Conversations with the Bookish | conversing with Heather Rose Jones about her series Alpennia whilst featuring her newest release “Floodtide” during #FFFeb!

Posted Saturday, 29 February, 2020 by jorielov , , , 2 Comments

Conversations with the Bookish badge created by Jorie in Canva

Hallo, Hallo dear hearts!

I admit – this interview was meant to be shared on Jorie Loves A Story quite a long while ago – between my illnesses in December & February, and the hard start I had to [2020] in January – I have somehow managed to delay the showcase I was thankful to have put together for #Floodtide on behalf of a series I was blessed to have discovered via the twitterverse in [2019]. I cannot apologise enough to the author, Heather Rose Jones for consistently being unable to run this feature and for pushing my spotlight & interview on her series further afield from the time-frame she intended her promotions to run in the book blogosphere.

What first drew my eye towards this series was the author found me on Twitter! From there, I started to do some digging on her website, rooted round and found out more about her Alpennia series and decided it was something I’d readily enjoy reading. Therefore, in October of 2019 I started to put this together – however, that was also right in the middle of my Autumnal health afflictions (as I had issues with my migraines in September & November; whilst I took ill during the months of October & December) and sadly, that is at the heart of why this featured interview and series showcase was getting rescheduled quite consistently!

I have been a ready fan of Historical Fantasy series for quite a long while now – however, most recently I am quite sure my readers might remember my listenings to Richard Storry’s series the Ruritanian Rogues series – a series I am still listening to now, as I had to take a few breaks from my listenings of the series which included an issue with my ears during my last cold virus this February. The reason I broach this series is because the world within Alpennia is also described as being “Ruritanian” which I felt was quite kismet; having previously becoming intrigued by Storry’s version of this kind of world-building.

More curious is the fact Ms Jones recently featured Edale Lane on her blog wherein Ms Lane discusses her world-building through her research for the #NightFlyerTrilogy; which similar to the world of Alpennia is also feminist driven Historical Fantasy! This was an interesting coincidence as I recently reviewed the first novel in the series “Merchants of Milan” and hosted a special vlog interview with Ms Lane! It truly never surprises me about how bookish connections online have the tendency of keeping me ruminatively surprised by how close the book world truly is and how interconnected we all are with each other! The other connection of course, is how Ms Lane & Ms Jones have both writ series which are rooted in f/f character arcs and befit the reading concentration this February for those sharing their sapphic reads this #FFFEbruary | #FFFeb.

I have always been keen on reading Feminist driven Literature – even though I have read and sought out more of this niche of stories as a book blogger, there was an interest to find more of them prior to becoming a book blogger. As I decided to redirect the focus of @SatBookChat to be more inclusive of Feminist Lit this year whilst honouring our past focusing on Romance & Women’s Fiction – this particular series is a great compass point of the kinds of Speculative Fiction and series I am seeking as I move forward as a book blogger and as a chat hostess. I love finding uniquely spun stories which have a world unlike others and which have a unique presence of self within their own world-building.

As I was reading about Alpennia as a whole it isn’t any easy world to pin down as the series itself is quite all-encompassing. I normally would seek out to read the first books in a series but the more I learnt of this series through this conversation with Ms Jones, the more I felt comfortable that perhaps “Floodtide” would be a good fit for me as a reader to embrace the larger world in which this story is set. I am going to be requesting this book as a purchase request at my local library and I am hopeful it might get accepted and arrive in time for Wyrd and Wonder this May, 2020 – the Fantasy event I co-host every year with Imyril and Lisa (@WyrdAndWonder).

For now, the honour is mine to share an up close and personal view into Alpennia as we tuck closer to what inspires the series and how Ms Jones has crafted it. I am grateful our paths crossed in the twitterverse as this is one of my favourite routes of connecting to authors and of being able to discover new Indie Authors and voices within Speculative Fiction and the other genres I regularly seek out to read!

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Without further adieu :

brew your favourite cuppa & enjoy the convo!

