Meet the Author: Jessica Renwick
Hello Readers, and welcome to another installment of Meet the Author!
If you’ve been following my blog, then you know that lately I’ve been hooked on the Starfell series by middle-grade fantasy author Jessica Renwick.
So when I reached out to Jessica I was ecstatic (and a little starstruck) that she agreed to an interview! I’d like to thank Jessica for agreeing to do this with me. Let’s give her a warm welcome and show her lots of love and support!
Before we get into the interview, I highly encourage you to check out my book reviews for her Starfell series (links below). It’s got fun characters, great worldbuilding, and lots and lots of magic!
Alright, let’s get this interview rolling!
Jessica Renwick is the award-winning author of books about friendship, courage, and being true to yourself. The Book of Chaos was her first novel and the start of Starfell, her fantasy series for middle-grade readers. Since then she has also published the second, third, and fourth books in the series, two paranormal mysteries for middle-grade kids, and a sweet romance series for adults.
She lives in central Alberta, Canada with her loving partner, two pocket monsters (her dogs), and a flock of chickens.
Social Media Links
Hi Jessica, thanks so much for stopping by. To keep things interesting, I like to ask my interviewees a random question to get the blood flowing. Here’s yours!
Through an unknown magic you are teleported to the world of a book you’ve recently read. Where have you ended up?
Jessica: Nevermoor! I am currently reading the third book in this magical series, and I am really enjoying it. I’d love to go for a ride on the Brolly Rail and visit the Wondrous Society!
Jonny: Oh, I’ve actually never heard of that series, so I just looked it up. It sounds like a ton of fun! Guess where I ended up? Your world of Starfell! I’d love to journey across the magical land with Fable & Co. Endora wouldn’t stand a chance against us!
Jessica and the Writing Process
How long have you been writing?
Jessica: I have always loved reading and stories. As a kid, I used to write little stories and poems for my family and make them into “books” with construction paper covers. When I was thirteen, we got a computer (this definitely shows my age!) and I wrote my first “novel.” It was not very good (and definitely was not publishable), but my parents helped me 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 the writing bug hit me again when I was in my thirties. I started and stopped a few more manuscripts, and then I finally decided to get serious and finish my first Starfell book. I took some online courses to motivate me, and I got it done.
Jonny: Thanks so much for sharing your writing journey! I loved your childhood stories, especially how you made a book with a construction paper cover. So cute! I always wrote my awful childhood works of fiction in those wide ruled notebooks you see everywhere.
The growth process works differently for everyone, and I’m glad you didn’t give up on your dreams! I got serious about my writing about a decade ago and never looked back. Perseverance definitely pays off!
What genre is your favorite to write in? Why?
Jessica: I love writing middle-grade books, both fantasy and paranormal. When I was that age, books meant a lot to me. I’m an introvert, and as a kid I could be painfully shy. Reading was an escape from my anxiety. The books I read then 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 love doing school and library visits! Both in-person and virtually. That’s a huge perk for children’s authors. I love meeting and chatting with kids who love to read and write.
Jonny: I love how passionate you are about reaching out to your target audience and encouraging kiddos to read and write. It’s so important to let kids embrace their creativity and imagination.
I also have a love for middle-grade and young adult books. Goosebumps and Animorphs carried me through adolescence, and a few years ago I started reading these genres again. There really is something nostalgic about the sense of magic and wonder in these types of novels, and I think you do a great job of capturing that from what I’ve seen in your Starfell novels.
If you could give advice to new writers, what would you say?
Jessica: Have patience. I know this is said a lot, but this career really is a marathon and not a sprint. All those small steps add up. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in this industry. There’s so much to learn, and there can be pressure to write faster and faster. But don’t try to force yourself to go beyond your limit. You’ll find your cadence and what flow works best for you.
Jonny: Great advice! I think a lot of new writers feel the pressure to write and publish their works as fast as they can, but it’s also crucial to be self-aware of your writing and improvements that may be made before making that jump. There are a lot of great resources online that can help connect a writer with fellow writers who can put in their two cents and add needed perspective while building vital relationships. I found my original scribe tribe at Scribophile.com and my experiences there really shaped how I see things today.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
Jessica: I have published nine books. My most recent releases are usually my favourites at the moment. But even though I have learned and grown as a writer since The Book of Chaos, I still think that one is my favourite overall. It’s the book that made me an author, and I am proud of how well it has been received.
