Danielle L. Jensen Interview
Today we are lucky enough to have Danielle L. Jensen, author of The Malediction Trilogy with us to answer some questions about the series, which will be wrapping up in May with the final book, Warrior Witch.
So who is Danielle L. Jensen—and what is she all about? What’s she likely to be found doing on a blustery afternoon in May? Sword or lightsabre? Cats or dogs?
I’m most likely to be found chasing my toddler or working on my current WIP. I used to have hobbies, but those require time, and of that I have very little. I spend most of my free moments reading or watching the very small list of television programs that I enjoy, which is currently dominated by The 100. Sword, absolutely. I’m a much bigger fan of historical fantasy than science fiction, plus I believe a sharp blade is more reliable than an electronic gizmo. Dogs. I’m crazy allergic to cats. 🙂
The final book of the Malediction trilogy is out this year—how does that feel?
ALL THE FEELS! I’ve been working on this series and with these characters since 2010, so they are like old friends to me. Saying goodbye to them (for now, at least), is sad, but it’s also really exciting to be able to dedicate my entire headspace to new projects and new characters that hopefully I’ll be able to share with everyone one day.
Without giving away too much to the poor people who’ve not yet had the pleasure (and if not, they really should love themselves and read Stolen Songbird and Hidden Huntress) of Cécile and the Trolls yet, what is the trilogy about as a whole?
The more readers, the better!
The trilogy is about a young soprano named Cécile who is about to depart her family farm to join her mother on the opera stage in the big city. But before she can leave, trolls kidnap her and bond her to their crown prince, Tristan, in order to break the curse that has bound them to their underground kingdom for five centuries.
Except it doesn’t work.
Cécile is initially focused on escape, but she finds herself embroiled in the burgeoning revolution of the oppressed lower class of half-bloods who desire to overthrow their tyrannical king. A revolution that is led by Prince Tristan himself. As she becomes more sympathetic to the trolls, and falls in love Tristan, she has to decide whether freeing her friends is worth the risk of unleashing the trolls’ magic on the world. And she must live with the consequences of whatever path she chooses.
When Strange Chemistry closed its doors, did you immediately know that the series would be picked up by Angry Robot, or was there a period of not-knowing and shopping around for another publisher?
I didn’t know. I was in the same boat as everyone else at that point, as I thought I was out of a book deal, which resulted in many tears. I can’t get too much into the details, but there were several months where there was a lot of uncertainty about what would happen to the rights for Stolen Songbird, which was already published, so there wasn’t much that could be done beyond the theoretical discussion with my agent about the merits of shopping the series to other publishers vs. self-publishing. Fortunately, Angry Robot offered to keep the series prior to any of the rights issues being resolved, so we never had to explore those paths.
What did the journey towards publication look like for you? With hindsight, what might you have done differently?
The first novel I ever finished was an epic fantasy, and I started writing it in 2007. I finished and began querying it in 2009. I fought that battle for a quite a long time (and wrote its sequel), before setting it aside to finish a YA post-apocalyptic project, which I started querying in 2010.
That one got further along in the process, but I eventually turned my focus to Stolen Songbird, which I started writing in 2010 (ish) and began querying in 2011. I was accepted into The Baker’s Dozen contest that November, which was the first time my now agent read Stolen Songbird. She asked for revisions, which took me about half a year, and then signed me based on the revised manuscript in August of 2012. We worked on more revisions, then it went out to editors in January of 2013, selling to Strange Chemistry (the then YA imprint of Angry Robot) in March of 2013. It was published in April 2014, so I suppose that means I spent about five years fighting to get published, which isn’t long in the whole scheme of things.
I’m not a big fan of regrets – I believe mistakes are part of life, and that you learn as much, if not more, from them as you do your successes. J.K. Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech is stuck to my fridge, and I read it whenever I’m feeling down on my career. 🙂
If Cécile and Tristan were real in our world, what would they be doing? Who would they be? What would they study at college/university and what would their Twitter feeds look like?
I think they’d both go to post-secondary school, because they both really like learning.
Cécile, I envision studying music and vocal arts at a prestigious institution that she’d attend on the dime of her wealthy, but estranged, mother. Her Twitter feed would be full of beautiful photos – places and people – as well as lyrics that speak to her. In her spare time, you’d find her in eclectic teashops, either reading YA fantasy novels or hanging out with her large and diverse group of friends.
