So, I give you: Jenny, from The Penslayer.
(My questions are in bold, and her answers are directly after.)
You know that saying, “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Everyone knows that saying. Well, the story goes, on a forum of which I used to be a part I would post pieces of my work: snippets from large stories, one-shots, short stories, those kinds of things. It really helped build my confidence because I would get sound criticism and, in general, people liked my work. And one time a friend of mine liked a piece I had written so much that she said, “Jenny, you’ve penslain me!” And suddenly I became The Penslayer and I made a name for myself slaying people with my prose. (There must be a story in that…) The name stuck, and when I made my writing blog I had a name ready to hand: The Penslayer. As for why I had to start the blog, I started it right around the time my book The Shadow Things came out to help carve a niche for myself on the internet and get my name out there. It seems to have done none too badly!
About you: if you could pick three words to describe yourself, what would they be?
Elemental. Ginger. Sehnsucht.
Describe the perfect day.
The perfect day is in autumn with clear air and only a few clouds, cool but not cold, with plenty of sun to make you warm again, the maples in full flaming foliage, and a bonfire somewhere filling the air with a sweet fragrance.
What would you say inspires you to write books? What do you do to ignite the spark or keep the words flowing?
Reading helps me most. Sometimes music helps, if I already have an idea and just need the impetus to write it down, but reading helps the most. When I am dry, when I can’t think of anything or (which happens more often) I simply don’t feel that I want to write, I find a good book of fiction, sit down, and read. When I get caught up in the glory of the novel I find I am fighting the itch to go write myself, and I soon leave the book behind and am back at the computer, writing my own scrawling fire-ink on the page. Jealousy in a woman is a powerful catalyst. I cannot long stand to be outdone by the masters. I must imitate them.
If you could wish for anything in the world, what would it be?
To do magic. Really nice, instantaneous magic with pretty lighting. But no one would let me do it because I would make River Tam look like a Girl Scout. C’est la vie.
What kind of music do you most like to listen to, and why? Could you list a couple of your favorite songs?
I don’t know the music genres, so I can’t answer that. I listen to music (I can answer this) because I must: there are some things in life, many things in life, some snatches of words, some emotions, many truths, which cannot be adequately communicated or received apart from music. I am, as to that, keeping a rough list of the songs that seem to help me as I write Plenilune. To date, they are the following:
You As You Were—Shearwater
Viva La Vida—Coldplay
Brother, Stand Beside Me—Heather Dale
Take It All Away—Owl City
Lothlorien—Lord of the Rings Musical
Wonder—Lord of the Rings Musical
Now and For Always—Lord of the Rings Musical
Breaking Through—Audrey Assad
Show Me—Audrey Assad
Since you are a writer, I’m sure you are a reader as well. Can you name your top ten favorite books and why they resonate with you?
My train of thought wrecked. There were no survivors. I want to answer this question with the caveat that these titles are my favourites to date. The more I read and the more I grow the more these books are replaced by better ones. (And thank you for giving me ten titles, not just one.)
The Gammage Cup—Carol Kendall
The Worm Ouroboros—E.R. Eddison
The Eagle of the Ninth—Rosemary Sutcliff
The Silver Branch—Rosemary Sutcliff
The Shield Ring—Rosemary Sutcliff
The Ballad of the White Horse—G.K. Chesterton
The Great Divorce—C.S. Lewis
The Hobbit—J.R.R Tolkien
I see you have published a book! That is awesome (and I am quite jealous)! Can you tell me a bit about your book and the journey you had to publication?
I didn’t really think about why I was writing The Shadow Things while I was in the process; it was only when I had finished (or nearly finished) that I looked back and discovered I had explored the torment endured by a lonely Christian soul in a thoroughly anti-Christian environment—but more than that, many of us know what it is like to hurt and be lonely: I had written a character who knew how to live it, to rise to it, to walk almost joyfully through an oppressive life. We know what it is like to be crushed: in Indi I discovered what it looked like to glory in this momentary light affliction. It is, in a novel, a depiction of those in the Beatitudes.
The journey to the publication of The Shadow Things was unusually short, and two years and several subsequent stories have blurred my memory. Somehow I wrote that odd critter called a query letter and, among the houses I contacted (unagented) I found one that took me. We were on the verge of the Christmas market so it was really a rush to get The Shadow Things through so that it would be out on time. That, too, makes it quite a blur. We had book signings (very new experience) and a television interview (VERY new experience), and it really happened so quickly that it was really only in the past few months of this year (2012) that it really struck me: I’m an author.
What other works in progress are you currently working on?
