Noblebright Fantasy and the Unhero

Noblebright Fantasy and the Unhero

Today, let’s talk about all things dragons, Noblebright Fantasy (to be defined in a moment) and heroes that aren’t, well . . . very heroic.

This summer, I stumbled on novelist JA Andrews and chatted with her a little bit about her mountain life in Montana, what it’s like being an author with three kids (she homeschools too!) and, to be my great surprise, a genre of fantasy I’d never heard of before—Noblebright Fantasy.

Take it away, JA! (<— You see what I did there?)


Noblebright and the Unhero: Because what we think of heroes matters.

Noblebright and the Unhero.

No, that isn’t the title of a story about a unicorn and a monster that undoes heroes. (Although, I would definitely read that story. #unicornsforthewin)

“Noblebright” and “unhero” are two ideas that I constantly come back to. I admit that most people won’t understand either word because they’re a bit obscure—and by obscure I mean “might not really be words”—but if you stick with me for a bit, I’ll do my best to explain them, and maybe you can see why I get all atwitter about them.

BecauseI firmly believe that how I think about heroes matters.

The Typical (and Atypical) Hero

I love a good hero. I grew up on fantasy books in the 80’s and 90’s, full of larger than life heroes striding across the page with the Sword of Destiny slung across their back. There were great warriors, powerful mages, sneaky thieves who could pick even the lock of the Impenetrable Vault of Doom.

And stories about them are great.

I also love a good antihero, those heroes who are not your typical hero. Bitter, caustic Severus Snape. Conniving, manipulative Scarlett O’Hara. Sherlock Holmes. Hans Solo. They’re great at something, just not something traditionally heroic, and they’re among my favorites.

But I do think heroes and antiheroes make us think that heroism is limited to the Special Ones. To be heroic you must be rich, or strong, or exceptionally skilled. 

But I do think heroes and antiheroes make us think that heroism is limited to the Special Ones.

I don’t know about you, but it’s a rare day that I feel Able-To-Save-the-World special. In fact I often don’t feel Able-To-Complete-My-To-Do-List special.

So for a lot of my life, without really thinking about it, the only people I put in the Can Be a Hero category were those I’d deemed More Special Than Me.

The Unhero

Enter the unhero.

Confession: I just made up the term “unhero”. A quick googling shows that it’s not a real word. But it should be. An unhero is a not-hero.

I’m very fond of the unhero—that character who just isn’t heroic.

They’re never going to escape unscathed from a tavern brawl, never mind win an actual sword fight. It’s Bilbo Baggins and Neville Longbottom. It’s characters who are not special. Not only would they not win the Most Likely to Be Good At…Anything Award, they’d also be the one the coach forgot when ordering the participation trophies.

They’re actually a lot like me.

I love when these characters get put in a situation that demands heroics. Because this is where I think the truest vision of heroism is seen.

Superman keeps saving the world. But let’s be honest, he doesn’t even have to live up to his potential to do it. One time I saw him spin the entire earth backwards to reverse time. Anyone who can defy all the laws of physics, time—and logic—like that can easily defeat one bald villain.

But when Bilbo Baggins, with his absolute lack of skills or power and only the help of a ring he literally stumbled across, actually steps out and speaks to that terrible dragon – that is heroic. When he leaves the safety of his dwarf friends because they’re overtaken with greed and he knows they’re wrong, that is heroic.

Bilbo never slays the dragon, but he’s the hero of the story. Because heroism is something different than physical strength and power. It’s not muscles or magical powers or astounding skills.

Because heroism is something different than physical strength and power. Heroism is stepping up to do what’s right, regardless of whether you’re going to succeed. And when you have an Unhero, well, you know that internal strength is all they’ve got.

When Neville kills the big bad snake at the end of Harry Potter, who wasn’t cheering? Sure, Harry got Voldemort. Of course he did, Harry was the Chosen One. But…Neville! With nothing but his own unremarkable him-ness he stood up to that big, nasty snake—and won!


And here’s where the idea of noblebright comes in.

Unlike “unhero”, “noblebright” is actually a real word that came out of the gaming community as an opposite to the term grimdark.

Grimdark is pretty well known:

  • The world is savage.
  • People are savage.
  • The hero, who’s fairly savage, might possibly survive long enough to succeed, but they’ll have no chance at changing the savage world in a meaningful way.
  • Anyone who thinks otherwise is naive.

The most popular grimdark story is Game of Thrones. There is no good vs. evil. There are only morally grey characters in a morally dark grey world. And no one has the power to change that.

There are a lot of grimdark stories out there and some of them I like quite a bit.

But I like noblebright better.

Being the opposite of grimdark doesn’t mean that noblebright stories are fluffy tales about rainbows and dancing chipmunks. It means the central worldview is opposite.