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Conversations with the Bookish | conversing with Heather Rose Jones about her series Alpennia whilst featuring her newest release “Floodtide” during #FFFeb!Floodtide
by Heather Rose Jones
Source: Direct from Publisher

The streets are a perilous place for a young laundry maid dismissed without a character for indecent acts. Roz knew the end of the path for a country girl alone in the city of Rotenek. A desperate escape in the night brings her to the doorstep of Dominique the dressmaker and the hope of a second chance beyond what she could have imagined. Roz’s apprenticeship with the needle, under the patronage of the royal thaumaturgist, wasn’t supposed to include learning magic, but Celeste, the dressmaker’s daughter, draws Roz into the mysterious world of the charm-wives. When floodwaters and fever sweep through the lower city, Celeste’s magical charms could bring hope and healing to the forgotten poor of Rotenek, but only if Roz can claim the help of some unlikely allies.

Set in the magical early 19th century world of Alpennia, Floodtide tells an independent tale that interweaves with the adventures. A stand-alone book in the Alpennia series (Alpennia #4)

Genres: Historical-Fantasy, LGBTQIA Fiction

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781642470468

Published by Bella Books

on 15th November, 2019

Format: Trade Paperback

“In the first quarter of the 19th century, Alpennia, like the rest of Europe, has seen the rise and fall of the French Empire under Napoleon and is struggling to find their place in the aftermath. The greatest Alpennian asset in that struggle is their strong tradition of thaumaturgy, calling on the Mysteries of the Saints to answer the challenge of more powerful neighbors. At first, Margerit Sovitre has little thought for nations and politics. Her interest in mystical studies is entirely personal. But as the Alpennian stories progress, Margerit and her circle of friends will be drawn ever deeper into intrigues at the highest levels, and they will learn that the ancient rituals that protect Alpennia are only one face of the magical forces at work.”

Published by: Bella Books (@bellabooks)

Available Formats: Trade Paperback and Ebook

Converse via: #Floodtide, #FFFebruary or #FFFeb

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For new readers who are unfamiliar with your stories – you’ve mentioned to me your series is a Regency-era Ruritanian romantic adventure which is YA-adjacent. For those who are curious how those interlocking components apply to your world-building how you would you describe what can be found inside the stories themselves?

Jones responds: The simplest description is “women coming together to support, challenge, and fall in love with each other.” While I enjoy adding some adventure and excitement, at heart I’m writing stories about people making connections and learning about each other. My stories tend to be filled with both small, intimate problems and large, world-shaking problems. The books reward readers who pay attention to details and love putting puzzle pieces together. They are always about relationships, but not necessarily focused on romantic relationships.

I love the whole concept you’ve conceived for the series – especially as not every relationship has to be romantically inclined as platonic relationships are just as viable and important. This is one reason why I love listening to the audiobook version of “Trans-Continental: Girl in the Gears” by E. Chris Garrison – as it explores how two women came together; one was transgender and is at the heart of the journey both for the character’s arc and the series arc – giving keen insight into how sometimes relationships are not built off of romance but of the strength of an internal bond outside that scope. I also like being an intuitive reader – finding the clues and piecing everything back together an author has left behind for me to find!

There are elements of magic in your world as well – what kind of magic can readers expect to find and how did you want to tuck in those elements to where they were kept on the lighter side of the genre?

Jones responds: The magic in Alpennia is rooted in historic folk practices, both ones that were considered “magical” and ones that were treated as part of religious practice or science. My basic premise was, “What if all manner of things that we now consider superstition or mysticism actually worked the way people believed they did?” At first, the magical elements may feel like ordinary superstition or religious practice…until you noticed that they produce concrete effects.

My other premise was that the effects of magic had to be unsystematic enough that they could never have been turned into a mechanical system. Some people can pray to a saint and have their prayers answered with a miracle. Some people can do a fortune-telling ritual and successfully predict the future. Some people have mastered the alchemical processes to turn lead into gold. But other people are unsuccessful, or frauds, or can’t tell whether their magical charms worked or not.

Almost any type of historical magical practice might show up in the world of Alpennia, but not supernatural creatures, and not “wave a magic wand” types of magic.

I loved how you took magic to a different level of intentional perspective inside your world-building and how you elected to view magic in a different way than most might have in a Fantasy world. I like how you addressed the magic in your series but also how you allowed it to remain up to interpretation and readerly insight per each reader who reads the stories!

