Today it’s my pleasure to bring you the first in a series of interviews with fellow small press and independently-published authors.
I bumped into Jenna Jones a number of years ago via LiveJournal, and we’ve stayed in touch with each other since. The day her first novel was accepted for publication was an exciting one all around. It was also the first time I’d heard of Torquere Press. Since then, Jenna’s gone on to publish an astounding 24 titles with Torquere, some short stories, some novels.
In preparation for this interview I read Jenna’s novel Shooting Star, the second in the King’s Diamond series. To my delight, my enjoyment of the book didn’t suffer for not having read the first. It’s set in a fantasy world evocative of ancient Egypt and Greece, with a great deal of subtle worldbuilding woven throughout. At heart it’s both a romance and an epic journey. You can read the book’s description here.
You’ve been a pretty prolific author the past five years. What are the best and worst parts of that for you?
Jenna: The best part is having stories to share with people. The worst part is if I don’t hit a certain arbitrary number, I feel like I’ve failed somehow.
What are the pros and cons of working with a small press?
Jenna: A definite pro is the personal attention and knowing my publishers and editors as people. A con would have to be the lack of the publicity budget that the Big Boys have. You do as much as you can, of course, but I’ll never be on an endcap at Barnes & Noble.
Tell us about the process of publishing with Torquere Press. Do you have any recommendations for writers who want to become part of the Torquere family?
Jenna: Be as fresh and original as you can. Torquere has been around for a long time and have published a lot of plots, and they look for unique takes on established tropes.
Build a platform and be prepared to use it. Interacting with readers will help bring awareness to your book.
Polish your book as much as you can before you submit. The editors appreciate clean submissions.
What first inspired you to become a novelist?
Jenna: I never wanted to be anything else. I had stories going on in my head for as long as I can remember, and I was about eight or nine when I realized two very important things: that books exist because people write them, and if other people did that, so could I.
Which authors (or artists) have influenced your writing the most?
Jenna: I discovered Charlotte Bronte when I was about twelve, and I think she did a lot to inform my tastes. I’ve enjoyed romance novelists like Jude Deveraux and Karen Robards, and in more recent years Jennifer Crusie has become a favorite too; and I read a steady diet of classics for school which gave me several other favorites, like E.M. Forster, John Steinbeck, and Jane Austen. I’ve gobbled up genre authors like Neil Gaiman and Peter David and Stephen King, and… I don’t know, it’s hard to say what I’ve forgotten and what I’ve kept from all the books I’ve read. But those guys are perennials.
Do you write to a playlist?
Jenna: Sometimes. Some characters lend themselves to music more easily than others.
The world of King’s Diamond seems very complete, with gods and rituals and societal expectations. A lot of times in works of fantasy we don’t get to see the whole world, but you’ve been very thorough, down to mythology and history, clothing and food. What were your influences for the world of King’s Diamond?
Jenna: I love history and I love the ancient world in particular, and I’ve read a lot of Greek and Egyptian mythology. Part of the original germ of the story was the theory that the Sphinx was once under water; so the story was an attempt to write a myth of my own and create a proto-Egypt when the desert had flowing water. Things like food and clothes came from that same Mediterranean starting place, and there are little bits borrowed from all kinds of ancient societies and beliefs.
When JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series, she had Alan Rickman in mind for Severus Snape and Robbie Coltrane for Hagrid. Did you have physical models in mind for Ketu and Damal?
Jenna: Damal was inspired by Tutankhamen’s death mask, and has become a combination of that and Eion Macken in my mind, someone handsome and capable of being regal as much as being a big goofball. My image of Ketu has shifted a few times, though recently I learned of Avan Jogia, who is beautiful and has that same air of nobility to him that I wanted for Ketu. He’ll do.
I’d like to thank Jenna for her time and generosity, and leave you with a favorite quote from Shooting Star: “Don’t you see, Ketu? Our stories make us what we are.”
If you’re a small press or indie author and would like to be interviewed, contact me via email.