Author Interview – Jenny Graham-Jones (Witherfist)

I am glad to welcome back Jenny Graham-Jones whose Inkshares contest entry in hope to see her Fantasy novel Witherfist published, is coming to a close. You can check and pre-order her book on Inkshares site.


NG: Can you tell us about your writing process?
GRAHAM-JONES: To say that I have a process might be a little bit generous, but let’s see. I’ve often read that there are two kinds of people: people who can outline everything, and people who look on in baffled wonder at that other group. I’m firmly in the latter camp. I love to world-build, to imagine the setting of my story, the culture, history and so on – but when it comes to plotting, I tend to leave that relatively loose. I have my start, middle and end, and I let my imagination wander down as wobbly a path between those three points as it likes. This can involve a fair bit of revision, as I might ‘discover’ something new about a character. Regarding my surroundings when I write, I use a lot of music to establish mood and setting for myself and often look at a look at images of real-world inspirations.

NG: What are the significant themes in your writing?
GRAHAM-JONES: People doing bad things for good reasons. In Witherfist, Irusai has made a pact with a malevolent spirit. She does this in the hope that she will be able to use the spirit’s power to defend the people of the province she protects. Meanwhile, Arren must consider whether she is willing to wake an army of the undead and use it to oust her mother from the Imperial throne. In both cases, Arren and Irusai view themselves as being in the right, but there would certainly be a significant number of people who would argue otherwise. I think this is another theme that I enjoy exploring: the subjectivity of morality. It’s an old trope of the fantasy genre that there is a clear, dividing line between what’s good and what’s evil – but it’s so much more fun, exciting and ultimately human to blur that line.

NG: Why did you choose to join Inkshares and enter their contest?
GRAHAM-JONES: I have to admit; I hadn’t heard of Inkshares until a month or so ago. Details about the contest popped up on my social media feeds on the day that it launched. I decided to take that as a sign. For the longest time, I’ve gone to and fro with the ideas behind Witherfist. The start of the contest was just that little extra shove that I needed to get the story moving with some urgency.

NG: Who do you believe will enjoy Witherfist?
GRAHAM-JONES: Witherfist features magic, mystical spirits and a healthy dose of political intrigue to top it all off. If I had to pick a series or two that to compare to, I’d say Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive, Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen or George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. The style and story of Witherfist doesn’t match any of those three exactly, but there are common elements – such as shifting viewpoints, far-reaching plots and a healthy dollop of the magical – that I think readers will enjoy. In a broader sense, I think the book will appeal to anyone who enjoys reading about characters on a journey of redemption.

NG: What are your hopes for Witherfist?
GRAHAM-JONES: Right now, my main hope for Witherfist is that I’ll be able to share it with readers. The book is still in the process of being written and has a good amount of work to be done before it’s ready for production.

NG: Thank you Jenny and good luck with Witherfist! I was very happy to be among the first to-order it and hope to see it published soon.

Jenny Graham-Jones.
Jenny Graham-Jones.

English author Jenny Graham-Jones is a newcomer to the fantasy genre. Based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, she spends her days at her job as a software developer and her evenings writing about the weird and the wonderful. Witherfist is her first foray into novel writing.

You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Inkshares.

The Digital Quill’s Writing Tips – One Last Word (For Now)

I want to leave you with one last advice, one that matters to keep your passion alive and encourage you to keep the hard work going.

Enjoy and experiment!

Beyond the difficult times, the roadblocks, you should always remember your calling and that you chose to be a writer (or that the muses dragged you to the desk and never let you go, but by now you know that befriending them was only a matter of time).

There is joy to be found in answering one’s calling and writing should be that to you, fellow writer! The amazing feeling of finishing a chapter, of coming up with a good book idea, putting together a satisfying structure…

The other thing is to feel free to experiment. You have time before your writing is available to all to see to decide what you want to do. The experimentation is part of growing and learning, of having fun with following your calling. Don’t hesitate to do it, whether it is something small and simple like a new secondary plot or something big as a new genre.

In the end, everything is a learning experience.

