Welcome to another Author Highlight, a series where we feature indie authors like ourselves. You’ll find author interviews, tips, stories, poetry and more. We aim to entertain, promote, and inspire. Other interviews can be found here.
Author E.M. Anderson
Joining us in our post today for an author interview is E.M. Anderson (she/they). Her adult fantasy novel, The Remarkable Retirement of Edna Fisher, follows the 83-year-old knitting enthusiast on a fantastical “Chosen One” adventure to save dragon-slayers. (Releasing April 21, 2023, from Hansen House Books)
You’re never too old for adventure.
When you’re a geriatric armed with nothing but gumption and knitting needles, stopping a sorcerer from wiping out an entire dragon-fighting organization is a tall order. No one understands why 83-year-old Edna Fisher is the Chosen One, destined to save the Knights from a dragon-riding sorcerer bent on their destruction. After all, Edna has never handled a magical weapon, faced down a dragon, or cast a spell. And everyone knows the Council of Wizards always chooses a teenager—like the vengeful girl ready to snatch Edna’s destiny from under her nose.
Still, Edna leaps at the chance to leave the nursing home. With her son long dead in the Knights’ service, she’s determined to save dragon-fighters like him and to ensure other mothers don’t suffer the same loss she did. But as Edna learns about the abuse in the ranks and the sorcerer’s history as a Knight, she questions if it’s really the sorcerer that needs stopping—or the Knights she’s trying to save.
Q: It’s not often you see a geriatric fantasy hero—what gave you the idea for your main character, Edna?
A: Author Carrie Ann DiRisio runs a Twitter account called Brooding YA Hero that lovingly pokes fun at exactly that (brooding YA heroes, that is), which several years back tweeted: It’s amazing how many prophecies involve teens. You’d think they’d pick more emotionally stable people, with more free time. Like grandmas.
That tweet lived in my Writing Inspo folder until I needed a new idea, and that’s the one that leapt out at me! But I’m also a grandma (in spirit), so I think it was only a matter of time until I wrote an elderly fantasy protagonist: the main character of the manuscript I recently signed with my agent is also elderly (well, immortal, but looks like he’s in his seventies rather than like a hot twenty-five-year-old), and the main character of the book I’m planning now is also older.
Q: The cover for your book seems to have a large city skyline in the background. Can you tell us a bit about the world Edna is from?
A: Edna is from what I’ve been calling more-or-less the real world: the setting is the modern U.S. (minus a certain pandemic), except that magic exists and everyone knows about it. So on one hand you have nursing homes and iPhones and Detroit and California, but on the other hand you have wizards and dragons and potions and crystal balls. It’s a funky setting—mostly, I think, because I think magical stories set in the contemporary world often involve a lot of secrecy surrounding magic. But in Remarkable Retirement, magic exists out in the open and is mainstream.
Q: What other characters will readers encounter? What do you hope readers will like about them?
A: The emotional core of the story revolves around Edna’s found family. Benjamin is her favorite orderly from the nursing home, a nerd about all things magical, and generalized anxiety in a trench coat. Clem is the angry, traumatized teenage girl they meet along the way, who would probably be the Chosen One if this were a different story. And Kiernan is the baddie’s conflicted bestie with a bad case of “I came here with my own agenda but whoops my hand slipped and now I care about these weirdos.”
Sometimes they have a complicated dynamic. Like, Benjamin is instantly :eyes: at Kiernan, but Kiernan’s got an ulterior motive. Edna loves Benjamin and Clem like they’re her own grandkids, but Benjamin and Clem frequently clash with each other. And, well, actually, Clem frequently clashes with…everyone. But ultimately they care about each other and are better off together than they were apart. So I hope people will like that.
Q: Some say that the longer humans live, the greater their chance of doing harm. What do you think Edna’s response to that opinion would be?
A: Edna would say, maybe that’s true. But also, the longer humans live, the greater their chance of learning how to rectify and atone for their mistakes.
Q: You’re in familiar company (our books cared for by indie publisher Hansen House!) What has been your favorite part of the publishing journey so far?
A: …can I say, the part I’m at right now? Where all my work revising and editing is done and I have a slight lull before I have to dive back into marketing? Because right now things are momentarily very relaxed, and as much as I’ve enjoyed most of the process…this is my favorite part so far.
Q: What advice would you give a writer who’s over the age of thirty and trying to write their first book (maybe they are eighty-three)?
A: Well, first of all, I’d say you’re never too old to start writing. Which is hopefully something someone writing their first book over the age of thirty (or at eighty-three) is in no doubt about, but I’ll say it anyway just in case someone needs to hear it.
Then I’d say: find your people! Writing seems like a solitary pursuit, because we think of authors hunched over their laptop or notebook, alone, but so many people are involved in actual book production. And long before that, you learn about writing and the industry a lot by connecting with and talking to other writers, you have beta readers or critique partners who can give feedback on your early work—and it’s much easier to keep going when you hit rough patches if you have folks there to cheer you on.
Thanks for joining us for an author interview!
You can connect with E.M. Anderson at her website and social media links below. And don’t forget to order The Remarkable Retirement of Edna Fisher.