Author Spotlight: A. K. Mulford (THE ROGUE CROWN)
AK. Mulford is a bestselling fantasy author and former wildlife biologist who swapped rehabilitating monkeys for writing novels.She/they are inspired to create diverse stories that transport readers to new realms, making them fall in love with fantasy for the first time, or, all over again.She now lives in New Zealand with her husband and two young human primates, creating lovable fantasy characters and making ridiculous TikToks (@akmulfordauthor).
Welcome to the Hive, Ali. Congratulations on your release of The Rogue Crown! Could you please tell us about your series The Five Crowns of Okrith? And what can readers expect from this third instalment?
The Five Crowns of Okrith is a five book fantasy series with fae, witches, and magic, filled with daring quests, diverse characters, and steamy romance. Each book in the series follows a different protagonist as they battle evil forces and discover love in different corners of the realm. There is an over-arching action to the series but each book is its own complete story as well. In the third book, The Rogue Crown, we follow the snarky, cavalier warrior, Bri, as she tries to uncover a murder plot and protect the headstrong (and gorgeous) Western Court princess.
Tell us a little something about your writing process – do you have a certain method? Do you find music helps? Give us a glimpse into your world!
I start with what I call my “pillar scenes”. These are the first fully formed scenes that come to me and I build my story scaffolding around them. There’s usually one scene that exemplifies a major plot point or evokes the emotional tone of the story and I write these scenes first. They inevitably change along with the story, but they are my guide posts for the direction I’m heading in. From there, I fast draft the book and get all the scaffolding in place until it is starting to have a bookish shape. Then I go back in revisions and start to whittle away until it’s carved into the final story.
Speaking of worlds, what inspires your worldbuilding? Can you tell us a bit more about the kind of magic witches and fae’s use in your series?
A lot of my world building inspiration comes from my classics degree and general love of antiquity and ancient religions, as well as my many travels working as a wildlife biologist. Having lived in so many different countries, I wanted each court to have its own distinctive feel, not only through things like the nature, architecture, and food but also their different value systems, myths, and senses of humor, etc.
In my stories, witches are broken down into five covens, each possessing different types of magic. The witches have also forged ancient powerful weapons that they had once gifted to the fae (weapons that are now being used against them). The fae possess physical powers of speed, heightened senses, and rapid healing. Within the world, the hierarchy of magic benefits the fae who have made the witches work in service of them. In the same way one would have a doctor or a gardener, fae have brown witch healers and green witch cooks. Throughout the series, the status quo is being disrupted by ancient witch magic rising again and the power dynamics are shifting between the witches and fae.
If you were transported into your own book, would you choose to be a witch or a fae? How do you think you would fare in your own fictional world?
It would be fun to be a fae warrior but, to be honest, having the red witch powers of animation would be pretty nice when I don’t want to get up to make a cup of tea! The most useful and under appreciated power I think has got to be the green witches. They can make delicious food out of the barest ingredients and gardens grown in arid soil. I think that would be the power I’d most want to have. Plus, they live in the Southern Court which is sunny and tropical, and I think it would be pretty fun to live there!
Let’s discuss your characters! Each instalment of your series features a different main protagonist POV, was this something you had planned from the beginning or did this evolve as you began writing? Do you have a favourite character which you enjoyed crafting the most?
When I started crafting the characters for The High Mountain Court, I quickly developed the main crew’s stories—how their lives would play out, who they’d fall in love with, etc. and I knew each of them needed to have their own stories too. So one book quickly became a five book series before the first draft of The High Mountain Court was even written!
My favorite character changes depending on which book I’m writing! When I was working on The Rogue Crown, I was certain Bri was my favorite character, and then I started writing The Evergreen Heir (Book 4) and fell in love with the bookish introverted character of Neelo. Some characters I enjoy writing because they are so different from me, like Bri, and others I enjoy because they are so similar, like Neelo.
How important was it to you to represent a diverse range of characters, including a sapphic romance in The Rogue Crown?
I was fortunate enough to have a very formative moment that I hold with me as a guide post whenever I’m writing: I was at a cafe with my then girlfriend, surrounded by self-proclaimed nerd friends talking about our favorite books. We all loved high fantasy but had to put our “main character goggles” on to imagine ourselves as these characters. Me being the writer of the group, I knew then that if I were to ever publish my stories, we’d all exist in my worlds.
I wanted people who looked like me, loved like me, thought like me, to be able to see themselves (maybe for the first time) in high fantasy characters. The genre has come a long way since then but it is still truly humbling getting emails from readers saying they saw themselves as a main character for the first time in my books. I know how powerful it is to feel seen. Having lived in so many countries and across so many different cultures, I knew that I wanted my books to be as diverse as my family and friends.
Bri has been a fan favorite character and I know for some of my readers it’s their first sapphic romance novel. I love hearing that my readers are now seeking out more sapphic romance because of The Rogue Crown.
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?
I find the first few rounds of editing satisfying—finding the perfect word or moving scenes around to flow better—but when we get in the weeds toward the end, I start to find it more stressful. That’s when there’s not a lot of time for mucking around and I start feeling the pressure!
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’m a sucker for a gorgeous fantasy book cover! I did a lot of genre research trying to hunt down a designer who was delivering on the kind of covers that I was looking for, but once I found Bianca Bordianu who designed the original covers, I was pretty hands off in letting her work. I knew I wanted the background colors to match the courts of each book and then we worked together on finding the elements that pulled the story together but I also trusted her knowledge and design skill.
One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
My first instinct is to say dragon but I’m scared of heights so I’d ride into battle on a horse like Shadowfax from Lord of the Rings and make them a unicorn with a rainbow mane. I think you’d be immediately underestimated and it would be really satisfying to show up on a rainbow unicorn and decimate in battle!
Tell us about a book you love. Any hidden gems?
I just finished reading The Name Bearer by Natalia Hernandez and that was a gorgeous sapphic book set in a Latin American-inspired fantasy world that made me super nostalgic for Guatemala.
Can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress? Have you any upcoming projects which you can share?
My first book in a brand new trilogy, River of Golden Bones, releases next year. It’s a high fantasy story about two wolf shifter sisters trying to reclaim their fallen kingdom from an evil sorceress. Magic, adventure, and romance ensues and I’m so excited to take readers on this next journey.
Are you planning anything fun to celebrate your new release? Do you have any upcoming virtual or in-person events our readers may be interested in?
I will have just moved to Australia when The Rogue Crown releases so I might be still living out of a hotel then (with two little kids, deep breaths!). But I will definitely take time to celebrate with my readers on my socials. I’ll have more events up on my website closer to the date too!
Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing?
I hope they’re able to get lost in another world for a little while—to laugh, cry, fall in love, and take as much as they want from my stories. Some people want a deep connection to a story, others want a momentary reprieve, but I hope they have an individual experience and feel like they’ve gone on a journey with types of characters they may have never read before.
Thank you so much for joining us today!
The Rogue Crown is out today! You can get your copy HERE