I hope that you enjoyed those writing tips and that they are helpful to you. If you have any questions, you can check out my blog series The Digital Quill Answers, to see if you can find an answer. If not, don’t hesitate to ask me and I will gladly post an answer!

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The Digital Quill’s Writing Tips – Love Your Editor

This applies to your beta readers, book designer, publisher, agent or whoever you work with. Yet, I focus on the editor because this is a very important aspect of your writer’s life, especially if you mean to make a career out of your passion.

Finding a skilled editor who will have your manuscript’s best interest in mind and won’t hesitate to tear what needs to be torn down, will be a life changer for you. I had experience with a first editor I trusted blind without thinking twice. It put my credibility as an author at risk after the first title I had published independently. I was lucky to find another one who since then challenges me as a writer and make me better.

Your manuscript should go through hell and back before publishing, so be grateful when your editor invests themselves into what you do. They should seek to improve and fine-tune your work, while honoring what you seek to say.

None of us like to see our labor of love turned into pieces or with tons of things to change. Yet, be grateful when it is done before the word is officially out in the world. So be grateful for your editor once you have found them and love their advice!

What about you?

  • Do you have an editor you commonly work with?
  • If not, what are you looking for in an editor?
  • How do you approach your editor’s suggestions and corrections?

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The Digital Quill’s Writing Tips – Fellow Authors Aren’t Competition

This is one thing that I learned early on, despite being a competitive person by nature. Considering other authors as competition will just make you bitter and keep making unhealthy comparisons. This is the wrong choice for all parties involved. If you choose to build one another up, this is a more effective and positive approach. Will you get along with all fellow authors? No, you won’t, but neither will you with every person you come across.

Wanting to partake in a sense of community with your fellow authors helps you learn more, share joys and concerns, be of help as much as you benefit from it as well. Approaching it as a self-serving decision isn’t what you should do of course. You must approach it with sincerity to make it a valuable experience.

While writing conferences or conventions should be events you are interested in, those aren’t always easy to attend. In the meantime, you can also look out for writing groups online. And if groups aren’t what you are most comfortable in, you can also choose to build connections via social media  and authors you meet and then connect and stay in touch with.

What about you?

  • How has your experience with fellow authors been so far?
  • Did you ever attend a writing workshop or conference?
  • Do you belong to any writing group?

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Author Interview – Jane-Holly Meissner

Today, I get the opportunity to talk with another author currently working on a Fantasy novel, Fae Child, entered in an Inkshares contest: Jane-Holly Meissner. Fae Child is available for pre-order on the Inkshares website.


NG: Can you tell us about your book?
MEISSNER: Fae Child is the story of Abbie, a little girl who gets pulled through a portal into the Otherworld, and the adventures she has trying to get back home. The first person she meets is a young elf boy named Foster, who is on a journey of his own to become a full fledged Guardian of the forest. It is also the tale of her parents’ struggle with her dark copy – a changeling that has been left behind in her place. Her father has some secrets from his past that the changeling will force him to confront.

I love the idea of taking something that might be considered a story for grown-ups and looking at it through the eyes of a child. They see things that we don’t, they accept things we might not, and there’s just an honesty to how they interact with the world. I believe Fae Child will end up classified as a YA novel, but I’m definitely writing it for adults as well.

NG: What was your first writing experience?
MEISSNER: My first writing experience was when I was around six – as a homeschooler I was supposed to write a report about a little animal called a pika, but instead of a report my mother let me write a story. A day in the life of a pika, and it was, of course, titled “The Little Pika.” I’ve been writing stories ever since. My mom has always been supportive of my storytelling, and for my senior English project I wrote the first draft of a complete novel. Still haven’t finished that second draft, sorry Mom!

3. How were you drawn to the Fantasy genre?
MEISSNER: I am a huge fan of fantasy literature. The first ‘real’ book I ever read was C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, I read The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien multiple times as a pre-teen before graduating to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Most of my favorite writers are fantasy authors – G. R. R. Martin, Terry Pratchett, Robert Jordan, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson… I love the vast and complete worlds that a fantasy novel can transport you into, where anything can happen, and everything is possible. Using a fantastical setting to tell stories that highlight something that might be an every day, familiar situation or relationship from a new angle is something I really enjoy.

