BRIAN: EDE, welcome to Underground Book Reviews. What motivates an electrical engineering and technical intelligence advisor, realms of hard fact and cold science, to venture into the world of elves and unicorns?
EDE: Thank you! I’m so thrilled to talk to you today. Fact and science? If I could live in the realms of fact and science (or even better, mathematics) I probably would never have attempted writing, not to this scale. Engineering requires creativity combined with discipline; it’s not so different from writing. But, unfortunately working in the real world requires negotiating around politics, unsavory motives, bullies, and an unwinnable battle against The System. I once told my bosses about an experience I had at work, and one responded (via email) that I could never make up a story like that. Because it was late and I was feeling legitimately crazy, I replied that if I were to invent stories, they would involve magical glittering unicorns. This got me thinking.
BRIAN: Where does a working mom of three find time to write epic fantasy?
EDE: This is terrible, but I don’t take many breaks. When we travel to visit family, I write in the car. When the kids go to bed, I write. When I exercise in the pool, I brainstorm to fill gaps in the story. I stay up too late every night, writing. I don’t remember what real vacations are like, but my friends online seem to enjoy them. I do wish I were spending more time with my kids, but I just haven’t let this play out long enough yet to assess my plans long term. I’d love to write full time. But as they say, “Don’t quit your day job.” Not today, anyway.
BRIAN: First, how would you classify your brand of fantasy? Second, who is your target audience?
EDE: No matter what I write, I will likely always return to epic fantasy, because I simply love it. Honestly, I think I’m still discovering my brand. I have a few hallmarks that are emerging, and that I think will coalesce into something that makes sense with time. First, I like to think of myself as someone who breaks rules, while still respecting the genre. One of the funny things about speculative fiction is you find immediately that there are rules. Says who? You’re not my GM; I’m telling a story here. So my dragons talk, my unicorns play sports, and my dwarves are…well, no spoilers. And it’s really ok.
Second, I’m a very open-minded and tolerant person, so I want my characters to
have diverse viewpoints themselves. It’s more interesting that way! Not everything has to make a point. Third, there are some themes that do pop up more than others – I’ve had tremendous support from the vegan and animal compassion communities for writing vegan heroes and viewpoints into my stories, and I also have a fascination with gender identity and equality. I like to write about it, and I think it adds an additional dimension to a story. Though I know this is not the way to market, I am hesitant to define a target audience. Some people have pushed me to call my writing Young Adult. But I’m not sure it’s written to a mindset to which many YA would relate. Others have pushed me to market to middle-aged women who like less violent fantasy, but some of my most enthusiastic fans are men, and I could never see myself adopting gender-specific marketing. That’s so not me! So I’d like to say my target audience is, “People who love epic fantasy, appreciate character development, and are open minded to different ideas.” There it is! Let’s get the jingle written for that, and go!
BRIAN: Your presentation of elves seemed both simultaneously conventional and original. Your interpretation of their gender identity surprised me. What inspired your unique interpretation of elves, the magical creatures of myth? Specifically, the way you portray their relationship to mankind and the mythical world you created. Where do you come up with this concept?
EDE: Despite my reputation for an excellent memory, I truly cannot remember when I came up with the idea of gender-neutral elves that appear as naked adults outside their colleagues’ houses then pick a gender identity anyway. This probably means I was drinking. However, once I started writing the elves, it became this really interesting canvas on which you could paint questions in the readers’ minds about what gender really means. I like to ask people – if I had written Beryl as “he” rather than “she” would it have changed the story? Or – does it impact your view of Tann and Jura’s relationship to recall they aren’t really a man and woman? Another thing it’s probably helpful to understand is that I like to write in many layers of symbolism and thought. So I’d love for the elves to be interpreted differently by different readers. They certainly have an angelic guardian quality to them, yes, including the fallen one. Others have suggested they are an elevation of humanity, thriving on service and compassion. Others thought they represented an exaggerated concept of government – dedicated to the creatures yet unintentionally destroying them in their isolation. I’ve heard other theories too. And, the way I think, when I hear all these theories I feel I was doing something right. Have I mentioned that I love to inspire people to think?
BRIAN: When writers ask me for advice before embarking on writing an epic fantasy novel, I usually tell them to have their head examined and take up something less frustrating, like bomb disposal. What advice do you have for all those aspiring epic fantasy writers out there?
EDE: Hilarious! Well, my advice is, make sure you really want this, because it’s a tough road. Your plot is too simple. Your plot is too complex. Your world is too weird. Your world is too much like real life. Your fictional technology is inaccurate. You don’t describe enough. You describe too much. You ask close friends whether they’ve read it, and it appears to have fallen on their priority list somewhere below organizing the garage. Others will critique it to your face and say things like, “When I read that, I
thought: is she serious?” As for people who say they loved it? Try getting them to write a review. Am I complaining? Nah, it just sounds like it. But you quickly learn you really have to love it. Love it, or don’t do it.
BRIAN: If you could be one fantasy creature, what would it be?
EDE: My gut reaction was that I wanted to fly, have lots of magic powers, be covered in glitter, and be able to turn myself invisible. Ok, what’s that called? But upon further reflection, I think it would be awfully satisfying to be an Aes Sedai. (Blue Ajah, obviously.) Now, let’s be clear – I wouldn’t be one of those ritualistic rule-followers in the White Tower, but instead I’d be one of the ladies who wanders off for a few hundred years with a close friend, and “forgets” to check back in. And in the meantime she does all kinds of good in the world, all with her serenely ageless face. Meanwhile she occasionally gets recognized and gets a little bit of fear and worship from the common folk. This just doesn’t sound terrible. Assuming Tarmon Gai’don is a few years out, yet. And assuming I could get out of the whole Oath Rod thing. I mean, really, they don’t trust me?
BRIAN: What are your plans, if any, for the Spireseeker world? And what’s next for EDE Bell?
EDE: Other than the companion novella that I wrote, The Taking of Stonecrop, my plans are to set the Spireseeker world aside for now. I love that world, but I made some choices as a first-time writer (or as I should say, “debut novelist”) that I really wouldn’t want to be married to moving forward. What’s next? Well, I’ve been working on a trilogy called Shkode. I’m on track to release the first book, The Banished Craft, next Spring. I’m really excited about this series because it’s about dragons and wizards (hooray!) and on a deeper level it’s about hope, passion, and perseverance. I’m really excited about it, and I hope that others will be too.
BRIAN: EDE, thank you for being a part of the Underground. We’re glad you stopped by. You can read my review of Spireseeker, E.D.E Bell’s debut novel, here on
Underground Book Reviews.
EDE Bell's latest project on Kickstarter for the Shkode Trilogy
EDE Bell's website
EDE Bell on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads
Brian L. Braden is a UBR partner and assistant editor. His articles have been featured in a variety of defense magazines, websites, and books to include the Military Times, Air Power Journal, and Oxford University Press. His debut novel, Black Sea Gods, is available on Amazon. The sequel, Tears of the Dead, hits Amazon August 7th, 2014.