What first inspired your interest to write a Regency Ruritanian series? Was there an author or story which first sparked the interest or was it through personal interest/research?

Jones responds: My original idea was to write a Georgette Heyer style romantic adventure where the women fall in love with each other. As my plot evolved, it was clear it wouldn’t fit into any existing country’s history. Once I’d invented a fictional country as my setting, the idea of turning it into a fantasy showed up almost immediately. I love both historical stories and fantasy, so combining the two was a natural impulse.

I think what you conceived of instead might have been a better route to explore – at least for me, as I’m one of the few Regency Romance readers who has yet to meet a Heyer novel she can lay thought or heart inside without feeling immediately removed from it. I definitely liked how you genre-bent the series and combined two of my loves as well – Historical Fiction and Fantasy! I love seeing how different authors fuse these two layers of genre together – there is such a lot of broad appeal to seeing how it comes together for me!

Your latest release is Floodtide – the fourth in the series but can be read as a stand-alone – how many installments are you projecting to be included in the series? And, how important was it for you as a writer to allow readers to move in and out of your series at their own pacing?

Jones responds: Currently, the series is planned to be seven books. Originally, Floodtide was inspired by having a collection of teenaged secondary characters and wanting to give them their own story. When I hit on the idea of the central character being a working-class girl, not part of the upper class social circle of the previous books, it made practical sense to make the book as independent as possible from the previous three.

It can be very hard to attract new readers to an ongoing series if the message is, “Here’s this new book, but you have to read all these other books first to enjoy it.” I wanted what I call an “independent on-ramp” to the series so people can read it as their first introduction to Alpennia and then decide they want to circle back and read the whole set.

In theory, any of the Alpennia books can be read on its own, but there’s an overall shape to the series, with continuing themes and connections across the books. Giving readers a few different places to step onto the path makes the whole more accessible.

You definitely gave me the ‘on ramp’ into your series! I can’t wait to see if my library will accept my purchase request in order for me to read “Floodtide” for myself. I generally read series in sequential order – there are a few exceptions to that rule, as despite the fact most series are promoted as stand-alones, I do like to see the origins of how a series was first developed and to gather the continuity for where the author has chosen to take their readers. Thus, “Floodtide” is one of those exceptions to my personal readerly rule and one wherein I felt was a plausible starting point not just for the reasons you’ve outlined but for the reasons I felt it would be a wicked good starting junction to understand Alpennia.

What drew you into writing Speculative Fiction and what is it about this genre which curates the most joy in which to be writing stories?

Jones responds: I enjoy writing in several different genres–I’ve written “real world” historical short fiction as well. The attraction of fantasy is that you can disrupt the reader’s expectations of how things work. You can see universal truths from a different angle that might not be possible in the real world.

One of the constant themes in what I enjoy writing is stories that take me away from the here and now, whether I travel to a different time or a different reality or both.

You’ve definitely have tapped into why I appreciate reading Fantasy myself! I love seeing how the possible and plausible can become bent into a fantastical world – where sometimes (if you read Urban Fantasy) those elements are not too far removed from our own realities here or those we’ve envisioned of the coming future; as you said – there is a lot of time travelling to be had for stories which seek to tell a tale like ones you’ve been developing inside this series!

How did you first begin your writerly journey and what did you love most about undertaking this path?

Jones responds: I’ve been writing stories since I was a teenager, but unlike a lot of people who started writing at that age, I didn’t have a community of people I was writing for. I wanted to write for other people, but didn’t know how to make those connections. The major goal was simply to get the stories out of my head. I have a diary entry from when I was seventeen or so about how my brain was just too crowded with stories and I needed to get them out somehow so I wrote them down.

It took me a long time to get to a place where I had the opportunity to share my fiction. Before that, I did a lot of song writing and got some of the stories out that way. It wasn’t until I was around 40 that I sold my first short story and started to figure out how to find an audience for my fiction.

What I love most is simply the act of sharing the contents of my head. I enjoy putting my work out there in the world in hopes that people will encounter it and know that I exist.

