Author Spotlight: Jessica Leake talks Beyond a Darkened Shore
Today I'm excited to have the fantastic Jessica Leake on the blog! Her Young Adult fantasy BEYOND A DARKENED SHORE debuted yesterday. Fusing Celtic and Norse mythologies, the book has been described as Vikings meets Frostblood, and it's sure to be a hit with historical fantasy lovers everywhere!
And now, here's my chat with Jessica!
Hi, Jessica! Welcome and congrats on the release of Beyond a Darkened Shore. Can you share a little about the story and what inspired it?
Thank you so much! Here’s my little blurb on what it’s about: set in 11th century Ireland when the country was frequently being raided by Vikings, a warrior princess with the frightening power to take over another person’s mind must join forces with her Viking enemy to save their world from an ancient Norse evil that threatens it. So it has Celtic and Norse mythology, Vikings, political intrigue, battles, a strong female character, and forbidden romance☺.
Beyond a Darkened Shore has been called thrilling and romantic. For writers, what are your best tips for crafting a romantic subplot?
Oooo, romance. I love including it in my writing. The one thing to always think about is tension—what can you do to up the tension? To create conflict? To give a sense of chemistry on the page between the characters—that spark that makes it seem like they’re about to tear each other’s clothes off…but they don’t…not yet, anyway☺. Like the overall plot, the subplot of romance must have its own story arc with conflict, tension, a climax, and whatever ending you choose—happy, or not. Which leads to another piece of advice: delay that first kiss as long as possible, or if it must happen early, then make it so they’re torn apart by their own conflictual emotions before finally coming together again in the end. Tension makes for the best romance!
I’m a firm believer in the idea that every story teaches the writer something new, so what did writing Beyond a Darkened Shore teach you?
I completely agree, and Beyond taught me so much, but probably the biggest was how to weave historical details into a story without using every single thing I researched about the time period. That’s hard to do! Especially when I had pages and pages of really cool facts. I found that what worked best was to sprinkle just a little bit—enough to get an idea of how people lived in 11th century Ireland. So for example, when Ciara arrives in Dublin, I wanted to include some of the main points about the city that would give readers a good idea of what it was like centuries ago: some of the sights and sounds, the cathedral she would have seen rising above all the wood-and-thatch houses, the River Liffey nearby. So that’s my brief advice for writing a historical: sprinkle the facts instead of heavily dousing the manuscript with them☺.
What part of the writing process do you find most challenging and how do you tackle it?
Drafting! Especially when I get to the middle and the story has lost some of its shiny newness. I tackle this by setting a daily word count goal. It depends largely on when my deadline is for that particular work, but in general, I try to keep my word count goal around 1k. This seems to work best for me, and it gets me past that middle slump! I combine that with rewarding myself: I can’t read or watch shows or relax until I’ve completed my word count quota for the day☺.
You’ve published adult fantasy novels, but Beyond a Darkened Shore is your YA debut. Do you have any advice for authors who may be looking to write in both the YA and adult categories?
The hardest part, for me, was making sure the characters didn’t sound too old when switching from adult to YA. It’s completely fine to have mature YA characters—that’s not the problem. The problem is when the characters don’t have any struggles that YA readers can relate to. Ciara always sounded firmly YA, but I had to really work on Leif. He was much too confident in his abilities, never afraid (even when faced with the creepy things the Morrigan does), never anything but a Viking warrior and leader. He became a much more interesting character when he let some of his weaknesses show. So again, it’s not about writing younger-sounding characters, it’s about their journey and their character development.
What are you reading, watching, or otherwise currently infatuated with?
Oh I love this question! Currently reading: To Kill a Kingdom (it’s amazing so far!). I just finished Caraval by Stephanie Garber, and now I cannot WAIT until the sequel—it was so, so good. Recently, I’ve just been reading book after book since my latest book is out to copy-edits, so I haven’t watched as many shows. Here’s my bizarre eclectic list of favs: Anime, k-dramas, historicals (I’m obsessed with Victoria, but the season is already over ☹ ), Broadchurch, STRANGER THINGS!, The Crown, and rewatching all the seasons of The Office.
And finally, what’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned so far in your publishing career?
I think one of the things that has helped me the most is to remember that publishing is in many ways a game of chance. If one of your ideas doesn’t work out, then keep writing. Always keep writing. When you’re querying: keep writing. When you’re on submission: keep writing. Not only will it help you bear the wait, it’ll also give you something else to work on in case the first idea (or in my case, the second and third!) doesn’t work out.
Many thanks go out to Jessica for taking the time to tell us more about BEYOND A DARKENED SHORE, as well as her writing process, and sharing some valuable tips on crafting a romance, and how to weave in those historical details.
Be sure to add Jessica's epic debut to your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) order your copy RIGHT NOW from retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, or request it at your library, or local independent bookstore.
Follow Jessica on Twitter at @JessLeake. And for more information, check out her full author website at jessicaleake.com.
And, as always,