Author Interview: Jenna Bowman

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Jenna was written by Jenna Bowman.)

Kelly stood on the Bridge of the Nameless with her hands tucked behind her as she stared out to the bluish-green planet before them. She almost felt like Darth Vader, but all that was missing was the hissing-breathing—and a lightsaber. Dismissing this from her mind, Kelly turned to see the activity of the Bridge. Each person was in their station doing their duties, but there was nothing to worry about. This was peace-time, and their captain had gone planet-side for a meeting but allowed Kelly to borrow his ship for her meeting.

A tingling sensation raced through her, and Kelly looked to her right as a portal opened and out stepped a woman who glimpsed around, taking in her surroundings with wide eyes. Kelly smiled—proud of this place—and approached her. “Jenna Bowman? I’m Kelly Blanchard.” She shook her visitor’s hand. “Welcome to the Nameless!” She motioned to their surroundings then gestured at the planet outside the window. “That is Mithkal. The captain of this ship is down there right now meeting with some important officials, but in the meanwhile we have free range of the ship. Care to explore?”

Jenna returned the handshake, and gave Kelly a wide grin.   “The Nameless? Interesting name for a ship.  Now I’m curious about that story.”    

She followed Kelly’s gesture and looked out the window, eyes widening just a little.  “Always dreamed about being in space, but actually being here…”   She let the thought trail off as she looked back to her host, focusing in on the moment.   “I would love to explore.”

“Short version of the story with this ship, technically it’s called ‘The Ship Without a Name’, and people shorten it to ‘Nameless’ because otherwise it’s too long. The Captain just likes to confuse people.” Kelly smirked but then motioned for Jenna to walk beside her as they meandered the lit corridors of the ship, and on the right side was the view of the stars all the way down the corridor. “So, tell me about yourself, Jenna. What is it that you do in real life? Full-time writer? Or do you have another job or so?”

“Sounds like this Captain and I might get along.”  Jenna laughed, falling into step with Kelly at an easy pace.  She tried to keep her view on Kelly, although the stars kept drawing her attention now and again.  “Well, in real life I work for the state services for the blind.  It’s a good job that lets me help people, and the benefits are pretty nice.  Which means that all of my free time gets to go to writing.  Someday I’ll be a full-time writer, but haven’t quite hit that point yet.”

“Okay, that’s interesting, and I have to ask, are any of your characters blind?” Kelly raised her brows but then saw how Jenna kept craning her neck to look at the stars without trying to appear that she was. Kelly smiled and halted near a window and leaned over the railing to stare out into space as she awaited an answer from Jenna.

Jenna gave a sheepish smile as Kelly stopped to let her look out the window, and nodded.  “I actually do have a secondary character whom I’m very fond of who is blind.  The things I’ve learned from work have helped me a lot with her development.  Obviously since she’s in a fantasy setting I’ve had to do some adapting of the techniques, but it’s been a fun adventure.  I like challenging myself with characters that are out of my comfort zone that way.”

Kelly nodded with a smile. “Writing blind characters is very interesting but always worth it. I’m glad you have that in your story.” Then she turned around, so she could lean back against the rail, resting her elbows on it as she observed Jenna. “So, when did you begin writing? What inspired you to write?”

“In my time working with vocational rehab and then now with the blind, I’ve come to find that there really is a need for characters with disabilities of all sorts.  I’m just glad the characters that come into my head are glad to oblige.”  She gave another nod, and looked over at Kelly again.  The look on her face was one of nostalgia, that half-grin and almost distant look.  “I’ve been writing since I was able to put sentences together.  The earliest story I remember making up and telling to other people was a feminist fan fiction of my favorite movie.” She paused a moment to offer silent thanks to her poor mother who had sat patiently through Sleeping Beauty three times a day when she was a child. “I couldn’t stand that Aurora just laid there doing nothing while Philip got to have all the fun, so I switched things around and she went and saved him from Maleficent’s dungeon.” Jenna chuckled quietly. “And then when we were learning about first drafts and final drafts in first grade, it started to occur to me that when I was on the tenth page of my first draft still while my classmates were turning in their two-page final drafts, that maybe I liked writing a little more than most people.”

“That’s awesome! I think we writers always have the advantage over others when it comes to writing papers or such in class.” Kelly chuckled then wagged her head thinking back to her own time back in school. But then she focused on the conversation. “So, you mentioned you’re writing fantasy. What is it about? Have you published anything?”

“Yes.  I love being able to make things come together when I see my classmates working harder all semester.  Although now that I’m finally going back to finish a degree in creative writing, no more slacking!” Jenna laughed and turned to put her back to the stars, for the moment.  “I do write fantasy.  So far I’ve self-published one novella, a bit of a twist on the idea of a virgin sacrifice to a dragon that I think someday I might revisit as a full novel. But my current pet project is more of an epic romantic fantasy.  At the core it’s about a young woman who wants to become a paladin, and the prince who puts his duty to the greater good above all else, and how that brings them into conflict with past lives and present desires while they try to save their world from destruction.  I love the supporting cast, too.  Even my antagonists have me falling in love with them at times.” She grinned again. “I’m a sucker for a good villain, and I know I’m not the only one.”