In noblebright there is good and there is evil, and even though the whole world and each individual character is a mix of the two, good and evil are still distinct things. Goodness isn’t just naiveté. Evil is still ruthless and cunning and vicious, but goodness has a deep-rooted, unyielding power of its own.

And that power means that a person has the chance to affect their world for the better.

This is where Noblebright and the Unhero come together.

Because the unhero’s tale is the place where it’s most obvious that it is goodness that is heroic.

The unhero is not fighting because they’re strong, or wise, or skilled. They’re fighting because they know it’s the right thing to do.

And it turns out that stepping forward and facing evil and injustice not because you’re sure you’re going to win, but because that is what Good does, is the essence of heroism.

Which is awesome.

It’s hard, and sometimes terrifying. But if I believe that what it really takes to be a hero is doing good, and believe that goodness is powerful enough to change the world, well, that reforms what I think a hero is.

And even better, those two beliefs allow me to see that I actually exist firmly in the Can Be a Hero category.


Have you read Noblebright Fantasy? Who is your favorite Unhero? Leave your responses in the comments!


JA Andrews lives next to the Rocky Mountains of Montana with her husband and three children. She is eternally grateful to CS Lewis for showing her the luminous world of Narnia. She wishes Jane Austen had lived 200 years later so they could be pen pals. She is furious at JK Rowling for introducing her to house elves, then not providing her a way to actually employ one. And she is constantly jealous of her future-self who, she is sure, has everything figured out.

You can grab a free copy of her book, A Keeper’s Tale, by signing up for her Bookish Things newsletter. Her book, A Threat of Shadows, is now on sale for $0.99 instead of $4.99 in honor of her being a semi-finalist in the Self Publishing Fantasy Blog Off Awards.)

A Keepers Tale by JA Andrews

A Keeper’s Tale:

A hapless hero,

a dragon with a grudge,

and a maiden who doesn’t need rescuing.

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To say that I love dragon books would drastically understate it.

Seriously. Why else would I write THE DRAGONMASTERS? But writing well means a lot of reading, so in my ravenous search for new dragon books, I remembered that I bought HEARTSTONE by Elle Katharine White.

Elle is one of those people that’s a friend of a friend, (I think we met at a writing conference a few years ago) and also one of those people that you love because everyone loves her. She has a killer talent for writing, a great style, and an excellent taste in friends.

HEARTSTONE delivered. It was everything I wanted it to be and more. She promises Pride and Prejudice meets dragons, and it happens. There’s a delightful mix of Regency-like England set in an alternate world with fantastical creatures, beautiful characters, and a rich setting.

When EKW agreed to an interview, I knew I had to bring you more. So here is EKW, bringing us a little bit more about the world of Arle.

1.    Tell us where you came up with this idea of Dragons meet Pride and Prejudice. 

It began with a Hiccup. Hiccup and Toothless, to be precise. HEARTSTONE was born one afternoon while I tried to divide my attention between re-reading Pride and Prejudice and watching the movie How to Train Your Dragon. Halfway through I was struck with the image of Mr. Darcy riding a dragon and, well, there it was. I couldn’t sleep that night until I’d written the first chapter.

2.    What is your favorite creature of all the (many!) that you include? 

Hobgoblins. I love those mischievous little guys. But beware! For such small creatures they don’t take insults lying down. Cross them and prepare for muddy revenge.

3.    Aliza, your version of Lizzy Bennet, rings true of the beloved Pride and Prejudice Lizzy without being a bland replica. Was it difficult to write her and find her? 

It was. She had to inhabit the narrow space between homage and reinvention while still preserving Lizzy’s feisty spirit.

4.    Lovers of Pride and Prejudice will sink their talons into this book—it hits true in all the right spots. What was it like writing a book alongside such a beloved classic? 

Wildly intimidating. Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite books of all time and I wanted to approach a reimagining with respect. At the same time, the heart of Pride and Prejudice is itself a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, which is a retelling of the Cupid and Psyche myth, so I felt in good company recasting these beloved characters in a new world.

5.    What is your daily writing process like? 

I’m the kind of person who sets four alarms and sleeps through all of them. It’s the fifth one that wakes me up in the morning, the internal one that says, “Write now or drag these characters with you to work.” I write for an hour in the mornings, brainstorm through my lunch break, and write for another few hours at night.

6.    Do you have a favorite food for inspiration? (DP 10 is mine, for example, ha ha! 😉 

Tea. It’s a problem. At this point I’m pretty sure Earl Grey runs in my veins.

7.    Your first novel was published by HarperVoyager—which is one of the biggest publishers for YA fiction in the world. A huge congratulations. It was well deserved! Your writing and story are stunning. What was it like for you to get the agent and be accepted under such a big name? 

