I recently had the pleasure of reading the book The Almost Queen. It was a wonderful high fantasy with a gripping love story. It isn’t often that we find positive fat main characters in fantasy novels, so I was very excited to read this book. If you are a fan of fantasy, this is definitely worth a read. I also had the pleasure of interviewing author Alys Murray and asking her a few questions about the book. I appreciate her thoughtful answers to the questions below.
This question is more for our website than the interview, but do any of your other books have fat characters?
Yes! Most of my books have fat heroines in particular, and I’m looking forward to writing some fat heroes in the future as well! My books featuring fat romantic leads include: The Christmas Company, Tea and a Cowboy, Society Girl, The Magnolia Sisters, Sweet Pea Summer, Villain Lover (currently out of print), and Small Town Secrets. Writing fat lead characters – especially in stories where their weight is simply part of their character and not the central focus of the entire narrative – is very important to me, and I’ve been so lucky to partner with publishers who support that vision!
I was wondering if you could share with us some of your inspiration for writing this story?
For sure! The idea for The Almost Queen came from watching Game of Thrones and other similarly grim-dark TV and movies. I wanted to flip the idea of people ruthlessly pursuing power on its head. In effect, what does a fantasy world look like if the two people trying to lead that world desperately want that world to be better? What if, instead of power at any cost, the characters just wanted peace? From that idea, I started to brainstorm how to create a world like that and how to get the most drama out of it. Our hero, Terran, wants peace and an end to war, but he has to keep the throne because of his duty to his family. Ellara, our heroine, wants peace and an end to war, but she has to protect her people who have been exiled and denigrated because of their powers. At its heart, I wanted this to be a story about how seductive goodness can be. We read a lot of stories about how enticing cruelty, power, control, betrayal can be…so I wanted to turn that on its head and watch two people sacrifice everything – their pride, their fear, their self-interest – for the greater good…and for each other.
I noticed on your site that most of your books appear to be romances, and while this definitely has a wonderful romantic story it is what I would consider high fantasy. What inspired the change in genre?
I’ve always loved fairy tales. I would consider all of my books to be fairy tales – this one just happens to be in a more traditionally “fairy tale” world than the others. At the time of writing this, I’d just finished a couple of contemporary, small-town manuscripts that were going out on submission, and I didn’t think I had it in me to create another cute, quaint small town at the time. So, I decided to let myself be totally free in this period and write anything I wanted. Around the same time, I also wrote a 1920’s bootlegger romance and a Star Wars space opera romance inspired by Anastasia. I love experimenting with genre and finding new ways to tell stories that inspire me!
Ellara is such great representation. We don’t often get fat and powerful characters in fantasy. Why was it important to you to have Ellara be fat?
I really love high fantasy and fairy tales, but one of the things that always frustrated me growing up was that the fat characters were always chrones or hags or wicked stepsisters. It deeply bothered me that when I read fantasy romances, thinness was fetishized and glorified while fatness was equated with wickedness or undesirability. I wanted a story where a fat woman could wear a gown, carry a sword, dance by firelight, face down armies and magical creatures, and fall in love. Creating Ellara was like creating a love letter to my younger, less secure self. You are powerful, you are beautiful, you are lovable, you deserve a happily ever after.
Was there anything that surprised you? Anything that was unexpected in the writing or publishing process of this book?
I was surprised by how much I needed to write this book. (TW: eating disorders) Though I’m in recovery now, I have struggled with Bulimia for most of my life, and writing this book about a fat woman who is a beautiful badass who wins the love of a kingdom and a king…it meant more to me than I could possibly say. Once, I had a professor who said, “There are things you need to write and then there are things other people need to read.” Basically, sometimes you need to write something just for you, and other times, you need to write something so others can also share in whatever you’ve created. Not everything you write will be for everyone; not everything you write will be just for you. But I think writing The Almost Queen was one of those rare occasions where I created both. I really, really needed to write this book…and I think other people could really benefit from reading it, too. I hope other people feel as lifted up by reading this book as I did by writing it.
What is coming up next for you?
Christmas movies! I work as a screenwriter as well, and this year I have written a Christmas movie that’s going to premiere on one of the major networks. I have to be tight-lipped about the name until we get closer to its release because of my contract, but I’m so excited!