STUDENT WRITES FANTASY SERIES
Nursing a cup of hot cocoa at Town Square Coffeehouse, sophomore Olivia Vander Ploeg described the fantasy series she has been writing since her junior year of high school. Vander Ploeg’s hands gestured in circles as she talked, as if touching the worlds and characters so real in her mind. The electronica music blaring from the kitchen faded to white noise beneath Vander Ploeg’s gentle voice as she excitedly painted her world of prophesies and magicians and battles of good against evil.
A writing & rhetoric and literature double major, Vander Ploeg has been working on a series of four fantasy novels for four years now. This past fall, Vander Ploeg finished penning the first draft of her second novel, “The Silver Tree.” She is currently working on the fifth draft of her first novel, “Malvarma-Eira,” as well as the first draft of her third novel, tentatively entitled “The War of the Worlds.”
Each novel in the series takes place on one of the four worlds within the universe Vander Ploeg created. The first novel follows three characters on their journey to fix a well-intentioned magician’s miscast spell. According to Vander Ploeg, “there was a prophesy that all four worlds would be united under one king,” and when the magician cast a spell to fulfill the prophesy more rapidly, the spell had unexpected consequences. He could not lift the spell himself, so he left clues behind to help others figure out how to mend the spell. The first novel begins with these characters and their search for answers.
The next two novels follow different plotlines, centering on a rebellion against an evil king and a war between all four worlds—and Vander Ploeg is keeping the plot of the fourth novel under wraps—but all four novels take place in the same universe.
“Each book could stand on its own,” Vander Ploeg said, “but they connect together—kind of the way ‘Narnia’ does.”
Vander Ploeg is particularly inspired by her two favorite authors and literary giants, Madeleine L’Engle, author of the “Wrinkle in Time” series, and C.S. Lewis, author of the “Chronicles of Narnia” series. However, Vander Ploeg noted that both L’Engle and Lewis aim their writing at a younger audience than she intends to.
“Most of the time, fantasy is for younger generations, but in [my] generation, I feel like there has been more of an interest in fantasy,” Vander Ploeg said. “There’s also not a ton of fantasy for my age group that is clean, so I see a hole that needs to be filled.”
While it may seem like a student with majors in both writing & rhetoric and literature would be too burnt-out on words to spend another minute writing, Vander Ploeg reminds herself of her literary dreams and charges forward day by day.
“I just have to remember this is what I love to do, instead of saying, ‘I don’t feel like writing because I’ve been reading and writing all this boring stuff,’” Vander Ploeg said. “When I’m intentional about it, I can find the time.”
Vander Ploeg hopes to one day publish all four of her novels. Looking forward to that day, one thing is certain: with such dedication, passion and originality, Vander Ploeg could very well become a literary giant worthy of a fantasy novel.