#FANDOMFRIDAY: Getting to Know Jen Castleberry
Have you seen this bad boy around?
A WILD AND UNREMARKABLE THING was written by bestselling author, Jen Castleberry, was just recently released on January 23rd, 2018.
Today we asked Jen Castleberry to join us for our #FANDOMFRIDAY Interview!
If you aren't already, be sure to follow Jen on all of her social media platforms:
Goodreads: Jen Castleberry
Thanks for joining us today, Jen! We're so excited to have you today for our #FANDOMFRIDAY! Let's talk about your recent release of A WILD AND UNREMARKABLE THING!
What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 25 words what would you say?
A Wild and Unremarkable Thing. A girl (forcibly disguised as a boy) encounters a prince, a god, and a spiraling sociopath on her way to slay a dragon.
What sparked the idea for this book?
I’m the middle sister of three, and I wanted to write about sisterhood. I wanted to write about strength and self-sacrifice. About girls. Hayden, Emilia, and Cayda would do anything – even the most unimaginably terrible things – to help one another. To save one another. They have this pure, unflinching love that makes them brave and selfless and strong. On the outside, this is a story about dragons and adventure and violence. But at its heart, AWAUT is about the quiet power shared by these three modest, remarkable young women.
What was the hardest part to write in this book?
I always get this question! What springs immediately to mind is the scene just after Fares leaves Yurka. I don’t want to spoil it, but I literally cried over my laptop as I was writing that bit. And I was in a coffee shop full of people, just dabbing away tears with my pastry napkin. Fares was this ray of sunshine for me throughout the whole novel, and it was just so terrible to shove him over the coals. But it’s an important scene. One of the most important, I think. Fares and Wolfe have such similar histories. They’ve both been spoiled rotten, to be honest. When tragedy strikes, they react very differently. As readers, we needed to know who Fares really was, what lurked under that shiny surface. That scene wasn’t necessarily difficult to write from a technical standpoint – in fact, it poured out of me. But I’m endlessly sympathetic when it comes to Fares, so emotionally, it was a tough scene to swallow.
If you could take a character from your novel on a date, where would you go and what would you both do?
I’d go adventuring with Penn! He has this keen appreciation for wide open spaces (understandably, given what he’s gone through). I’ve always wanted to see the world, and Penn’s loaded, so maybe we’d jet-set to a tropical island, drink and skinny dip and sleep outside.
Do you have a favorite character from your books? Why?:
Fares, Fares, a million times Fares. If I could bring him to life, I would. He was such a bright spot for me when I was writing A Wild and Unremarkable Thing. He’s witty and happy and kind. He’s someone who really wants to experience life, to laugh and make the most of every moment. He was really a pleasure to be around, and I weirdly miss him now that AWAUT is done.
If your characters each had a pet, what would they be?
Fares would have a dog. Something happy-go-lucky and loveable that just went around slobbering on everybody. Zoe would have something shocking, something that could double as an accessory, like a snake. Cody would have a horse. Penn…I don’t know. A falcon, maybe? I can see him being a falconer. And Wolfe would say he’s allergic to everything, even though he’s not.
Wow! All of that is so interesting! So let's talk about you as an author!. . .
Did you always wanted to be a writer? If not, what did you want to be?:
Always, always, always. Even in elementary school, I was the kid who sat out of recess to read. Who stayed up late writing stories by the glow of my nightlight. There came a time in my life when I decided authorship wasn’t a practical career choice. I became very guarded about my work and kept it hidden away as I fumbled through non-artistic endeavors. It took me years (and more than a few cheerleaders) to renew that childhood confidence – that steadfast belief that my writing was worthwhile, that I could turn this risky habit into a career. I wish I’d never faltered, but that’s life. Just a series of stumbles and leaps. If I hadn’t diverted from this big dream for a little while, I never would have discovered my second love – animal welfare. When I dove back into writing, I was much more aware of myself, of the people around me, of the world and my place in it. Of the sort of person I was and the sort of person I wanted to be, the influence I wanted to have, the messages and missions that were important to me. All of this has had an invaluable effect on my creative work.
Who was the first person to ever read a story/poem of yours?
Probably my mom. I dedicated A Wild and Unremarkable Thing to her. She’s been my most constant support, in every aspect, throughout my entire life.
Do you have a certain routine for writing?
I’m a planner. I’ve got to prepare a pretty detailed outline before I begin a new piece. Then I hunker down and marathon-write the first draft. I never spend more than three days working through a section – that’s a hard and fast rule that I stick to. If I can’t make a section tolerable in that amount of time, I move on to the next and resolve to come back to it during edits. The editing game is decidedly more time-consuming, but that’s okay. The best piece of advice I’ve ever received was, “You can’t edit a blank page.” You can spin straw into gold, but first you need the straw.
Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?:
Before. I write fairly large casts, and I like my characters to each fulfil a sort of niche. To each be clear individuals, so I design them that way ahead of time. That’s not to say they don’t reveal a fair amount of themselves to me in the course of writing the actual book. But I like to have a good idea of who they are before I begin.
How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?:
In AWAUT, some (not all) of the character names are meaningful. I hesitate to say why and spoil any of the twists, but Penn, Wolfe, and Fares all have names that can be applied to their individual arcs.
Do you have any future books planned or in mind?
Yes! I’m currently drafting the first in a new fantasy series called Beggar’s Seven. It’s got shape-shifters and sea monsters and desert sprites and mythical, wish-granting songbirds and a whimsical library and utterly fantastic clothes. (Can you tell I’m psyched about it?) You can catch a few sneak peeks on my Instagram and Twitter.
OOoooh! We better take a look on those sites and check it out. I'm definitely ready for more 'Jen-Castleberry-Novels!' So, now let's get to know you - the author behind the book!
Your favorite food is?:
Coffee? (We say that counts, Jen!)
Your favorite singer/group is?:
This changes far too frequently for me to name names.
Your favorite color is?:
Green! But a very particular shade of green. Very particular. Impossibly particular, in fact. Most of what I own is black.
What’s your favorite season/weather?
Summer. In my heart of hearts, I’m a beach bum.
I should pick one of the X-Men. My dogs are named after Gambit and Rogue, and my cat is named Psylocke. But I’m tempted to say Nina Zenik instead. She counts as a superhero, doesn’t she? She’s got magical powers and she saves the world now and again. I would say Nikolai Lantsov, but I think his only superpower is really terrible poetry.
If you could have any superpower what would you choose?
There was an episode of Adventure Time where Finn and Jake acquire a whole slew of magical powers. One of them – the best one, according to Jake – was the power to say, “Sleep!” and immediately fall asleep. I’ll go with that.
If we were to go to a book store together, where would I find you?:
The YA Fantasy aisle! It’s what I write, what I read, and where I basically live.
What is your favorite book and Why?
A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas. Maybe I should pick something classic (and I do like the classics!), but I firmly believe that contemporary literature is equally as valid as classic lit. I’ve re-read ACOMAF more times than I can count, and every single time, I’ve enjoyed myself immensely. I’ve cried (even though I know what’s coming), and discovered new details that I never noticed before. I think that’s the mark of a well-loved book!
Well, thank you so much for coming to talk to the Parliament House Team, and we can't wait to see what else you have in store for us! Be sure to follow Jen again, on all of her social media links, and grab A WILD AND UNREMARKABLE THING wherever books are sold!