Author Interview with Jennifer Williams

Author Interview with Jennifer Williams

Once every time I come across a book that catches my eye and immediately skips the TBR pile for a next read and this is what The Copper Promise was. I read the synopsis and I developed this urge that I just had to read it asap. I am a sucker for a good epic adventure story and this is all featured in The Copper Promise, and much more lets not forget Gods in forms of dragons, flashy and powerful elemental magic, and a world that is about to see its doom. Fighting against the emerging threat is a band of most unlikely heroes. The Copper Promise is Jennifer Williams' debut, and with what she shows, a grande and interesting world, spot on characterization and to top it all off.. once action packed story! She is definitely on the right track!

Author Bio: 
Jennifer Williams is a fantasy writer and Xbox obsessive who spends much of her time frowning at notebooks in cafes and fiddling with maps of imaginary places. She is represented by Juliet Mushens of the Agency group, and is partial to mead, if you’re buying. Her debut Fantasy novel, The Copper Promise, will be published by Headline in Spring 2014. 


Hi Jen, welcome over to The Book Plank and for taking your time to answer these few questions for us.

BP: First off, could you give us a short introduction as to who Jen Williams is? What are you likes/dislikes and hobbies?
JW: I love reading, obviously – we’ve just moved home and I’m starting to realize, trapped within a fort made of boxes, just how many books we own – and I studied illustration at college, so I’m a big fan of illustrated books. I’m also a massive animation geek, I love Lego, and I am very partial to a glass of mead. I also own a number of swords, as you might expect from a fantasy writer.

BP: The Copper Promise is your big fantasy debut. When did you know that you wanted to become an author?
JW: I think I’ve always known, but there were periods of time where I wasn’t paying attention. I remember asking for a typewriter for Christmas when I was very small, and I spent a lot of time plonking out stories about pirates and dragons, but then as I got older and began to talk about making writing a career various adults turned up to advise me against it – writing books is brilliant, they said, but the problem is everyone wants to do it. It’s far too competitive. Do something else. Unfortunately when you’re young you trust grown-ups to know what they’re talking about, and for a while at least I convinced myself that writing books would be too difficult. Of course what I didn’t realize at the time is that you don’t really have a choice about being a writer – it’s like that bit in Jurassic Park – “books will find a way”… When I finished my art degree and I started working full time at a bookshop, I began to get the sense that something was missing from my life. One day, after a particularly busy shift I came home and wrote a small scene about a girl being kidnapped by a witch. That scene grew and eventually became the first book I finished, and somewhere in that process I realized what had been missing all along.

BP: What gave you the inspiration/idea behind The Copper Promise?
JW: At the time I had a number of short stories published in various places, and a few people asked me if I had anything longer they could read. I had written a handful of books by then but they were all in serious need of editing and tidying up, so I decided it would be a fun project to write a novella and put it out there for people to read. I had just funneled around 90 hours of my life into the excellent video game Dragon Age: Origins, and I had rekindled my love for that very traditional knights and dragons sort of fantasy. I started fiddling around with ideas, and very quickly the main character, Wydrin Threefellows, made herself known and suddenly the novella was a much bigger project. I really wanted to write some old school pulp fantasy, but with modern sensibilities, and the story really grew around that desire for adventure and magic.

BP: The Copper Promise will be published the 13th of February, if you would have to sell your book with a single sentence, how would it go?
JW: A tavern and cavern crawling romp, perhaps? If I were trying to be more factual, I’d probably go with: A pair of jobbing sellswords get more than they bargained for when they explore a forbidden citadel – adventure, magic and the very real chance they won’t actually get paid.

BP: Writing your first full length book can be quite a daunting task, what was the most difficult part in writing The Copper Promise?
JW: Well as I mentioned previously I’d actually written a few full length books by that point – most debut novels probably won’t be the first book the author has written, as often you need quite a bit of learning space before you start getting it right. I dearly love the first couple of books I wrote, but the idea of trying to make them readable now gives me a case of the screaming horrors. As for The Copper Promise itself, the difficult part was stopping. It was the longest book I’d written by quite a long way, and with three main POV characters each having their own stories to tell it was hard to keep them in line sometimes. The final book has about 20,000 words cut from it, including at least one scene with a monster that I was quite sad to lose, but you can’t always keep the giant spiders.

