Hey, there avid readers! I have a special treat for you. January’s Book of the Month Winner, Jordan H. Barlett has agreed to do an interview here for Cyn’s Workshop. She’s a wonderful person and I hope you all will check out her latest book. Don’t worry, I’ve got myself a copy so I will be reviewing it soon. Happy reading everyone!
Cyn’s Workshop: First I want to thank you again for this interview it means so much to me. Now, lets start easy. Growing up, what was your favorite book?
Thank you for having me! It’s such a treat to talk books with someone who loves them too! Without a doubt, it was the Harry Potter series. The magic, the characters, the world, it was just everything little Jordan needed to navigate adolescence.
CW: What influence did growing up in New Zealand have on you as a writer if any. Also, very jealous, I have always wanted to go to New Zealand.
I drew a lot of inspiration from the scenery for sure. Some of the places you visit in New Zealand are so magical. There’s pretty much a direct reference to the Waitomo caves in my novel. If I’m honest, I’m actually surprised Contest of Queens occurs in very land-locked locations as the ocean has been such an important part of my life. Who knows, maybe my next series will be about pirates.
CW: Contest of Queens is your debut novel, what inspired it?
A few things went into the lightbulb that went off in my head for this novel. The concept of a split-level kingdom (now queendom) has been in my mind since I was fifteen, as has the character of Jacs and her desire to make it to the Upper Realm. Both stemmed from the fairy tale retelling phase I was in at the time, and my affinity for Jack and the Beanstalk. Many many years later, my Poppa became ill. There’s not a lot you can do when you start to lose a loved one. However, my Poppa was an amazing storyteller, and when I was younger, one of my favourite stories that he would tell us was Jack and the Beanstalk. So something I could do to honor him was to write a story of my own, inspired by his.
The idea of a fantasy novel set in a matriarchal society came from a conversation I had with a dear friend of mine over tea. We were discussing how annoying it was that so many fantasy authors will create worlds with dragons and elves and whole new cultures and language systems, but somehow decide to keep sexism and racism as a norm. The beauty of a fantasy world is that you can do whatever you want. You can create your own rules. Fantasy novels are a beautiful source of escapism, so why would I want to escape into a world where the societal narrative is the same (often worse) sexist bologna we deal with in our day-to-day?
CW: I know many aspiring authors out there feel like giving up, did you ever feel like that?
There was definitely a lot of self-doubt — especially because it’s such a huge undertaking, but not in a way that ever threatened to stop me completely. I think because I didn’t have a timeline of when I wanted the book written or when I wanted it published, I honestly just kept trucking along. I knew I’d get there in the end, so even if I took months off writing, I’d get back to it eventually. It helped to think of it as taking little bites at a time rather than trying to eat the whole elephant all at once. I used smaller goals to keep me on track. I had a word count of 1600 words that I had to hit every day and I’d write until I reached it.
CW: Which authors, if any, influence you as a writer? If you had to choose, who is your favorite author?
Oh so many. I am a huge reader and I really think that every book, every writer, influences you in some way. I was brought up on J.K.Rowling’s work, but I think my favourite author at the moment is V. E. Schwab.
CW: Do your studies at all have any impact on your writing?
I definitely think my love of language and all of my courses on the feminist perspective and female voices in literature have influenced my novel.
CW: You have so many wonderful fairy tale retellings short stories and I love that you have a collection available for readers, but do you ever think you’ll do novel based on a retelling?
Haha, I tried! Contest of Queens started as a Jack and the Beanstalk retelling way back when I was 15, but the end result is so far removed that I don’t think it’s possible to consider it a retelling. Even my fairy tale treasury (The Rose Petal Princess and other fairy tales) are all unique originals. I personally love retellings and love to read the different twists people put on the classics, but for me, when I write, I love to tell my own stories. That doesn’t mean I might not write a retelling in the future, but I have too many new stories jostling around my brain to put to paper first.
CW: If you must choose, and you must, what would you say is your favorite fairy tale?
The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen. It was so unique for its time, but with such a universal message of belonging. It’s a masterpiece. Plus, Disney’s adaptation is stunning.
CW: What drives you as a writer?
The idea that I can inspire someone I’ve never met. To give back in that way, after I’ve had the fortune of being so inspired by authors myself, would be such an honor.
CW: Do you have any other novels planned? If so, can you give us a hint?
I do! I have just signed the sequel to Contest of Queens with CamCat Books and I am so excited to tell more of Jacs and Connor’s story!
CW: Final question, what are you reading now? And which do you prefer: Physical or ebooks?
I’m currently reading The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller and I am absolutely in raptures. Hands down I prefer physical books. I love the smell, the weight, the feel of them- and there’s such magic that every time you read a physical book, it gets a little more worn. Like it comes along with you on the adventure.
Thank you so much for having me, I’ve loved answering these questions! Live magically 🙂