Jonny: Wow, congrats on being on the precipice of two digits! That’s quite the accomplishment. I love that your first is your favorite. I feel the same way. Reaper was my first, and I think it’ll always hold a special place for me. You learn so much with your first published work, and I think you did a lovely job with The Book of Chaos.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Jessica: Sometimes. For marketing purposes, I have to sift through them once in a while. It’s important to keep in mind that reviews are for readers (not the author), and even average or negative reviews can be helpful to find the right readers for your books. Not everyone is going to love or connect with our work, and that’s okay. Reviews can help guide those who will like it to you. The not-so glowing ones can be helpful for authors to learn from sometimes, but if someone leaves an outright nasty review, it’s best just to ignore it and move on. That reader wasn’t the right fit for you, and they may have other things going on in their lives that have nothing to do with you or your story.
Jonny: You make a lot of great points here. I also utilize reviews for marketing purposes. It’s a great feeling to quote someone who truly loved your book! It’s also good to keep in mind that not everyone is going to love any book, whether you are Stephen King, Danielle Steel, Jessica Renwick, or Jonathan Pongratz! Everyone’s got a different opinion and that’s a great thing, though I agree that it’s best to ignore nasty reviews. Constructive critiques are useful, destructive ones aren’t.
Fun Facts About Jessica
Could you tell us a couple fun facts about you?
I have an urban chicken coop and four hens (as pets and for their eggs, not meat!).
I have two horses and used to be an endurance rider.
I love all things fantasy and play in two D&D campaigns. One group I have been playing with almost every week for nearly five years.
I like gaming, but am more into the cozy type. Stardew Valley is my favourite, and right now I am playing Spiritfarer on my Switch. It’s super cute!
Jonny: Wow, I love these facts! Okay, so first off, kudos on being a fellow lover of animals. I used to volunteer at a pet shelter, and I adore any kind of domesticated animal as a result.
I also used to play D&D, but gave it up after I start publishing my works so I would have more breathing room. But I loved all the epic journeys I got to go on. Enjoy your continued adventures!
I love video games too, but I tend to stick to platformers (metroidvania) or fantasy RPG’s (anything like Final Fantasy). Basically I haven’t changed since childhood, haha!
Are pineapples on pizza blasphemy or no?
Jessica: I’m Canadian, so I am all for pineapple on pizza. (Putting pineapple on pizza originated here!)
Jonny: Whoa, I am shaken! I had no idea pineapple on pizza originated in Canada! I tend to stick with savory on pizza flavors, but it’s good to shake it up every now and again with something you don’t usually do. Maybe I’ll order a pineapple or strawberry pizza soon!
What are your favorite tv shows and movies?
Jessica: I love a lot of shows and movies in a variety of genres. I’m a big Supernatural fan, and also like funny sitcoms like The Good Place and Parks and Rec. For newer shows I really enjoy Stranger Things. I like horror too and recently started rewatching some of the older ones from my teenage years for fun (ie. I Know What You Did Last Summer). The new Fear Street movies that came out on Netflix last year were a fun reboot!
Jonny: I’m right there with you. I watch pretty much anything, though I tend not to watch dramas. I do favor horror, and I am constantly rewatching classics like Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, or Friday the 13th. I really liked those Fear Street movies! Hopefully they will release some more in the near future.
What are you reading now?
Jessica: I always have a few books on the go. I am reading Hollowpox by Jessica Townsend (the third Nevermoor book), the Shadow Demons series by Sarra Cannon, and I’m listening to the Spellbound series by Annabel Chase on Audible.
Jonny: Oh, nice! You introduced me to the Nevermoor series in our previous interactions, and I looked up the other two. Very intriguing! I wish I could handle audiobooks, but somehow trying to sit still and listen to one doesn’t work for me. I do always make sure I bring a book with me to work or anytime I might be sitting/waiting around, with my noise-cancelling headphones of course!
What did you read as a kid? What stuck with you the most?
