An interview with Elaelah Harley

As the debut author of A Plan to Save the World, tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Elaelah Harley and I grew up in a small town in Queensland, Australia. I moved to Brisbane for university in 2016 and have worked with an array of media and publishing outlets since. I’ve always loved stringing stories together, but I’ve recently reclaimed my love for reading too! Mystery, romance and fantasy are my favourite genres, with special credit to The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black, and There Once Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy.

How would you summarise the experience of reading your book? 

I’d like to think of my book as a whirlwind of curiosity. A Plan to Save the World is like a modernised cozy mystery, where it puts less emphasis on ‘who did it’ and focuses more on ‘why’. It also has a slice-of-life nature as it’s written through the eyes of Willa Triston, a university student studying environmentalism. Through her, you’ll enjoy romantic complexities, realistic friendships and academic expectations, all tying back into the mystery at hand.

What inspired you to write this story?

I wrote a lot of story starters back in university, most focusing on romance as a genre. Soon, I realised I couldn’t keep myself interested in my own stories unless there was a mystery unfolding at the same time. While A Plan to Save the World is mainly light, it has some dark components that the mystery allowed, and I believe it helped bring more depth to my characters too. Sooner or later, the story inspired itself, and I was happy to be there for the ride.

How did A Plan To Save The World come to be written?

I started the first 10 chapters in 2016, and it was my first boost in motivation to complete a story. I filled out the rest of the story over four years, with experiences and feelings I would face in real life, fictionalising them to blend in with the story.

While there are 21 chapters in the existing novel, I had originally written it with bite-sized chapter lengths that helped me make progress until the story was complete. I believe the original draft was 40 chapters long, and it has all been fixed and combined to a more manageable reading size.

What did you edit out of this book?

This book has been HEAVILY edited. While there weren’t major structural alterations, this followed me from 2016 (18 years of age) to 2021 (23 years of age). It naturally had tone changes as I myself had changed along this time.

A lot of the romance was edited too. While that was a main story focus when I was younger, I didn’t have the same interest as I once had. Of course, it’s still classed as a ‘mystery romance’, but I wanted to shed more light on character dynamics, rather than seemingly immature sweetness that might not have suited the characters I finally developed.

What is your favourite (no spoilers) moment from the book? 

I absolutely loved writing the scenes where Willa learned more about the mystery at hand. My heart rate would rise when I detailed moments of danger, and sometimes I’d even get surprised about what my characters would do or say. These were also the easiest scenes to write, as both dialogue and scene progression felt more natural.

What attracted you to writing? 

When I was younger, it was hard for me to read stories that didn’t end the way I wanted them to. Having an imagination that ran wild, I eventually decided to write my own stories. I write the books I would want to read, and so I’m sure many others with similar tastes will enjoy A Plan to Save the World too.

What else do you have in the works?

I’ve actually gotten through the first act of a fantasy novel! It’s filled with magic, royalty, adventure and (as expected from me) a blend of mystery and romance. I plan to take on National Novel Writing Month, and hope to finish this story by the end of November. Wish me luck!

What has the self-publishing path been like for you?

Honestly, it’s all I know. I’ve achieved my Graduate Diploma of Editing and Publishing at the end of 2020, and began my Masters in the same subject this year. I also work fulltime in a self-publishing house, and so I was quite happy doing a lot of the publishing steps myself. I didn’t even bother about sending query letters to agents, because this was almost a challenge I placed on myself.

Do you think your experience helped your publishing journey, or did you still have a lot to learn? 

My experience definitely helped me get through the basics. I still outsourced an editor as I believe every writer should get a professional pair of eyes to look over their stories, and my family did a quality assurance check, but I completed the majority of the publishing process alone.

In saying that, I still had a lot to learn. It was my first attempt at formatting; I have never exported so many PDFs in my life, trying to make sure everything was up to industry standards. I also was inexperienced with giving direction to designers, so after a few failed attempts, I opted for a one-purchase template that I fell in love with. I never expected it to be easy, but I’m really proud of how it all turned out.

What’s your favourite thing about writing?

Once you have your equipment, it’s the perfect hobby. It’s inexpensive, can take as little or as much time out of your day as you like, and can transport you to a whole new world. There’s beauty in creating characters that expose your own flaws, and ones that simply don’t relate to you at all. It’s all about experimentation, and it can bring you a lot of joy.

Where can we find A Plan to Save the World?

The paperback is officially out on November 13, 2021, but you can pre-order the eBook now on Amazon!

Pre-order link:

If you’re interested in following my work, make sure to check out my socials too!