Not that long ago, we featured a promo about the wonderful production Tales of Atonement. The first season of the web series is based on the first o book in the series of the same name, Monomyth. We’ve been lucky enough to connect with A. A Moreland, the creators of Tales of Atonement, to talk about the first season of this science fiction/fantasy mixed with slice-of-life series.
That’s Entertainment: A. A. Moreland, thank you for taking time out of your day to chat with us! Based on your channel, you don’t have much time to spare, so I count ourselves lucky to have you here.
A.A. Moreland: Thanks for featuring us! We’re excited about any opportunity to talk about our passion project, so the pleasure is ours!
TE: The inspiration for the web series clearly comes from Tales of Atonement: Monomyth, but where did the inspiration for that book come from?
AA: Originally, we were writing the stories between us for fun. Role-playing like Dungeons and Dragons, Vampire the Masquerade, Changeling the Lost, and Werewolf the Apocalypse. We would tell our stories to our grandmother. She was the person to suggest we should write them all down, so Tales of Atonement wouldn’t exist without the help of Dorothy Moreland; a teacher, school administrator, and women’s rights activist.
TE: Having people, especially family, support your creative endeavors is a blessing—something that I think is becoming more common, but certainly was rarer 10 to 20-plus years ago. Since your grandmother was a big source of how the books came together, what did she think when you decided to adapt it into an animated series?
AA: Unfortunately, she passed away some time ago and was unable to see us get to this point. She was, however, with us for the first publication of our book which is still available on Barnes and Noble’s online store. She was very pleased and encouraged us to keep working on it even if we found a better medium than just written novels. We know she’d be ecstatic about the results today.
TE: I’m very sorry to hear about your grandmother. It’s always bittersweet working on things and finding success when those that supported us are no longer with us. I’m sure she would be incredibly proud of everything you’ve done with Tales of Atonement.
AA: Yes, we’re really glad to have had someone like her who always believed in us. It takes a lot to do what we do, and try and find ways to entertain people. I think to pay it forward for her, I would encourage everyone to pursue their creativity if they really have a passion for it.
TE: That is excellent advice and some that I think newer generations are giving and following. Something that is definitely more universal, no matter the generation, is that you were also inspired by other media—in this case, tabletop role-playing games (which are also common)—to tell your story. TTRPGs are just a big collaboration between game masters and players, so what was it like adapting those stories to book form?
AA: Well, in all honesty, that’s part of where the writing TEAM between the two of us really shines. It’s almost like for different chapters in the book, we’ll take turns as a “Game Master” while the other is the hero of the plot. Watchers will definitely be able to notice this once we focus on Madelyn, Mairtin, and Shane more as individuals as they grow up.
TE: Writing a novel alone can be difficult and frustrating. How do you handle writing as a team and ensure that a) everything is in line with the overall story and b) that you don’t let any frustrations get in the way of both the novel and yourselves?
AA: Um, well, when we find the answer we’ll tell you! Disagreements happen, and sometimes whole plot points will need to be rewritten, but that’s also true for most projects that contain first, second, and sometimes third drafts. It can be a learning experience not only as writers but how the relationship of two friends can function.
TE: That’s an excellent outlook on the situation! What made you want to adapt the book to a different medium? And why series vs. film?
AA: It’s always been about sharing our stories in any form. Books, TV, Comics, and even games. Currently, we find that this is the most efficient way to have our stories told. We would love to adapt to film!
TE: Creating a series is certainly training for a film! It feels like Tales of Atonement is ripe for the comic book world too! And we know that it kind of all started with TTRPGs, but have you ever considered developing your own system; using Tales of Atonement as the setting?
AA: Yes! Actually, we will occasionally brainstorm over what sort of dice system would be best to balance out combat with roleplay, and it leans hard on the D10 system popularized by World of Darkness (V:tM, etc.) but with more of the race and class settings of classic Wizards of the Coast (D&D) or Paizo (Pathfinder). At this point, we’d really need help from someone with experience building a game system to help with the balance aspects. *nudge*nudge*
TE: I’m honored that you’d think of me for something like this, but I simply just have piles of unfinished games because of that very reason! *laughs* In all seriousness, the one thing I love about the gaming community, very specifically the TTRPG community, is that there is such a willingness to see each other succeed. It’s another plate to spin, but if you have the time and balance for it, I’m sure you can find a designer out there willing to consult with you!
