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A Chat with Carol Berg, Fantasy Fiction Author


An Interview by Deborah L. Brewer

Fantasy Fiction explores magic and supernatural elements, set in imaginative worlds.

When we think of Fantasy, series such as J. R. R. Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring and George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones, naturally come to mind. But the Fantasy genre encompasses more than magical Medieval times. An online search will turn up over fifty fantasy sub-genres including, magical realism, paranormal romance, dark fantasy, fables, and fairy tales.

Well-known fantasy works for children include Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, T. H. White’s Once and Future King, and J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series. Adult readers will find series as varied as Stephen King’s Dark Tower and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.

Meet Carol Berg

Carol Berg
Carol Berg

Carol Berg, a former software engineer, never expected to write one novel, much less eighteen. Nor did she expect to win the Colorado Book Award multiple times or to hear that her books had been read on the slopes of Denali, in the war zone of Iraq, or underneath the Mediterranean. She certainly never thought to see her name alongside those of her literary heroes like Tolkien and Mary Stewart as a winner of the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. Carol’s latest fantasy adventure, A Summoning of Demons, arrived in 2021 from Tor Books under her assumed name of Cate Glass. She lives in the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains with her Exceptional Spouse.

Q & A

Debby: Carol, you have been a much-loved teacher and mentor for PPWC over the years. Thank you for sharing your insights with Writing from the Peak.

Why Fantasy? What about the genre excites you and holds your attention as a reader and a writer?

Carol: Thanks for the kudos! I do enjoy teaching, and, as anyone can tell you, I totally love talking about writing.

Why Fantasy? First off, I read just about every variety of fiction, my favorites being fantasy, mysteries, big fat historical novels, mythology, political and spy thrillers, and romantic suspense.

What I love most about writing fantasy is that I can incorporate every one of these kinds of stories in my work, oftentimes several at once. I can reimagine tropes of every genre and think about delicious topics such as what it might be like to investigate a murder with 17th-century forensics and some very particular magic or how does it feel to discover that the secret demon war you have been fighting your whole life is based on a lie?

In essence, I can explore all sorts of wonderful ideas…as long as I keep the story grounded in complex, relatable characters and underlay it with its own disciplined logic.

Debby: It’s an accomplishment to create one magical fantasy world, but you have created at least six for your various novel series. RT Book Reviews wrote, “Berg is a master world builder that novice fantasy authors would do well to study. Her characters are well-rounded, and her created environment becomes as familiar as one’s own backyard.”

What advice can you offer writers building fantasy worlds?


  1. Don’t spend years developing your world before thinking about character and story. If every detail of the world is rock solid, you risk squeezing in plot and characters to fit the world, rather than letting characters and events exist and develop within it.
  2. Do your research. You don’t want uninformed choices to pop readers out of your story. Think about geography and science and economics. How do mountains affect weather? How do city dwellers make their living? What substances have value and why? How do your travelers fund their journey? Why would an inn be out in the middle of nowhere? Would some people fight with bronze swords and some with steel in the same kingdom? Believe me, readers will find the details that can’t work!
  3. Reveal your world with rich details and brief bits of narrative triggered by events, not long explanations (just because the reader “needs to know”) or – ack!! – prodigious prologues! Look at the world through the eyes of your point-of-view characters. Remember that few societies are made up entirely of one kind of people, one language, one religious view, especially if there are traders and markets. What are the signs of the past that are visible in the present? What would travelers see along the side of the road: Shrines? Agribusiness? Slaves? Temples? Bathhouses? Prisons? Playgrounds?
  4. Design your magic carefully: Magic should have limits and consequences that become clear to the reader early on. Always be able to answer the refrigerator question: “If magic is widely available and/or super powerful, is it used to preserve food or provide air conditioning in your desert?” That is, watch out for the unconsidered consequences of your invented magic. Question yourself at every turn.
  5. Oh, and keep track of your details as you write, both to distinguish this world from others you may devise in the future, and to enable additional stories.

Debby: You have several short stories published in anthologies. What would you advise a writer submitting a story set in their own fantasy world to a themed anthology?

Carol: This is a tricky undertaking, but it can work if you make sure that the piece can stand alone. No reader should have to have read any of the novels in order to enjoy the story. Nor should understanding of the story or appreciation of the twist at the end depend on lengthy explanations embedded in the story.

I have had luck with origin stories for characters and with side stories from the world’s history that were only hinted at in the books, e.g., How did my hero’s parents ever get together against all custom? Why does the physician have such a bad attitude about men?

Debby: What are your most recent or next upcoming projects?

Carol: My most recent “new” project is my Chimera fantasy adventure series, released under my nom de plume, Cate Glass. I call these my Mission Impossible stories set in my version of Renaissance Italy with magic. There are currently three volumes from Tor Books, starting with An Illusion of Thieves.

My most recent releases are the new editions of my four-volume Bridge of D’Arnath series with wonderful new cover art from WordFire Press, starting with Son of Avonar.

I am also working on several projects, including a novella set in my Collegia Magica world, and new volumes in two different series.

Debby: Have you any words of encouragement for aspiring Fantasy authors?

Carol: There are lots of fantasy novels pouring into the market right now. But think about what fantasy stories you love most, and figure out what appeals to you about them. Is it the magic? The heart? The adventure? The world? Is it the characters that ring true? Think about how your story and your world are going to be different, and yet bring these same qualities to your readers.

Bring all of your intelligence, your research, and, so important, your writing craft to bear. Write, not just stories that will sell, but stories that you love

Learn more here:

Find Carol at:

The history of the fantasy genre:

Deborah L. Brewer joined Pikes Peak Writers a decade ago, seeking help with a cozy mystery. When the novel was completed, she stayed for the camaraderie. Now she’s writing short stories. An editor for the PPW 2022 anthology,  Dream, Deborah contributes to Writing from the Peak to help fellow PPW members write better with more enjoyment, and ultimately, achieve their writing dreams.

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