“Oh, yeah, a good villain is awesome!” Kelly had to smirk, thinking of all the antagonists she interviewed so far. That was always fun. “So, I love the sound of your story. What inspired it?” Kelly shot Jenna a quizzical look then motioned to resume walking. They had nowhere really to go, but exploring this huge, impressive ship was always fun.

“The number of Tom Hiddleston fangirls bears testament to that, don’t you think?” Jenna smirked as well, as they resumed walking through the corridors.  “It was inspired loosely by a female paladin I played at a text-based roleplaying site, and my attempts to write a backstory for her.  At first this series followed her story very closely, but at some point this world took on a life of its own, and kept adding layers and layers of complexity.  Every new epiphany has been frustrating because it meant another edit or another completely rewritten draft, but I think I’m finally on the draft that’s going to see the hands of an editor.”  An exasperated laugh echoed out against the bulkhead, but it had the sound of a writer who wouldn’t trade the frustrations of writing for the world. “And of course it’s nothing at all like the original draft of her backstory anymore.  But that’s half the fun, isn’t it?”

“Of course! Every part of writing is different from the other parts, but it’s totally worth it.” Kelly smiled then nodded to some members of the crew who passed them, carrying on their duties. “So what makes your story so different from all the other romantic fantasy novels out there? You know there’s tough competition.” She motioned that they should take the corridor on the left, and they continued walking.

Jenna nodded to the passing crew members as well, giving them a smile, before looking back to Kelly.  She turned to the left and continued on down the new hallway.   There seemed to be more crew down this way, and she thought she caught the whiff of something that smelled like food before the air scrubbers whisked it away. “Ah, yes.  The competition is ridiculously tough in this genre.  I think what makes my story stand out is the way that it’s… well, for lack of a better term, consistently feminist while still being romantic.  I know that might polarize some people, but I like that my characters are all equals, that they do what they feel they need to do and gender roles and prejudices be hanged. I also think the way that I draw the ideas of past and future lives into things makes it unique for a more western-style fantasy.  That’s an idea you’ll see in a lot of eastern and oriental mythologies, but not so much in the western milieu.  So it’s fun to play with that, too.  And of course that will be leading to sequels.” She grinned at that.  An author’s work was never done, not while the ideas continued to flow.

Kelly smiled as well. “Well, you have your work cut out for you, but I’m confident you can do it.” At last Kelly led Jenna to a wide, dome section of the ship, and they went to the railing and looked down at the multiple floors where much of the crew went about their work. One floor was the cafeteria. Another floor looked to be a training arena. Another  had computer screens lining the walls. “Welcome to the central hub of the ship.” Kelly gestured to it with a smile.

But then she sighed, knowing they had to part way soon, but she had a few more questions. “And what is the main thing you’d like your readers to walk away from after reading your book?”

“Lots of work.  But I like to think you’re right that I can do it.” Jenna stared at the central hub, taking it all in.  It was pretty awesome, and she took a moment to just enjoy it before answering the question. “I think the main thing I’d love for readers to walk away with is a sense that love and hope can overcome barriers and unite people to fight against darkness.  To feel like it’s something they can do in their own lives.” She nodded, before giving an impish smile, regretting that time was coming to a close. “And of course I want them to walk away feeling like they’ve had a grand adventure right alongside the characters as well.  That’s the most important part of fantasy.”

“That is fantastic. I really like it.” Kelly had to smile. “And, as much as I would love to keep chatting because I love chatting with new authors I meet, unfortunately we have to part ways, but before we do, what is your story called? And when do you think it’ll be published? I’d like my readers to be able to keep an eye out for it.” As she asked this, Kelly opened a portal for Jennifer with a gesture of her hand, but she wanted to know the answer to her questions.

Jenna smiled as the portal opened. “It’s called the Soldaris Saga, and book one is titled Child of the Sky.  If I self-publish, we’ll be seeing it at the beginning of 2016.  If it gets picked up by a more traditional publisher, it could be longer, but I always keep people updated on these things on Facebook and Twitter.   Best way to know what I’m up to, really.”  She nodded at that.  “Thank you so much for the time.  And the glimpse of space.  It’s lovely out here.”

“Thanks for coming! It was great meeting you and chatting with you. We’ll definitely be in touch.” Kelly grinned then waved bye as Jenna stepped into the portal. it closed behind her, and Kelly turned back to the central hub. She wasn’t leaving just had. She had a character to find and pester with questions, but that interview was fun.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Jenna Bowman’s story ‘Soldaris Saga’ has no release date set for it yet, but you can follow her on social media for more updates:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/officialjennabowman/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JennaCBowman

Website: www.jennabowman.com

Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/user/JennaCBowman

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