I think part of the reason I became a writer is because I’m fascinated by people. While plots, of course, are important to storytelling, I always have been much more drawn to how people think and why they act the way they do. It’s why some of my favorite novels include ones with strongly internal conflicts—people dealing with finding their place in the world, mental illness, losing their faith, things that might seem small in the grand scheme of things but are what people go through in life.
With my latest move out of romance and into historical fantasy, I’ve found that interest in the “little” conflicts makes me a bit of an aberration. Sure, there are plenty of great fantasy novels with amazingly deep characters, but fantasy—especially historical fantasy—is often called epic fantasy for a reason. They follow grand journeys through a fantastical world with magic powers and swords flying about. While my most recent novel, Raining Embers, does have those moments—including a large final battle with plenty of swords and sorcery—the characters are definitely the backbone of the story more than the plot.
So, what does a character-driven fantasy novel look like? A bit like a plot-drive one, but with character growth and those little conflicts playing a bigger role than perhaps is often seen in the epic fantasy genre. Under all the magic and gods and battles, Raining Embers is a story about two characters who are still trying to figure out who they are in the world—and being quite literally different from everyone else doesn’t make that any easier.
Does being that inwardly focused at times work for an historical fantasy novel? I suppose that is something each reader will have to decide for his or herself, but I try to write the stories I’d like to read, and Raining Embers certainly is that. It’s a story that is part magic and wonder and partly grounded in reality. Because, as one of the main characters puts it: “I think everyone feels odd. It’s called being human.”
The characters’ “odd” just happens to go to a fantastic level.
Get your copy of Jessica's latest book, Raining Embers, from Amazon US (paper or ebook), Amazon UK (paper or ebook), or Barnes & Noble.