Debut Spotlight: An Interview with Aldara Thomas.
Getting to interview debut authors is one of my favorite aspects of running Agora. While I love talking to all kinds of authors, there is something especially exciting about promoting a debut! I had the pleasure to interview Aldara Thomas, whose first book Butterflies That Never Die, released on May 11th. Aldara had some wonderful things to say about escapism, editing, and entering the world of self-publishing. I hope you enjoy this interview!
First things first, can you share a bit about yourself?
Hello! My name is Aldara Thomas, I’m a YA fantasy author, and I’m 25 years old. I grew up going back and forth between Madrid and Washington D.C., and I graduated from the Catholic University of America with degrees in English, Spanish for International Service, and Anthropology. I have always had a deep love for ancient history and different cultures, which in turn has inspired me as a writer to create different worlds and cultures of my own. My love for animals has also played a heavy hand at inspiring me for my books, since my debut is about animal shapeshifters. I also enjoy traveling a lot, and horseback riding.
When did you first begin writing? How has your journey evolved?
I first started writing short stories when I was 9 years old. It was actually then when I created some of the main characters of my debut novel, such as Margaret and Katherine, and I later adapted them a little bit to fit into the world of my book. I started writing because I was having a particularly rough time at school with bullying in fourth grade, and I liked to take refuge in stories. They made me extremely happy, and I wanted to create my own. Soon after that, when I was 11, Leirianor and the characters that roamed that land appeared in my head, and I haven’t been able to take them out of my mind for a second ever since.
If you could co-write a book with a famous author, who would it be?
This is a tough choice, because there are so many authors that I admire and working with them would be a dream, but perhaps Christopher Paolini? The reason behind this choice is that, when I first started writing Butterflies That Never Die Christopher Paolini’s Eragon was a huge inspiration. His extensive worldbuilding, the lore, the magic, the character arcs... That book deepened my love for fantasy literature, and I also got to meet Paolini years later! He was extremely nice and wonderful, so that gives me the impression that working with him would be a delight.
Your debut novel, Butterflies That Never Die, recently released! Can you tell us what this story is about?
Of course! It’s a YA portal fantasy that takes place both on Earth and another world called Eldan, where the citizens of the nation of Leirianor are human-animal shapeshifters and have special pendants that allow them to shift and to use other powers, such as elemental magic. The story is about the Heirs of four Great Lords, who fought thousands of years in the past over the throne of Leirianor, but there was never a winner, so now the Heirs must continue that war. It’s a story about found family, about fate (and defying it), about political conspiracies and, specially, about choices.
What draws you to fantasy?
The different worlds that people are able to create with their imagination, so beautiful and different from our own modern world plagued with technology, and specially the magic systems. It’s wonderful to see the extent of people’s creativity.
I also think that, while providing an avenue of escapism from the real world in which we sometimes feel trapped in for several different reasons, some fantasy books also provide a means of education for the readers, be it by presenting them with characters that become role models for their moral compass, or by teaching them through the characters’ fights against fictional evils to fight the evils of the real world.
Butterflies That Never Die is the start of a trilogy, so what do you have in store for the readers?
Without diving into spoilers, I can promise the readers many epic battles, political intrigues, surprising alliances, and romance. The next books will be darker and more twisted, but they will also have many heartwarming moments that help balance the intensity of other scenes. I plotted the entire trilogy from the start, I began writing knowing how it would end, so I hope readers will be satisfied with the twists coming up and the way everything ties together.
What element of this story has challenged you the most?
The length, to be honest. Originally, Butterflies That Never Die was a huge book and, while I personally adore big books, I think there was a lot going on for a YA fantasy debut. Had it been Adult Fantasy I would have been more confident about the extensive word count, but I wanted to make things simpler for my debut in this genre, and let the next books in the trilogy be the big ones if the story calls for it. There was a draft in which I had eleven POV characters, but I decided to cut that to four POV characters and eliminate several subplots. I took that “Kill your darlings” advice to heart, and I’m very happy with the result.
What was your publishing journey like?
It started like everyone else’s, I think; with a finished manuscript and no idea what to do next. I started researching, and I found out first how to get a book traditionally published, but I soon realized that traditional publishing unfortunately sometimes means losing control. Because Butterflies That Never Die is such a special story to me (it has been in my head over half of my life!) I didn’t want to see the plot and the characters drastically affected by other people’s choices, so I looked into indie publishing. I’m very happy with the experience (I cried happy tears the first time I saw my cover) but I’ve been so busy! People always think that writing the book is the hardest part, but I now see that the hard part is what comes afterwards. Getting it edited, formatted, the map done, figuring out the whole printing and distributing process… Despite the stress, it’s been a very rewarding experience, and I’m very proud of my work.
What advice would you give to fellow debut authors?
First and foremost, believe in yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others (their style, their success, etc.) because everyone is unique. Also, don’t be afraid of criticism. You will agree with some of the things people say, and they will help you grow as an author when you take them into consideration, and you will disagree with the things other people because everyone’s taste is different. You probably don’t like books that many other people like, and love books that others don’t. Keep that in mind when the first negative critique comes… because it will come. And that’s perfectly okay.
Finally, where can people find you and your work?
They can find me on Instagram (@aldarathomas_writes) where I like to post snippets, aesthetics and art of my books, and on my website, aldarathomas.com