on the roads ends up, what it’s really like to work in a silkhouse, what happens to all the discarded silkworms when you unravel their cocoons for silk—these are the things that make a world feel real, but I usually don’t know them in advance. Some people might think I go into a little too much detail in my worlds… but lush, detailed worlds are something I appreciate in other people’s books, and reader-me and writer-me are really inseparable. When you read one of my books, you’re reading what I like to read, and I do appreciate deep world-building.
What’s your process for creating fully fleshed out characters?
I’m not sure I have a fully definable process. Usually, a character walks into my brain with a story idea attached and starts bugging me until I figure it out—and start figuring them out too. But sometimes characters pop up in the middle of writing a story, too. I heard Diana Gabaldon call that kind of character a “mushroom” once and it stuck, because that’s exactly they are; they pop up out of nowhere, fully formed, and usually fill up or try to take over every scene they’re in.
I do spend a lot of time with my characters, though. I write exploratory scenes in my notebook where I throw characters together in hypothetical situations to see how they interact. I interrogate them on the page. I think about them when I’m driving and listening to the radio. (Sometimes they read over my shoulder, but I think I’m not supposed to mention that.) In first drafts I give them all room to move so I can discover things about their personalities and their backstories, and then in revisions I work with that and usually end up adding more layers. Recently, I’ve been wrestling with trying to make my quiet, reserved characters—especially my quiet secondary characters—more fully realized, thinking about what makes a character “fleshed out” rather than flat. What I’ve come to realize is that a lot of “stuff” that we as writers are often advised to cut because and it doesn’t directly advance the plot, is really the “stuff” that makes a character seem real in reader’s minds. It’s the stories they tell, the little interactions they have with each other in quiet moments, their ability to say no and disagree with other characters, to have their own thoughts and opinions, their quirks (and sometimes their odd pets, like Nibas and the ferret I gave him in desperation) that make them seem like a human being we could spend time with, if we ran into them in a bar (or a restaurant or the sidewalk). Thinking about this has made me loosen up a little with what I think about cutting and what I think about including in the first place, but it’s never a process of bang—here’s a character, I’ve gotten him right, first time! It’s always a process of discovery, of revising and layering… of getting to know that character just like getting to know a real person.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Vellum, no contest. Vellum is the easiest and best software I have ever used. I can turn a manuscript from a Word doc into a professional looking book in a manner of minutes, without fighting, crying, or pulling out my hair. I actually proof my manuscripts in Vellum, too, because I catch more typos when everything starts to look real.
Do you use any special writing software? If so, what is it, and what are a few of your favorite perks of it?
I write in Scrivener. I like it so much better than Word. It doesn’t balk at my extra long projects, and I can move scenes, chapters, and parts around in seconds. My big books use non-linear story structures, and it takes a lot of shuffling to get the ordering of the chapters right. It’s almost impossible to do that in Word—if not impossible, it’s definitely a pain. I also use the Snapshot feature quite a bit to save drafts of scenes while I’m revising them. If I change my mind and decide I liked a previous version better, or if I want to snag a certain paragraph from a draft I worked on a week ago, all I have to do is grab it. The snapshots become a record of how much trouble I’ve had with a scene, too, and looking back is sometimes like doing archaeology on my own process.
Give a shoutout to a fellow author.
I’m going to cheat and give a shoutout to four fellow authors: Krystle Matar, Bjorn Larssen, C.M. Caplan, and Fiona West. Not only are they excellent authors (seriously, go read their books), but they’re excellent readers and excellent friends, too. When I first started writing again in 2017, I tentatively joined Twitter because I had read that agents expected authors to have a social media presence. Then I discovered the indie fantasy community and realized that publishing my own work was not the social stigma I had worried it would be. I worried that I would have to do everything myself, because I didn’t really know anyone. I looked at the Acknowledgment sections in other people’s books, and I thought, my book is not going to be any good because I have no one to ask questions, no one to beta read, no writer’s group to thank. Fortunately, that turned out not to be the case. Somehow, I lucked into a great group of people who not only read my stuff and give me great suggestions on how to make it better, but have also become great friends. Krystle in particular has been there since the very beginning of my indie fantasy career, when I put out the first tentative call for beta readers of Fortune’s Fool. She read the earliest revision with all the wonky pacing, and if you liked the book, you can thank her for a lot of the suggestions that went into making it the book it became.
Which one of your characters would win in a lightsaber fight?
Gee, that’s tough. I think it’s going to come down to Arsenault and Cam—a character from my forthcoming portal fantasy, Through Dreams So Dark. Arsenault’s had a lot of swordwork experience, but Cam has a special magical talent for anticipating movement, so… I think the result would be up in the air, actually. Does Arsenault’s experience beat Cam’s raw talent? Or does Cam just bully his way past Arsenault with sheer youthful exuberance?
(Actually, I’d kind of like to say Cam wins, but… sorry, Cam, I’m going to go with Arsenault on this one.)
Tell us what lies ahead for you.
I got into a logjam in 2020 because, well… 2020… and I’ve basically spent all of 2021 trying to sort it out. I have two big books in process that I should be publishing in 2022—Through Dreams So Dark, the Cold War portal fantasy I pulled out of my closet to work on when Fool’s Promise, the sequel to Fortune’s Fool, was with my editor… and Fool’s Promise itself, which was with my editor in 2020 longer than I anticipated and needed more work than I anticipated. Through Dreams So Dark was actually the book I tackled when I returned to writing in 2017, but because that draft was really long, I needed to think about it for a while. While I decided to revise and publish the relatively more intact Fortune’s Fool first, I always meant to get back to Dreams… but cutting up a 300,000 word manuscript into “smaller” pieces didn’t exactly go as planned. Through Dreams So Dark, which began as a manageable 70,000 word chunk of text, has now reached almost 275,000 words, and has required changes I really didn’t foresee making. (This sounds like a theme, doesn’t it?) I’m hopeful that 2022 will reverse that trend, though, and you might actually get three books from me: Through Dreams So Dark, Fool’s Promise, and a shorter novella/novel in the Eterean Empire series which I’m now calling Kinless… another story featuring Kyrra, Razi, and Nibas in the time in between the present and past narratives of Fortune’s Fool.
About Smuggler’s Fortune (Eterean Empire)
Kyrra d’Aliente’s metal arm gets her in trouble. Sometimes it’s not even her fault.
Mercenary Kyrra d’Aliente’s homecoming is not as triumphant as she hoped. Her family is dead, her pockets empty, the man she loves missing, and now, a group of out-of-work sellswords want to steal her metal arm. So, when an encounter with an old friend leads to a smuggling job, she’s more than willing to hop on board in exchange for a bag of coins and a little revenge.
But will this mysterious cargo be worth the firestorm it ignites?
Smuggler’s Fortune is a standalone novella that takes place just before SPFBO5 Finalist Fortune’s Fool, the first novel in the Eterean Empire series.