Welcome to December!
Let's dive right into today's interview - with Jenna Weatherwax!
Growing up in a small town in Michigan, Jenna Weatherwax kept herself busy by reading and writing and spending time at the local library. She studied Classics in college, learning Ancient Greek and Latin and story structure, and she fell in love with ancient storytelling. After studying abroad in Athens, Greece for a year, she was inspired by the history and mythology to write her Urban Fantasy Romance novel.
Social Media links:
Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram: @jwxauthor
Star Trek or Star Wars?
Tough one! I am one of those weirdos that saw my first Star Wars movie way too late in life and got sucked into the world through fanfiction. I saw The Last Jedi in theaters and fell madly in love with Finn and Poe and Rey, as well as the way Rian Johnson had added so many interesting parallels between Rey and Kylo Ren. I think Star Trek has a lot more to say about the world and technology and our role in the universe, but Star Wars had me researching specifics about lore and the Force just based off a single movie, so I’m going to go with Star Wars!
A book that pleasantly surprised you?
I recently read my first YA book in years and really enjoyed it! Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger was a great ghost story, story of grief and vengence and family and history, and there was also a ghost dog! Plus indigenous and asexual representation for YA is incredibly important, and it was very well done! Maybe it’s time for me to start adding more YA to my reading lists.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
I am decidedly one of those research-heavy writers. My educational storytelling background is in Classics (with an emphasis in Ancient Greek and Latin languages!), so reading myths and histories of ancient cultures is a big part of my inspiration process. Naturally, there are so many things we don’t know and so many different versions of every story, and my brain loves to fill in those spaces with the magical and fantastical and romantic. I spend a lot of time in the “sources” section of Wikipedia and databases, reading scholarly articles on Ancient Greek burial rites and wedding customs and the exact shades of dye for wool and also why Ovid changes specific words from Homer’s works.
Less academically, I get a lot of my inspiration from video games and my queer community writing group and a general love of people’s love. I ask everyone I meet how they fell in love with their partner. It’s amazing how much people blossom when you ask, and that’s what inspires me.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
In addition to my writing endeavors, my passions extend to various realms. When not crafting tales of Bisexual Romance, Greek and Roman Mythology, and Fantasy in novels like The Promise of Lightning (2022) and its upcoming sequel, The Curse of Thunder (coming out Feb 2024), I find inspiration in diverse activities.
Venturing into the immersive world of video games adds a unique layer to my creative process, infusing my narratives with elements of interactive storytelling. Amidst this creative journey, I also draw energy from cozy coffee shops, where the aromatic brew fuels both my imagination and writing sessions.
Moreover, the sense of community is crucial to my creative spirit. Spending time with my queer writing group not only fosters a supportive environment but also contributes to the authenticity and inclusivity embedded in my storytelling. These varied interests outside of writing enrich my life experiences, creating a tapestry of inspiration that transcends into the pages of my novels.
Is there a trope you find yourself going back to in multiple works? Or one you avoid?
Absolutely, within the tapestry of my works, I find myself drawn to and reimagining the timeless trope of soulmates. The exploration of queer love stories within historical contexts becomes a central theme, weaving a narrative that not only transcends time but challenges conventional norms.
In my storytelling, I actively seek to reverse and re-think tropes in both fantasy and romance genres. The traditional elements of love and destiny are reshaped to defy expectations, especially within the rich landscape of queer narratives. By embracing diverse perspectives and challenging stereotypical conventions, I aim to offer readers a fresh and authentic take on love, weaving narratives that are both inclusive and thought-provoking.
Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Dive headfirst into myths and legends from all corners of the world. It's like a treasure trove of storytelling gold. Legends aren't just cool stories; they're masterclasses in crafting tales that stick with you.
But hey, it's not all about dragons and gods (though, they do make things interesting). Let's talk about the nitty-gritty—grammar, style, and syntax. Trust me, they're the unsung heroes of killer writing. Think of them as the secret sauce that makes your sentences pop.
So, grab your favorite myth, kick back, and let the stories inspire you. And when it comes to grammar and style, pay attention to what your favorites are doing. And then do that in your own voice.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
Spent a cool year in Athens, Greece – felt like living inside my favorite history books. Picture this: studying ancient myths and then wandering through the actual places where those stories supposedly went down. It was like my college experience got a serious upgrade.
Coffee shops became my study spots, and every stroll through the city felt like a chapter in an epic novel. Athens wasn't just a city; it was like being in a living history class.
Living among the ruins and exploring where ancient tales happened added a whole new layer to my college adventures. Athens became this immersive, real-life storybook that made my time there way more than just a study abroad stint.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I am incredibly close to my community of queer writers in Grand Rapids. Other than that, I am close to my fellow SmashBear authors (John Ortega and Aerin Apeltun in particular!), and then I have a wonderful group of romance authors through Jade Church. Jade actually signed me to SmashBear and is an amazing resource and friend for all new authors. She’s actually gave me the quote for the cover of The Curse of Thunder!
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you building a body of work with connections between each book?
Right now, the books in the Godsplit Universe share a world but not one plot line across the books. While the main characters of The Promise of Lightning are featured in The Curse of Thunder, it really is Tori’s story.
Outside of that, I work on books across universes and genre, but all involve some sort of queer relationships and romance!
Do you write novels, novellas, short stories, episodic fiction, poems, screenplays, or something else? What is your preferred format?
I have always been primarily a novelist, but have been asked to contribute to a handful of anthologies, so I’m just getting started with some short story collections of my own. There are potentially a couple of novellas with in the Godsplit Universe in the future, too, so keep an eye out!
Are you traditionally or self published? Or both? Do you feel there are advantages to one over the other?
I am currently signed to an independent publisher, SmashBear Publishing. It is a queer woman-owned small press and publisher, and I’ve been with them for two years, now. I have a couple of projects outside of them, of course, and would love to explore both traditional and self-publishing in the future. Gotta diversify, you know?
Through independent publishing, I have a lot more creative control and the ability to work with my team and lead my own marketing/publishing plans. There’s not as much of a budget as traditional publishing, so definitely expect to be on your own social media grind.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
A truly embarrassing amount of half-finished books. I recently paid for more storage for Google Drive, just based on the sheer amount of space these folders are taking up. The Promise of Lightning is my first born child, the first book I ever thought was strong enough to query. I’m excited to have The Curse of Thunder ready for publishing, now, so I can figure out what I want to work on next.
What does literary success look like to you?
Oh, you know, a New York Times best-seller and a mansion with a pool.
But I’ll say that success is hard for me to identify. I always feel like I can be doing more. I’m grateful for what I’ve accomplished so far, and reviews of my readers who say that my stories have helped them or comforted them or gotten them through a tough time is enough for me right now.
What do you have coming next?
The Curse of Thunder comes out in Feb. 2024! It’s book 2 in the Godsplit Unvierse and is much spicier than book 1!
Other than that, I have a surprise for short-story readers coming in the next few weeks to celebrate the winter season.
And, believe me, I’m always writing. I have a couple other stories near completion so follow me at @jwxauthor on Twitter and Instagram and TikTok for updates!