Thomas Welsh guest post — Anna Undreaming, where art meets magic

Welcome to 2018! I will be sharing a post to recap what I’ve been up to over the holidays in a few days, but before that I want to kick off this year’s roster with a great guest post by author Thomas Welsh.

Tom and I connected over the holidays and he told me a bit about his upcoming novel Anna Undreaming. I was intrigued right away—here’s a real kindred spirit writing a story with a magic system relating to art in a richly imagined fantasy world. Needless to say, I’ve asked Tom some questions specific to world-building and craft so he can share with you all about his process.

Take it away, Tom!

TomTom is 37 years old and lives in Scotland. His first novel Anna Undreaming is a dark urban fantasy story that will be released in March 2018 by Owl Hollow Press. It is the first entry in the Metiks Fade trilogy. He was the winner of the Elbow Room fiction prize for his short story “And Then I was Floating” and has also been published in short story collections, including 404 Ink and Leicester Writes. He’s written about games for a various websites including Unwinnable, GlitchFreeGame and Kotaku, and his audio story “Suicide Vending Machine” will soon be featured on the Pseudopod Podcast.


What made you want to write a Dark Urban Fantasy story? Where did your idea for the story’s concept come from?

With Anna Undreaming, I think I wanted to write a story that included elements of horror, fantasy and even sci fi. I came up with the idea of artists who can warp and change reality while watching a modern dance performance. The music and the dancing and the effects on stage combined in a hypnotic way, and I remember thinking to myself that in that moment, reality seemed so far away. That’s where I came up with the idea of the Aesthete—a kind of modern magician that could rewrite the rules of reality with art. Once I had that central idea, I realised that the worlds the Aesthetes created within my story could be horror, sci fi, fantasy or any other area I wanted to explore. 

What tools did you utilize to build your world? Was there a specific strategy you followed?

I am still figuring out my process, so I wouldn’t want to give anyone else advice!

How long did it take you to write the book? When did you first start working on it?

Probably about a year for the first draft, and another year in edits, but that’s been interspersed with writing more books.

How many other books have you written, if any? Do you plan on publishing them?

I’ve got a number of short stories in print. I’ve written first draft of book 2 of the trilogy, and I have a few other projects kicking around. The most developed is a dark fantasy called Hope is Coming to Eat your Heart. 

Who is your favorite character in Anna Undreaming? Why?

Oh that’s tough! Anna is the central character of course, but I’m too close to her to say she’s my favourite. I just hope people like her! Personally, I like Elise a lot because she is fun and annoying and brave all at once. She’s the only main character without any powers or special skills, but though everyone treats her like a child, she’s very often the one that tips the odds in the favour of the protagonists.

What can you tell us about your writing process? How do you function as an author?

I just like to write. Even if I wasn’t getting published, making the stories in my head and getting them down on paper would still feel good. It must be brutally hard to be an author if you don’t like that process. I think some writers want to be an author or want to have a book published more than they want to write one, and that’s setting yourself up for misery.

How did you design your magic system? What was the most challenging part about creating it?

I wanted the rules to be consistent and I wanted the story to take shape around them, rather than bending the rules for the supernatural elements around what the story demanded. I also managed to write a hundred and six thousand words about a magical world without ever using the word “magic”. Not once. Quite proud of that!

How did you design your characters? What was you process for that?

I have no idea. I feel like they were already there in my head, sitting around, waiting for me to write a story so they had something to do.

When did you first start writing in general? Why are you passionate about it?

I started properly a few years ago, but even then, I only took it seriously in the last year. I always wanted to be a writer, and some teachers told me I was good at it. I guess I was just too lazy before now. 

Do you have any tips or ideas for people who might be struggling with their own world-building?

Don’t speak about your ideas to anyone. You communicate them in your writing. When you tell people your ideas, you fritter them away and lose the desire to share them. Store them up in your writing, and that will fuel you to keep going.


Check out Anna Undreaming:

Cover TomAnna is a student surviving the city, and she lives by a simple credo, “Never play their game; their game is always rigged.” For every man she has ever known, it’s a saying that has served her well.

That all changes on the night of “The Big Storm,” when Anna is slipped a date rape drug. Though she saves herself and her best friend, Anna is lost to the dark heart of the city and finds herself hunted by The Night Collectors. Unsure if these monsters are real or hallucinations, Anna nonetheless fights them as best she can. The battle attracts a stranger—Teej—who saves her using powers she cannot understand. He explains that she is an Undreamer and possesses the same powers, and in the future, he will not be the one to save her. She will save him.But Anna is not yet ready to join Teej and stand against The Dreamers. She has difficult decisions of her own to make. Decisions she has always run from. She still has her partner’s suicide letter. It remains unopened. She still wears his ring, though she can’t seem to remember his face.Anna learns of The Dreamers – artists so preeminent in their respective fields that they can paint, dance, sew or sing new realities—and as she travels through their creations, she learns that there’s as much beauty in the world as there is horror. With a complex conspiracy at work within the community of Dreamers that threatens to undermine reality itself, Anna will have to look deep within herself, and eventually have to face the horrors of her own past, to save her old world as well as her new one.

Anna Undreaming is a dark urban fantasy, and the first book in the The Metiks Fade trilogy, released on March 20th 2018 by Owl Hollow Press. You can pre-order it here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Anna-Undreaming-Thomas-Welsh/dp/1945654082


Connect with Tom:

Twitter: twitter.com/calmdowntom

Anna Undreaming on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35941068-anna-undreaming

Vote for Anna Undreaming on Goodreads upcoming fantasy 2018: https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/112840.Can_t_Wait_Sci_Fi_Fantasy_of_2018#

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About John Robin

John Robin is an epic fantasy writer, professional editor, and lover of imaginary worlds. He write stories about magic and myth, human suffering and the power to rise above it. He loves world building, coffee shops, mathematics, chess, and is an avid author community builder.
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