Please welcome Jessica Leake to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Arcana was published on November 11th by Talos.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Jessica: Thank you! I really enjoy this blog, so it's surreal for me to be here. I was first asked this question by my agent, and when I sat down and thought about it, I had a memory of this yellow legal pad filled with an epic fantasy about a unicorn. I think I must have been about 10 or 11 at the time, so we can say that's when I started my love-affair with writing, though not in a professional sense by any means! As for why, I think the main reason is really rather simple: I would crave a certain type of story, and when I couldn't find it, I'd just write it myself.
TQ: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Jessica: I will make a very loose outline of major plot points, but I predominantly fall into the pantser writing category.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Jessica: Time! I know many have given that answer, but it's especially true for me with three little ones to take care of every day. But aside from making the time, there's also the challenge of using that time wisely. I usually write during my kids' nap time, but there are of course many other things I could be doing during that block of time (both productive and unproductive!), so I have to force myself to really be disciplined.
TQ: Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?
Jessica: Oh, so many! As an early reader, I loved Roald Dahl, Walter Farley, Marguerite Henry, and as I got older, I read R.L. Stine, L.J. Smith, Christopher Pike. Throughout high school, I read any romance novel I could get my hands on, but I loved Julia Quinn, Judith McNaught, and Julie Garwood. I also loved Dean Koontz. Most recently, I'm into all things YA: Maggie Stiefvater, Cassandra Clare, Suzanne Collins, Kristin Cashore, Stephanie Perkins. My favorite authors change over time, but I have a few constants: JK Rowling, Jane Austin, Robin McKinley, and C.S. Lewis.
TQ: Describe Arcana in 140 characters or less.
Jessica: An Edwardian-era debutante must keep her powerful abilities hidden not only from society but a dangerous organization who seeks her kind.
Jessica: TQ: Tell us something about Arcana that is not in the book description. The novel is described as "genre-bending." What genres does it bend?
One thing the book description fails to mention is just how family-centric the book is. A lot of Katherine's decisions are made because of, or for the good of, her siblings. It's been described as genre-bending because it is a mix of historical romance and fantasy, without truly falling into either category--those are my favorite genres, and I love books that blend them together!
TQ: What inspired you to write Arcana? Why did you set the novel in Edwardian London?
Jessica: I knew I wanted to write a historical--there's just something so romantic and beautiful about that setting, plus I knew throwing hidden abilities into such a rigid society would have some inherent conflict. I chose the Edwardian era because it's such an opulent and beautiful time--and I absolutely love Downton Abbey.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Arcana?
Jessica: So much research! But it was all a lot of fun--everything from what people ate in the early 1900s (the aristocracy enjoyed decadent 10-course meals) to how they spent their time (London while Parliament was in session, and hunting and sporting in the country during the summer). It always surprised me to learn just how many technological advances they had: trains, cars, the subway in London, electricity.
TQ: In Arcana who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Jessica: Katherine and Lord Thornewood were both the easiest to write because they had such strong voices. Lord Blackburn probably gave me the most trouble just because he has some secrets to keep hidden.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoliery lines from Arcana.
A deep tug at the core of me, and my power unfurls, sliding over my skin like silk. The familiar smell of energy releasing washes over me, like the refreshing scent of the earth right after it rains.
TQ: What's next?
Jessica: This isn't official news yet, but there WILL be a second book set in the Arcana world--though Katherine and Lord Thornewood are present in the book, the focus will be on Lucy, Katherine's sister. It's tentatively slated to be released Spring of 2016.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Jessica: Thank you so much for having me!
Talos, November 11, 2014
Hardcover and eBook, 288 pages
A romantic, suspenseful, genre-bending debut set in Edwardian London.
Amid the sumptuous backdrop of the London season in 1905, headstrong Katherine Sinclair must join the ranks of debutantes vying for suitors. Unfortunately for Katherine, she cannot imagine anything more loathsome-or dangerous. To help ease her entrance into society, Katherine's family has elicited the assistance of the Earl of Thornewood, a friend and London's most eligible bachelor, to be her constant companion at the endless fetes and balls. But upon her arrival in London, Katherine realizes there will be more to this season than just white gowns and husband hunting.
Through her late mother's enchanted diary, Katherine receives warning to keep hidden her otherworldly ability to perform arcana, a magic fueled by the power of the sun. Any misstep could mean ruin-and not just for her family name. The Order of the Eternal Sun is everywhere-hunting for those like her, able to feed on arcana with only a touch of the hand.
But society intrigue can be just as perilous as the Order. The machinations of the fashionable elite are a constant threat, and those who covet Katherine's arcana, seeking the power of her birthright, could be hiding behind the façade of every suitor-even the darkly handsome Earl of Thornewood.
With so much danger and suspicion, can she give her heart to the one who captivates her, or is he just another after her power?
Jessica Leake has been in love with historical England ever since her first literary crush: Mr. Darcy. After embarking on a quest to bring her own intriguing and headstrong characters to life, she decided to quit her day job as a clinical therapist and spend her time weaving arcana with words. She lives in Greenville, SC with her brilliant husband, three painfully cute children, and two mischievous dogs. She invites you to visit her at jessicaleake.com.