Courtney Collins – Interview

Whilst strolling through the enchanted forests of some unnamed land, I was fortunate enough to stumble across a wild fantasy author who agreed to sit down and talk with us for a while.

Courtney Collins is the co-author behind the upcoming epic fantasy Vows & Valor series. Writing with her husband, Clarke Collins, they have crafted a uniquely diverse and dynamic world in this fast-paced trilogy set to release January 27, 2025 with their debut, In the Name of Honor, from Shadow Spark Publishing.

Mother of two and nerdy burlesque dancer, Courtney nurtured her passion for storytelling by working in libraries and writing for local newspapers. Encouraged by their shared love of fantasy, she and Clarke began writing this story while enduring a long college semester apart, and Courtney poured her own queerness and struggles with grief into this vast and engaging world.

Courtney in a long flowing blue dress and elbow length black gloves in a forest
Photo Credit: Hillary Dubie Photography

Mashashy: It’s clear to almost anyone who knows you, that you’re a huge nerd, but what would you say inspired you to start writing to begin with?

Courtney: I credit living two doors down from our small, local library. As a child, every time the library was open, I simply crossed one yard and I was there, reading through every shelf. Because I read so voraciously from a young age, writing was an easy next step. I always enjoyed writing assignments in school, and knew I wanted to be a writer. Maybe because I also grew up in the Star Wars era, I’ve always preferred sci-fi and fantasy. What really drove me into fantasy in my teens was the Dragonlance series by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis. And when the Lord of the Rings movies released a few years later—yes, even more so than the books—I watched, transformed, as elves, dwarves, and wizards came to life. I’ve always felt drawn to other worlds, and what better way to immerse oneself than to create your own? It’s something you feel in your core, the call to the fantastical.

Mashashy: Do you ever plan to connect with your sci-fi roots and write something more like Star Wars?

Courtney: No, not likely, and I’ll tell you why. I decided to start embracing my loves, no matter how nerdy, silly, or niche. And two of my loves are forests and elves, like Tolkien-esque elves. That’s the type of character and world I want to lean in to, because it feels like home. Although, to be fair, there’s nothing stopping anyone from writing about elves in space…!

Mashashy: Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your journey?

Courtney: When I first started this story, I was just entering adulthood, so I thought I knew everything and in fact knew nothing. I read books on how to write, but it all sounded cerebral and I had difficulty connecting to the craft. The depth my story gained over the years came from lived experience. As I experienced life’s trials and joys, I better connected with the emotions in the story. Then, I critiqued how those emotions could best convey to the reader, and in doing that, I was finally able to link writing rules, tips, and processes to my story. It’s age, and life experience, that improved my craft. Aging is a gift.

In the Name of Honor is the first book in the Vows & Valor series. This book follows a half-elf princess, Kaleela, and her loyal guardsman, Dimitar, in a fight for her father’s humanity. It features a slow-burn romance and elements of horror with a diverse and engaging cast which only grows stronger as the series progresses.

The second entry to the series, In the Name of Pride, is currently in the late drafting stages and is scheduled to be released in 2026.

Courtney in a panter shirt with pink eyes. Her makeup is beautiful and classy and her hair is long, blonde and curly.

Mashashy: Writing, and even publishing, is quite often a solitary experience for most of us. What’s it like to share that experience with your husband?

Courtney: This is a great question, and one that many people ask us! Co-authoring is the best experience because I have someone who can sit for hours and do a deep dive into the characters, plot, and worldbuilding. Imagine you have this one interest that you enjoy more than anything else, something that’s part of you in every intimate way possible, and then you have someone who’s equally as passionate and interested in every aspect of this precious thing. I suspect having a co-author also makes it easier to work out the plot, especially when you get stuck on part of the story. I often marvel at how people can write solo!

Mashashy: How did you realize you could work together?

Courtney: My husband is my best friend first. When we met, we instantly connected, not just with chemistry but with real delight in each other as people. When Clarke left for a semester abroad in Germany while we were in college, his absence was a heartache for me that wouldn’t stop. Drafting this story connected us across many months and distances. And when he returned, the writing continued because it was damn fun to come up with new chapters and watch the story unfold. The sheer pleasure we both received from creating together, the shared passion for world and character building, and the quality of the story itself indicated our co-writing was not merely passing the time until our reunion. We had something special in these pages that as a team we could transform into an actual book.

Courtney and Clarke smiling together in matching green dress and gilet
Photo Credit: Isora Lithgow Creations

Using writing to stay connected with loved ones is an ancient tradition but this power couple infused their creativity into this unique love letter to their relationship. This beautiful history is then reflected in the tenderness of their writing and the moral compass of their characters.

Mashashy: How do you keep your egos in check when it comes to plot decisions and character development?

Courtney: Oh, I don’t keep my ego in check hardly ever, and Clarke’s the easy-going one. (laughs) Joking aside, this is the question people are most interested in. What happens if you don’t agree on something in the story? We experience this, but not in some big, dramatic way. The beauty of a co-author is the ability to endlessly and with great joy talk through what’s best for the story. Either a third option will present itself, or one of us comes around to the other’s point. All of these discussions might sound like work but it’s not, it’s more like foreplay if I’m being honest. 

a poem by mirai amell with art by azshure raine behind it
Art: Azshure Raine. Poem: Mirai Amell

Mashashy: Does this translate into a bit of spice in the story?

