Author Interview: Tallulah van der Made

I was honored to have the opportunity to talk with author Tallulah van der Made about her life, her writing process and her book Keyflame!

Please tell me about Keyflame.

It’s a love story with fantasy elements set in a small town in South Africa. The main character goes there to study but soon finds herself tangled up in an ancient magical conspiracy that threatens both her and the man she starts falling for.

Keyflame is available here now – and free to read on Kindle Unlimited!

What inspired Keyflame?

I attended university in that same town and started writing Keyflame in my final year as a sort of time capsule to capture the location and atmosphere. At the time Twilight was popular and I wanted to try my hand at writing a fantasy love story. I was not a fan of the first draft and it sat in a drawer for years before I decided to revise it and release it. I started working on it again in 2018 and did a complete rewrite and restructure.

Who are your favorite characters in your book, and why?

This is a difficult question because I like all of the characters, but none of them are perfect and most of the things that I like about them are spoilers. The one I find most interesting to write is the love interest, Kalin, who’s a mysterious academic hippy. He makes occult jewelry to pay the bills and sits in on university classes for fun. He was adopted by the neighbor’s fluffy ginger cat and the pair of them are very sweet together.

What topics will Keyflame get readers talking about?

Hopefully? How people can be multifaceted. How people can do awful things but still be good at their core, or do wonderful things and still be terribly selfish underneath. Do peoples’ past deeds define them forever or is morality a constant choice that we each have to make every day regardless of what came before.

What was the writing process like? What was it like to work with editors, designers and other members of your team?

I think I found a really great process with this particular book. I wrote the first draft, as I said, years ago then got some distance (likely too much distance in this case!). I used the cue card method of revision where you break the story up into scenes and then make color-coded notes on what you want to change on each scene. I then recruited a large team of beta readers made up of people who generally read in the genre. I sent them chapters as I revised and kept to a strict schedule of one a week which really kept me motivated. Getting feedback as I wrote was wonderful because it could also help steer the story in a direction that responded to reader expectation. That was especially useful for a story like Keyflame that has a few big mysteries at its core that readers had to want to solve, and that I wanted them to solve just before the big reveals so they got a hit of satisfaction out of being right. After that I sent it to a friend who hadn’t read any of the chapters to beta for me. Since there wasn’t a week between chapters for her, she picked up a few things. Then I sent it to a professional editor. This was the longest part of the process as it took months to get it back into my hands. During that time, I worked on the cover, researched marketing and reached out to bloggers and reviewers. When I got it back, I applied the suggested changes then sent it for another round of editing. After I applied that editor’s changes, I sent it to a proofreader – I was able to do this because I’m part of an authors’ co-op called Skolion made up of a bunch of skilled people and we all trade skills. So, I could get all this editing for free, otherwise I don’t think all these rounds would have been affordable. After that round of proofreading, I did the layout and then sent it to another friend for another proof, especially because it was now formatted so a few of the hidden gremlins revealed themselves and a few new formatting ones had crept in. Finally, I sent the book to advance reviewers and asked them to let me know if they spotted any typos. I think there were still four or five after all that editing!

All in all, it was a long process, especially since I have a day job and a night job outside of writing. 🙂 But I loved every second of it and can’t wait to do it again.

What are your plans for future books?

First on the agenda is a Keyflame sequel to build on a few things that were established in the first book. The first book is a complete and satisfying story, but I think there are still a few questions that readers will want answered and I’d also like to expand on a few of the side characters.

Then I have a trilogy that’s complete in first draft about a dimension-crossing cult that wants to build utopia by plundering alternate realities. The main character, as a resident of one such reality that happens to have magic, has to rise up to stop them.

Then I have a more epic story that’s been in the wings since pre-Keyflame about telepathic pirates. I started trying to write it many times but just wasn’t skilled enough. I am looking forward to tackling it again someday soon!

Who are you? Please say a little about your background.

I got a degree in journalism because I love writing, but I actually hated working in a newsroom so I accidentally fell into a social media reporting, which led to a career as a social media manager as part of a marketing team. That’s the above-mentioned day job. The night job is my own business as a cover designer which I love because it combines my love of art with my love of books with my love of marketing. When I’m not working, I’m a huge geek. Star Trek was my first fandom, Janeway is my role model. I’m a Dragon Age (video game franchise) nut and have sunk far too many hours into No Man’s Sky, Stardew Valley and The Sims. I also live and breathe books. I maintain a “bookstagram” feed on instagram celebrating books, and get far too obsessed with the books I love. I enjoy learning new things, especially creative things, so I’m constantly trying new crafts and art techniques. I would love to learn a musical instrument one day. And how to sew with a sewing machine so I can make my own clothes.

Where can readers get updates on your series?

I send out a monthly newsletter that includes all the articles I write for my blog, my latest art projects and everything writing related. You can subscribe here.