Tuesday 24 April 2018

Interview: J.D. Evergreen

I am super excited to be welcoming Young Adult fantasy author J.D. Evergreen to The Writing Greyhound for a chat about her novel Celestia. From inspiration and influences to books galore, it's time to find out all about the author!

Firstly, please could you introduce yourself?
Of course, I’m Jessica Evergreen; I'm a YA author in the fantasy genre and a self-confessed tea addict.
How did you originally become interested in writing?
I used to read and re-read Dr Seuss' Green Eggs and Ham, I read the book so many times it fell apart and my mum had to buy a second copy. After that, I started to write my own books and gave them to my family. Over time this progressed to short stories I would tell over dinner and eventually to novels.
celestia, jd-evergreen, book

Tell me about Celestia.
Celestia is a story about a young woman named Taliah. The day after her twenty-first birthday her world is turned upside-down when the king dies without an heir. A man she has never seen before arrives in her town claiming to be someone they should know. The stranger is unusually charismatic and persuasive; with the use of magic, he brainwashes the town, an act that is forbidden by law and orders them to follow him to war against Celestia so he can establish himself as king. Taliah and her friend manage to escape the brainwashing and take it upon themselves to warn Celestia before the stranger's army can arrive. Along the way Taliah will discover things about herself she never expected to learn - she will have to develop the strength to fight her self-doubts, fall in love and risk everything.
Why did you decide to write for young adults?
I didn’t really decide to write for young adults, it’s just something that happened. Young adult books are the genre I prefer; my own personal bookshelf is filled with books like The Hunger Games, Wolf Brother and The Chronicles of Narnia. I connect with young adult books; they draw me in and keep me in their worlds.
What drew you to writing fantasy?
Who doesn’t like magic? Grand adventures? Bravery and compassion found amongst the most ordinary of people? I love creating whole new worlds, building a place where people can escape the daily experience of their lives and join a story where they can be the hero, where they can experience a great historical moment, where they can find companionship and friends, all in a world without boundaries or limitations.
Did you find writing the book a challenge?
Writing a book is always a challenge. I have to learn the lives of new people, step into the shoes of people in situations I have never been in, and describe a story that grew within me so others can feel it, sense it, and experience it like I do. It is a challenge, but it’s the most enjoyable kind.
How did you get inspiration?
That’s a difficult question because every story involves so many components and each of them may have a different influence. I originally started this story as a sort of companion to another book I wrote called Shadowsoul, which is still unpublished. Celestia is the first book I was brave enough to publish. Another inspiration would be a thought I had about war - the thought was this: “Why is it that so many people are willing to follow someone in such a destructive pursuit?” I joked that it could only be dark magic that could cause so many good people to participate in such a destructive endeavour, and so Celestia was born.
What’s your writing process?
I just go nuts and write the whole story down. I don’t plan things, I sort of have a general direction and I plough in that direction. After that, I go through my book from start to finish and read it through, making sentences flow and fixing plot holes. Then comes the first edit, where I go through and cut things, swap out words, decide what’s important, every word gets scrutinised and evaluated and if it doesn’t add something to the story it goes. The story then goes to my beta readers who read the book and point out things I missed and need to fix and so on. The editing continues until I think the story is ready. In many ways, I am my biggest critic.
jd-evergreen, author

What’s the hardest thing about writing?
Editing. Closely followed by marketing. Taking apart every piece of my book for editing is a painful and tedious process. I also have an intense dislike for marketing. Putting my book in the world terrifies me, asking people to read it, asking people to judge it - the whole thing scares me. But every day I drag myself out of bed and do what has to be done, even though I would rather be writing, even though I am more comfortable not asking people to read through and judge my work. In some ways, the hardest parts of writing brought out my greatest strength - my ability to work through my fears so I could put my book out there.
What do you love most about writing?
Writing. I love the creative process, I love being surprised by my plot twists, I love watching the world I can see inside my imagination come to life. I love it when someone tells me they found a place inside my story, that it drew them in and kept them there. There are a lot of things to love about writing.
Which authors inspire you?
That’s a hard question - every author inspires me, from the most famous to the ones you haven’t heard about. The fact that they could create a story, put it to paper and send it out into the world inspires me. Writing isn’t easy and unless you’re well known it doesn’t pay a lot either. Still, every day, every hour, a new author publishes a book, knowing they might not make anything from it. They do it because that’s what they love. Those people inspire me.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
If it’s what you love then do it. Practice every day, write when you don’t see the point, learn everything you can, use that knowledge. Don’t quit, even when you get a bad review, or you get knocked back by that agent or that publisher, don’t quit even when the tiny voice inside your head says you should.  
“Life isn’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and get back up.”  
Follow your dream; do what you love.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently in a re-write stage of editing Shadowsoul. It is the companion story to Celestia; they aren’t part of the same series but they are part of the same world. Shadowsoul is about a young woman whose family was enslaved by Darkmor, how she escapes and her quest to save her people. This journey leads her to new friends, experiences and of course love. She encounters creatures she has never seen before, fights terrifying monsters and even has an interesting experience with vicious vegetation. Her quest to discover the magical necklaces from her worlds’ past, following stories and legends of superhuman powers. The only problem is, now she has to find them.
What are you reading at the moment?
The Royal Assassin by Robin Hobb.
What’s your all-time favourite book?
My all-time favourite book, you mean aside from Green Eggs and Ham? That’s a hard one. If I absolutely had to choose, I would say The Chronicles of Narnia. I love the magical portal, the magical world and all the creatures that you find in it.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
To be able to create worlds for you to escape into, a world that you want to be a part of and enjoy. To be able to create people you can connect with and build friendships with. I would like to make writing my full-time career, and I will work until I get there, until I can spend every day writing and sharing my imagination with the world.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
I have an interest in ancient history and I am currently studying a postgraduate course in it. I love astronomy; I even have my own telescope. I love to paint and draw scenes from my stories; my house is filled with pictures of my own creation.
Celestia is available to buy now. 

Will you be reading the book? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

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