Interview with A. E. Bross (THE ROOTS THAT CLUTCH)
A.E. Bross is a nonbinary, genderfluid indie author interested in fantasy in all of its forms, as well as horror, science fiction, and romance. When not getting lost amid the writing of the Sands of Theia books, she is an academic librarian, passionate about open education resources and information literacy. She currently resides in the mountains just beyond the Greater New York area, with her family, which includes her spouse, her kiddo, and two kitty grandchildren.
My books can be found on Amazon as of right now, but I will be expanding to other sellers in June, so people can keep an eye on my social media for more updates on that release!
Welcome to the Hive, Addy! Let’s start with the basics: tell us about the Sands of Theia series – why should readers check it out?
Well, the Sands of Theia follows Tirzah, who is the youngest daughter of a disgraced noble house. She’s also a thaumaturge, what a mage is called in Theia. She has to learn to harness her power and at the same time keep it a secret, because practicing thaûma (magic) is illegal. Great, powerful people called god-kings immediately conscript anyone who can practice for their own armies. So she has to navigate that, as well as growing up in an abusive environment, and going out into the world to find a place for herself where she can just live without fear. It isn’t going to be a smooth ride, I promise that.
Can you tell us a bit more about your characters? Do you have a favourite type of character you enjoy writing?
Well, there’s the main character, Tirzah. She’s very young at the beginning of the book, and we get to see the most of her growth throughout the story. Bariah is her mentor, and they’re a big influence in her life. They’re patient and enjoy laughing but also strict and do their best to teach Tirzah ways to keep herself safe from the beginning. Naomi is another character, Tirzah’s oldest sister. She’s a bit inspired by Jane Bennet from Pride & Prejudice. She’s kind, diplomatic, and tries to understand situations from many perspectives. However, when she realizes someone isn’t good or coming from a place of good intention, she will defend those she loves. I think my favorite characters to write are those ‘Jane Bennet’ types. I love to explore how many ways people can find to be kind.
I always felt Jane was overshadowed by Elizabeth, it’s nice to see her get the love she deserves!
Give us a glimpse into the world of Theia – is the world building inspired by anything specific?
Honestly, I feel that my worldbuilding was inspired by what I didn’t want in there, if that makes sense? Many fantasy worlds are built on Western cultures and mythology, and I love that about many of them, but I wanted to try to avoid them. I’m not sure how good of a job I did, but I tried to look either at influences from outside of that or I tried to find the stereotypes they often put forward and subvert or flip them around.
We always appreciate a beautiful book cover! How involved in the process were you? Was there a particular aesthetic you hoped they’d portray?
I actually designed my own book covers. I had initially gone to a designer, but it wasn’t a great fit. I was short on money, so I thought I would make an attempt at myself. I wanted the book covers to portray a sense of quiet awe. The experience of looking out over the land and just taking it all in.
Let’s talk about the writing process; do you have a process? Tell us a little something about how your story comes together.
My process feels like it’s always changing. Ten years ago, I was very much a plotter and planner. I had outlines and index cards and needed to know every little thing. Then, about five years ago, I slipped into being more of a ‘plantser,’ with some loose planning, but mostly just drafting and moving on. In 2020 I hit a really, really rough point in writing (which feels ironic, given that it was when The Roots that Clutch was released) and had to switch to the chaos of full ‘pantsing’ or sort of just going into writing with a vague idea and a hope that I could make it work. I managed to write the second book in the Sands of Theia series, Under Stone and Shadow, doing just that. I’ve since slowly been moving back towards planning a bit more, so I just try to remain fluid.
We see such varying opinions from authors when it comes to the time of editing their books. How have you found the editing process? Enjoyable, stressful or satisfying?
Honestly, it’s one of my favorite parts! The first revision, the one I do after I finished the rough draft, is the best. For me, drafting is the least enjoyable part of the entire process. It’s like putting together a skeleton without any knowledge of where everything goes. However, that first revision/edit is like filling in the being and finally getting to see what it is and what it will look like. Each editing pass after that just adds more detail. For The Sands of Theia I do a number of editing passes (5-7 for each novel) and by the final edit or two, I’m a bit done with it, but I still prefer it to drafting!
What (or who) are your most significant fantasy/sci-fi influences? Are there any creators whom you dream of working with someday?
Some of my biggest fantasy influences have been J.R.R. Tolkien (especially The Silmarillion) and Clive Barker (I love his horror AND his horror). When I was younger, Terry Brooks, but I don’t feel like it’s held up over time. My big sci-fi influences are definitely Ursula K. LeGuin and Nnedi Okorafor. Tolkien was more of a foundational inspiration, though. I like to try and read accessible and easily readable texts. I just want to write books that people will enjoy, that’ll take them out of themselves for a bit.
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
Honestly, rest. Maybe watch a low-stress television show, but mostly just try and not do anything. No work, no exertion. I think every week should come with a mental health, do nothing day.
One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
That is an excellent question. Given the choice (and assuming all animals are humanely treated and trained) I would go with an Oliphaunts (from Tolkien). Basically an elephant. If I were in battle, I’d probably be an archer, and I feel like a large creature, with a high defense, that gives me an automatic vantage point to fire from sounds good to me.
Tell us about a book you love. Any hidden gems?
Just one? Ooof. There are SO MANY.
I suppose I’d have to mention Kinship and Kindness by Kara Jorgensen, Into the Deep by Amara Lynn, and Captain Stellar by R.J. Sorrento. I think they’re all gems!
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress? Have you any upcoming projects which you can share?
I actually have a bunch of projects I am working on right now. I’m currently revising No Light from the Fires, which is the third book in the Sands of Theia series (I don’t want to give away any spoilers!), and I’ll be starting on the draft of Book 4 (which is still untitled) later this year. I’m also working on a sapphic cyberpunk-inspired retelling of Snow White as well as an achillean paranormal romance with a mage and a time traveler. I have a few other plot bunnies in the mix, too, but I’m just trying to maintain fluidity. The only two projects I am concretely working on right now are Sands of Theia book 3 and the achillean PNR.
Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing?
Found family is family and family accepts you, watches your back, and loves you. I feel like that’s the biggest theme throughout my writing. It isn’t always perfect, it doesn’t always last, but we will all find our people, and when we find them, we need to cherish them.
Thank you so much for joining us today!