We can't believe that we have less than a week left of the Indie Author Spring Festival! Today, we're chatting with Realm of Hope author, E.L. Li, about her action-packed fantasy epic, which is currently on sale for $2.99. You can also enter Li's giveaway on Instagram!
What made you decide to self-publish rather than follow more traditional routes?
I wanted full creative control and freedom. Realm of Hope has existed in my head for over half my life now, and the only way to tell the story exactly how I want to tell it is to self-publish. The large and diverse cast, the BIPOC Asian MC, and that it’s a Fantasy Epic rather than a novel made the self-publishing route seem more desirable.
Publishing can be daunting! Do you have any tips for other indie authors set to release their debuts?
Definitely get involved within your community! There are so many people willing to help on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook groups, etc. There are also plenty of YouTube tutorials to follow that make the process easy.
Tell us about your YA fantasy, Realm of Hope, and what inspired you to write it.
Realm of Hope is an action-packed Fantasy Epic about powerful bloodlines and clan members banding together to save their Mortal Realm from falling into darkness. Descendants of legendary heroes and warriors are trained from a young age to protect the Realm and are tasked with uncovering mysteries behind what or who is truly destroying the Realm.
I take inspiration from multiple forms, such as Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy, Fire
Emblem, Avatar: The Last Airbender, RWBY, Marvel, Mistborn, Percy Jackson, and
Realm of Hope is said to be video game-inspired, and we love gaming ourselves. What video games are you currently loving and which would you recommend to fans of your book?
I’m currently replaying Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in preparation for its upcoming sequel along with playing Harvestella. For fans of my book, I recommend most JRPGs such as Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy, and Kingdom Hearts.
Tell us about the monsters featured in the story. How are they unique and how did you come up with them?
The monsters are called Risen. They’re inspired by Heartless from Kingdom Hearts and various mythologies such as Greco-Roman and Norse. Basically, they’re creatures made of darkness that spread it and possess unique abilities, often taking the form of silhouettes and shadows.
Each Risen is unique with its physical appearance and abilities and weaknesses and readers will encounter different types of Risen throughout Realm of Hope.
What draws you to the YA genre rather than middle grade/adult/etc.?
I primarily read YA when I was younger, and I was a teenager when I really fleshed out the story for Realm of Hope. YA is what I’m used to and the fact that the main cast consists of teenagers, YA is the most fitting. I wanted a story that was more mature, so middle grade wouldn’t work as well. Due to the more graphic nature of the book and since the cast is 17-18, technically it could be considered NA as well.
Do you have a favourite character from the book? One you enjoyed spending time with most during the writing process, or maybe one that feels most personal/similar to you
Definitely the MC, Skye. She was the first character I’ve ever created and developed and she first existed in my head when I was only 11 years old. She’s been through so many changes throughout the years and it’s so exhilarating seeing her come to life. Skye is also the most difficult character for me to write because of her complex backstory and a character who goes through a huge amount of trauma and character development. Writing a character with PTSD isn’t easy and a lot of research was involved in creating her.
Do you have a favourite movie, show, and/or book and has it influenced your own work at all?
My favorite show is ATLA and my favorite books are Percy Jackson and Six of Crows. All of those inspire my books and how I write worlds and characters.
You’re also a software engineer in the game industry. How does the work you do for games impact your writing, or vice versa? Is there any skill that can be carried from one format to another?
So a bit of backstory here: Realm of Hope was originally written as a comic book series when I was a preteen. By high school, I wrote the story in the form of a screenplay for a video game. I wrote five other screenplays all taking place in the same universe, but different time periods.
I always knew I wanted to work in the game industry and wanted my stories out there for the world to see in some type of medium. Originally I wanted Realm of Hope published as a video game. After going to university and working in the industry as a software engineer, I realized how much of a budget and how much effort is necessary to create a video game. Therefore, I decided to rewrite each screenplay as a trilogy book series.
Realm of Hope reads like a video game and has heavy video game influence. You really “level up” with the characters as you get further through the story. Some elements from the original planned game for Realm of Hope had to be removed because they don’t quite work for a book. One of the hardest things about writing Realm of Hope as a book involved figuring out how to split the original video game screenplay into three parts plot-wise and what additional elements needed to be added for a book that wouldn’t work for a video game. In video games, you see far less of the character’s thoughts and motivations compared to a book, so the characters had to be more fleshed out when I wrote Realm of Hope’s manuscript.
In terms of the work I do as an author vs. a software engineer in the gaming industry, the skills necessary for each are very different. When it comes to being an author, I am using my creative skills. As a software engineer, I am using logic and technical skills. So there’s not too much overlap there. The closest thing would involve me trying to figure out how the social media app algorithms work when I’m trying to market my book :)
Our podcast focuses on media we’re currently loving. Are there any books, shows, or movies you’re enjoying at the moment? Any recommendations for our audience?
I’m a huge Studio Ghibli Fan, so I will recommend all of their movies :)
E.L. Li is a writer, software engineer, blogger, avid gamer, analyzer of entertainment, foodie, and baker. Today, she works on animation tools within the game industry and utilizes her aptitude for creativity in her spare time. She brings to life worlds and characters that have existed in her mind for years that represent her past experiences, values, and beliefs. For more information on E.L. Li and her work, please visit www.authorelli.com. You can also find her on TikTok @author_elli.