I can relate to your journey as a writer. I did discover I was going to write at a younger age – as I was fascinated with crafting stories and the concept of how stories are told – however, as a teenager I really started to fuse my journey of a writer into who I wanted to be as a writer – meaning, sorting out genres of interest and style of narrative; inasmuch as the fact I learnt I was a poet due to a class assignment which took me by surprise as being a favourite of mine! I think most writers can relate to having a journey of finding their pen, understanding their literary style and then, awaiting their publishing season to begin. As a book blogger – seven years ago come 31st of March, 2020 – I never foresaw where this adventure would have taken me – though it was only a mere five years since I participated in Nanowrimo (at the time, in 2013) and now, seven years lateron – I feel more confident in my literary directions and am tackling returning to writing my own fictional worlds once more. If we’re open to new experiences and we intuitively listen to our own instincts – we find our muse but we also find our creative path.

As you’ve disclosed the reading order for Alpennia on your website – how did you first conceive to move through full length novels and a series of short stories as it is a rather interesting path to take for a series? What do you enjoy more – the shorts or the novels? Or are both equally enjoyable for different reasons?

Jones responds: The short fiction feels almost like writing fan fiction of my own novels. They tend to be more like character sketches rather than plot-driven stories. I love getting a chance to fill in some of the details of my characters’ backgrounds that don’t really fit into the longer works. The short stories couldn’t exist without the novels, and I’ve found I write much more naturally at longer lengths. But I know so much about the world and its people that I still want to explore! Every once in a while, I’ll toss in a reference to something in one of the books and think, “Now I’ll need to write that story some day.”

I do as well – write more organically and instinctively at longer length than shorter prose; poetry being the one exception. Whenever I attempt to write a novella or short story, I find myself peering past the word count and the structured length of it – seeing how it might bend better into a longer story and of course, that is where my personal joy in creating lies. Though anyone whose read my blog off/on for a certain period of time knows about my preferences for length and the consistency in which I write it. I think we just have to realise our own instincts in that regard and if we find something that works for us – run with it! As you have done – love the concept of how you’ve inserted the shorts to merge into the novels as little ‘additional antidotes’ about your characters’.

What will readers notice about Alpennia and how it stands out from other stories of its kind? What kind of equality and inclusion can readers who appreciate diverse stories enjoy finding in your world?

Jones responds: There are plenty of books or series that include prominent female characters, but it’s still unusual for a series to focus almost exclusively on female characters unless it’s been set up as a women-only world in some way. In the Alpennia novels, that focus on women really comes out of the social realities of the era. Western society was very gender segregated in the early 19th century, and it’s perfectly natural to have a group of women–especially unmarried women–spend most of their time interacting with other women.

I made a pledge to embrace other kinds of diversity, in part as a natural outgrowth of my research into the variety of historic understandings of gender and sexuality, but also to challenge my unconscious biases about what types of people would inhabit the landscapes I was imagining. I wanted to write about characters who stood outside the structures of privilege and power in some way, and including ethnic and religious minorities was part of that pledge.

I agree with you – about how it isn’t often a cast of characters is solely representing one gender or another – or a combinations of gender identity – whether disclosed or implied. I also agree about the 19th Century as I spend a rather large amount of my #HistFic wanderings in that century and it was one century I felt that encouraged sisterhood friendships amongst women. I love how you’ve kept your stories equally diverse and encouraging of cultural or religious heritages whilst allowing everyone in your series to have their own voice heard and their own light shining from the stories being told. It is a great representation of our own diverse cultural world and how there should be better respect and tolerances in a world that I think sometimes feels too culturally prejudiced.

Which of your characters was the most challenging to write and why?

Jones responds: Of the main characters in the existing books, I’d say that Jeanne, Viscountess de Cherdillac was the most challenging. She is everything I’m not: outgoing, extroverted, socially ept, sexually adventurous. In order to write her, I blended several people I knew who had the characteristics I wanted to give her and then always asked myself, “How would so-and-so act? What would she do in this situation? What mistakes would she make? What talents would shine through?”

The character I’m finding most challenging in writing the next book (Mistress of Shadows) is a Franco-Egyptian woman, part of a mixed-religion family living in Paris. She and her mother are Muslims, and finding information on everyday working-class women’s Islamic culture and practice in 19th century Europe is extremely difficult. I’m interpolating from a wide variety of sources, but I’m very concerned about creating a character who will ring true for someone who shares parts of her background. In general, writing the religious aspects of my characters is challenging. I’m an atheist who was raised as a Quaker, so even the everyday Catholic practices of my characters are a foreign country for me.