Jessica: I read everything I could get my hands on! I had a few favourites I re-read often and still like to dive into today. I still have a lot of my old copies of Black Beauty by Anna Sewell, The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Narnia, tons of Goosebumps books (and Fear Street when I got a bit older), the Saddle Club series by Bonnie Bryant, the Percy Jackson books, and more boxed away somewhere.
Jonny: Marvelous name drops, my friend! I read The Hobbit freshman year of high school and Goosebumps as a kid, but I was horrible at keeping copies handy and lost them all in moves throughout the years. Typical boy move, haha! I have rebought some Goosebumps titles, but my library also has an extensive collection of classics, so I can borrow their copies at any time.
Jessica and Her Works
Tell us about your new book.
Jessica: Lavender Raine and the Field of Screams is my most recent release.
It’s the second book in my paranormal mystery series for kids ages 8-12. The books in this series are shorter than my Starfell fantasy books and aimed more for reluctant readers. They are about the same length (and scare level) as a Goosebumps book. In this one, Lavender and her friends go to a harvest festival with a haunted corn maze. Lavender is sure the ghost story about the festival is fake, but once they enter the maze, spooky things begin to happen.
Jonny: Congratulations on your new book release! It sounds delightfully spooky, and I love the play on words with the title. Lavender sounds like a brave soul. I’d definitely try out a haunted corn maze if I had friends like her around me!
What was your favorite part about writing this book?
Jessica: I love Lavender’s voice, her sassy cat Blot, and the friendship dynamics in these books. Oh, and the spooky ghost parts too!
Jonny: So glad you enjoyed the process of writing this. It’s so beneficial to enjoy it even if it is technically a job. I’m all about sassy black cats since Salem from Sabrina the Teenage Witch. I also really like the friendship element you bring to your Starfell series, so I have no doubt that’s a great element in this series as well.
What did you find was the hardest part about writing this book?
Jessica: I write my Starfell books in third-person past tense, and I write Lavender’s books in first-person present. It can take a bit for my mind to wrap around the switch.
Jonny: You’re not alone on this point. I never thought I’d write anything in 1st person until I wrote Reaper and its sequel. I prefer writing 3rd person most of the time, and it does take some finagling to get your mind around using a different method.
What kind of research went into writing your book?
Jessica: I really want to make sure that my stories are fun and not too scary for the age group I write for. A few years ago, I bought R. L. Stine’s MasterClass course about writing for kids and teens, and he covers how to write scary scenes and monsters appropriately for each age group. It was so helpful, and R. L. Stine is a delight! I still go through and rewatch some of the videos from time to time.
Jonny: Oh wow, I’ve never met anyone who tried a MasterClass before now. I’m so glad Stine’s was helpful for getting the right approach to horror for younger audiences. It’s definitely tough to walk that delicate balance between scary and too scary. I’ll have to seriously consider signing up for a MasterClass sometime.
What other projects do you have in store for the world to see in the future? Anything you can share with us?
Jessica: The fifth book of my Starfell series (The Song of Embers) is with my editor right now, and I believe it will be released in November or December.
The fourth book (The Curse of the Warlock) will be coming out on Audible with Podium Audio on September 27.
The first three are already out with them.
Jonny: Wow, these are some great developments! I for one am super excited for book number five for your Starfell series, and congrats on the audiobook release for The Curse of the Warlock. May you have all the success you desire!
Alright, Jessica, it looks like our time here is almost up. Before we go, do you have a website readers can visit for updates, events, and special offers?
Jessica: The best way for readers to keep up with me is through my website and mailing list at https://www.jessicarenwickauthor.com . Readers who sign up for my mailing list will also get a free copy of my short story, The Witch’s Staff, which was first published in the Mythical Girls Anthology with CelticFrog Publishing.
Jonny: Thanks so much for letting us know about that, and thanks again for doing this with me. Best of luck in all your future endeavors!
That’s a Wrap!
Alrighty bookworms, that wraps up my interview with Jessica Renwick. I had a great time chatting it up with her, and I hope you enjoyed the experience too!
If you’d like to learn more about Jessica and her work, she can be reached at the social media links provided at the beginning of this post.
Thank you for stopping by, and have a great day!