Today, I have the pleasure to welcome Liz de Jager on CHOUETT!! A lot is happening for Liz at the moment as the 3rd book in her trilogy “Judged” will hit the shelves in a store near you this week!! My encounter with the “Blackhart Legacy” trilogy is actually a happy accident. I was interviewing Keren David at the time and she sang praises about the series on her blog, so obviously I had to check it out and I am soooooo happy I did, because now, Liz is here!
1) So, Book 3?! How do you feel about “The Blackhart Legacy” coming to an end? What does it even feel like to have managed to not only have 1 but 3 books published?
It is the oddest feeling. I sort of said goodbye to Kit and the boys mid-2015 and now I have to get my brain in gear and say hello to them all over again so I can say goodbye to them.
It also feels like a huge sense of accomplishment, I won’t lie. Seeing the three books lined up, with those spines all with my name on them: amazing and weird. I hope it’s a feeling that never ever goes away.
2) Although an amazing achievement, it could not have been an easy task. How do you go from book reviewing to becoming an author yourself?
Basically, the book reviewing started as a way for me to keep track of the stuff I liked in the books I read. I wanted a place I could look back on to see which books worked for me and which didn’t. It was a sort-of learning tool on my way to writing. Then it just blew up from there. I got invited to loads of events as I was the only UK YA blogger for a while, before more folks started doing it. But I’d always been writing so when I went to events I listened carefully to what editors were saying and what writers were saying. It really helped ground me in the reality of what it would be like to one day be published. Being published is a business. It’s not all moonshine and roses and it’s hard work. I think I was lucky as I was there at the right time and met a load of great writers and editors who were all really honest and happy to talk about what they did and what they loved.
3) When you were going through this whole writing process, what did you find the most challenging? And what kept you going?
I wanted desperately to finish something, that’s what kept me going. Before writing Banished I wrote a MG novel – an action adventure quest. I loved it utterly. It was the first ever thing I’d finished and I was so proud. But I knew that was the book that would end up in the bottom drawer. It was my training wheels and I set myself a challenge to write and finish Banished (back them it was called Grimm Tales: The Blackhart Legacy) and see if I could write an older voice. The stuff that kept me going: the fact that I loved my characters so much. That I believed in them and that I had friends like Zoe Marriott who emailed me messages like: quitters don’t see their books in bookstores; now pull up your big girl panties and WRITE THE BLOODY BOOK. I cannot begin to stress how important it is to have people in your corner when you’re writing. They don’t even have to be writers themselves, just someone who gets what you’re going through is enough.
4) I loved seeing Kit coming into her own. We see her changing so much from “Banished” to “Vowed” from a not so sure of herself to a badass young lady. I cannot wait to see her in “Judged”. How much fun was it to write her and what will you miss about her the most?
Kit is such a fun character to write – she really carries her heart on her sleeve. She’s far more a punch first, ask questions later kind of girl. She spent all her growing up with her grandmother (because of reasons) and by the time she had figured out she wanted to be an artist and maybe work in the theatre doing set-design or maybe be in movies, doing sets etc. she gets ripped away from it all and is introduced to a family of people who hunt monsters and it turns out she’s one of them. That is a big adjustment. And oh, let’s take away the only person she ever had to rely on, her grandmother, and see how she copes. Here’s a clue: not very well. She does grow, because we all do. She learns to handle her magic but then her magic isn’t natural to humanity and she struggles with it and it makes her very sick. I also wanted to show the kind of PTSD she would suffer from because of everything she’s been through in such a short space of time. In Judged she’s not sleeping, she suffers badly from nosebleeds and migraines. She’s hypervigilant and depressed. Her life isn’t going to plan and she feels so very alone, even if she isn’t. We pick up about a month after Vowed’s done and we see Kit being very human and very broken.
5) Now onto the hotties of the trilogy, Thorn, Aiden and Dante. These guys are polar opposites, but somehow they work. Do you have a favourite and why?
Thorn is the, excuse me for saying it, the quietest of the three boys. He’s the youngest of seven fae princes and no one really paid him much attention. He was left to his own devices growing up, so he never really had the opportunity to explore his heritage. When he meets Kit he realises he’s someone, even if it was in the eyes of this human girl, only. It gives him a reason to figure out his place and well, when it turns out he’s someone kinda important in the Fae world anyway, he manages to not screw it up too badly.
Aiden is my Han Solo. He’s mouthy and gets into trouble. He has so little filter but he gets better as the series continues and he is of course Kit’s best ever friend ever. He gets her completely. And he loves her tremendously and is fiercely protective of her. He would adopt her if he could and make her pack. But she’s too clever for that. Aiden has a heart of gold. He is a hero and the perfect back-up for Kit. He goes ahead with her crazy plans but he never does it blindly and will call her on her more dumb ideas. He’s also the youngest of four boys and hugely indulged and spoiled so you can see where his smartass remarks and attitude comes from.