Thank you for such a wonderful insight into your writing process and the lengths you take to write authentically convicting characters who readers can either relate to directly (due to commonalities in experience or backgrounds) or feel empathetic towards due to how you’ve built their lives inside this world. I found it truly fascinating how you’ve stepped outside your own background so fully to not just embrace the unexpected by how your characters’ believe and live their lives but how you’ve gone to lengths to ensure that the presentation of their lives are authentically true of whom they might be IRL. Truly commendable!

I also enjoyed reading about this because of how there is a recent debate about ‘not writing’ about an experience, lifestyle or gender / sexual identity outside your own life in the world of publishing. I oft felt to limit writers about what they can or cannot write about is short-changing the whole process of what inspires us each to write the stories which speak to us to be written. I applaud your efforts for originality but also for truism – is the way forward I believe in having all writers feel comfortable and confident in seeking out their own style of voice and how they want to present their own characters to the world of readers.

Which of your minor characters did you delight the most in developing into the world?

Jones responds: Hmm, I love all of them! But I have to say that I’ve loved creating Tavit, Barbara’s transgender bodyguard. He really took charge of telling me exactly who he was and what his backstory was. And I’ve put a lot of work into getting feedback on making him a realistic and enjoyable character. I’m also enjoying setting him up to get his own “happily ever after” ending, although it will play out across multiple books.

I admit, I love whenever I hear a character took a writer off-guard! By having a larger presence in a story they were meant only to be a minor character or for fusing a larger intentional back-history of their character to fuse directly into the main plottings of a series. I look forward to making his presence!

Roz and Celeste cross paths at a point in their lives where a unity of friendship and magic can develop between them. What do you think inspired Roz to trust Celeste on this new path?

Jones responds: Oh, that’s easy! Roz is always eager to make friends and entirely too eager to trust people. She longs for connection and community. The harder question is what inspired Celeste to trust Roz! The answer on that side is that it took a while. The biggest factor was that while Roz might put her foot in things on a regular basis, she always wants to make them right and correct her mistakes. That wins Celeste around eventually.

Sounds like both a complicated bond between them and one that honours both of them equally to play to their strengths whilst understanding what motivates them overall. Again, I look forward to ‘meeting’ your characters once I secure a copy in print!

Your stories are refreshingly Feminist in scope and celebrate women – how enjoyable was it to showcase a lot of strong women living on their own terms throughout a series of this size? Which of your characters took you by the most surprise as you developed the series arc?

Jones responds: From the very beginning, the series was designed to center women. My starting principle was that the viewpoint characters would only be women. I may have to back off on that a little for books 6 and 7 when the scope of the story broadens out, but women will still be the center.

Once you’ve made that decision, everything else just falls into place. It isn’t hard at all. The only hard part was getting to the point where that seemed a natural approach to take. There was a time much earlier in my writing when I realized that even when my main characters were women, I kept centering men’s stories in certain ways. It can be hard to decolonize your imagination, but recognizing it is the first step.

All of my characters have taken me by surprise at some point. I keep discovering new things about them–things that were always there in their personalities but that I hadn’t articulated yet. It’s part of the fun of writing a series, because everyone ends up in a different place than they started.

I think pushing ourselves to write outside our comfort zones is as refreshingly enlightening as reading outside our comfort zones; which I personally seek out to do on a regular basis. That’s how I discovered some wonderfully lovely and inventive reads like “Rimrider”, “Rosemary & Rue” , The Clan Chronicles and of this weekend “Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody”!

As your Alpennia women love their swords, how did you research the best way to bring swordsplay into the threads of their story? What is your favourite scene or sequence of scenes which involves the swords?

Jones responds: Do you know the story from the 1001 Nights about the man who borrows a measuring basket from his neighbor and carefully puts a few gold coins into the cracks and then returns it? The neighbor concludes that he has so much gold that he needs to measure it by the bushel and doesn’t miss a little spillage.

