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“I’ve always been a fantasy nerd – I grew up obsessed with Tolkien, I had a Sindarin-English dictionary on my shitty windows 95 computer. I took a week off work when Skyrim came out in 2011.”

From DnD to Debut

An Interview with Louise Holland

Louise and I connected over a random tweet I put out into the world quoting my father in law’s experience with some recent indie reads. She very kindly offered a copy of her upcoming novel, Spark of the Divine, which I snapped up and consumed at rapid speeds. It was incredible to experience such a well thought out debut that drew so much inspiration from personal Dungeon and Dragons sessions. The thing that really struck me about this story is how much passion and exploration it held. Without further ado, a warm welcome to the one, the only, Louise Holland.

Q. First of all, I would like to thank you for taking the time to chat with me today! Can you give us an introduction to you, your work and where people can find you?

Absolutely! My name is Louise Holland and I’m an indie fantasy author from Adelaide, Australia. My debut novel, Spark of the Divine, released November of 2023, and like you’ve said, it’s a fantasy technically based on a true story! You can find me on twitter (@lahollandauthor) instagram (@louisehollandauthor) and tiktok (@louiseholland.author).

Q. Where did your love of Dungeons and Dragons come from and how has it inspired you to jump into written worlds?

I’ve always been a fantasy nerd – I grew up obsessed with Tolkien, I had a Sindarin-English dictionary on my shitty windows 95 computer. I took a week off work when Skyrim came out in 2011. Falling into D&D felt so natural, it was like I’d always played it. It evolved from when our group of friends created Board Game Sunday (when you hit your late twenties, binge-drinking every weekend starts losing its appeal). I can’t even remember whose idea it was to try D&D, my brother maybe? Or my husband (our forever DM)? All I know is I immediately made the sweetest little tiefling cleric and it spiralled from there. I think a lot of natural writers and storytellers gravitate towards TTRPGs. I’m also an English Lit geek, so the love for words and storytelling was intertwined from the start. It felt like a natural progression to try to combine the two.

Q. Has there been any one race or class that has inspired you the most? What has been your favourite one to explore?

When you’re working from a source material like D&D, you have to be quite careful you don’t step on anyone’s intellectual property toes. Elves and goblins, for example, are fair game, but for the character of Reevan, who is catfolk, I knew immediately that the term ‘tabaxi’ wasn’t making it into Spark. I didn’t want Wizards of the Coast banging down my front door! I chewed on many different words until I found one that felt right, ‘kitskan’, and built upon the race’s lore from there. It was fun, digging through translation websites and researching meanings of words to pull together a term that sounded like it made sense. Being forced to come up with my own original twist on familiar fantasy races made it all the more rewarding for me creatively.

Q. What was your process for taking the inspiration from your campaigns and putting it onto the page for the world?

First, I had to figure out the arcs. Our campaign lasted 3 years, and can be split into 3 major conflicts, so that was easy – I had my trilogy built in. Then I just had to figure out where to put all the stuff that happened in the middle (and which bits were getting booted). I was the Note Taker at our table, so you’d think that would have been an advantage for me, right? Nope. Six notebooks in varying stages of disarray, falling apart, coupled with my messy left-handed scrawl.  It was a mess. I don’t recommend it. Also, anyone who’s played D&D knows that sometimes the plot moves forward by someone saying “can I roll a history check to see if I remember wtf to do next?”, so I had to fill in those gaps with completely new adventures. I wanted the story to be entertaining, above all else. If it’s not 100% in the same order we played it in, only 5 people in the world are going to know that anyway.

Q. Off the top of your head, how many stories do you think you could write based around one DnD Campaign?

Oh, gods. Depends on the setting (and the DM). A Wizards mod ran RAW and basic characters wouldn’t bring much to work with. But something homebrewed like Kalaraak, that’s spanned multiple campaigns and had a cast of 30+ player characters? I can easily put out at least another two separate trilogies. Maybe chuck some novellas in there about random one-shots we’ve done. That’s the plan, anyway, long-term. I absolutely love this way of writing. It feels like I’m the scribe for our history.

Q. How have you found the marketing aspects of indie publishing? I have noticed a few Tik Toks and reels of yours being recommended to me? What has worked for you the most to bring new audience members in?

I made that Sanderson reel on a whim, and I still can’t believe how big it got. 5 million views? Honestly, it’s exhausting. Making content is something I didn’t fathom would be such a big part of putting yourself out there in the indie sector, and that goes for all of it – reels, tweeting, making your own website, interacting with other authors and reviewers. It’s all marketing. The problem is as well that people don’t want to be sold to. They don’t want you to tell them to care about your book, they want to discover it. I found making videos of both my author experience and my thoughts as a fan of fantasy have gained me the most traction. But being my weird self definitely helped. We’re all slaves to the algorithm as it is. Making genuine connections is what’s kept me sane throughout this process. Without the Spark ARC team and the Break Ins, I’d have long since drowned.

Q. It would be a waste of an interview if we didn’t at least touch upon your love of Taylor Swift, just how many references are there in Spark of the Divine? What should people be looking out for?

Well, you know there’s at least thirteen…

Seriously though, I started doing it as a little in-joke with myself. Some of them are so incredibly vague that nobody on earth would clock it as a Taylor ref except for superfans, but for those people, it hits different. My favourite one is probably where the characters are speaking of an assassin’s reputation – “Most of the rumours were terrible and cruel, bordering on fantastical, but there was sure to be some truth in them.” A regular sentence to most, a clear nod to 1989’s bonus track New Romantics to Swifties. Taylor’s storytelling and use of language has been such an inspiration for me over the years, it was second nature to weave a little of her into my own work. She’s basically tattooed on my soul at this point. I spent too many years hiding how much I loved her because people were not nice about it, so it’s real nice to celebrate now with things like this. I wanted it to be an homage, but not so glaring that they took the reader out of the moment. Part of me does hope there’s at least one insane Swiftie that gets the red twine wall out and sticks Spark pages all over their wall connecting them, though.

Q. To finish off with a bit of fun, I know you are a Brandon Sanderson superfan. I am on the fence about him being an author for me or not. Can you give me your best Sando pitch in 3 sentences?

I’ve never summed anything up in 3 sentences in my life, gods. I will give it a crack though:

The people who dislike Sanderson the most are the ones who DNF him. About 7/8 of the way through, I think, “Alright, I know where he’s going to go with this. Sweet. I get it.” And every single time, the sixty-four unrelated plot threads get yanked into a perfect payoff sweater and I’m left reeling because of course they did.

I will also say this as a footnote: I think a lot of people take Sanderson (and his works) too seriously. Yeah, he can write about serious subject matter, but there’s a brightness behind his writing that I think a lot of other fantasy can stumble over. Any book that can make me laugh is getting instantly elevated in my eyes. He brings a sense of soul and an easy humour to his characters that I tried my best to emulate in my own writing. What’s the point of it all if it’s not bringing us happiness?

Check out a full review of Spark here! Review: Spark of the Divine by Louise Holland

Grab your copy of Spark of the Divine now!

Grab your copy of Spark of the Divine now!

Grab your copy of Spark of the Divine now!

Grab your copy of Spark of the Divine now!

Grab your copy of Spark of the Divine now!

Grab your copy of Spark of the Divine now!

Grab your copy of Spark of the Divine now!

Grab your copy of Spark of the Divine now!

The Fictional Escapist

Kris has been an avid reader for most of his life, forever escaping into various worlds, far beyond his imagination. Now at the ripe old age of 32, he spends his days in a sea of authors, review copies and unedited manuscripts; and he is having a blast!

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