Tristan would be the son of a rich and shady CEO of a large company with dark reputation. He would have gone to the most prestigious private schools, and despite his father trying to send him to business school, he’d go on to study architecture. He’d have a small, but close-knit group of friends, and despite claiming to detest politics, would always be class president and deeply involved in the student union at all his schools. His Twitter feed, which would use an alias so as not to draw his father’s attention, would be full of links to compelling articles about world issues, which once he was out of school, he’d work tirelessly to rectify. He’d also RT photos of cute animals. Well, maybe not that last bit. 🙂
What song would Cécile and Tristan dance to at their wedding if they were in our world?
“Unchained Melody” as sung by the Righteous Brothers.
Do you have a writing playlist or particular songs you listen to when writing?
Readers always find this answer so disappointing, but I prefer to write in silence. If I’m somewhere noisy, I often wear headphones just to muffle the sound. When I do listen to music, it’s generally my giant generic playlist of classical music. I do usually have a particular track/album that I associate with what I’m working on, and if I’m stuck or have been away from it for a while, I’ll play that track/album to get the creative juices flowing. For The Malediction Trilogy, it was the Requiem for a Dream soundtrack.
Did you always want to write a story with a heavy emphasis on social justice (the half-bloods and their treatment), or did it just happen as part of the plot?
That is actually a great question. I never set out to write about a specific theme or social issue, but there are a handful that seem to work their way into everything I write, and social justice is one of them. My subconscious appears to have a few thematic obsessions that find their release in fiction.
If Cécile and Tristan went to a costume ball, what would they dress as? Why these costumes?
They’d go as Christine and the Phantom from The Phantom of the Opera. Why? Because it’s PERFECT!
What’s your writing ritual? Where do you settle to write and how do you get into the zone? Any snacks? Any writing mascots you keep close?
My only ritual is that I must circle the Internet a few times before opening whatever I’m working on. Honestly, I’ve trained myself to be able to write anytime and anywhere, because it’s the only way I can get work done. However, my favourite writing spot is on the window seat in the sunshine, with a warm blanket and a big mug of tea.
Do you have a favourite sentence you’ve ever written (as part of the Malediction trilogy or otherwise)?
I have many favourites, but probably this exchange between Tristan and Cécile is the closest to my heart.
My thoughts turned to Marc, who was always kind to me when no one else was. “They aren’t ugly.” I bit my lip, trying to find the right words. “More like beautiful things that have had the misfortune of being broken.”
Tristan turned his face back to me. I saw the sorrow in his eyes and felt it in my heart.
“Why are you always so unhappy?” I asked.
“I think it is our nature to believe evil always has an ugly face,” he said, ignoring my question. “Beauty is supposed to be good and kind, and to discover it otherwise is like a betrayal of trust. A violation of the nature of things.”
How might the trilogy have been different if written in a modern day setting, or a science fiction setting?
Haha, Tristan and Cécile already suffer so much misinterpretation in their relationship. Can you imagine how much worse it would be if they were texting each other?! Truthfully, I feel like much of the plot is predicated upon them not being able to readily communicate with each other, so adding in modern or futuristic instant communication would really throw a wrench in that.
Did you always want to be a writer, or was there something else that you’d have liked to have done?
When I was a teenager, I wanted to be a veterinarian, and I studied science in my first year at university. But that turned out not to be a good choice for me. I switched over to business school, and after I graduated, I worked in finance for many years. But honestly, it wasn’t for me, either. Writing started as a hobby, but when I had the opportunity, I went back to university and got my English degree and put all my focus into getting one of my novels published. Writing is my dream job, and I hope I can do it forever.
What comes next after Warrior Witch for you? Any current plans (that you can talk about!) for a new trilogy or new books?
I do have another fantasy novel that I’m working on that I hope to finish up this year. I find writing in two different worlds really challenging, so now that I’m done The Malediction Trilogy and can focus, my work on that project is coming along much more swiftly. Hopefully I’ll have news on that front later this year!
We’d like to thank Ms. Jensen again for taking the time to talk with us today! Her newest book, Warrior Witch, is due out May 3rd of this year. The first two books in The Malediction Trilogy, Stolen Songbird and Hidden Huntress, are available now wherever good books are sold. You can learn more about this series on Ms. Jensen’s website or you can follow her on Twitter @dljensen_.