That’s how I write swordplay. I’m not an expert. I’ve never learned any serious swordwork myself. The secret is to write some highly specific moves that create the illusion of an entire fight. The knowledgeable reader will fill in the gaps from their own experience, the unfamiliar reader will fill it in differently. As for any aspect of my books, I’ve done a fair amount of book-research on terminology and history. But only enough to give that illusion.

The deep dark secret is that the most intense research I did on swordfighting–and my favorite scene–was for the scene in The Mystic Marriage when Barbara is verbally sparring with Kreiser and she envisions it in her thoughts in dueling terms.

I admit, I never read the forementioned source story – I’ve heard of it oft enough but I’ve never sought it out to read directly. It reminds me of a scene from Star Trek: Insurrection about how Captain Picard was confused how the woman he was smitten with had never learnt to swim? She remarked “There hasn’t been time.” Or something similar – I feel like that when it comes to certain Classical works of Literature; I’ve just haven’t had the time to address reading them as of yet though being in #theclassicsclub it is my intention to get into them at some point!

Illusion I think is sometimes under appreciated – it is as you said – the perfect equaliser because those who know more will see the scenes a certain way and those with less experience or exposure will re-route those scenes differently than the others who feel there is more there than what is being read. I think it was a wicked good solution, really! I’ll have to tuck that into my writing hat to remember down the road as I start to resume my literary wanderings.

How did you decide on which publisher to route your stories through and what was your process towards publication?

Jones responds: As I was writing Daughter of Mystery I spent a lot of time researching and comparing possible markets. Most of my SFF reading is books from mainstream publishers and that felt like the genre I was writing in. But back then, we hadn’t entered the new Renaissance of queer characters in mainstream SFF that we’re currently enjoying. I looked for books similar to what I was writing and couldn’t find any from mainstream publishers. At least, not from unknown debut authors.

When I decided to pitch the book to a LGBTQ+ press, the choice was a lot easier. From way back, a lot of the historical lesbian novels I’d enjoyed were published by Naiad Press, and by then Bella Books had functionally become the heir of the Naiad tradition. I considered Bold Strokes Books, but it felt like their catalog had a much heavier focus on sex-centered stories than what I was writing. So I emailed the finished manuscript off to Bella and within a month got a phone call saying they wanted to publish it.

I love how this ended on such a wonderfully lovely happy ending! Such a long journey and then, such a quick reward for all your efforts! I love too how you stuck to your instincts, led with her style in mind and found the right publisher who would appreciate what you had written and why you wanted to tell these stories outright! Now, that’s something to celebrate!

For writers who are seeking to find a publisher open to LGBTQ+ stories what is your best advice to encourage their efforts as they undertake their own journey to publish?

Jones responds: The most important thing is to read widely and find a publisher who’s working with the type of thing you’re writing. It’s not a sure fire approach–witness the way the market shifted just slightly too late for my decision process. A slightly different angle on this is to look for a publisher who’s putting out the books you enjoy reading. Look for the company you want your book to be in. The books being read by the readers you expect to appeal to.

In today’s market, the other thing to do is make friends with as many established authors as you can–not for their connections, but for their experience. There are a lot of start up publishers these days that are either inexperienced or outright predatory. Having friends who can give you a reality check on what looks like a good deal will save you a lot of pain.

This is why I enjoyed Susan Spann’s #PubLaw tweets when she was writing them regularly and why I tipped my ear towards knowing about Victoria Strauss’s work with Writer Beware – which helps put out a signal about those kinds of predatory publishers and other murkier areas of pub world which some novice or beginning writers might not even be aware of without her research and outreach. Very true – all the way round!

Food is centric to your world of Alpennia – for foodies who appreciate the layers of how food transcends time and worlds – what are some of your favourite cookery delights in the world itself? Is there a particular character you feel embodies the essence of why food is important to Alpennia residents?

Jones responds: Not just food, but the context of dining: where, with whom, for what purpose. In Floodtide you get the contrast between the grand household at Tiporsel House, which employs a cook and kitchen staff versus Dominique’s tiny kitchen behind the dress shop where the stove is for warmth and heating water, but most of the hot meals come from a cookshop.