AA: Oh no! Sorry! More so speaking to anyone out there who might have such an interest. We’re incredibly easy to find on social media, and we actively converse with fans and collaborators alike.
TE: Tales of Atonement is an animated series, but was there ever a consideration for live-action?
AA: So, originally the part of Mairtin was written for the late Paul Walker, with Megan Fox as Madelyn. That said, as years pass on, we have been watching the professional actors closely for whom we would want to work with. We’d also love to use some break-out stars and create jobs for aspiring people like us!
TE: Dungeons & Dragons has been part of the mainstream world for a few years now, but just made a massive leap with the film being released just a few days ago. In a world where that film attracts stars like Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez, the fantasy genre could quite possibly explode. That said, Tales of Atonement feels as if it has some MCU vibes where using a mix of big-time stars and aspiring actors would make the most sense. Do you see the story of ToA as being more of a franchise (akin to Back to the Future) or more of a shared universe (akin to the MCU)?
AA: Wow, that’s hard to say because I can see aspects of both. For instance, the story of Mairtin, Madelyn, and Shane definitely feels like a very long and expansive timeline like Back to the Future, however, once we start to include elements from Exodus and Legacy, the shared universe aspects become more visible. In both of these stories, the core cast is absent, but the connections remain constant and more solid as time moves on and the cast of each of those stories accumulates into a shared narrative.
TE: How much of the first book, Monomyth, were you able to include in the series? Did you use this as an opportunity to explore different angles of the story?
AA: We will be telling the entire story of Monomyth for season one—however long that takes! It has given us a few new ideas and different angles for the story. Characters like Daniel, Patrick, and Rory were all created for the Tales of Atonement web series!
TE: That’s interesting—while the series is clearly actively producing new episodes and related content, it sounds like you’re not locked into “Season One will be X episode”. How does that affect storytelling? And does adding additional characters mess with that storytelling?
AA: Adding additional characters can mess with the storytelling which is why we’re very selective as to how we do it. One thing that any addition cannot do is change the core narrative which, for Monomyth, is as the name suggests–a Hero’s journey. We’re hopeful that our audience will be excited by the transformations that Mairtin, Madelyn, and Shane go through as they begin their journey toward heroism.
TE: We keep referring to the “first book” and you’ve mentioned other titles, which implies the existence of others. How many other books are there in the Tales of Atonement series and do you have plans to explore them in a future season?
AA: We currently have about twenty books through the extensive lore of Tales of Atonement. As time moves on, we are continuing to learn our characters. It’s interesting to watch them grow in front of an audience. Each book is planned to be its own season. So far, we have Monomyth, Exordium, Exodus, Legacy, and more!
TE: It sounds like you have a ton to work with for this series. We’ve talked about adapting for different mediums earlier—are there certain books that you think would make for better adaptations as a film vs. another season of the series?
AA: Exordium—for certain—asks the reader to imagine a world where the Y2K event actually did happen. What would life be like if Internet connectivity suddenly stopped and countries across the globe lost the most prominent means of communication with each other? The cultural panic that exists in Exordium would be very keenly expressed in film format and would create a relatable hook to our world today. After that, I would have to say the science fiction elements in Exodus, along with the creative cast of Extraterrestrials, would be of particular appeal to those looking for a film adaptation somewhere in the vein of Star Trek/Wars, Mass Effect, and Guardians of the Galaxy.
TE: Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedules to chat with us! Tales of Atonement sounds like a wonderful world and I personally can’t wait to see more of it. Where are the best places people can check out the series and follow you guys to stay updated on the world of ToA?
AA: Thank you for having us! You can watch and subscribe to the series on our YouTube channel (youtube.com/@TalesOfAtonement) and follow us on social media at twitter.com/taleofatonement and facebook.com/mamorelandauthor.
Once again, thank you to A.A. Moreland for taking time out of their day to speak with us about Tales of Atonement. Make sure you watch episode 1 and subscribe to their YouTube so you won’t miss an episode. You can also follow along on their Twitter and Facebook.