Thank you! It was a roller coaster of emotion. One long string of rejections, then—huzzah! An agent! Only to be followed by another long string of rejections, this time by publishers. (We still haven’t sold my first book.) I ran around my office yelling like a banshee when I heard Voyager wanted HEARTSTONE. Happily, my coworkers are very understanding.

8.    And finally—what’s your next project? 

More adventures in Arle. Book Two is just about ready to go to the editor and Book Three is in the ugly, prenatal first draft. And because sleep is overrated, I’m also working on an adult cyberpunk series with sentient malware, sibling rivalries, and lots and lots of GIRL POWER.

9.    Where can readers find you? (A newsletter, twitter, FB, or all of them!) 

You can explore more about the world of HEARTSTONE at If you’re on social media, feel free to connect with me on Facebook at, or witness the hilarious spectacle that is an author navigating the 140-character limit on Twitter at @elle_k_writes.

Don’t miss her Tumblr blog–it has drawings of all her creatures so you can see them real time, and they’re amazing.

The World of Antebellum Wikia

The World of Antebellum Wikia

One of the best things about being an author is the fans.

Book blogger Evan Morgan quickly set himself apart as an uber-fan of the Network Series early in the series, and I’ve loved interacting with him ever since then.

He’s a huge superstar and decided to take all the information I could possibly give him and create the World of Antebellum Wikia page! How amazing is that?

He’s here today to tell you more about it:

Take it away, Evan!

All About Wiki

The internet is a treasure trove of information ranging from history and language to mathematics and science. There is nothing you cannot find on the internet. Now, that includes information about many of your favorite fandoms such as Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. Thousands of fans work together in creating what are known as a wiki.

What is a wiki, you may ask? A wiki is a site consisting of information dedicated to one subject. A wiki is editable by anyone who wishes to add or change information.

As of this writing, the wiki for Lord of the Rings (known as The One Wiki to Rule Them All) contains 6,173 pages dedicated the chronicling the lands, peoples, and conflicts of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth; the Star Wars wiki (known as Wookieepedia) contains 135,775 pages consisting of information from a galaxy far, far away—both from the Legends line of books and stories and the official canon as dictated by Lucasfilm.

The Network Series Canon

When I came across Katie’s Network Series by winning copies of the first two books, Miss Mabel’s School for Girls and Antebellum Awakening, it became clear that she had created a world dense with history, lore, and much more. And then came the prequel Mildred’s Resistance, the novella The Isadora Interviews, and then the final two books in the series, The High Priest’s Daughter and War of the Networks.

One might’ve thought that Katie would be done with the world of Antebellum, but that is far from the truth!

Just this past year, Katie released Short Stories from Miss Mabel’s (available only to the Fantasy Lovers Only email list!) and Short Stories from the Network Series. She also announced a new series consisting of half a dozen books exploring characters both known and new—the first two being The Dragonmasters: Part One and The Dragonmasters: Part Two coming out in early 2018.

With these books becoming bigger and taking on more of an epic fantasy vibe, I realized that it may become a bit difficult for readers to keep on top of all the details of the world of Antebellum.

So, I decided to create a wiki called The World of Antebellum.

This site will be a place where fans of Katie’s works can keep track of characters, places, things, creatures, and more. Not only can you look up information about your favorite characters or the rules of the magic system in the series—you can also contribute by creating and expanding articles for others to read!

While the wiki is currently in its young stages, with hard work, the World of Antebellum Wikia will be a must go-to for new and old fans of the series.

Go check it out today!

Be sure to stop by Evan’s book blog for all the latest in awesome books—especially fantasy!

Featured Author for Splickety Magazine

Featured Author for Splickety Magazine

Ever wondered what would happen if Huckleberry Finn rafted the River Styx?

Yeah, me too.

So I wrote it. In less than 500 words.

Splickety magazine asked me to be their featured author for the month of March, ushering in their time warp edition of the magazine. It’s like an early 30th birthday present. Except I’m not turning 30 this year. I swear.

*nervous chuckle*

*steps back*

*jumps ship*

Which means you can read Huck’s Final Adventure right now, with a ton of other awesome stories like Beowulf Versus a Bayonet, Speakeasy Shakespeare, and Goldilocks Gets Arrested.

It’s like $3.49. That’s a crappy cup of coffee. And this will last way longer. Without the jitters and deep regret.

Hard Copy



My Interview with Splickety with Painfully Short Answers

Ghosts Just Want Attention Splickety Magazine Feature by Katie Cross

Find Splickety here:




You guys are awesome.


The Making of a Novel

The Making of a Novel

When I released my first book, Miss Mabel’s School for Girls, I did a post showing the book cover progressions Cory Clubb and I went through to get the final, official book cover. So many fans responded about how they enjoyed learning the process that I decided to give you a glimpse into the whole process of making a book: covers, editing, typesetting, and setting up a social media campaign.