NG: What are your greatest inspirations as a writer?

MEISSNER: For this particular story, Fae Child, my greatest inspirations are the books I read as a girl about other girls having imaginative adventures. C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, the Alice books by Lewis Carroll, and Frances Hodges Burnett and her wonderful books The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. Certainly my own children inspire me every day, with the funny things they say or do – and the things that upset them, or how they choose to assert themselves.

NG: How did your roleplaying experience help you grow as a writer?
MEISSNER: How hasn’t it!? Because of roleplaying, writing play-by-post stories collaboratively on a message board, I’ve been writing almost every day for nearly sixteen years. I’ve definitely grown as a writer in that time, learned how to plot out a compelling story, and how to leave hooks in my writing that I can come back and hang another plot arc onto at a later date. Those little story hooks are integral to making you look like an amazing writer, by the way. You can loop your narrative back around to an older story arc and it all looks like you planned it from the start. Which you did. Of course you did.

Writing with a great group online has been an iron sharpening iron process for me. The better they are (and they’re amazing) the better I try to be. Without roleplaying we wouldn’t be here having a discussion about my novel, because there most likely wouldn’t be one, or if there was I wouldn’t have been brave enough to send it out into the world. Technically I’m still not brave enough for that, but my writing friends have encouraged me, and this is the result.

NG: Can you tell us about your writing process?

MEISSNER: Usually I sit down, turn on some music that fits the mood of what I’m going to write, get interrupted a few times by the kids, write some… get interrupted again. Repeat ad nauseum. With roleplaying post I generally sit down, bang out a few paragraphs, read it to make sure I don’t have any glaring typos, and then send it. For something I’m writing on my own I make sure I have a good outline to hang my chapters on, and then I just write! I’ve started using Scrivener and I love it – it helps me map out my plot points and lets me move them around if I need to. I highly recommend it for any writer.

NG: What are the significant themes in your writing?
MEISSNER: Fae Child isn’t a coming of age story, but it is a book about growing up, and about family (biological or otherwise). It’s a book of discovery and wonder – Abbie is only 8, so she was still discovering our world for the first time, and she applies her childlike logic to everything she encounters in Faerie/Otherworld as well. It’s also the story of a father’s love for his daughter.

NG: Thank you very much! I wish you the very best with Fae Child and look forward to reading it.

Jane-Holly Meissner
Jane-Holly Meissner

Jane-Holly Meissner, an Oregon based writer, has been scribbling stories into notebooks and online for most of her life. She squeezes in time for homeschooling her three kids, date nights at the movies with her husband, and explaining her first name to everyone she meets. Jane-Holly believes that if creativity is directly correlated to how messy your house is, she might be one of the most creative people on the planet

The Digital Quill’s Writing Tips – Moral Support Makes a Difference

Writing isn’t easy and like every calling it requires a lot of work and situations can be disheartening at times. Hard work is no easy feat and having people around you who can bring not only comfort but guidance as well can help.

Being able to open up to friends can ease the load off your shoulders, but it isn’t the only thing that moral support can provide. It can also come into the form of mentoring from others who have more experience and are willing to share. Since learning is a never-ending process, we can find mentors in different places and at many times in our lives.

You can build your support system in several ways, whether online or offline. A combination of both can be beneficial. This is where social media and being active in online communities can help, especially when you are unsure where to start and can be isolated. Yet, it is important to remember to seize opportunities to build in person networks.

What about you?

  • Do you already have a support system?
  • How could you expand it?
  • If you don’t, what are your options to build one?

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The Digital Quill’s Writing Tips – Do Your Research

Most if not all the time, doing research for a specific writing project is required, whether you research a historic period you place your narrative in or you need to look up certain psychological aspect or body language for some of your characters, it is very common to have research to do when you are a writer.