I once wrote a whole essay about how Jeanne de Cherdillac uses food and dining contexts in The Mystic Marriage as part of her “social fluency”. During her long courtship of Antuniet, every time they eat together is carefully calculated not only to provide nourishment, but to provide a protected bubble against the world where Antuniet feels comfortable and safe.

And in Mother of Souls I enjoyed showing how familiar foods are part of the way Luzie constructs her memories of happier times. So it was no surprise that she was inspired to try to give Serafina a similar experience–reconstructing a meal based on Serafina’s reminiscences. The execution had problems, but the intent was love.

As you’re working on compiling lesbian stories in Historical Fiction – what has been your favourite part of the process and the most frustrating?

Jones responds: I’d say the historic research is my favorite part, but generally I’ve already done most of that by the time a story idea comes to me. So in terms of specific stories, my favorite part is when a character shows up in my head in a scene that’s the emotional crux from which the story develops. I almost always start from one vivid scene and then work outward to figure out how the characters got into that position and what happens next.

I’d say the most frustrating part of writing f/f historical fiction is the lack of a large, identifiable readership for it. In part, the readers who enjoy f/f historicals tend to be scattered across several distinct reading communities with different expectations for stories. So it’s rare for any particular historical to be embraced by all those communities. That results in an illusion of scarcity–both a scarcity of books and a scarcity of readers. You end up trying to market your books to small segments of a lot of different reading communities rather than having a single reading community to pitch to.

I can see how this could be true – I’ve always been open to all stories within the context of Historical Fiction – irregardless of their gender identity or sexuality; which is why I came to find Escapement an enjoyable read because it pushed through different boundaries in both Historical Fiction and LGBTQ+ narratives. I have noticed not all #HistFic readers like myself are open to different approaches in how stories are told or even, the different persons who are being written about over the course of centuries of historic interest. I think it remains with individualistic choices and if each reader who finds the stories themselves can be open enough to accept the story they’re about to read from the perspective of how the writer chose to tell it.

What do you feel is the best takeaway for readers seeking to expand their horizons through Historical Fantasy narratives and why do you feel this was the best niche of genre for you as a writer?

When you look around at the publishing landscape–in a very immediate “right now” sense–the part of mainstream publishing that I see solidly embracing historical queer narratives is historical fantasy. There are just the very beginnings of interest in f/f historical fiction from mainstream romance markets, and generally only from authors who have already established a reputation with other types of pairings. The Young Adult market is a bit more open currently. But the place we’re seeing a lot of love for openly queer stories with historic settings is from SFF publishing.

On a practical level, that was one of the reasons why I included fantasy elements in the Alpennia series, even though I’m not published in the mainstream. Fantasy is my “native language” and the community where I have the most connections and what little reputation I’ve accumulated. So it was both a matter of feeling at home there and believing that it was where I’d find the majority of my most enthusiastic readers.

I love learning more keen insight into where publishing is currently anchoured and how readers are currently leaning towards seeking the stories being published. Especially as I don’t often find fellow readers who read as intuitively and diversely as I do – not just for the topics discussed today but for bridging themselves between mainstream, INSPY (faith-based) and Indie markets of interest – whilst of course dancing through genres and literary styles of the craft itself.

Do you have a favourite excerpt or quotation from “Floodtide” you’d like to share with my readers?

Jones responds: One of the continuing side plots in the book is that my main character Roz is learning to be more careful about leading with her heart when she’s attracted to someone. Having nearly destroyed one friendship by falling unwisely in love, she’s taken by surprise when her best friend and fellow apprentice, Celeste, teases her, asking if Roz ever wanted to kiss her. Roz tries to joke it away but that doesn’t feel like enough.

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“Celeste.” I took her hand and held it between mine and pressed it to my heart. “Celeste, I would die for you.” I felt foolish, but the words that tumbled out of my mouth—the only ones I knew that said how I felt about her—came from Maisetra Iulien’s story. The one about knights and ladies and brave duelists. “You mean more to me than my life and my salvation. I would go to the ends of the earth to bring you your heart’s desire.”

Celeste pushed against me and took her hand back, laughing. “But you don’t want to kiss me.”

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When you’re not researching and writing your stories what uplifts your spirit the most?

