Welcome to our weekly special feature post, Author Of The Week!!
Each week we will be interviewing a different YA author and highlighting their upcoming release!
We will also be hosting a giveaway of the book we are highlighting!!
Introducing Jessica Cluess, YABC’s Author of the Week!!
Meet, A Shadow Bright and Burning!
Henrietta Howel can burst into flames.
Forced to reveal her power to save a friend, she’s shocked when instead of being executed, she’s invited to train as one of Her Majesty’s royal sorcerers.
Thrust into the glamour of Victorian London, Henrietta is declared the chosen one, the girl who will defeat the Ancients, bloodthirsty demons terrorizing humanity. She also meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, handsome young men eager to test her power and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her.
But Henrietta Howel is not the chosen one.
As she plays a dangerous game of deception, she discovers that the sorcerers have their own secrets to protect. With battle looming, what does it mean to not be the one? And how much will she risk to save the city–and the one she loves?
Exhilarating and gripping, Jessica Cluess’s spellbinding fantasy introduces Henrietta Howel, a powerful, unforgettable heroine, and an entertaining world filled with magic, monsters, and mayhem.
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens, actually. I loved the scene where Nicholas saved an innocent boy, Smike, from a beating at the hands of a cruel schoolmaster. Nicholas went in there and physically stopped the attack. As I was walking to work, I asked myself how a girl in the Victorian era would handle such a thing. I had this image of her opening up her hands…and roasting the headmaster with fire. I remember stopping on the sidewalk and thinking “That could make a fun character.”
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
Gah, tough choice! I have two answers. First has to be Henrietta, my protagonist, since I chose to tell the series from her perspective. I think she’s both headstrong and practical, and I hope other people think so as well! The second is an outlaw magician named Jenkins Hargrove. I love funny characters with secrets, and he fits the bill nicely, if I say so myself.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
Definitely the novel! The book was originally called Sorcerer’s Flame—thrilling, I know. My agent, editor, and I all sat on the computer for a month tossing back and forth ideas. I look at those emails sometimes for a laugh: we all really started losing it towards the end, because we couldn’t think of anything. Finally, we had a big pile of words, and my editor looked through and said “What about A Shadow Bright and Burning?” I’m glad we got this title, because it describes the book on a number of different levels.
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
I can’t give too much without spoiling things, but there’s a confession scene of sorts towards the end of the book. I’m proud of that because the confessor changed drastically from the first time I put him on paper to the final version. Watching how he changed over the course of many drafts—and what that finally led to in terms of the scene—was really fun for me.
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer?
Two big things. One, finish what you start, because you’ll never get anywhere until you’ve completed something. Two, learn how to edit. Learn what your strengths and weaknesses are. Be merciless about that, and don’t be precious about your own work. Ever.
YABC: What do you most like about the cover of the book?
Besides everything, you mean? It’s an amazing cover. I really think the colors are exceptional. The way the fire goes from hot orange to teal to this kind of electric blue, it’s dynamic and unsettling and beautiful all at once. I can’t think of a better cover for this book.
YABC: What new release book are you most looking forward to in 2016?
I’m sticking with debuts that haven’t been released yet, and I’m keeping it to three. Otherwise we’ll be here all day. The Reader by Traci Chee, Timekeeper by Tara Sim, and Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst. I’ve read all three, and they’re fantastic examples of upcoming YA fantasy.
YABC: What was your favorite book in 2015?
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. I kept thinking about the world and envisioning it every time I put the book down. That’s always the sign of something that’ll stick with you.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
The second book in the series! It has a title, which I can’t reveal yet, and is a lot of fun to write. Hopefully, I sell another series after this. I have an idea that I particularly like and want to play with, but that’s a way off.
YABC: Is there anything you would like to add?
Pineapple. I love that word.
YABC: Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
Something happens to Henrietta in the second half of the book—someone she really trusted does something awful to her. Yes, it’s vague, but it’s spoilery as well. Having to be in her headspace then was rather painful, especially as she’s a kid with serious trust issues to begin with.
YABC: Which character gave you the most trouble?
Rook, Henrietta’s friend. He got a complete personality overhaul in the editing process, which meant reexamining every single scene he was in. His actions kept changing, and that created kind of a domino effect for the rest of the book. However, the changes led to a really exciting, kind of scary idea for the rest of the series. His whole arc has changed as a result.
YABC: Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: drafting or revising?
Revising, without question. Some people love the freedom of the blank page, but I find it almost overwhelming. All my first drafts are real, true garbage. Most of my best ideas come when I look at something and go “Well, that’s not right at all. How can I fix this?”
YABC: What would you say is your superpower?
I can write 10,000 words a day for days on end. If that isn’t some kind of supernatural ability, I don’t know what is.
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
I teach creative writing to kids, and there are so many children out there who are prohibited from any kind of creativity in the classroom. I love seeing a kid who thinks they’re just going to hate writing finish a story they’re passionate about—that’s the best feeling.
A Shadow Bright and Burning
By: Jessica Cluess
Release Date: September 20, 2016
One winner will recieve copies of A Shadow Bright and Burning. (US & Canada only)