Monday, April 14, 2014

Interview with Danielle Jensen, author of STOLEN SONGBIRD

One of the recent fantasy releases I've really enjoyed is STOLEN SONGBIRD. I love fantasy and so many books of what's considered fantasy lately has been strong on the romance and light on the fantasy, to the point where the fantasy is pretty iffy. Not so with STOLEN SONGBIRD. This book has a full and inventive fantasy world.

I'm so happy that the author Danielle Jensen had time to answer a few questions for us.

For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.

But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.

As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

So much about Stolen Songbird is unique. The underground city. The magic of the trolls. The addition of repressed half-bloods. But did you base some of it on a certain fairy tale or fable?
Danielle: I didn’t write Stolen Songbird as a retelling, but a lot of people have made comparisons to Beauty and the Beast. I think certain themes, tropes, and plot lines are extremely prevalent within literature, and it is pretty rare to see a completely original idea. I really like retellings – I’m reading Cruel Beauty right now – but I haven’t had an idea for one worth pursuing.

I think this is a book that will appeal to fantasy and romance readers. Most fantasy readers (me) like a little romance, but you’ve beefed up the romance without it feeling like the romance is taking over. There’s a nice balance of the two in Stolen Songbird. Was that intentional?
Danielle: I wrote the novel to create a balance of romance, fantasy, and political intrigue that suited MY tastes as a reader. But there isn’t a balance that suits ALL readers. Some people tell me there is too much romance. Some people tell me that there is too much politics, and that they skimmed those parts. Some people tell me that the balance was just right. That’s one thing you learn quite quickly as a writer – that it is impossible to please everyone.  

As a main character, Cécile holds her own in this book, being a strong female character. I admire that she may be in love, but she’s still her own person. There’s room in her head and heart for more than a man. What is your favorite trait of Cécile’s that you might even envy a little?
Danielle: Her optimism. She sees the best in people and circumstances, and I…don’t J

He’s not mention in the blurb, but I have a soft spot for Marc, the hero Tristan’s right hand troll. His is a sad backstory. I’d plug for him have a Happy Ever After in the sequels. Who’s your favorite character and why?
Danielle: Everyone loves Marc, and I’m no exception. I adore him because even though his life has been NOT GOOD, he still has such a kind heart. You mention his sad backstory – I actually wrote a love letter from him to his dead sweetheart, which you can read here []  It’s my first love letter, so you all have to tell me how I didJ

There is a very rich sense of world-building in Stolen Songbird. I felt like I was actually confined underground while reading it. Why an underground city, and what research did you use to fill in all the details you invented? Is it based on any real places you’ve visited?
Danielle: Stolen Songbird was inspired by a dream I had about a city buried in rubble, and the bulk of the world-building is stuff that wandered out of the bottomless pit that is my imagination. I did draw some inspiration from France (as you may have guessed), and I had Versailles in mind when I wrote about the palace. Forsaken Mountain is based on a very real mountain in the Canadian Rockies that really did break in half. I’m writing a post about that which will be out in early April, and once the snow quits falling, I’m going to do a video post starring me at mountain.  

One of the things I enjoyed the most about the book was the specific sense of history to the trolls. You gave them a very detailed past and a layered political structure. How did that come about, and I have to know if you have a soft spot for books with political overtones. 
Danielle: I love intrigue, and politics is a great way to insert intrigue into a novel. So yes, I have a big soft spot for it.
One of the questions that runs through Stolen Songbird is whether past behavior predicts future behavior, and that is something that Tristan and Cécile really bump heads over. Because that question is so important, I, by necessity, needed to put a fair bit of thought into the trolls’ history. What happened in the past is really important to these books, and if I took out that detail, a lot of the plot would dissolve.  

Many of my readers are also writers themselves. Would you share some of your publishing journey with us? What path led you to being published with Angry Robot?
Danielle: Stolen Songbird is the forth novel I completed, and the third novel I queried. All my queries were rejected, but my pitch and first 250 words made it into the MSFV Baker’s Dozen contest, where my agent ‘won’ my manuscript. She read it, and told me if I was willing to revise certain aspects of it that she would look at it again. It took me about six months to make those changes, but not long after I resubmitted, she called and offered me representation. We then went through another five months of revision, and in January 2013, it went out on submission. It sold to Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry in March 2013.  

Pantser or Plotter?
Danielle: Pantser.

What are you working on now?
Danielle: Stolen Songbird’s sequel.

I live, work, and write in Calgary, Alberta, primarily in the company of my quirky labradoodle named Elmo.
Unlike many writers, I didn’t grow up imagining a future where I would closet myself away for hours writing stories. Although I have always been an avid reader, after high school I decided to go to business school and ended up with a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Calgary in 2003. I spent the next six years toiling away in the oil and gas industry, but it was also during this time that a friend and co-worker suggested writing a romance novel. After all, how hard could it be?
Really hard.
In 2006, I started several epically-terrible category romance novels before eventually turning to my favorite genre, fantasy. I slaved away at it during my free time, but refused to tell anyone what I was doing. Needless to say, it came as a great surprise to everyone when I finally confessed that I was nearly finished writing my first novel (in goes the wine, out comes the truth). That was in December, 2008.
By April, 2009, I was sending out my first query letters and coming to grips with the fact that while writing a book was hard, getting it read was even harder. It was also during 2009 that I was forced into a position that caused me to re-evaluate what I was doing with my life.  At that point, I knew I wanted to be a writer, but it was also clear that writing wasn’t going to pay my bills.  I decided to take a leap of faith, and registered to go back to university to get an English degree. To make it happen, I took a job as a waitress at a sports bar.
For almost three years, I juggled going to school full-time during the day and working full-time at night, writing during my very limited bits of free time. In June of 2012, I graduated from Mount Royal University with a Bachelor of Arts English (Honours).  A little over two months later, I got THE CALL, and accepted representation for my YA fantasy novel, STOLEN SONGBIRD. After more rounds of revisions than I care to count, STOLEN SONGBIRD finally went out on submission to editors in January 2013.

1 comment:

  1. Great interview and I LOVE that cover! Pure Awesome. Now to go find it on Good Reads!