Melanie Nilles is a prolific fantasy and sometime science fiction author. For example, she has written Legend of the White Dragon series and completed The Luriel Cycle trilogy in 2018. I had the opportunity to interview her recently.

Tamara Wilhite: How many books have you published so far?

Melanie Nilles: Not counting the boxed sets/bundles, only individual stories, including the novelettes and novellas and the newest release at the end of March, 2020… thirty.

Tamara Wilhite: I believe the majority of them are fantasy. What is the ratio of fantasy to science fiction books?

Melanie Nilles: That’s a good question that I’ve never considered. Actually, it’s pretty evenly split and maybe even stronger on the science fiction side. The Starfire Angels series is actually science fiction, and the whole series spans seventeen books, including a few novellas and even a novelette-length ebook, so definitely leaning towards the science fiction more than fantasy.

Tamara Wilhite: And what is it about?

Melanie Nilles: The whole series started with the first book, which is titled Starfire Angels, a young adult story. I had a HUGE spark of creativity for that story when I first wrote it and a year later, rewrote it. It had something readers wanted at that time. I gained fans who requested more of the hero and heroine, Elis and Raea, so I wrote more stories with them, until I felt that I couldn’t do justice to continuing and had run out of their storyline. I didn’t want to run my series into the ground like so many others, so I ended with five books making up the Dark Angel Chronicles. But I still had some story to tell, so I wrote the Revelations segment soon after.

What’s funny is that ten years after I published the original Starfire Angels, my youngest daughter read the Dark Angel Chronicles. When she finished all five books, she asked if I would write more with those characters. I was long past them by that point. By the time she read those, I had just started the Forgotten Worlds segment, which is the most ambitious part of the whole series.

Tamara Wilhite: What do you think makes it your most popular novel series on Amazon?

Melanie Nilles: I started indie publishing at the rise of the ebook tide in 2009. 2012 was a big year for everyone and the year I published Forever Dark (Starfire Angels: Dark Angel Chronicles Book 5). Young adult was hot then, and I was lifted on the wave of popularity created by the Twilight Saga and Hunger Games. Mostly, it was good timing and a story that hit most of the right beats with readers.

Tamara Wilhite: What book was the most fun for you to write? What did you enjoy working on the most?

Melanie Nilles: All of them. I won’t write what I don’t enjoy. I write first for myself for the love of discovering the adventure with my characters, and if anyone else enjoys my work, that’s icing on the cake.

But if I had to pick one, it’s probably obvious—the Starfire Angels series, since I keep coming back to that. I actually am more inclined towards science than magic and tend to prefer reading more science fiction than fantasy.

Tamara Wilhite: Your bio mentions your extensive equestrian experience. Does that ever influence your writing?

Melanie Nilles: I grew up with animals, and that taught me to be observant. It plays a big part of my observations of characters and provides insights into the ways non-human characters might display their emotions. Working with horses also provided inspiration for creating the dragons of the Legend of the White Dragon series and the different creature sides of the shapeshifting demonlords in the Demon Age novels. I’ve only written two books actually featuring horses— Fireblood (Legend of the White Dragon series) and A Turn of Curses. I don’t know why I never really had an inkling to write about horses. I guess I’ve always had my fill in real life.

Tamara Wilhite: What are some of the biggest influences of your writing?

Melanie Nilles: That’s changed throughout the years. It depends on the series. However, I think the biggest influence is probably my faith. I’ve noticed a leaning in my stories towards themes that tie into my Christian faith, whether overt or subtle. It’s not enough to be considered Christian fiction but does influence my stories.

Tamara Wilhite: What are you currently working on now?

Melanie Nilles: That’s the Forgotten Worlds series. I had always imagined so much more could be done with Starfire Angels than what I could imagine in the beginning. I knew the story could be expanded into something like a television series but never thought I would have the time or energy to write it myself.

Finally, after ten years since publishing Starfire Angels, I had the idea for a series of 20-30 short novels (right around the 40,000 word minimum to qualify as a novel according to SFWA standards). I knew I could write the series as if it was a television series along the lines of those that I enjoyed—Babylon 5, Farscape, Stargate, Star Trek, etc. Not the modern gritty, graphic, and boring (to me) stuff that’s come to be popular but something fun, adventurous, and without graphic scenes. I could make it exciting with short adventures to keep me fresh and interested while building on an overarching plot. In one series, I could write all the different types of plots I ever loved in science fiction, and I have lots of ideas! I had an existing world but had to create new characters and a new conflict.

Last year, the tenth anniversary of the first Starfire Angels book was the right time, and I even incorporated my first ever characters from an unpublished story into this setting, which was an added bonus. It all just fit finally. I had my series, or most of it.

Then, in the fourth book, I met a new character who surprised me but tied up the open ends of the series that I hadn’t been able to figure out for my outline. He also gave me more ideas to flesh out the series.

I feel like I’ve been practicing to write all these years just for this, and it is a challenge.

The fifth book of the series, THE DESTRUCTION OF WALLS, will be available at the end of March, 2020. This is only about a fifth into the series that I have planned, and I have the whole series outlined. There is an end to it, and it will be worth the wait, although at the pace I write, it will take a few years.

Tamara Wilhite: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Melanie Nilles: I actually started writing in college but never published anything until right before the Amazon Kindle came along. The true first book of Legend of the White Dragon, Prophecy, had actually been accepted and published by a small publishing company. I later got my rights back, re-edited it, retitled it and published it myself under my own publishing company name.

And then the Kindle came along and changed self-publishing. I mentioned that Forgotten Worlds pulls in my first characters from a different setting. I wrote two novels with those characters twenty-eight years ago this year. Through college, I continued to write while completing my degree in business administration.

It was later in college that I wrote a short story that was also never published (nothing was at that point), but twelve years after writing that short story, I fell in love with an anime series that sparked an explosion of creativity that turned an idea from that short story into Dark Angel. That was rewritten a year later as Starfire Angels. And that kind of weird creative spark happened again.

Ten years after I published Starfire Angels, I pulled my first-ever characters into my Starfire Angels universe and gave them some new background details and an exciting new story. It’s been a very interesting experience and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Tamara Wilhite: Thank you for your time.