Sunday, April 18, 2021

Jennifer Adam

Jennifer Adam started writing stories when her grandmother showed her how to make books out of construction paper and staples. After living on both coasts, she ended up marrying a farmer and settling down in the middle of the country. A lake covered in swans makes up for being landlocked, though, and she enjoys taking a kayak out whenever she can. She rides a formerly wild mustang and enjoys hanging out at the barn. When she's not on the water or in the saddle, she's probably hiking through trees or hiding in a library. She is a voracious consumer of books, collects fountain pens and colored inks, and adores classical music and ballet.

The Last Windwitch is Adam's debut novel.

My Q&A with the author:
How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

Quite a bit, actually. The original title was Three Feathers to reflect the symbolic significance of feathers in the story, but when the book sold my agent remarked that they would likely want to change it. My editor pointed out that young readers like to know what to expect when choosing a book and the title is often the first key to unlocking their curiosity. She (and the marketing team) were afraid that my original title didn't give enough clues about what was inside. They sent me a list of suggestions, but while I agreed that a new title should hint at the magic and conflict within the book, none of the alternatives quite fit for me. We bounced ideas back and forth for a couple of months as we worked on edits, and then one morning The Last Windwitch just flew into my mind. Luckily everyone else loved it, too, and here we are!

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your novel?

Well, my teenage self might be quite surprised I actually succeeded in getting one published, to be honest. But she would not be surprised at all by the story itself. This is a book I wrote for myself and it reflects the things I've always loved: magic, horses, bravery, loyalty, friendship, wild forests and rich worldbuilding, our connection to the natural world and climate, and the toxic danger of the abuse of power. I wanted to write my own original fairytale built on all the layers of myth and folklore I loved as a girl. This is definitely a book younger me would have treasured.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I find it harder to write endings because my stories are complex and full of tiny threads that have to be woven together in a smooth, satisfying way. The closer I come to the end, the more I struggle to keep things from tangling up or fraying. I find that while the actual events of the end don't change, the way I translate them to the page can be quite different from one draft to another as I work out the best way to describe the emotional beats. However, I tend to change the beginnings more - to my own surprise! It's easy for me to throw myself into a story so the beginning always flows quickly, but as I get farther into a draft I often discover that I've actually started in the wrong spot so I have to go back and adjust the entrance point. The book I'm currently working on has had four different beginnings!

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

Every character I write contains a piece of myself. Some of those characters are more closely connected to me and my own worldview, of course, but they all hold some aspect: a hope, a fear, an experience. I suppose you could say the wicked queen in The Last Windwitch is a world apart from me because she represents the values I reject, but that's still a link to my own personal philosophy.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

My writing is heavily inspired and influenced by the natural world and the animals I encounter. I live on a farm so the cycle of seasons is an integral part of my family's daily life. Weather is not a topic for small talk here - it's our livelihood. This is why it's a major theme in my story. I have also adopted and gentled five wild mustangs from the western rangelands. These wild horses are so sensitive to their environment, so reactive and aware of every change in their surroundings, they became the basis of the stormhorses in my book. Brida's pony, Burdock, is also directly based on personality traits of my horses. My love of the woods, of birds and wildlife, is woven through the entire world of my story. And I often take myself for long walks around our lake and through our forest when I'm stuck in a plot hole or trying to work my way through a knot - something about water, woods, and a wide sky always opens my mind!
Visit Jennifer Adam's website.

--Marshal Zeringue