Dante is…complicated. An orphan brought up in a monastery before being fostered and subsequently adopted, he’s definitely the most fairytale / hero’s journey character of the lot. He gets roped into helping Kit in Vowed and of course, we discover there is far more to Dante than even he expected. It was fun writing a slightly older a character, one who was completely outside the Blackhart world and who struggled to make sense of their world vs our everyday world. He really makes me happy as he has just so much potential.
As for which of the three is my favourite…I think it has to be Thorn. I loved writing his quieter character; where he takes things very seriously and hates that he’s not able to joke with Kit the way that Aiden does. He’s very aware of their differences and feels he lacks something but even so, he falls completely for Kit and there’s a scene in Judged that just…it broke my heart writing it. You’ll understand when you get there.
6) I have to ask…Are we likely to see a spinoff of “The Blackhart Legacy”?
I’d love to write more in the world as the characters are now older and there’s more to happen, but there’s not been anything concrete from anyone about this. So in the meantime I’m focussing on writing a few things that may hopefully pan out.
7) Whether we are looking at your characters or the world you have build in the “Otherwhere” there is a precision in your descriptions rivaling the brushstrokes of a skilled painter. Did you have to do a few drawings?
No, no drawings. I am so incredibly bad at art I cannot begin to tell you how bad. In fact, I’m sure people would pay me not to draw. I’m not even joking. What I do have is a lot of pinterest boards. For characters and for the Blackhart world specifically. And because a lot of it is set in places I know, I’ve got quite a few photos where I scouted locations to make sure it would fit the narrative. The Otherwhere to me is this place I’ve known all my life, somehow, and it’s difficult to put into words how I do know it. I think MAYBE it it’s thanks to all the movies, fantasy novels and National Geographic programmes I’d watched growing up!
8) How much research did it take to build the ancient magic historical records shelf at the “Spooks” headquarters?
I think I’ve been researching these historical records for the past say 20 years or so. I love mythology and lore and it’s not really until about 20 years ago that I started investing in research titles of my own. I have two large bookcases stuffed full of folklore and mythology from all over the world. Not just that but a lot of medieval histories too. All these books helped me as I sat down to create the more mundane bits of lore that Kit and the Spooks had access to. Every single one of those extracts I wrote about in Banished is based on a genuine event that had happened in the human world but I had twisted it enough to make it relevant to the Blackhart world.
9) What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing or reading?
I watch movies (current obsession Star Wars The Force Awakens) and catch up on box sets of TV shows that bypass me when I write. In my down time I try and game. I have a PS3, PS4 and Xbox One. I feel I am incredibly bad at gaming but I love it and I’ve been told by my husband, Mark, that I don’t suck as much as I think I do.
10) Can you tell us “10 things” we don’t know about Liz De Jager? (5 is ok too)?
i. I am actually an introvert. I find it hard putting myself out there and talking to people, even though I do enjoy it…once I’ve convinced myself to leave the house.
ii. When I write I make playlists. For Judged, the opening sequence there’s a whole gym session for Kit. I have a playlist for that scene.
iii. I dislike talking on the phone. It’s ridiculous. I think my voice sounds like a Smurf on speed and I’m always aware of the fact that my accent is this weird mix of South African, American and English and then I get self-conscious and my throat closes up.
iv. I have an amazing sense of direction. Like, I can read maps really well and I hardly ever get lost.
v. Tied in with the above: I don’t own a watch and I am never late for anything. I’m not even talking about using my phone as a watch, I just sort of KNOW. It’s a kinda magic, I think.
11) What is a perfect day in the life of Liz?
Hmm. Wake up at around 8pm. Get dressed, do make-up (manage eyeliner perfectly) then head out to local coffee shop with laptop in tow. Have one of their amazing all day breakfasts (current obsession is sourdough toast, scrambled eggs, mashed avocado and grilled bacon) and once that’s scoffed, pull laptop and notebook out, plug myself into my ipod and start writing. I use the Pomodoro technique when I write (around 40 mins writing, 10 mins free time to catch up on twitter / emails / reading) then do it over again. There’d be tea and if I manage my word goal for the day, I’m allowed a slice of cake / muffin / slice of banana bread.
Oh, and then go home, make dinner and chill out with the hubster watching a movie or writing together. We share the dining room table to work on our respective books.
It may not seem everyone’s idea of a perfect day, but for me it’s the best.
Thank you Liz
You can find Liz on Twitter @lizuk!!