Some Thoughts with ... Louise Holland

21 Dec 2023

The Author/s

Louise Holland

Louise Holland

Louise Holland is an indie author from Adelaide, Australia, and her writing is fuelled by 30% hyper-fixation and 70% spite. When not writing or procrastinating writing, she can usually be found sobbing to Taylor Swift or impulse buying another set of glittery pink dice she doesn’t need.

The Interview

1.- What made you choose self-publishing?
There were a few reasons why self-publishing appealed to me, but the main one was keeping creative control. I have very specific visions for how I want my books to look & feel and indie publishing allows me to keep those decisions mine. I’m also impatient – I would not have survived the querying wait, I would have gone crazy! I have so much respect for authors who query and get agents and push their book further, but it’s much more my style to do it all myself. I’m a control freak.

2.- How did the idea of creating a novel from your D&D campaign start?
The idea came to me while going over my (chaotic, disorganised) notes for the original Kalaraak campaign. I was trying to find something we’d done, but my notes span about 6 different notebooks, so I was flicking through and had the thought “man, we’ve done so many cool things, this would make an incredible novel”. From that moment on, it was like a fire lit within me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I’ve always had visions of writing a novel, mapped a few out, but this was the first time I could *see* the story, beginning to end, because I’d lived it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely not a word-for-word of what happened. I changed a LOT. But the inspiration got me over the biggest hurdle of any project, which is always going to be starting it.

3.- Could you tell us more about the process of writing a novel from a D&D campaign?
Well, first I had to wait until the campaign finished! We’ve been playing D&D since 2018, and the OG Kalaraak campaign finished in mid-2021. I had planned out Spark of the Divine already, but I wanted to make sure I knew my destination before I set off. Kalaraak is a completely homebrewed world and my husband is the DM (dungeon master), so I wasn’t straight ripping off a beginner’s D&D module, but I knew I’d still have to make some massive changes. Both to avoid being sued by WOTC and also because it’s not super fun to read “Oh, I suddenly remember *information*” whereas in D&D that character would have just rolled a history check.
There was also the sheer amount of adventuring we did. We played every Sunday for three years – I had to decide which storylines could make it into the book! I also had to be mindful of how many characters I brought in, since there were probably thousands over the years. I merged some NPCs into a single character and axed others entirely. After that, the process was much the same; plotting out your beginning and end points and filling in from there. You’d think having detailed notes would be an advantage, but honestly, it’s just more to wade through. Plus, my handwriting is terrible.

4.- From the characters that appeared, which one is your favourite and why?
Oh man, you’re asking me to pick a favourite child? Gods. Okay. My favourite characters in Spark are the ones that we haven’t seen the most of yet, like Bueno and Halliday Greyholme. Bueno in particular was such a beloved NPC. In the game, we were only supposed to meet him once, but we ended up such good friends with him that he popped up everywhere. When you play with characters like that for so long, they become ‘real’ to you. Bueno is the Eyes and Ears of Saluo, but he’s also the heart of Kalaraak. On the surface, he’s full of double entendres and easy banter, but if you look closer, there’s a surprising depth to him.

5.- Could you tell us more about the world of Kalaarak?
Kalaraak is an intense, gloriously complicated world that makes me question my husband’s sanity on a daily basis. I actually had to simplify it for the novel, because in the campaign there were multiple countries we just never even got around to visiting, so I cut them for relevance (and to make the map fit). What I love most about Kalaraak in a broad sense is  how it feels like a real place, because in my mind it is. I also enjoyed painting contrast in how different countries treat their people, and what they find valuable. In Altaea, democracy is championed by the Kingswitch, so no one family rules for more than seven years, but they are distrustful of any magic – they employ Divines within their noble houses to serve, and they fear and shun Arcane users, especially of low birth. Whereas in Kalac, the Divine and Arcane are both held in the highest regard, practically worshipped by the common people, but many Kalac cities have yet to outlaw slavery. There are also countries like the Freemeres and the Ruby Isles that we’ve yet to see, but will feature more prominently in later books.

6.- How was the process of getting the cover for Spark of the Divine?
Both magical and absolutely nightmarish! My cover artist, Mike Knot, is also a close friend of mine (and my tattooist). We sat down and talked for hours about it. I knew I wanted to invoke that old-school, 80s fantasy novel feeling, and Mike nailed it. We both learned a lot about how long this kind of thing takes, though! Next time we’ll be starting it a year out. All of the typography I did myself, which I thought was easy enough… until I went to upload my design and got hit with resolution issues. I didn’t know what DPI meant until two weeks before my launch, but I had to haul ass and teach myself Illustrator and InDesign so I could vectorise my graphics and basically rebuild my cover from scratch! All the drama delayed my paperback release for over a week. But hey, the end result is a gorgeous cover that conveys exactly what I wanted, so that’s what matters. 

7.- What does Louise Holland do in her free time?
(laughing hysterically) what’s that?
For real though, I am a family girl at heart. Any spare seconds I get are spent with my husband, my stepson, and my daughter. They’re very supportive. My stepson read Spark in three days, and my daughter loves to help me film my silly reels by chucking books at my head. Add D&D and being an insane Swiftie (which is a full time job in itself), I’m pretty full up! Occasionally I’ll pick up some random hobby, but I’ll forget it in three weeks.

8.- What can we expect from Louise Holland in the future?
I mapped out the Kalaraak Chronicles as a trilogy, so you’ll be seeing the other two in the series, of course. Curse of the Arcane is next; I’m tentatively hoping to release it in 2025. I’m not pulling a GRRM, but I’m not rushing anything, so it’ll be out when it’s ready. I’m also playing around with the idea of a couple of novellas – either prequels highlighting jobs taken by the team before the events of Spark, or even little side missions inspired by other D&D moments. Kalaraak isn’t our only campaign! I’m also planning on doing as much as I can to promote Spark, as well as uplift fellow indie writers, reviewers, booktubers and the like. It’s been so wonderful to connect with such amazing people, and I don’t think I would have been half as successful without the support I’ve received from the indie book community.