Creating a Novel

The Making of a Book Cover

May 6th, 2014- Email Jenny with Seedlings Online to request her work on my next cover.

May 8th- sign contract and pay deposit for next two book covers.

May 12th- Send Jenny the paperwork for ideas with book covers.

June 12th- Jenny sends first “comp boards” with ideas.

Comp Boards for Antebellum Awakening with Seedlings Online

Comp Boards for Antebellum Awakening with Seedlings Online

June 23- Choose and tweak covers over emails

Jun 27- Jenny sends second round of comp boards based on previous decisions.

Comp Boards for Antebellum Awakening with Seedlings Online Comp Boards for Antebellum Awakening with Seedlings Online Comp Boards for Antebellum Awakening with Seedlings Online

Jun 27th- show comp boards to friends for opinions

Jun 28th- Email Jenny with decision. Talk license agreements, tweaks, etc.

Jun 30th- Final comp boards sent with requested tweaks. I had her do the line ‘Book Two in the Network Series’ in both gold and white.

Comp Boards for Antebellum Awakening with Seedlings Online

July 6th- The front cover for Antebellum Awakening is finalized!

July 30th- I send Jenny a holding blurb, the barcode, my bio, imprint logo, and design ideas for back cover.

August 16th- send finalized blurb.

August 18th- Jenny sends tentative full cover for approval.

Comp Boards for Antebellum Awakening with Seedlings Online

The Editing Process

First draft: Started February 25th. Completed April 7th. Word count: 64, 537 words

Second draft: Started April 9th. Word count: 83, 275

Third draft: Started April 22nd. Word count: 94, 678

Send to beta readers @ 94, 170 words.

Fourth draft: Started May 23rd after beta readers comments. Word count 94, 950

Fifth draft: Send to developmental editors June 5th, 2014 96. Word count: 96, 771 words. Developmental edits returned July 21st and and July 5th.

Sixth draft: Apply suggested/needed changes. Send to line/copy editor August 1st. Received edits August 30th.

Send to second round of beta readers while with the editor for line/copy edits.

Seventh draft: Finalized draft @ 97,473. Send to proofreader and typesetter 9.5.14. Edits returned 9.12.14

Antebellum Awakening, the second book in the Network Series, Releases Today!

Designing the Interior

I love that I have control over my book as an independent author, but once I met Chris at Atthis Arts (through reading a fabulous epic fantasy book that he put together titled Spireseeker), I knew that I wanted him to take care of my interior design for Antebellum Awakening.

This is the schedule I gave Chris:

Sept 3-4– Send him the same MS I sent proofreader. He typesets the ARC file with his magic.

 Section breaks with dragon filigree from front cover:

Typesetting for Antebellum Awakening: releases October 15th!


Dropped letters at the beginning of chapters:
Typesetting for Antebellum Awakening: releases October 15th!

Chris was also incredibly patient. Here is the following list of edits I forced him to endure.

9/5- sent him ARC manuscript that also went to proofreader

9/10- Chris returned typeset file so I could process proofs for ARCs

9/30- I sent him 450+ corrections post-proofreader and after I read through the physical book.

10/6- Chris returned edited MS

10/10- I sent Chris 20 more edits after my friend (a 7th grade english teacher) found them.

10/11- returned edited book with final file for publication!

A Social Media Blitz

Detailing all the things that go into a social media campaign would be a crazy task (because there are far too many), so I’m just going to include a list of things that I do to prepare for the release of a book. Not comprehensive, btw. I can’t even keep track of all that I’m doing for it. It’s not in order either, because that’s just crazy.

~ Contact book bloggers (about 20) at least 6 weeks in advance to see if they’ll take on the book.

~ Send advance copies out when available

~ Set up “street team” of exceptional fans of MMSFG to help promote AA. (I ended up with 17).

~ Update website pages with new book.

~ Arrange for ARC’s of paperbacks to be prepared for street team to get in advance.

~ Contact local t-shirt design store to prepare swag for AA.

~ Pick up t-shirts. Send with signed, ARC of book to street team.

~ Answer interview questions, record video interviews as requested, and prepare guest posts. (This is spread out over about a month and takes longer than you think.)

~ Gather official “swag” for giveaway

~ Take professional photos of swag to put on the internet

~ Prepare posts for my own website

~ Start Goodreads giveaway about 6 weeks before book releases

~ Start FB event, Goodreads event, and G+ event

~ Upload swag pictures to MMSFG FB page

~ Put up page on official website for giveaway instructions

~ Contact book bloggers for release day book blogger blast

~ Coordinate swag pictures, cover photos, and title banner shots with all people doing posts for AA.

~ Prepare posts and images for Pinterest

~ Contact BookBub for add for MMSFG during launch of AA

~ Apologize to my husband in advance for how stressed I become


 Any questions?