Your research often happens prior to the actual writing, but it can also be required later on during the writing process, when you realize you need it, especially if you have pantser’s habits. It is all right to do research at several points of your writing process. Making sure you do it is what matters most.

In the case of nonfiction, it is more likely that you will do the largest part of your research prior to begin writing, especially in the case of analyze and critical studies of any kind. This helps you build your structure and direct your writing. Of course, just like with fiction, you may find yourself do more research as new questions emerge as you progress in your manuscript.

What about you?

  • Do you make sure you do needed research?
  • Do you remain open for need of it later during your writing process?
  • How do you keep your research organized?

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The Digital Quill’s Writing Tips – Inspiration is Everywhere

Making sure you remain as much of a reader as a writer is a basic I am pretty sure you already have heard a thousand times! I wholeheartedly agree with this but I am a firm believer that you can find inspiration everywhere. Keeping your eyes open, not only for your surroundings, but also to what you might be watching or playing, can help inspiration so much.

Reading is very important no matter whether you are a writer or not, but what you choose to watch as movies or TV series can also have you engaged a lot and give you tons of ideas. Watching something doesn’t mean you are just passive as it can make you reflect on your own projects, whether fiction or nonfiction.

As we previously saw, having a genre or two of predilection can help you as a writer, and reading in those genres can fuel your inspiration. Yet, you probably enjoy other genres too, and curiosity about ones you normally wouldn’t be interested in can bring you other inspirations. Curiosity is a very strong aspect of how a writer can continue learning.

When at a roadblock, you might want to do something to clear your mind, whether it is taking a walk, meditating, or praying. I know that it has helped me especially as I relied on prayer more in the past years. The answer isn’t necessarily immediate, but it has helped me feel more at peace and obtain better direction, even if not the one I expected or wanted, and thus be more productive and quiet writer.

What about you?

  • Do you make sure to have time to read?
  • Do you often find (and seek) inspiration in other activities?
  • Can you come up with new ideas for inspiration sources?

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The Digital Quill’s Writing Tips – Perfecting Your Craft

I admit that my thirst of learning new things about writing (or any topic) comes in spurs. I tend to always make sure I am learning more but the subjects take turn for the most part. Yet, I still make it a habit to check any blog post that can be relevant to a small number of topics that has an impact on my life, including writing.

While reading actual books about writing craft is important, making sure to follow some blogs or not hesitate to click links posted by people you respect, can make a difference in the long run. Maybe you think that reading just a post or two won’t change much, but you never know where the latest great tip that inspire you or clear a roadblock will be.

It is of course easy to find conflicting types of advices and methods, but learning about both (or multiple) sides of a same topic can only enrich your experience.

What about you?

  • How often do you read about writing craft?
  • Do you stick to certain aspects or do you read about a broad spectrum?
  • Are you willing to read about techniques and tips that normally conflict with your own process?

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The Digital Quill’s Writing Tips – You Can Be Both a Pantser and a Plotter

You can work on a project with both pantser and plotter moments. Being purely one or the other is an option as acceptable as being a mix of both, whether on one project or on multiple. It is possible to enjoy preparing a lot and plot several parts, then find a time in your story when you realize you want to explore a completely new direction and just go with it. You never know what something can bring to you unless you try it.

Overall, we all have a pantser and a plotter inside of us, even when one of them takes center stage. While it is important to find out what works best for you as you grow as a writer, not needing to fit into a given box can helps you flesh out your skills more than if you seek to absolutely fit into the box of your choosing.

With what I explained about note taking earlier, it shows that we are all prone to jot down some ideas even when we write in a pantser way. Being knowledgeable about what options we have is equally important as to know what feels/becomes right for us in our unique experience as a writer. We all share techniques and processes, but in the end, we still have our own path and it is what makes the writing world beautiful: we all have something different to bring, even if we were all given the same topic to write on and the same format!

What about you?

  • How much do you prepare a project before writing?
  • Do you switch from pantser to plotter (or vice versa) at certain points of your writing process?
  • Do you sometimes change direction in your project because of sudden but strong inspiration? If not, would you be willing to do it if it happened?

Digital Quill's Writing Tips