Good Morning! Today we are bringing you a fun interview with the author of A Shadow Bright and Burning, Jessica Cluess. This has been one of my most anticipated reads of the year!
I am Henrietta Howel. The first female sorcerer. The prophesied one. Or am I?
Henrietta Howel can burst into flames. When she's brought to London to train with Her Majesty's sorcerers, she meets her fellow sorcerer trainees, young men eager to test her powers and her heart. One will challenge her. One will fight for her. One will betray her. As Henrietta discovers the secrets hiding behind the glamour of sorcerer life, she begins to doubt that she's the true prophesied one. With battle looming, how much will she risk to save the city—and the one she loves?
B: What was the inspiration behind A Shadow Bright and Burning?
J: Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens, specifically the scene where Nicholas rescues an abused boy from a beating by a vicious schoolmaster. I wondered how a girl in the Victorian era would have stopped such an attack, since skirts and corsets get in the way of physically wrestling someone. Then I had this image of a girl in full Victorian dress shooting flame from her hands and roasting the offending creep. So in that one image, I had Henrietta: a young girl in Victorian England who was impoverished but willing to do what was right, with an insane firepower that she could barely control. The rest of the story sort of flowed from her character and that moment.
B: Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when you first thought to write this book?
J: I was yawning while on my way to work. To make a little extra money, I had a part time job at a café, and it was the early shift. Eight hours on your feet can be tiring, so I’d often try to think of some weird character or story idea to play around with in my head while I was making lattes. It’s the little things that get you through the day. I remember stopping on the street as I was walking from my car to work, my apron over my shoulder. I just thought I had a really ridiculous idea that could be something good, with time and attention.
B: Which of your characters do you relate to the most? Why?
J: Every character has a little piece of me, even if it’s something as inconsequential as a favorite food or turn of phrase. My friend pointed out that Henrietta and I share a really big trait—we both want to be useful more than anything. On the whole, though, I probably relate most to Hargrove the magician. Not only is he the adult in the room, he’s also snarky and a little bit secretive, and I know I have those two qualities in spades, for better or worse.
B: Where is your favorite place to write?
J: If the writing’s going well, I’m happiest on my bed or lying on the couch. I really like having the laptop on my lap—it makes me feel connected to the story, in a weird way. If the writing’s not going well, sitting in a café works wonders. The noise around me kind of forces me to concentrate.
B: Sweet or Salty?
J: Can’t it be both?
B: Dressy or Casual?
J: Casual for the most part, though occasionally getting fancy feels pretty great.
B: Indoors or Outdoors?
J: Outdoors. All my best ideas come when I’m walking or hiking.
B: If someone dared you to write “book nerd” on your forehead while wearing your favorite pajamas – and then share a photo of it – would you do it?
J: If I had favorite pajamas, I might take you up on this. But alas, I don’t love any of my pajamas that much. It’s very sad.
Will you be adding this one to your TBR?