Jones responds: At the moment, I’m tempted to say “getting a good night’s sleep,” but I’ll go for something more poetic. When people talk about “going to your happy place” in your imagination, my happy place is walking through a pine forest in the summer heat with the wind breathing a faint roaring sound in the tops of the trees and an icy mountain stream laughing over the stones as it rushes past. My family always went camping during the summers when I was a child and I built a little bit of wilderness in my soul that I can always return to. I’d love to go camping out in the woods more often, but life is so busy!

I love the natural world myself – walking in nature and observing wildlife is what led me to develop an interest in wildlife photography as there is a soulful mindfulness in being still enough to capture a wild animal (or birds of prey) on camera. They see you, of course and you see them – it is a dance of its own in how just for mere seconds or short minutes, both of your worlds collide and you see past the rhythm of the day to entreat into the natural environment round you. I can see how you’ve carved out a niche of joy to return back to whenever you conjure the setting by mind and heart; there is a certain allure to nature and it is serendipitous joy whenever we can be out inside it.

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This author interview is courtesy of: Heather Rose Jones

I’d like to extend a note of gratitude to the author – for sharing such a wonderful insight into her world-building & writery process of telling stories. The way in which she approached this conversation was a delight of joy for me as a book blogger! I am truly grateful I was able to share this on a very special day in February – as it isn’t often we get an ‘extra’ day and I am thankful I am spending it raising a light on this world and writer who have definitely carved out an itch of interest to seek out to read!

About Heather Rose Jones

Heather Rose Jones

Heather Rose Jones is the author of the Alpennia historic fantasy series: an alternate-Regency-era Ruritanian adventure revolving around women’s lives woven through with magic, alchemy, and intrigue. Her short fiction has appeared in The Chronicles of the Holy Grail, Sword and Sorceress, Lace and Blade, and at Heather blogs about research into lesbian-relevant motifs in history and literature at the Lesbian Historic Motif Project and has a podcast covering the field of lesbian historical fiction which has recently expanded into publishing audio fiction. She reviews books at The Lesbian Review as well as on her blog. She works as an industrial failure investigator in biotech pharmaceuticals.

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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!

Especially if you’ve been reading &/or listening to f/f literature this #FFFEbruary | #FFFeb – which selections did you make a part of you’re on reading queues this February? Which authors and/or stories or series would you like to recommend to me? And, what do you love most about Feminist driven Historical Fantasy series?

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NOTE: Similar to blog tours wherein I feature book reviews, book spotlights (with or without extracts), book announcements (or Cover Reveals) – I may elect to feature an author, editor, narrator, publisher or other creative person connected to the book, audiobook, Indie film project or otherwise creative publishing medium being featured wherein the supplemental content on my blog is never compensated monetarily nor am I ever obligated to feature this kind of content. I provide (98.5%) of all questions and guest topics regularly featured on Jorie Loves A Story. I receive direct responses back to those enquiries by publicists, literary agents, authors, blog tour companies, etc of whom I am working with to bring these supplemental features and showcases to my blog. I am naturally curious about the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of stories and the writers who pen them: I have a heap of joy bringing this content to my readers. Whenever there is a conflict of connection I do disclose those connections per post and disclose the connection as it applies.

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{SOURCES: Cover art of “Floodtide”, author biography and photograph (of Heather Rose Jones) as well as the extract from “Floodtide” were provided by the author Heather Rose Jones and are used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Conversations with the Bookish banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2020.

I’m a social reader | I tweet my reading life

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Saturday, 29 February, 2020 by jorielov in 19th Century, Author Interview, Equality In Literature, Fantasy Fiction, Historical Fiction, Indie Author, LGBTTQPlus Fiction | Non-Fiction

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2 responses to “Conversations with the Bookish | conversing with Heather Rose Jones about her series Alpennia whilst featuring her newest release “Floodtide” during #FFFeb!

    • Hallo, Hallo Maureen,

      Thank you for visiting with me today! :) I have been enjoying reading your blog and am thankful you dropped by to check out this interview! I was quite proud of how this conversation turnt out because it was such an honest look into how she built this world and why I was so dearly curious to start reading it! I am glad this resonated with you and that it tipped your hat into considering seeking out a new genre interest!

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