I feel like it’s been ages since I’ve hosted a SST post on my blog, so I’m so happy to be back at it and with a book that I particularly enjoyed reading! If you’re new to SST and want more info about it and how to join, check out our hostess with the mostest, Nori, for all the DETAILS!
This month, we’re featuring A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess, a story about a young woman in Victorian England fighting for an equal spot among the boys to become the next great Sorcerer! I recently read this book and thought it was absolutely killer, so I’m stoked to be sharing an interview with Jessica today as well a fantastic giveaway. Read on, friends, to discover the magic of Henrietta’s world!
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?
Welcome to the blog, Jessica! For those of you following along at home, my questions are bolded while Jessica’s responses appear normal. Let’s go!
A Shadow Bright and Burning is getting such amazing buzz already! How are you feeling as your novel becomes one of fall’s most anticipated new releases?
Thank you! I really hope people like it. These days, I alternate between insane excitement and pure existential dread. I hear that once the book comes out it’s just simple excitement, so I’m really looking forward to that.
It sounds like Henrietta is going to stand as the lone woman in what seems to be a man’s world. Will she face challenges because of that?
Definitely. I wanted to walk a fine line on this. On the one hand, the Victorian era had issues with women’s rights, their social mobility, etc., and I wanted to be true to that. On the other hand, I didn’t want to create a situation where every single person is a misogynistic bully. That becomes heavy-handed and not really true to life. I wanted Henrietta to have to deal with a kind of sexism that is pervasive, but not blunt and obvious. So some of the people really don’t like her because she’s a girl, some have reservations about her being a girl but mostly just hope she can help, and some don’t care at all. Henrietta has to face obstacles because of sexism, yes, but since there’s a war on and she is (presumably) the Chosen One, she also gets a bit more leeway with what she can and can’t do.
I love that Henrietta can burst into flames! Will we see other forms of elemental magic in the series?
Definitely! The sorcerers’ system of magic is all element based, so you’ll see earth, wind, and water powers as well.
I can never not ask this question, so I hope you’re a Harry Potter fan. Where would your characters be sorted at Hogwarts?
I have been hoping for this question, you have no idea. Okay. The four main characters:
Henrietta is a Ravenclaw with strong Gryffindor tendencies. She’s a Ravenclaw because, given the choice, she’d rather be nestled in a library gaining knowledge than fighting battles and yelling at people—though she can yell and fight quite well when she has to. It’s just a preference, but yes, she’s a Ravenclaw.
Blackwood is a Slytherin. Full stop. Though his secondary house would be distant Ravenclaw.
Rook and Magnus ended up switching. I originally thought Magnus was the Gryffindor and Rook the Hufflepuff, but swapped them. Rook shows a lot of courage in the face of his illness, the changes happening to him, and he’s always ready to soldier on in the face of certain doom. Magnus, even though he’s the best warrior in the house, is effortlessly cheerful, loves creature comforts, and is loyal to the bone. Plus, he’d probably look great in yellow.
What does your ideal writing space look like?
Stretched out on a very comfortable sofa with cushions and a cup of coffee on the table. I cannot sit at desks. I don’t know how people do it. I like to have the computer on my lap; it makes me feel connected to the story in a weird way.
Cats or dogs? No pressure. 😉
Dogs, all the way. I really do like cats, but dogs have a piece of my soul. I am the person who, if I see a puppy walking down the street, will fall to my knees and start speaking gibberish with tears in my eyes while my friend pretends not to know me.
Do you NaNoWriMo?
I tried once, but I just couldn’t do it. NaNo requires a certain amount of pantsing, and I need to have a decent story structure and series of character arcs outlined in my head before I start. Anyone who NaNos is a braver person than I am.
Thank you for joining us on SST in this interview, Jessica!
My pleasure. Thank you for having me!
JESSICA CLUESS is a writer, a graduate of Northwestern University, and an unapologetic nerd. After college, she moved to Los Angeles, where she served coffee to the rich and famous while working on her first novel. When she’s not writing books, she’s an instructor at Writopia Lab, helping kids and teens tell their own stories.
That’s it for us this time, folks! Be sure to check out the amazing giveaway going on below and drop Jessica some comment love to tell her how excited you are for her new book!!
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