M. H. Elrich is a middle school English Language Arts teacher and an award winning author. She recently one first-place and best-in-show for her short story “Boundaries.” A self-proclaimed nerd, she loves fantasy, anime, and manga. She enjoys curling up with a cup of hot cocoa and a cat. But above all else, Elrich is an inspiration. She stated, ” I’m just a woman who loved books enough to write her own. I want my book to encourage you and entertain you, just like reading books entertains and encourages me on a daily basis.” Read our full interview below to learn more about Elrich and her writing.
Q) Can you tell me about your book Etania’s Worth?
A) Etania’s Worth is a YA Christian Fantasy book perfect for fans of Gillian Bronte Adams, C.S. Lewis, Morgan L. Busse, Tricia Mingerink, and Jaye L. Knight. If I could summarize the book in one sentence it would be the last line of my book blurb, slightly altered. The death of a family member forces Etania Selali to act before it is too late, setting her on a journey leading to love and an acceptance for her newfound gift.
Q) Who inspired the character of Etania?
A) *Shyly raises hand* Etania is like who I was when I was a teenager. Unconfident and unsure, believing herself to be unimportant in the eyes of others. I used to be that person, and it took a while for me to embrace my identity in Christ. What really helped me, besides wonderful friends and family, was reading the book Captivating by Stasi and John Eldredge. That book taught me that my value comes from God, and I used that lesson to formulate Etania.
Q) Can you tell me about your novella Toothbreaker, and how it fits into Etania’s story?
A) The best way to summarize Toothbreaker is to use the first line of my blurb, slightly altered: Sage betrayed his people. Tamar once loved him. Vartok hunts them both. Toothbreaker is about all three of these people, and how the choices they make an impact on each of them.
Toothbreaker is a novella that takes place alongside Etania’s story, as in the same timeline as the story. Sage is the second person Etania changed with her powers from a monster to a man. Sage’s journey takes him to the same battle that Etania faces at the end of the story and how he will impact Etania’s future is something I don’t want to spoil. Vartok is also one of the minor characters in Etania’s Worth, so there are quite a few tie-in’s!
Q) Can you describe your hopes and vision for your book series?
A) I consider Etania’s Worth to be Book 1 in the Daughters of Tamnarae series. I plan on publishing two more books about Etania, titled Etania’s Calling and Etania’s Destiny. These books are about Etania’s adventures on Tamnarae. After that, I will begin writing about Lavanna, Etania’s daughter. Thus, the name of the series as “daughters.” I want to do books about Etania’s granddaughter and books about Etania’s mother, Tala, but I don’t have any ideas for those yet! I am sure I will have ideas for them eventually 🙂 Oh yeah, and I want to throw in a few more novellas as well. I definitely plan on this being an expansive series!
Q) Are there religious undertones in your writing?
A) To answer this question, I have to tell a bit of a story, so bear with me. Back when I first came up with the ideas for the Daughters of Tamnarae series, I debated on what type of a story I wanted to create. As a Christian, I knew I wanted to create a story that had a Christian message. But I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be like C.S. Lewis, and create an obvious God-figure, or like Tolkein, and create a more symbolic God-figure. After praying about it, I decided I would go the Lewis route (though I have written a few more symbolic short stories). As a result, my books are very obvious about their Christian ties. Melchizedek is my Christ-figure and Jakin, Etania’s father, is based on the disciple Peter. I basically thought: if I could have a fantasy world where Christ came, how would I create it? In terms of Biblical times, though, Etania’s books take place years after Melchizedek’s coming and Jakin’s discipleship (his long life is explained in the book). So, there really aren’t undertones as much as there are obvious messages designed to encourage Christians in their faith. That being said, I don’t feel like my books are preachy, and the reviews I’ve received have encouraged me that the message is seamlessly incorporated into the story as a whole.
Q) How has God impacted you and your writing?
A) God is my muse. I feel like his Holy Spirit informs my writing and helps me refine my ideas. If I try to start writing without prayer or doing my Bible Study first, I am often stuck and unable to write. He is the one that enables me to put words on paper, and I am so grateful for how He has worked in my life. He draws me close and teaches me so that I could incorporate those lessons into my writing. Without him, I don’t think I could write.
Q) What advice do you have for other writers?
A) There is so much advice I have! I’ve often thought about putting together a blog (I even have a document full of blog posts). So, if I absolutely had to come up with one piece of advice, it would be to break down your writing projects into digestible pieces. Schedule time for writing, editing, and marketing. There are many stages to finishing a book, and it’s okay to do one piece of the project at a time. Especially if you’re working full-time like me.
Q) What do you like to write about outside of your series?
A) As I mentioned before, I keep a document filled with my writing blog posts. I also write book reviews (when I have time) going into the three core parts of a story (character, plot, and setting). I like interviewing authors on my blog, just like you 🙂 and participating in blog tours for other people’s books. I’ve also thought about doing a few fairy tale retellings, and currently have a Snow White retelling sitting in my documents. I also have some short story ideas and short stories written that I’m looking to traditionally publish. However, I mainly want to focus on Etania’s books, so my side projects usually happen during vacation.