Author Interview: Jeanne Roland

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  1. Paperback, hardback, audiobook?

Journeys: the Archers of Saint Sebastian is available in hardback, paperback, and as an ebook. It’s also enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. I personally prefer reading paperbacks! I love reading in the bathtub.

2. Pick a genre, any genre!

Journeys is a frothy but literate romantic YA/crossover historical adventure. It has an immersive setting and unique world like fantasy (my 14th century Belgian fictional archers’ guild), but there’s no magic. It’s historical, but humorous. It’s romantic, but it isn’t a pure romance novel. Here’s how I like to describe it:

A YA romantic adventure for mature teens and adult women who love coming-of-age stories but want them to be well written and devoid of moralizing. A historical fiction without the history. A fantasy without the magic. A swashbuckler without pirates. Robin Hood meets Mulan by way of Princess Bride, with a dash of Cyrano de Bergerac and a hint of mystery.

If you’re asking which genre I most enjoy reading, it’s the same! I wrote this book because it is the kind of story that I want to read myself.

3. What is the first book you remember reading? What book shaped your childhood most?

The first one I remember having read to me is A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh. I still think that the Pooh stories are some of the greatest works of literature ever created. The first book I remember reading for myself is Thornton Burgess’s The Adventures of Reddy the Fox. We had a whole collection of Burgess’s books, and I remember my mother trying to get me to read on my own. She offered to give me a giant chocolate bar (a real rarity in our household! I don’t think I ever got one any other way) if I finished reading one of B’s books. I sat right down and read it straight through in a day. My mother was amazed, but she came through with the candy. She then promised me another bar for another book. When I finished the second book the same day, she came through again, but she said, “Okay, that’s it. No more chocolate rewards.” By then I was hooked, and I read the entire series. It was fantastic, and from that point on I was a reader.

4. When did you first start writing? What made you want to write?

I write all the time for my job, but I’d always wanted to write something creative. I’d never tried, however, thinking that I had to be an amazing wordsmith and have something important to say. Then I read The Hunger Games. Don’t get me wrong. I thought it was brilliant, and that it did have important things to say. But I remember having two distinct and diametrically opposed thoughts: 1. “I could never write that!” about the plot, pacing, and details, and 2. “Hmm. Maybe I could write a YA novel” about the sentence-level writing.

I’m always daydreaming, and I’d had a story marinating in the back of my mind, ever since a family trip to Bruges in Belgium. We visited a real guild of Saint Sebastian there, and the romance of a girl disguising herself as a boy in an all-male archers’ guild had stuck with me over the years, so I decided to try my hand at writing it. The guild in my novel is entirely fictional, as is the town in which it is set, but the massive painting of the saint as a gorgeous youth in torment which plays a role in my novel was inspired by one hanging in that guild hall in Bruges.

5. Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

Journeys is my debut, and the first novel I’ve ever written.

6. Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

Since my novel is set in the real world in a specific historical moment and place (14th century Belgium), I’ve had to do some research, since I strive to avoid glaring anachronisms. However, I would describe the book more as set in an historical period than as an historical novel – I’ve created a fictional Belgian principality and a fictional guild, and placed them loosely in the proper historical framework. This has allowed me not only to create for myself the customs, rules, and the competitions which lie at the heart of my story, but also the political machinations which lurk in the background of the plot, and I have taken it as my guiding principle never to let strict historical accuracy trump the needs of storytelling. I am rather proud, however, of one thing that I did make sure to research well: this is an archery guild, and my main character is a fletcher’s daughter. I’ve therefore attempted to include real details about medieval archery and fletching – this isn’t just flashing bows around!

7.   To plan, or not to plan your plot?

A bit of both! I’ve known the entire main plot of the series from day one – the character arcs, the gist of the story and its heart, and its resolution. But I didn’t plan out each scene or every detail of each plotline, and I’ve found that some of these things change as you write. If you don’t leave yourself some flexibility, the work won’t have any organic flow or life to it. I’d say it’s like being sure of the endpoint and knowing the basic routes forward, but not being entirely sure of every step of the path you’ll choose to get to your destination.

8.   Do you currently have a WIP?

I’m currently editing and formatting the second book in the series, Squires: a Plague of Arrows.

9.   Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

This one is hard, because my series is character-driven, and so there are so many to choose from! “Journeys” in the title is short for Journeymen i.e. the young, handsome, skilled archers who are all competing at the guild in a series of trials to become the prince’s new guardsman. Since these are public spectacles, the boys are expected to cut a fine figure, so that’s twelve gorgeous young archers, each one with an over-the-top, flamboyant personality. I love each one of them! It’s also the truth that I love most the one I’m currently writing. That said, I’d have to say that the one closest to my own heart is my MC Marieke, who goes by Marek once she’s disguised herself as a boy at Saint Sebastian’s.

She was kicked in the face by a mule at age eleven, and it’s left her with a misshapen nose and scars on her face – scars that no one ever thinks later on are attractive. Within the world of the novel she is ugly, and she stays that way; she’s also not very strong physically, in a place where being strong enough to bend a massive longbow is important. What I love about her (besides her rather sardonic take on all of the gorgeous, over-the-top, flamboyant boys with whom she is living) is that she never becomes attractive, or strong, or sassy, and she never kicks anyone’s ass, has no magic, isn’t a chosen one, etc. – but she is still a very strong character, and she wins admiration for qualities that are under her own control: bravery, loyalty, her work ethic, intelligence, common sense. What’s more, her validation comes not from being liked by others, but from her own actions. I think we need more teen heroines like this, who are just plain average girls, and who have their own drives and desires that have nothing to do with getting ‘likes,’ and who get knocked down plenty of times, but find the inner strength to get up again.

10.   Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!

I’d love to answer this one, but no spoilers!

11.   Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

I can’t listen to music as I write. I have to concentrate wholly. However, there is a song associated with Journeys. The main character’s name Marieke comes from a song of the same name by Belgian singer/songwriter Jacques Brel. It was one of my father’s favorite songs (the Judy Collins version), and on that long-ago trip to Bruges, one idyllic afternoon my father decided that we needed to wander the streets of the old town looking for a park in which there was purported to be a statue of Marieke in honor of Brel. Somewhere there is a picture of my father posing, holding the hand of the statue – just as there is somewhere a picture of a youthful me, sitting in the archers’ guild of Saint Sebastian, gazing up at a gorgeous painting.

12.   Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

Amazon | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Author website.
I also blog about Greek mythology as the Allegorical Traveler here.

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