Note From Lex: The following interview is one of the first I had done in 2012, and since then life has changed a lot for Jen Williams. I will let her explain in her own words.
Update From Jen Williams:
“Gosh, things have changed a bit since we did that interview, haven’t they? Um, as a bit of recap – I wrote the entire book in the end (4 parts, with Ghosts of the Citadel being the first part) and it was picked up by the marvellous Juliet Mushens, who works for The Agency Group.She then sold it to John Wordsworth, the SFF guy at Headline–which I was over the moon about–and now The Copper Promise is going to be a real book, out in Spring 2014–February, according to Amazon. Here is the new Amazon link for it. The old version, the first ebook novella, is no longer available.”
Reposted Interview: Jen Williams and “The Copper Promise” Circa 2012
Self-published author Jen Williams said when she wrote her Kindle novella series,” The Copper Promise,” she wanted to pay homage to the fantasy stories of her childhood. Besides being an author, 31-year-old Williams was born and raised in South East London noting she “must still like it” because she’s never left and is a graduate from Kent Institute of Art and Design with a degree in illustration. She also maintains she’s only evil on Thursdays.
A self-professed notebook obsessive and Lego wrangler, she elaborated on her pitch for the story that she describes as a love letter to the pulp fantasy of another time.
“There’s a vengeful lord who’ll stop at nothing to get what he wants, a charming rogue in it for the money, and an honorable knight with a dark past; the three of them must journey to the heart of the Haunted Citadel, where ghosts will be the least of their problems,” she said via an email interview.
Williams explained the importance to stay close to her fantasy roots for her novella.
“What was important to me when I started was that ‘the Copper Promise’ to retain the things that I love about old school fantasy— the adventure, the spectacle, the action and suspense— but also have a reasonably modern flavor,” she said.
While the conception of ‘The Copper Promise’ was difficult to pinpoint, Williams shared her process of creating the rich world of Ede and her characters Wydrin, Frith and Sebastian.
“I wrote the first part in a couple of months, and made extensive notes as to where the series will be going next,” she said. “I think the moment I knew I had something was when I found myself chuckling at the dialogue. I worry a lot about making dialogue flow naturally between characters, possibly because stilted speech really throws me off when I’m reading myself, but with Wydrin, Frith and Sebastian it was all I could do to keep up with them. I realized that I’d come to know them very well in a relatively short amount of time, and that pleased me no end.”
On the concept of character, Williams had her insights.
“For me, my immersion in a story always depends on how interesting, likeable or excitingly repellent I find the characters, and I knew I could listen to this lot bicker all day,” she said.
As for her favorite character, Williams has a hard time choosing.
“Favourite character?” she asks. “Impossible question! Certainly Wydrin the charming rogue has been the most popular with readers, and I can’t really argue with that. She gets all the best lines, is wildly morally suspect, and is endlessly capable of both causing trouble and solving it, all of which makes her enormous fun to write.”
Williams explained Wydrin came from her admiration of Fritz Leiber’s “The Gray Mouser,” and her own desire to create a strong female character.
“She gets to deal a lot of damage but doesn’t require a tremendous personal trauma to move her along,” she said. “Basically, there’s more to Wydrin than ale and daggers, and discovering that is part of the journey.”
Then there’s one of Wydrin’s companions, the Lord Frith.
“Let’s be honest about this, Frith is a bit of a bastard,” Williams said. “If Wydrin is teetering on the muddy banks of the River Naughty, Frith has already jumped in and is swimming upstream. But I do love him, and he might be my favourite.”
One of Williams’ happiest moments since publishing “The Copper Promise” was when a friend confessed she had a crush on Frith.
“We formed the first members of the Frith Fangirl Association,” she said and elaborated on the nobleman’s appeal. “It’s the tortured soul, the terrible behavior, the icy reserve and not to mention that his skewed moral compass makes him unpredictable, which can send the story spiraling in all sorts of directions; a trait dear to any writer’s heart.”
Still, the true hero of “The Copper Promise” is a surprisingly complicated question to Williams.
“Wydrin can handle herself, and although Frith is morally questionable, it is his story that moves them all forward, but in the end I suspect that Sebastian is my hero,” she said. “He’s a good man troubled by bad deeds, a man trying to do the right thing in the face of a terrible evil, and as ‘The Copper Promise’ progresses, it’s Sebastian’s fate that worries me.”
Overall, “The Copper Promise” offers a unique challenge with the first novella already being available for Kindle.
“At the moment, I’m writing part two and planning part three, which is an interesting challenge in itself,” she said. “Normally, you write a book all in one go and then spend a long time redrafting; with ‘The Copper Promise: Ghosts of the Citadel’ I polished it and put it straight up for people to read. Brilliant for instant gratification, but terrifying considering the fact that at the time I was only halfway through the first draft of part two.”
She went on to explain the core of the dilemma.
“It’s tricky, because from now on part one is a stationary point in time, as it were, and I can’t go back and change anything,” she said. “It’s an interesting challenge though, and one that I believe has made writing ‘The Copper Promise’ a lot of fun.”
Williams remarked on the surprising reviews.
“People have been kind enough to mention names such as Robert E. Howard, Terry Pratchett and Joe Abercrombie as comparisons when writing their reviews, which are complete madness, but lovely, flattering madness,” she said.