1. I am so happy to have a little while to interview you, Jenny! :) Would you mind telling us a little back-of-the-book blurb about The Shadow Things?
Indi has lived all his life accepting and rubbing elbows with his pagan environment, but as time goes on his conscience begins to question the validity of his faith. What people have been calling good begins to look evil. With this void of unbelief growing inside him, Indi hesitantly begins to fill it with the preaching of a Gallic monk who comes teaching a single God slain for men on a Roman cross…and the cost of taking up one’s cross oneself.
2. So it's historical fiction—how did you go about your research for the era?
Truth to tell, I had been doing my research before I knew I was going to write the book. I’m very interested in history in general and the ancient world in particular, so it has been something I have been studying for years. The insular nature of The Shadow Things did not allow me to show a great deal of backdrop, but I was already familiar enough with the world then so that when I went to write the book I did not have to do a lot of serious research.
3. Was there a particular dream, thought, picture, etc. that first inspired The Shadow Things?
Yes, actually: a very heart-wrenching little novel by Rosemary Sutcliff. It gave me a vague, watercolour kind of image for The Shadow Things; additionally I was inspired by a familiar notion that men have always held, a truth we can find in Scripture, and is probably most succinctly summed up in the words of C.S. Lewis: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
4. Who is your favourite character you created in this book?
Oh, Indi. Always Indi. The emotions in him were always so raw and near to me that the link between author and character is still very strong.
5. Which character do you think most resembles yourself in temperament/personality?
That is a difficult question. I suppose in terms of emotion (as stated above) Indi is closest to me. His sense of the rightness of things, his almost painful ability to feel both goodness and evil—really, how raw and sensitive he is, is also how I am. We differ vastly in other ways, too: though we both have tender tempers, Indi holds his in check far better than I do. In many, many way I wish I was more like him.
6. As you know, you have pen-slain me numerous times on your blog, especially with excerpts of your current works in progress (Adamantine and Plenilune). Does The Shadow Things follow your pattern of description and emotion-rich prose, or does it have its own voice?
All three novels, I think, have the same overarching voice which is my own, but I find myself intuitively taking into account the sort of people I am writing, the atmosphere of their culture, and the nature of the plot. Adamantine takes into account both elementally agrarian cultures and practical mindsets: that novel is a kind of blend. Plenilune, while heavy on the practicality, is populated by a rich, almost medieval people—the writing style in that novel reflects that. The Shadow Things itself is the most elemental of my works to date: it is a matter of intuitive colour, sharp images, and the simple magic of conjuring clear, close feeling through small things. They are all very much in my own voice, but I believe the tone changes from story to story depending on the factors I stated.
7. What inspires you more: people-watching out in the real world, or burying yourself in a corner of the house with your own characters?
Oh, I would definitely prefer to sit in a corner with my own characters. I do, actually… I know I’ve said it before, but I’m pretty poor at watching people. I am too conscientious to want to impose and stare at them, and I am, admittedly, somewhat disinterested in them. Because my characters are so much their own people I get more out of watching them than I do out of real people who have nothing whatsoever to do with my story.
8. Your sister, Abigail, is a published author as well—did you publish your books at the same time?
Yes, we did! We both submitted to Ambassador almost at the same time but, because I no longer carry my maiden name, they had no idea we were sisters. I think they were a little nervous they we might grow jealous and have a row if one book succeeded more than the other, but we get on fine, and the two-homeschooled-sisters-get-published-together marketing pitch was something new.
9. The Shadow Things—how long did it take you to write?
I’m tempted to give a different answer to this question every time someone asks me. I would guess around two years, give or take, mostly give. I honestly don’t remember. I didn’t sit down at the beginning and think, “It’s March 4th—I’m starting my very first novel today and I’m going to keep track of how long it takes me so that, years from now, I can tell people how long the process took.” Never occurred to me; and, technically, I was in the sixth century anyway.
10. Do you feel more in your element writing historical fiction or fantasy?
I feel most comfortable writing a sort of “historical fiction meets fantasy” style. Both Adamantine and Plenilune are in this vein: history is always fascinating and fantasy gives me scope for the imagination. But The Shadow Things is straight-up historical fiction, and I do find getting into the nitty-gritty of history helps bring the past to life. When an author can make you feel as if that time is real and now, you know the goal has been reached. That is what I strive for.
11. Which classic authors do you admire the most?
“And the three men I admire most—the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost…” Theological issues aside, I’ll take this line by Don McLean. No one has written a better, bigger, more glorious story than that of Man and Time.
12. Which modern authors do you admire the most?
While he deals with film and not with novels, I confess I do admire Joss Whedon’s ability to tell a story. “I like to meet new people,” his character Kaylee Frye once said. “They’ve all got stories.” As a storyteller myself, I tip my hat to the man’s ability to conceive and draw together the stories of a large cast and yet never lose sight of the plot and always move toward the story’s goal. He’s also got a fun way with words that either leaves me laughing or nodding in admiration. Here’s to wordsmiths and storytellers.