I have quite a number of ideas at varying stages. We’ll focus on the core three. Adamantine, for a long time my magnum opus, is a finished fantasy that I am currently in the process of finding an agent for. (Ended that sentence with a preposition! Oh yeah!) To either baffle you or pique your interest, I will tell you that it combines Victorian England, Beowulf, Faerie, an ancient god, and a tip of the hat to the Roman Empire. It makes sense. You’ll just have to wait for the novel to come out to find out how. It’s companion novel, Plenilune, is what I am writing now. This deals with another Victorian girl placed as a pawn on the political chessboard of a confederacy bereft of a ruler and not liking the candidate for ruler that is lined up to govern them. It deals with politics, magic, treachery, love, and war. It is a full, red-blooded story and I am enjoying writing it. The third book, which I have not begun to write but is also meant to be a companion to the other two, is Gingerune, about the product of a ruinous war between two powerful races and about the secret that slumbers, waiting to be discovered, that will turn the world upside down.
What is your favorite genre to write in? Are there any genres you haven’t attempted or tend to avoid?
My favourite genre to write is fantasy. It gives you more room than historical fiction does simply because you’ve got to get your facts right in historical fiction: someone already came up with those. In fantasy, however, though you are allowed to come up with your own facts, one is handicapped simply because fantasy has to make more sense than reality: the reader will suspend his disbelief only so long: you can’t just wildly break every physical and ethical law we all take for granted. Fantasy really does demand a lot from the writer. But I love it all the same: it allows me to best express my own imagination and communicate what I see and feel. I have written a little science fiction, nothing worth mentioning (no really, don’t mention it), and I tend to steer clear of contemporary fiction. I’m sure there are some great contemporary authors out there and I just haven’t found them yet, but my style suffers an almost fatal blow when I try to write contemporary. Everyone notices it. I notice it. And so I avoid it.
I would love to see some excerpts of your work, if you are willing to share.
I spoke with Mark Roy this evening before coming up to my room. Somehow he got out of me, in one of those moments in which politeness must disarm my tongue, that I am leaving tomorrow, and I was surprised to see that he seemed genuinely sorry. Perhaps he believes Centurion and Lord Gro. Perhaps my episode in the woods has helped prove to him that I am not willingly Rupert’s pawn, that I should wish better things for them—as if wishing had any weight. He was sorry, and urged me to visit them in Orzelon-gang’s capital some day. Of course I told him that I would—what else could I have said?—and he began to tell me of its beauty, a little like a man who is homesick, and the strange thing was that I felt he was painting a portrait of his wife as he spoke. He talked of the black marble, that is native to Plenilune, with which his home is made, and of the many little streams and pools that run all through it, making music in the background, and the great red and gold fish that they keep which flicker like flames in the watery dark. He spoke of the golden dragons which are the doorposts of the house, of the lotus gardens that make the grounds look as if the sky has come down among them when the plants are all in bloom. I thought of strange, beautiful Romage and her harp-music, of the red-and-gold thread of her hair and song, and the huge orchestral dark behind her, and wondered if Mark Roy thought of that too when he spoke of his home, and if that was why he sounded homesick.From Adamantine:
Everything seemed to come from far away to Adamant, drifting on the silver-rimmed rush of storm-sound from without: and herself, she fancied, in a hollow shell, cupped by timber walls as the storm surged around her, the warmth of fire and malt and small beer porridge fortifying her against the cold noise of the wind-surf. But just at the moment sleep was stealing upon her, and she thought somewhere in the confusion of sounds that she heard a voice calling her name, a child shrieked with laughter, and the silver spell was broken.
Rhodri took her empty bowl from her and passed it to the fairy woman. “I apologize; my conversation is boring you to sleep.”
She was too tired to even feel embarrassment. “Small wonder she’s dropping asleep as she sits,” the woman remarked. She was aware of a grey, bundly, mothy creature hustling over to her, and she was suddenly loathe to let go of the hand which Rhodri extended to her to help her up. “After a long ride in the sleet-swale, small wonder—tsk! small wonder!”
“Eikin,” said Rhodri.
The familiar warm-smelling figure of the Catti loomed beside her. “Come in-by, firur,” he murmuring to her, and she stumbled off Rhodri’s hand onto his arm, catching herself with a wave of self-consciousness in order to walk steadily. But she was blind-weary, and confused with food and drink; yet even in her weariness, as one would be aware of a thing in a dream, she was aware of Rhodri’s sharp eyes on the back of her neck, watching her go, watching Eikin go. Even as she passed out of sight into a long dark hall, with a softness of feather-stuffed mattress somewhere in the depths of the dark, she felt that awareness looking after her still.
“Mind that I’ll be by the door,” she heard Eikin say, and she did not understand what he meant. “Call if you need anything.”
Then he left, and she let her fingers slip on consciousness entirely, falling into a dreamless place where she heard the sough of the wind and the drumming of Andor’s breath, and someone from very far away—far away as years are far away—calling her name.
And that's it! Don't you love these excerpts? Even though I don't know anything of either of these stories, she's drawn me in where I'm left wondering what's next. I would highly recommend you check out her blog and read more of her writing for yourself. And head over to Bree's blog where she has listed the rest of the lovely ladies participating in her button swap!