Who were some of your early inspirations as an author?
For fantasy books, I’ve always loved Neil Gaiman. His middle-grade novels, Coraline and The Graveyard Book, are two of my favourites. In my opinion, the evil “Other Mother” in Coraline is one of the best villains I’ve ever read.
As a kid, I read a ton of Goosebumps books. They are the perfect balance of scary but not too scary for middle-school kids. R. L. Stine has a Masterclass on writing for children, so I jumped on the chance to take it. He explains how to write scary scenes for different age groups, and I found it so helpful.
How did you get started as an author? Did you start by writing books or something else?
As a child, I wrote short stories and poems for my parents. I would make them into little books with construction paper covers. Then at thirteen I wrote my first “novel.” It was not very good, and it definitely was not publishable, but my mom was super cute and supportive. She helped me proofread it, print it all out, and write a query letter. We took the address from a publisher in one of my books and sent it off to them. I received a really kind rejection letter stating that they don’t publish books written by kids, but they wished me all the best. It was pretty cute and one of my favourite childhood memories.
As an adult, I started and stopped many manuscripts. Life took over, and I wrote less and less, but then in my thirties the writing bug hit me again. I started and stopped a few more manuscripts, and then I finally decided to get serious and actually finish my first Starfell book. I took some online courses to motivate me, and I got it done.
What was your inspiration for the Starfell series?
This is going to sound really nerdy, but a Dungeons & Dragons campaign kickstarted my Starfell series. Fable was originally my wild magic sorcerer, and I was asked to write a backstory for her. That turned into a twenty-page document, and then the outline for a novel. I obviously had to change a lot to make it work as a middle-grade book, but that’s where the idea stemmed from.
What draws you to write for middle-grade readers? Do you plan to write for any other audiences too?
When I was that age, books meant a lot to me. I was always introverted and could be painfully shy, and reading was an escape from my anxiety. The books I read then really stuck with me. Those are the stories I remember so well, even now. At that age, they seem to hold a certain kind of magic, so those are the stories I love to tell.
I also write adult books in the small town, sweet romance genre under Jessica Anne Renwick.
Do you do this full time, or is writing more of a part-time gig?
Right now, I write part time. I would like to eventually go full time with it though. For my day job, I am a freelance copyeditor and proofreader. So I am still surrounded by fun stories every day, and I’m grateful I can do that for a living too.
What motivated you to publish independently rather than going the traditional route?
I am an avid-podcast listener. While searching for writing podcasts, I found The Creative Penn by Joanna Penn, and she started me down the rabbit hole of self-publishing podcasts and information. I’ll admit I had some confidence issues at first, but after meeting my editor in person (who also self-publishes her own books), she helped me improve my writing and my belief in it.
At one point, I did have an agent for The Book of Chaos, but it never sold, which I’m okay with. Publishing it myself has taught me so much, and I’ve been able to get it into the hands of a lot of fantastic readers.
What are some of the biggest benefits of being an independent author?
I enjoy having the rights to my own work, my choice in editors and cover designers, and the overall control I have with the books.
What are some of the biggest challenges?
Finding a way to get my books in front of readers is always a challenge without a big marketing budget. Also, not having a traditional publisher’s name behind my books can make it tougher for some people to take a chance on them.
What are you working on right now?
Right now, I’m working on the fourth book in the Starfell series, the Curse of the Warlock. On July 1, I also had the rights of my short story, The Witch’s Staff, returned to me. It was traditionally published in an anthology by a small press. I’m getting an eBook version of it put together to give away as a freebie for my newsletter subscribers.
To learn more about Jessica and her books, visit her official website.
Brief thoughts and updates on writing, publishing, and life