BP: Have you gained valuable experience when you were writing The Copper Promise that you will be able to use in your future works?
JW: Absolutely – I think every book you write teaches you heaps about your own writing process, and because The Copper Promise was edited by both my agent and my editor at Headline (the marvelous Juliet Mushens and John Wordsworth) I learnt even more than usual – about how books are structured, how pacing works, creating likeable characters etc. With The Copper Promise in particular I did a lot of work in the edit on conveying a character’s thoughts and feelings through their body language and not relying too much on the interior monologue. I suspect you only really start to know your book when you’ve been through three or four rigorous edits.

BP: The Copper Promise is divided into four parts that can be read as individual novella’s, did you encounter any specific problems when you were writing any of the four parts?
JW: The main difficulty with structuring a book that way is maintaining a balancing act between having each part tell its own satisfying story, whilst also making sure that you’re escalating the drama of the central plot. So each novella had to feel like its own distinct part and have a cliffhanger at the end that would kick you in the pants. Doing that was difficult enough that I did occasionally feel the need to press my face to the desk and emit quiet wails of misery – “Why did I start this? Why?” – but in the end I feel that the unusual four part structure adds a sense of pulpy fun to the book, and keeps everything moving at a decent pace. Plus, it has been quite enjoyable to watch people read it as the parts come out, and see their various reactions when they have to wait to find out what happens.

BP: Besides the hardest parts of the book, which did you enjoyed writing about the most?
JW: Easily the most enjoyable part of writing the book was Wydrin, the mouthy female sellsword with a pair of lethal daggers and a cheerfully dubious set of morals. She turned up almost worryingly fully formed in my head at the start of the first novella, and she quickly became a force of nature in the book. Her dialogue is always fun to write, and as the book progressed it was interesting to start to peek behind that bravado and see what really made her tick; Wydrin is the pulpy fantasy heart of the book, and I love her. Having said that, I could never be without the other two main characters; Sebastian for his deeply moral soul, who made me cry more often than anyone else, and Frith for his glorious tendency to do something unexpected and send the book hurtling in another direction. You have to love a character who does that.

BP: If you would be given to retract The Copper Promise and make one final adjustment to the story would you do so? And if yes, which part and why?
JW: There is one line in Chapter Five that I would change, but wild horses couldn’t drag that information from me… In the end, I don’t think I would change any of it – if nothing else because I happen to know from copyediting experience that if you make one change, thanks to continuity you’ll probably have to make a number of others too, and that path leads to panic and desk chewing.

BP: Do you have any other plans that you wish to pursue now that The Copper Promise is finished? What can we expect from you in the future?
JW: At the moment I’m writing the follow-up to The Copper Promise, which is proving to be both fun and terrifying in about equal measures, and then I’ll be getting to work on the third book. After that I have some plans for other fantasy books set in different worlds, and there’s an urban fantasy book I’ve written about serial killers and witches in Elephant and Castle that needs a good edit – it’s very different to The Copper Promise, obviously, but with a similar emphasis on character driven story.

BP: Everyone enjoys fantasy in their own way. What do you like most about reading and writing it.
JW: I’ve always loved the spectacle and adventure of fantasy, the sense that you could turn a corner and anything could happen. People talk a lot about escapism when it comes to fantasy (and what’s wrong with that?) but I think it’s deeper than just escapism – there’s a mythic quality to the genre that echoes back to our childhood, when we believed in witches and understood very well that often fairy tales had bloody endings. Most of all it lets you believe in magic for a while, as relentlessly cheesy as that sounds.

BP: And just lastly if you would have to give your top 5 favourite books, which would they be?
JW: Oh, tough question! It tends to change from week to week, but here are five books that are usually circling the top ten at any one time:
The Lord of the Rings – an obvious choice perhaps, but it was the first book I truly fell in love with and it opened the world of fantasy for me.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman – still my favourite of Gaiman’s books, it’s a story brimming with hundreds of smaller stories, and a murder mystery thrown in as well.
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle – beautiful and funny and quite tremendously sad, after loving the animated film as a child this book was a revelation to me.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson – dark and hilarious, I identify with Merricat Blackwood far too much.
The Scar by China Mieville – I loved Perdido Street Station too, but this one still haunts me.

BP: Thank you for your time Jen, and good luck with your future writing!


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