Hello Fiction Dwellers!
Welcome to Fiction Digest, a new guest feature of the blog where authors, fellow bloggers, aspiring writers, and bookish content creators can have a nice conversation about anything and everything related to books.
Today we are joined by the voice of many of audiobooks, that is famous for narrating books such as Will Wight’s Cradle series, a 20+ years experience in the gaming industry, and now the author of the originally self-published cozy fantasy “Legends & Lattes”, please give a warm welcome to, Travis Baldree.
Since making his debut this year Travis Baldree’s standalone fantasy has garnered the attention of many readers and fellow author by the story of Legends & Lattes. Accumulating 1000+ reviews and ratings in such a short time on Goodreads. Receiving glowing reviews from many bloggers, booktubers, etc. Recently the book has been acquired by TOR Books because of it’s popularity, which means we can tune in for more books from Baldree in the near future.
Travis’ book caught my attention earlier this year while I was doing wedding prep. Reading Legends & Lattes during such a stressful month was like a warm hug. I fell in love and connected deeply with all the characters. It is one of the biggest surprises this year for me! Therefore, I am beyond excited to have Travis Baldree answer a few of my questions about writing during NaNowrimo, shifting from being self-pub to traditional publishing, future sequels, Thimble and the Great British Bake Off, his go to coffee order, and so many more.
If you aren’t familiar with the book, I’ve got you. Allow me to introduce you to Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree. Now republished by TOR with a new typography for the title on the cover but with the same iconic cover art by Carson Lowmiller.
Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree
Published by TOR Books
Release Date :
February 22nd 2022 (Self-publish release date) & November 8th 2022 (TOR Release date)
High Fantasy with a double-shot of self-reinvention
Worn out after decades of packing steel and raising hell, Viv the orc barbarian cashes out of the warrior’s life with one final score. A forgotten legend, a fabled artifact, and an unreasonable amount of hope lead her to the streets of Thune, where she plans to open the first coffee shop the city has ever seen.
However, her dreams of a fresh start pulling shots instead of swinging swords are hardly a sure bet. Old frenemies and Thune’s shady underbelly may just upset her plans. To finally build something that will last, Viv will need some new partners and a different kind of resolve.
A hot cup of fantasy slice-of-life with a dollop of romantic froth.
Author Interview : Travis Baldree
Lia : Hello Travis! Thank you so much for visiting An Ode to Fiction as our guest here today for Fiction Digest. For the Fiction Dwellers who are meeting you for the first time, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’ve been up to?
Travis : Hi there, everyone! I have a slightly strange history. I spent 20 years developing video games as an engineer, designer, and artist. I’m probably best known for the Torchlight series, where I also ran the studio. At some point I started narrating audiobooks, and eventually decided I liked it so much, I became a full-time narrator and switched careers. That’s still my day job, but I’d always wanted to write a novel, and eventually managed to do so in the 2021 NaNoWriMo competition – which turned out to be Legends & Lattes.
Lia : For the Fiction Dwellers who haven’t yet read your debut novel, can you give us a short rundown of what your book is about, and what readers can look forward to in Legends & Lattes?
Travis : Legends & Lattes is a cozy fantasy novel about an orc barbarian who retires from a life of adventure and bloodshed to open a coffee shop in a city that knows nothing about coffee. But it’s also a book about found family, and late life changes, and being open to the help of others, and the fear of trying new things in new places. It’s a pretty human story, and no swords are swung past the opening line of the book.
Lia : Legends & Lattes is your cozy wholesome fantasy self published debut book that has achieved monumental success after its release in February of 2022. What inspired you to write the story of Viv, a retired mercenary turned café owner? What kept you coming back to this story especially during an intense month-long writing process such as Nanowrimo?
Travis : I think the basic themes of the book are ones that are really relevant to me (and, it turns out, other people as well I guess). Obviously I went through some big career changes myself, and there’s a lot of anxiety when doing that – but I discovered a community of people that was good for me and the kind of person I wanted to be. A lot of that found its way into the book. At the simplest level though, I read a lot of action/adventure fiction in my narration job – and I wanted something that was less fraught but still played with the fantasy tropes that I love.
As far as staying on task – this is the first NaNoWriMo that I bothered to outline my book, which was key for me. I think it also helped that I chose a story that was simple and relatable. I guess I kept coming back because I loved my characters and wanted to see them happy.
Lia : As a full time audiobook narrator, which came first: the voices of the characters or the idea of the story? Did any of the characters live in your mind rent free before you started writing or did you start writing then the characters came to be?
Travis : Definitely the idea – but the characters itself drive it and make it work. I didn’t really have any of the characters firm in my head until I began, but they rapidly found their personalities, and I always knew what they sounded like – which is very helpful for me when writing dialogue.