Courtney: While I love to partake in spicy books, our first book is set on the low burner. The main romance is a slow burn, friends to lovers, bodyguard/princess dynamic. The way their relationship develops is among high stakes, perilous action. We didn’t intentionally leave out physicality, but instead couldn’t find a believable moment for them to connect in the middle of life or death situations. Instead, what readers experience are some really tender moments as Kaleela and Dimitar’s relationship blossoms and takes root, so that when they do finally get that passionate first kiss, it’s deeply satisfying. I expect the spice to ramp up as the series continues.

Mashashy: Do you have a favourite romance trope?

Courtney: I love romance, the entire idea of love and passion for another person (or persons), and happily ever after endings. I’m open to almost any romance trope. For this story, the friends to romance trope felt best, because Kaleela and Dimitar needed to learn to trust each other, like and respect each other, and then recognize their feelings as something deeper and more profound. I like the reassurance of a romantic partner who’s a friend first, because you can trust them wholeheartedly. 

beautiful artwork of Dimitar and Kaleela by Luxury Banshee. They are drawing their weapons in a forest with a strong backlight
Art Credit: Luxury Banshee

As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Courtney naturally infused the Vows & Valor series with queer relationships and minority representation.

Mashashy: Tell me about the queer characters in your story. Is there another romantic arc to explore?

Courtney: As someone who’s always been bisexual, diverse representation is crucial in the stories we tell. And it’s just as important to respectfully portray and round out these characters. We cover much of the rainbow spectrum with our characters throughout the series. In the first book, we introduce the most powerful being in the lands, and they’re nonbinary. In the sequel we’re drafting now, we elevate one of the side characters into a critical role, and she’s a lesbian. And in the prequel, we get the full love story of a significant bisexual character. All of these characters appear in each of the books, woven throughout the series. Above all, I want people to read our books and be able to envision themselves as any of the characters, and not feel restricted to just one type of character—or not see themselves at all. 

Mashashy: How do you see yourself in your books?

Courtney: Believe it or not, it took me several years before I could “see” just how much of myself unintentionally showed up in these characters. In many ways this book is a tribute to my mother, who passed away from cancer the same year Clarke and I started drafting the story. I loved my mother and had a great relationship with her, and her loss has impacted my entire life moving forward. This series scoops up themes of mother-loss and the intergenerational grief that comes from losing a matriarch. And In the Name of Honor illustrates the immediate pain of losing a beloved parent. These are the most obvious ways I’ve added my life experience to the stories, but there’s a number of character traits that have worked themselves in as well. Ral’s love of cheese and Olaf’s extrovertism plus dislike of waking early in the morning both come to mind.

Courtney on stage in a burlesque chiffon dress
Photo Credit: Kristen Ayla Scott

When she’s not writing, Courtney works in higher education by day, manages her family, and is a burlesque performer by night. After signing with Shadow Spark Publishing for the Vows & Valor series, she also joined their editing council to review in-House manuscripts. She admits that these days, much of her spare time is spent managing her author’s social media accounts.

Mashashy: We actually met through X (formally Twitter) and the book community there. What would you suggest for anyone looking to get involved? Would you say it was worth it anymore?

Courtney: This is the question everyone’s wondering these days. People understand the value of a writing community, but where, and how? My advice is to look for your community in whatever online/social media space(s) you feel most comfortable in. What you want to do is interact with folks in a genuine way. It’s not that hard to be kind to someone, and people respond to uplifting comments. Mashashy, when you and I met online, I was legit excited to find another creator who shared my love of elf smut! And we chatted online and became buddies, I have a copy of your first book, and now we’re furthering our collaboration here, which is so cool.

Courtney in elven dress hold a bow, ready to shoot
Photo credit: Hillary Dubie Photography

Mashashy: (laughs) Elf smut bringing the world together as always! Although it’s true we do have a lot in common.

Courtney: I encourage people to curate the type of online space you want to be in, so you can keep building your engagement. I personally don’t adhere to any formulaic demands like “you must post twice a day.” Maybe that level of posting gives you a leg up, I don’t know. I prefer to keep it real with people online, exchange mutual, enthusiastic support, and in doing so, the community you find is absolutely worth it.

Mashashy: Thank you for sharing with us. I can’t wait for the release of book one! And how would you like for people to connect with you?

Courtney: I try to accommodate the many ways people like to interact online, so we have accounts on Instagram, Tiktok, Threads, Facebook, Pinterest, and our website. I’m also active on Twitter under @ccollinswriter. I’m most excited to share that In the Name of Honor is now listed on both Goodreads and StoryGraph! The best way to show support for independent press books like ours is to add them on Goodreads (or StoryGraph, if you prefer). This shows industry leaders that readers do, in fact, want adult epic fantasy set in a queernorm world.

If you would like to know more about Courtney Collins and the upcoming Vows & Valor series please go check out their Linktree: 





One response to “Courtney Collins – Interview”

  1. William Shryer avatar
    William Shryer

    Life is full of twists and turns, so thankful to have shared time with you. I cannot fully describe how proud I am of you and your fearlessness to explore your inner creativity!

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