Ari is the author of the Valhalla series, YA novels that are set in a dystopian, futuristic Scotland. I haven’t read Valhalla or its sequel, Ragnarok, yet, but all the stellar reviews they got make me wish I had a bit more time for reading.
Let’s start with some warm-up questions:
Chocolate or cookies?
E-books or paperbacks?
Star Wars or Star Trek?
I grew up with Star Trek as the center of my entire life, attended the conventions, and watched every new episode over and over. I’m currently marathoning the entire universe, from TOS and the animated series to the last (10th) movie, and recently won the local Geeks Who Drink Star Trek Trivia Quiz. So uh, Star Trek probably.
Beach or mountains?
Mountains, my family has some land in the Rockies and it’s heaven.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What do you do when you’re not writing?
I’m generally building model kits or browsing funny cat pictures online. Or watching Star Trek, as seen above. Other than that I’m very happily married, and we live in a tiny dark cave of a house that we’ve filled with tons and tons of books and movies and cats, and we absolutely love it.
Please tell us about your journey in becoming a published writer. What challenges did you face when you published your first book? How did you come to publish with Harmony Ink Press? Is it your own imprint or a publishing house?
I wrote the first novel around 2008-2010 and self-published it on Lulu, and then on other eBook platforms in 2012. I sold about 50 copies total. I kept submitting it to any new agents and publishers I could find, though, and in 2013 Harmony Ink contracted it for a 2014 release. I think I found them mentioned on Tumblr originally. Harmony Ink is an LGBTQ+ publisher for YA books, and they’ve been exceptional. Their production style is much more favorable to the author and their creative decisions than most publishers, actually than any other publisher out there. If I were offered a contract with Putnam for my next book, I’d turn it down to work with Harmony Ink again. Before Valhalla was published, its few readers kept asking when I’d do a sequel. My reply was always that I’d do one if the book got published. So I had to get off my butt and finish the sequels pretty quick after that.
How did you come up with the idea for Valhalla?
It was originally intended to be a movie; I wanted to make an all-out fun action sci-fi film since 1997 when I saw The Fifth Element. Once it got ignored in Hollywood, I decided to turn it into a novel series, and it grew in the adaptation into something even cooler.
How did you come up with the title for your novels?
The original movie was called Gossamer, for no real reason. Once the central ravine in the story was named Valhalla, it became the most appropriate title, not least of all because of all the Norse mythology references and inspirations. Ragnarok goes further with the Norse myth and actually has plot events inspired by the Eddas. Those events more or less match the actual myth of Ragnarok, so the title fit. Book 3 is currently titled Gudsriki, which is Icelandic for “The Kingdom of God,” which has a couple meanings for the story.
What would you say are the main themes in Valhalla and Ragnarok? What personal meaning do those themes have for you?
The most tangible theme of Valhalla is that the outcasts and rejects of common society are actually the people who keep it running, who keep it from destroying itself. Personally speaking as one of those rejects, I think it might be true.
How long did it take you to write each book?
From the beginning idea, it took seventeen years before publication of the first book. All that time was spent developing the idea and story; it was always part of my creative life. Translating the story into a novel trilogy took around five years, seven counting the last novel yet to be edited. But given the actual production and time even before the project had its first name, it’s not inaccurate to round it up to a twenty-year project.
What’s your favorite scene in book 1?
Near the very end of the book, the heroine and villain meet face to face and the former comes to realize something about how she works, something she couldn’t admit before but is finally proud of.
Which scene in the series was hardest for you to write?
The first one. The opening scene took around 40 drafts to get it just right. Most other scenes only took a couple drafts but getting the first scene up and running stretched from inception to completion, going through a dozen different forms.
If Starbucks existed in 2230, what sort of coffee would Violet MacRae, the main character of Valhalla, order? Black coffee? Soy-sugar-free-non-fat-vanilla latte? Double chocolate chip Frappuccino with whipped cream and chocolate sauce? Something else?
Coffee is a controlled substance in the future, so Starbucks is around, but you have to pass the adulthood tests to drink there. Violet would just be starting out on her coffee adventures. I imagine in time she’d like something along the lines of an iced vanilla spiced latte. To be honest, though, I’ve never had coffee myself. I have no idea what that really is.
What projects are you working on right now? I heard there’s going to be a book 3 in the Valhalla series. Is that true?
Book 3 begins editing today actually and will hopefully come out in October. With the big trilogy completed there’s a massive hole in my creative world. I can’t work on the thing I’ve been working on for most of my life anymore, at least not outside of the final editing process. Re-adapting the stories back into film format is on the to-do list, and I’m thinking about adapting other old scripts into novels. There’s no shortage of them; I have a work in every genre ready to go.
Ari, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions and for introducing us to the Valhalla series!
Readers, if you want to find out more about Ari Bach, visit him at The Walrus Squad.
Has anyone read one of Ari’s books? How about other dystopian fiction? Any recommendations?
Please leave a comment!