Monday 14 September 2020

Interview with Juliet Kemp

Juliet Kemp is a queer, non-binary writer (pronouns they/them). They live in London by the river, with their partners, kid, and dog. Their recent works include the fantasy novel The Deep and Shining Dark (featured on the Locus 2018 Recommended Reads list, under ‘first novel’), and this year’s sequel Shadow and Storm, also published by Elsewhen Press. They also published the YA SF novella A Glimmer Of Silver in 2018. When not writing, child-wrangling, or dog-wrangling, Juliet knits, indulges their fountain pen habit, and goes bouldering.

In 2019 we published Juliet’s short story “I Thought of You” in TFF, and eighteen months later “Dragon Years” also graced our pages. This week they came by to talk to us a bit about their work. Stick around to the end for a chance to win a copy of the two Marek novels.

The Future Fire: You recently published a new novel in the Marek saga. Was the first book, The Deep and Shining Dark, always meant to be part of a longer story? How many books will compose the Marek series ultimately? Do you already know how events will unfold after Shadow and Storm, or will you follow your characters where they take you? 

Juliet Kemp: I always knew that there could be more books — I’d started drafting a second one when I was first sending The Deep And Shining Dark out. But I wasn’t sure at that point if it would be possible to publish that one, never mind more! I have a plan in mind for two more books (so four total), and I think I might then be done, at least for now. 

I usually start off with a rough outline, and then end up going off on various tangents while I’m writing. The editing process is about making another outline that fits what I now have, and making that work. Often that means cutting out things that won’t fit, or saving them for later. I really enjoy those sudden bursts of inspiration, even if they end up not being what I wanted or what the book needed. I always get something useful out of them. However I’m going to have to plan book 4 more tightly as book 3 is going to set up some things that I need to be able to resolve in book 4. I don’t want to write myself into an impossible corner! I imagine I’ll still end up following characters off into the weeds while I’m writing and having to pull it all back together during the editing process. I do really enjoy those sudden bursts of inspiration while I’m writing. 

TFF: Can you give us any sneak previews of what readers can expect to find in the third Marek book?

Juliet Kemp: Radicals, refugees, and more of the nascent printing industry (which goes well with radicals, historically speaking). And one of my characters gets pregnant. I’m keen to write about that, and about dealing with a young baby, as parenting is not something we see all that often in trad SFF.

TFF: This year, we published ‘Dragon Years,’ a delicate story about doing things only when we feel that they are right. Do you feel like your dragon is still waiting for you, or you have already taken off together?

Juliet Kemp: Part of the seed for that was realising that if the TARDIS turned up on the doorstep, or a portal to another world opened in the back garden, I’d wouldn’t want to accept the opportunity, because I have a young child. But kids grow up, and things change again, so in another decade I’ll start keeping my eyes and ears open again. You never know your luck…

I am sadly still awaiting an actual real dragon, with wings and all; but in a more metaphorical sense I think I’m doing pretty well on pursuing the things that are important to me.

TFF: If you woke up having forgotten all you knew before, what would be the first thing that you’d start learning again? 

Juliet Kemp: Typing would be high up the list — I learnt to touch type as a kid and it has stood me in very good stead ever since. But if I was relearning I might take the opportunity to switch to Dvorak or another non-Qwerty layout to see if it did anything good for my dodgy shoulders! I did try Dvorak once for a couple of months and got up to about 50wpm but I was so tense all the time it made things worse. Of course, on further reflection, if I’d forgotten skills as well as factual knowledge presumably I might have forgotten how to read, and that would have to be right at the top of the list. But I was a very early reader and I genuinely don’t know what my brain would be like without being able to read so I’ll assume I get to keep that one!

TFF: What can you be found doing when you’re not creating/writing?

Juliet Kemp: In the Before Times I used to go bouldering, but although my local climbing gym has reopened I’m not comfortable yet going back there, and central London is not a place with much outdoor bouldering (though there is a big rock over the river in Shoreditch Park!).

I read a lot, of course; and I knit. I’m currently working on a shawl, but it’s nearly time to start on the Christmas knitting (nice and early so I don’t wind up knitting in a panic on Christmas Eve!). I sew as well, but sewing is more a practical than a fun thing. I also have a kid and a dog to wrangle — my kid is home educated so that’s a fair time commitment in itself!

TFF: Thank you Juliet, we look forward to reading your latest novel, Shadow and Storm!

To celebrate the release of Shadow and Storm, Juliet is offering a paperback copy of both novels in the Marek series, The Deep and Shining Dark and Shadow and Storm, as a giveaway to one reader of this blog post. Simply leave a comment below this post with your own answer to the question, “If you woke up having forgotten all you knew before, what would be the first thing that you'd start learning again?” and if we have received at least 10 replies by Wednesday September 30, one will be chosen to receive the books. Make sure that we have a way to get in touch with you, if you want to receive your prize! Add your Twitter handle, FB page, email or any other way we can contact you in your comment, so that we can notify you if you are the lucky winner.