This week's author is Jennifer Freitag, also known as the Penslayer - which she most definitely is!
I was going to review her book The Shadow Things before doing this interview, but I find it is a book I must read two, maybe even three times, before I can feel at all ready to give it a proper review, and between life and school, have not been able to read it three times yet. :P
For now, I must simply say that when I think of The Shadow Things, I scarcely think of a single character, so much as I think of a place and a time and a people - and the miracle of God becoming man to make Himself known to us. (Elizabeth Rose did review this book very recently, if you would like to hear her thoughts on it.) :D
For the rest, suffice it to say that, for sheer beauty of style, I have not found an author like Jenny. I love words and how they can be used, and her blog is simply a treat to read. As were her answers to these questions. :) Enjoy!
Thank you, Jenny! :)
Could you describe yourself as an author in 3 words?
Elemental. Emotional. Erratic.
What book/author has influenced you the most? What book/author would you say has influenced your writing style the most?
Almost every book I read has some bearing on my conception of writing and expressing reality through prose, but I think the single most influential author I have read is the British historical novelist Rosemary Sutcliff. I was first introduced to her through my homeschooling curriculum as a child and now have almost an entire shelf dedicated to her works. She was the one who woke in me the desire to capture stories with a breathtaking beauty, and it was she who really taught me my craft.
As for what particular book has influenced my writing, I really could not say. I don’t think there is any one book that has impacted me: everything I read necessarily executes its intrinsic power over my imagination and creativity. I am indebted to the countless stories of countless authors.
What is the most important thing God has taught you through your writing?
Bringing to my writing my supralapsarian views regarding God’s plans for man and the universe, I have learned through my writing to see time as, not a series of cause-and-effect events, but a beautiful, awful overarching story with the greatest heroes and the greatest villains, the highest stakes, the wildest plot twists that no mortal story spun by man could ever hope to best. Dorothy Sayers put it very well in her book Letters to a Diminished Church:
“So that is the outline of the official story—the tale of the time when God was the underdog and got beaten, when he submitted to the conditions he had laid down and became a man like the men he had made, and the men he had made broke him and killed him. This is the dogma we find to dull—this terrifying drama of which God is the victim and hero.”
What's the craziest thing you've ever done for story research?
You know, I honestly don’t recall. I’m not really a wildly enthusiastic individual when it comes to doing crazy things. I have been known to plot the measurements of Romano-British fort ditches by using tape-measures and rocks for markers; when handed a glass of dubious alcoholic beverages I will take a sip to know what it tastes like; when wounded and/or in pain I will think, “So this is what this feels like. I’ll put it in a novel somewhere.” But I’m not really the sort to go bungee-jumping just to know what weightlessness feels like. I’m fairly tame and don’t unbend easily from my stiff sense of protocol and decorum.
How many words per week do you write, on average?
It depends on how smoothly the plot is flowing at any given time. At any one time I’ll push to write 1,000 words in a sitting, preferably more. So I may write as many as four to five thousands words in a week, if I’m not interrupted. Which I usually am.
Can you give an idea of what The Shadow Things is about?
After about three years of having to give an idea of what The Shadow Things is about, I hope I can! Basically, The Shadow Things is a story of a Christian living in a pagan and hostile environment, of literally giving up everything just to cling to the cross of Christ, and expecting, not a reward for it here and now where the form of things is passing away, but beyond to the promise of the return of Jesus Christ and the renewal of the world. It isn’t a happy story—everyone who has read it has had his heart stepped on and crushed—but it is a true story. We were never promised that life in this world would be easy, we were promised that it would hard and that this world will hate us. But we were also promised the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the hope of a heavenly city to come. That is what The Shadow Things is about: walking by faith, even when everything you walk on cuts you until you bleed, and still walking on for the love and the hope and the inheritance of Christ.
How did you go about publishing it?
The Shadow Things will be three years old this November, and I confess that three years has been sufficient to blur my memory of the publishing process. I know it included the usual query letter and manuscript request—it was really no different from what you might expect from any publishing house. I was accepted by Ambassador International and signed the contract late in the year so The Shadow Things was put through quickly in order to be out in time for the Christmas market: that, too, helped to make things a blur. It was certainly an interesting autumn and winter for me, full of meetings with the publishers, book-signings, an interview on a local television channel… I stepped into the fast flow of a whole new world, but thankfully I have a very supporting family, which has always fostered in me a sense of self-confidence, and my publishers are very nice people. I’m very grateful to God for such a crazy grace as I experienced the autumn of 2010.
At what stage are the books you are currently working on? (How soon can we read them?! ;)
I am in the process of writing a first draft for an fantasy, and I have another completed fantasy that I am currently seeking a literary agent for. God alone knows how soon you will be able to read them!
What can you tell us about them?
Certainly! The synopsis of the completed manuscript, Adamantine, is as follows: “Unloved by her extended family, on whom she depends, orphan Adamant has no real purpose and no place to which she belongs, until she is caught up in the centre of a plot to destroy the last of Beowulf’s family. With a sense of destiny that she does not fully understand Adamant finds herself willing to risk everything to thwart her enemies and restore the glory of Beowulf’s legacy. But she was not reckoning on what she would unleash.”
Plenilune, my second novel, which is still in the works, is meant as a companion to Adamantine. A brief synopsis of it is: “When a young Victorian lady is shipped off to Naples to catch a suitor, she wasn't expecting a suitor to catch her. Kidnapped and a world away from home, Margaret Coventry finds herself fighting for her life and the life of the strange world she is beginning to call home.”
Is there a favorite sentence you've written this week that you could share?
“Now you taste how awful justice is in the mouths of them that speak it.” -Plenilune
Is there any particular lesson or idea you hope readers take away from your books?
In particular I find readers notice a sense of splendour—as Victor Hugo allegedly said, “every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.” The plots and themes of my stories change, but I think that one aspect, the sense of hugeness and richness, continues from story to story. I love making the fabric of the temporal world grow thin under the reading eye a give people a glimpse, as C.S. Lewis has given readers a glimpse before me, of the world of virtue and vice, where souls are at war and triumph and are lost. That is an unseen truth that is very little talked of, and very important.