Pantsing, Publishing and Portentous Plots - Chat with Maressa Mortimer

Beyond the Hills - image created by The 3D Book Creator &

Today I'm chatting with the lovely Maressa Mortimer, who has just published her new book, Beyond the Hills - the second in her Elabi Chronicles series, a follow up to Walled City. Over on my blog I've reviewed the book and asked Maressa some more questions about the story and herself, so do join me over there as part of Maressa's blog tour!

I've watched Maressa's writing career with interest and admiration over the past year or so - she's a one woman writing machine, and has published two books and a novella within a year. I really wanted to ask Maressa about how she writes, and reflect a little on the differences she's found between traditional and self publishing, and how those experiences chime with my own experiences. 

L: Maressa, I'm in awe of how you've published one book after the other over the past year or so. Can you tell us a little bit about the writing process for you - are you a plotter or a pantser?

M: I’m a pantser, although with some of my later books, like the story I’m working on at the moment as well as a new series, I have started to plan the characters a lot more, and maybe one of two things I would like to see in the story. Apart from that, I will find out once the characters have made up their mind!

L: This is interesting because I've found that my writing style is evolving too - I've traditionally been much more of a pantser, but lately I've found that some plotting is taking place, and helping me form characters a little more, which I find helps in the book development. Still, nothing beats the thrill of pantsing for me - the rush of words, the waiting to see what's going to happen today. I'd be interested to hear if other authors find their writing style changing over time, so do drop experiences in the comments. 

L: Can you give us an outline of how you self published your books, your experience of doing so compared to your traditionally published book Sapphire Beach, and the pros and cons of each?

M: Sapphire Beach was published by Onwards & Upwards, who have been great. It was a relief as well, as I was completely new to writing; I had no idea what to do next! Walled City was my first self published novel, and I went with Ingram Spark only, which was a bit of a mistake, as it means Amazon tells people there is a six weeks delivery time for your book... Viking Ferry was my novella, and I meant to order a proof copy, then pushed publish! So there will be a second edition soon, as the editing wasn’t quite done... Beyond the Hills is again done via KDP (Amazon) and Ingram Spark, so it can be pre-ordered before the 18th

L: Yes, I found that publishing with both Ingram Spark and Amazon went very well and would recommend it to anyone thinking about self-publishing. It's more work, because Ingram ask for slightly different cover files and interior files, and you need some tech know-how (or a good designer), but it's well worth it. I found that publishing through Ingram ensured that my book Treasure in Dark Places got into other online bookstores, including Eden and Waterstones, but simultaneously publishing through Amazon meant that it is immediately available there, as well. If anyone has any questions about that process, feel free to ask more.

M: It’s quite stressful, for there are so many boxes to tick, and it’s all in the details, and details aren’t my thing! So I have to really concentrate and drink lots of coffee to slow myself down enough to be able to do it. I do enjoy it, especially making the cover, but if there was a publisher out there who’d love to publish my books my way, I’d be delighted!

L: Tell us a little bit about what being a member of ACW has meant for you during this process.

M: Being a member has been amazing. It’s just knowing there are people who support you and encourage you that helps so much. It has also given me new opportunities, like Summits and Books Fests and Anthologies. I love reading other people’s stories as well, it’s so nice to be able to rejoice together, to pray for each other and to support other writers. I love how everybody is so helpful and I really appreciate that.

L: I completely agree - it's a wonderful, supportive group, and I am so grateful. Like you, I also savour the opportunity to read other's books - like yours!

L: Tell us about your Elabi Chronicles series - what gave you the idea for the setting and the characters, and how did you go about the process of bringing them to life?

M: I listened to a series of podcasts about world building, and decided it sounded like good fun, so I made up a world. I used Latin words, then turned them into names, and decided on food etc. Gax was a nickname that a friend’s son used for himself, and he allowed me to use it. The idea for Walled City was a lecture where the speaker mentioned that many students left the church, as they simply assimilated into their surroundings. That made me think, and Gax entered the scene. Beyond the Hills was all about the power of the Word of God. I knew that in Walled City, Gax had left behind some portions of his Bible. Would one portion be enough to change hearts and lives? I had one fixed scene, written during an ACW Writers Day in London! We were asked to write something about Colossians, about principalities and powers. Everyone had beautiful, devotional pieces; mine was a tense piece with someone trying to escape, muttering the words to himself/herself, trying to remember that Christ is above all powers, even the ruling powers. I suddenly knew, that is book two. I had no idea who was trying to escape, and where from, but I knew it was somewhere in Elabi! I didn’t change the piece very much, I’m so pleased every time I see that paragraph, it reminds me of a wonderful day of fellowship!

L: Can you share one challenge and one joy you've experienced during the writing of your latest book, Beyond the Hills?

M: The challenge was Macia’s inner struggle, as she couldn’t talk to anybody. That makes for tricky writing! My joy was to see her choices and the power of God, and actually reading the passages that she was, they are such wonderful epistles, it was the best research ever.

L: That is such a joy - I think that it's a wonderful privilege we have, as writers, to dig further into the Word that sparked all words, and bring it to life in new ways for new generations. Well done, Maressa!

Maressa Mortimer is Dutch but lives in the beautiful Cotswolds, England with her husband and four (adopted) children. Her debut novel, Sapphire Beach, was published December 2019, and her first self published novel, Walled City, came out on December 5th 2020, followed by Viking Ferry, a novella. Beyond the Hills is the second book in the Elabi Chronicles, and will be released on June 18th 2021.

Maressa is a homeschool mum as well as a pastor’s wife, so her writing has to be done in the evening when peace and quiet descend on the house once more. She loves writing Christian fiction, as it’s a great way to explore faith in daily life.

Liz Carter writes about finding gold in the painful bits of life. She is the author of Catching Contentment and Treasure in Dark Places, and is working on a fiction novel (out in its first round of submissions, gulp!) and a new non-fiction Christian living book. You can find her over at


  1. Fascinating to read, Liz and Maressa, especially thinking about how one's writing habits change over time. Thank you!

  2. So interesting to find out more. Maressa, you are truly a writing machine! Fascinating stuff.

  3. Thank you for this. I love hearing about other writers' writing processes. And I so admire Maressa's productivity and getting to grips with what is to me the very daunting process of self-publishing!

  4. A fascinating read. I love the fact that one of your scenes came out of an ACW writer's day! So incredible when a writing exercise leads to something worthy.

  5. These sound lovely books. and so interesting to read about how Maressa (and other fantasy writers) build their imaginary worlds, as that's something I think I couldn't do. Always interesting to learn about how the imagination works for others. And then, there it is, on the page, and we the readers are drawn in and move around inside it!

  6. PS Of course, I do in a sense: I am working busily in alternative Oxford - but it's very much the same as the real thing, though the family are my creations... quite unlike Pullman's alternative version!

  7. Looking forward to sharing some of the book launch with you, Maressa. Just begun to read 'Viking Ferry'.

  8. You've inspired me, Maressa. I've been meaning for ages to go back through my 'writers' day' notebooks and find all the little pieces I've written over the years to see if I can use them in something.

  9. Thank you so much, Liz! And thanks everyone for your kind comments!

  10. Yes thank you for all these lovely comments! I too am in awe of Maressa and very inspired by her. Clare, I'm liking the sound of your alt Oxford story!

  11. What a fabulous interview. It's fascinating hearing about the inner workings.

  12. Fascinating interview. Thank you Liz and Maressa.


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