Lia : Reading the blurb of Legends & Lattes you wrote, “A novel of high fantasy and low stakes”. Which I think is such a brilliant way to pitch Legends & Lattes. Do you have any book recommendations for fiction dwellers of other high fantasy books with low stakes? Or any slice of life/cozy/wholesome fantasy books?
Travis : I think T. Kingfisher’s work, Diana Wynn Jones, Quenby Olson, and Terry Pratchett are all great places to start – and they tilled this earth long before me.
Lia : I want to celebrate some fantastic news and congratulate you on the acquisition of Legends & Lattes by TOR. Thank you as well for keeping the iconic cover for the republished book. How was the process of being self published and then quickly becoming traditionally published?
Travis : So far it’s been really fun – and very different! I’ve really loved all of the people I’ve met, and I’m just determined to look at it as a lucky turn of events that I get to experience the process. I certainly never thought I’d be in this position. We are still only partially through that process, and I’m learning a lot about how things work in the Traditional Publishing world. Since I enjoy learning new things, that’s been fabulous.
Lia : For readers that want to pick up Legends & Lattes, is there any difference between the self published edition and the one published by TOR?
Travis : There will be a few minor copyediting differences – but nothing you’d notice unless I pointed it out. The eBook and print book will both be formatted a little differently, but it’s still effectively the same book.
Lia : Without spoiling do you have a favourite chapter or scene from Legends & Lattes? And why?
Travis : I think honestly the last chapter is my favorite – right before the epilogue. It makes me happy to read it, and I really like the tone of wintertime and warm spaces, and this quiet drawing together of people into something more.
Lia : Thimble is a master baker for creating the cinnamon roll and many delicious treats for the café. What is Thimble’s favorite baked good? And if Thimble ever competed in the Great British Bake Off will he win and which week is his strongest week? (if you know the show, if you don’t please ignore this question)
Travis : Thimble is really partial to macrons. I think Thimble might rock both bread week AND pastry week. I’m pretty sure he’d quail before the presence of Paul Hollywood though. It might throw him off his game.
Lia : A part that fascinated me the most in the world building of Legends & Lattes, is how familiar it is to Dungeons & Dragons. Everytime I read about the world it feels like a D&D one shot campaign levelling up on baking and coffee making. Are you a D&D player yourself? If you are, did D&D inspire the worldbuilding of Legends & Lattes and/or the characters?
Travis : I don’t play a lot of D&D these days, but due to my background in games I’ve been more or less immersed in D&D, or some tangential property, for decades. There’s a sort of ur-western-fantasy that D&D represents that shows up in lots of other stories and games and fiction, and the book trades on some familiarity with that. I think it’s similar to Discworld in that regard, in a lot of ways. The world does have some more unique elements that I think will start to be more obvious as I continue to write, but there’s an intentional familiarity to it.
Lia : For the future sequels of Legends & Lattes, how has your writing process changed since writing the first book? Can you give any hints or snippets for readers on what to expect in future sequels? And will there be any interaction between the characters in Legends & Lattes and the new characters of the new books?
Travis : I’m terrified to change my process too much now – so I’ve started with an outline again. The main change is that anyone at all expects anything from me, which I’m trying to do my best to ignore. The next book will be set in the same city of Thune, but with some new characters and a different standalone story. A few familiar faces should definitely pop up though. My aim is to slowly build familiarity with the world through standalone stories, so that you can start on any one of them, but reading more than one fills the world in more in your mind. At least that’s the hope!
Lia : As you have pivoted from being in the game industry to narrating audiobooks and now writing books, do you find Viv’s story relatable as she has pivoted from being a mercenary to a business owner? Do you have any advice for people who are thinking about taking a leap in life?
Travis : Definitely – it’s probably why the basic story resonated so much with me. I’m 45 now, and I guess I’ve done three careers. It’s never too late to try something new. The sunk cost fallacy is real, and why not have more than one kind of life if you can manage it?
Lia : I’d like to take a moment to celebrate you and all the things you have done. What are you most proud of in your author journey so far?
Travis : This book has been unexpectedly rewarding for me in so many ways – but the most affecting thing has been when readers have written to me telling me that it meant something to them personally. I’ve made a lot of games, and narrated a lot of books, but this is the first time I’ve ever had that kind of response to something I made, and it’s impossible to overstate how much it means to me.
Lia : Thank you so much for stopping by An Ode to Fiction, Travis! It is wonderful to have you. My last question: what is your signature coffee order and any baked goods you prefer with that coffee?
Travis : I love a mezzo-mezzo if I can get it – and a cranberry scone is my pastry of choice. Thanks everyone!
About the Author
Travis is a full-time audiobook narrator who has lent his voice to hundreds of stories. Before that, he spent decades designing and building video games like Torchlight, Rebel Galaxy, and Fate. Apparently, he now also writes books. He lives in the Pacific Northwest with his very patient family and their small, nervous dog.