Welcome to the Sunday Street Team! I was lucky enough to interview Jessica Cluess about the first book, A Shadow Bright and Burning, in a new trilogy of hers. See below for her answers, plus a giveaway.
Title: A Shadow Bright and Burning
Author: Jessica Cluess
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Publication date: September 20, 2016
Summary (via Goodreads): I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?
Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she’s brought to London to train with Her Majesty’s sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she’s the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?
Was there anything specific in your life that made you want to write?
The recession of 2008, actually. I know that’s not the most romantic story in the world, but it’s the truth! I was barely making ends meet, and I really had no idea what was going to happen to me. So, feeling glum, I picked up Dune by Frank Herbert and got instantly whisked away to another world. I thought ‘I need to write stories that make other people feel this way.’ So I got to work, and I haven’t stopped since.
What’s your favorite color?
Red. I’m a Gryffindor, it’s expected.
If you were on a deserted island, what’s one book that you’d want to have with you?
Is there a How To Survive On A Deserted Island For Dummies? Because then definitely that one.
Did you have a playlist that you listened to while writing A Shadow Bright and Burning, or are you a ‘write in the quiet’ type of person?
I’m a ‘listen to the same song over and over while staring at a blank wall and thinking, then shutting off the music to write’ type of person. But I listened to everyone from Florence + The Machine and Janelle Monae to Bach and Stephen Sondheim to music from video games and the theme song from Outlander for like ten hours straight. I believe music is to writers the way food is to pregnant women: it may be a combination of something you’d never eat or listen to normally, but when you’re creating, it suddenly becomes the only thing you want.
Do you know how many books are going to be in the Kingdom on Fire series?
Three. I know exactly what happens in the epilogue of the final book. When I write it, I’m going to be pretty emotional.
If you could have any job in the world, what would you choose and why?
Besides this one? Because it’s pretty sweet. Well, when I was a kid, I wanted to be an FBI agent. Then, when I realized that didn’t involve hunting for aliens or interviewing cannibals, I changed my goals.
Do you have any advice for writers looking to be published?
I think the biggest thing is persistence. My first book that I queried died a horrible death—no one would touch it. If I’d stopped there, I wouldn’t be where I am right now. So even after the worst rejection of your life, remember that an acceptance could literally be right around the corner.
Chocolate or vanilla?
Oof. Chocolate, I suppose. Although sometimes a vanilla milkshake is perfection.
What are some of your hobbies?
Honestly, writing used to be my hobby, so I need to get some more. Let’s see. I love hiking. If I could, I’d hike every day, always in the early morning. Watching terrible movies with my friends and shouting at the screen is always fun. Maybe I should take up knitting.
Are you considering writing in other genres, like contemporary for example?
I’m a fantasy writer at heart. For me, it’s the genre that allows a lot of fantastic worldbuilding with really intense emotion, two things that I love. I would love to write a detective series one day, but it would probably end up with something supernatural going on. I can’t stay away.
JESSICA CLUESS is a writer, a graduate of Northwestern University, and an unapologetic nerd. After college, she moved to Los Angeles, where she served coffee to the rich and famous while working on her first novel. When she’s not writing books, she’s an instructor at Writopia Lab, helping kids and teens tell their own stories.