Q: When did you decide to become a archeological sci-fi writer?
I grew up fairly isolated, and found company in imaginary worlds. Speculative fiction was the first genre where I saw characters like myself as well. My search for community and story brought me to my career as an archaeologist. Sci-fi and fantasy is a place of solace for me, and where we can paint the worlds we hope ours will become. Marrying my love of digging and the people I encounter with my creative worlds was a natural progression.
Q: What inspired you to create your novel, Heretics?
Heretics is the fourth of Nel’s adventures. The series itself began as an exploration of the social complexities of archaeology as a field–with a few added explosions! When Nel’s dig site becomes the focal point of an intergalactic feud, she’s tossed into a world of high tech and higher stakes.
I also wanted to debunk the racist ideas behind “ancient aliens” theories while still combining science fiction and archaeology. On a larger scale, all of Nel’s stories explore the ideas about how where we come from impacts where we’re going, and decolonizing archaeology and science.
Heretics, specifically, follows Nel as she returns to Earth in search of killer sound waves. She discovers she no longer fits in the place that made her. I often explore how our personalities differ from what others and ourselves expect them to be, which is a theme very close to my heart, as a queer person.
Q: How many books do plan for this series?
Nel’s arc will be complete with six books, with Heretics arriving May 8th and Fugitives (number five) late this fall. In the series itself, there will be six, however I’m not ready to close the door on returning to Nel’s world, and have several spin-offs and stand-alones planned.
Q: How would describe your writing style?
Depends on the project, as my fantasy and science fiction voice is actually pretty different. Overall, though, I love language and alliteration. I enjoy really delving into the psychological aspects of character and atmosphere–whether that’s through Nel’s snarky, sweary inner monologue, or the vast, trippy visions of my fantasy characters. Over all, most of my projects have a gothic undertone, regardless of genre. I lean into lush atmosphere, as well as the intense feelings that come with isolation, fury, and complex relationships.
Q: What was the journey like for you as you were writing, editing, and publishing your works?
It’s been a heck of a journey, that’s for sure! Straddling the large gap between indie and traditional publishing isn’t easy, but I’ve learned so much. It’s been humbling and incredible to find such a fantastic support network of my fellow authors and queer creators, but also the amazing team editors, publicists, and marketers I’ve built. My writing has weathered illness, divorce, and death, and that’s something I think it reflected not only in my (ever changing) process, but also in the worlds and characters I create.
Q: When will this new novel be released and where can readers buy it?
Heretics hits shelves on May 8th 2021 and can be found on Amazon, Kindle Unlimited. Paperbacks can be ordered through your local bookstore or Amazon. I’m always a big fan of supporting indie book sellers. You can also grab a personalized, signed paperback through the Amphibian Press store. You can also expect Nel’s next adventure, Fugitives, this coming October!
Q: Can you tell us, readers what your main character, Dr. Nel Bently is like?
Dr. Nel Bently is a grumpy, driven, and complex character. She’s an angry commitment phobe, but it’s a delight to write–and discover–her arc as she learns how to channel all that rage and fall in love with not only the changing, confusing world, but an equally complicated woman. It’s so rewarding to explore her mindset as she struggles against the institutions against her, defends her research, and faces horror and death.
Q: Did you have any difficulties in creating this latest book?
Most certainly–it was written in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, and following the death of my father, who first introduced me to science fiction. Every new project brings its own hurdles and triumphs, and teaches me something new. This book also was the impetus for my process overhaul this past year. I was a die-hard outliner for a long time, but I jettisoned some bad advice and tried discovery writing instead. Through that, I’ve honed my voice and I feel like I really hit my stride. I’ve also let myself have a lot more leeway with style and format, which has been a lot of fun.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers in your genre?
Honestly: to take every piece of writing advice with a grain of salt! There is a lot of advice out there, much of it great, but with creative works it’s really important to try new things and find out what works for you, and you alone. Not everything will, and one of my favorite things about this journey has been finding new tools for my author tool-kit. Two pieces of general advice–not just for writing!–that really spoke to me were “Find out who you are and do it on purpose,” from Dolly Parton and “If you’re ever lost, don’t go out. Go in,” spoken by Trevi Moran.
Q: Would you ever write books in any other genre?
I already have! Smoke and Rain, my debut novel, was actually epic fantasy. It was my first award-winning and internationally bestselling title as well, and is the first of four books in the Blood of Titans world. I plan to return to that world soon with another series follow some new characters (though rest assured there will be some cameos of fan favorites!). I also have a few projects in the works that dip into the gothic fantasy and horror genres.
Q: What were your favorite moments as a writer when working on your book?
Nothing beats the feeling, with any project, when the pieces finally click! My favorite part of the writing process is revisions, because that’s when I know where the book is headed, and I can hone the story and characters.
Of course, the most powerful moments as a creator are when someone “gets” what we’re writing. I’ve had fans reach out to share how touched they were to see characters like themselves in my worlds, or more recently, to let me know my books got them through the stress and fear of the pandemic. And, at the end of the day, that is why I write.
Q: Where can readers find you and your books?
I’m a fairly “online” person, and you can find me on most social media. I’m most active and myself on Twitter, but you can also find me on Bookbub, Amazon, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. If you want to try a sample of my writing, you can visit my website where you can download a free copy of both Disciples, a prequel to Travelers through Lin’s eyes, and The Tempest, which shares a glimpse of the history of my Blood of Titans world. My books are digitally available on Amazon, and you can grab paperbacks directly through the Amphibian Press store and wherever books are sold!
V. S. HOLMES
V. S. Holmes is an international bestselling author. They created the BLOOD OF TITANS series and the NEL BENTLY BOOKS. Smoke and Rain, the first book in their fantasy quartet, won New Apple Literary’s Excellence in Independent Publishing Award in 2015 and a Literary Titan Gold in 2020. Travelers is also included in the Peregrine Moon Lander mission as part of the Writers on the Moon Time Capsule. In addition, they have published short fiction in several anthologies.
As a disabled and non-binary human, they work as an advocate and educator for representation in SFF worlds. When not writing, they work as a contract archaeologist throughout the northeastern U.S. They live in a Tiny House with their spouse, a fellow archaeologist, their not-so-tiny dog, and own too many books for such a small abode.