Welcome to the eleventh post in my Author Spotlight series! Every month, I showcase an indie author and interview them to find out more about their writing life.
This month, the author in the spotlight is Jessica Anne Renwick! Jessica and I are in an author/editor cohort together, and she is so kind and supportive. She's been giving me tons of advice for my own self-publishing journey, and I appreciate how she shares her knowledge in such an encouraging way. On top of that, I love her Starlight Inn books! They're so cozy and sweet—perfect for reading curled up in a blanket with a cup of tea.
Bio: Jessica Renwick is an award-winning author of fiction about friendship, courage, and being true to yourself. The Book of Chaos was her first novel and the start of her fantasy series for middle-grade readers. Since then, she has written and published the second and third books in the series, a paranormal mystery for middle-grade readers, a short story in the Mythical Girls Anthology by CelticFrog Press, and a sweet romance series for adults.
She always enjoys a hot cup of tea, gardening, animals, consuming an entire novel in one sitting, nerding out with cute video games (like Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing), and outdoor mountain adventures. She resides in Alberta, Canada on a cozy urban homestead with her loving partner, fluffy backyard farm dogs, a flock of chickens, and an enchanted garden.
Q: What made you want to be a writer?
A: I have always been a big reader, which nurtured my love of story telling. As a child, I wrote short stories and poems for my parents. I would make them into little books with construction paper covers. When I was 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 is one of my favourite childhood memories, and it definitely lit the spark inside me to keep writing.
Q: Why did you choose the self-publishing route?
A: 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.
Q: How do you choose your characters’ names?
A: Some of them are names I have come across that I just like (e.g., Fable from my middle-grade series), but I do research for others too. For my contemporary romances, I google baby names lists for certain years or decades, depending how old my characters are. With my middle-grade series, I wanted the names to sound more mythical, so I searched for lists of old European and Gaelic names.
Q: Have any of your characters surprised you? If so, how?
A: Yes, this definitely happens. Timothy from my Starfell series surprised me in The Bow of Anarchy, which is the third book in the series. Before that book, he had been a more passive character. He is four years younger than Fable and didn’t really step into his own until then. As it turns out, he has some interesting and unique magical abilities even I had no idea about when I wrote the first two books.
Q: Do you have any writing rituals? (e.g., lighting a candle before you write, meditating before you write, going for a walk to get ideas)
A: I like to set the mood to help my brain click into writing mode. I always make a cup of tea, get my lap blanket (right now it’s a heated one since we’re slipping into winter), dim my office lights, and turn on my salt lamp. I also listen to certain sounds while I write, depending on the book. I can’t listen to music, but I have a huge list of ambient noise videos on YouTube. I listened to a lot of crackling fireplaces with snowstorms in the background while I wrote my recent Christmas novel.
Q: What does your research process look like for your writing, if there is one?
A: I don’t really have much of a process. I try to make sure I have any information I need already gathered and ready before I write a particular scene, but sometimes new ideas come up as I draft or certain elements of something will need further digging. In those cases, I put in a placeholder and highlight it with a note. I’ll continue the scene so I don’t get pulled from my flow, then research those aspects later and fill in the highlighted sections.
Q: Do you have any specific authors or books that you've learned from on your writing journey?
A: I have read so many craft books, watched tons of videos, and been to conferences both in person and online. So, I’ve learned from a lot of authors and books! I think gaining knowledge is a never-ending journey. The person who helped me level up my writing the most is Talena Winters, who is both an author and an editor. Working with her completely changed my writing game and my confidence.
Q: How did publishing your first book change your writing process?
A: I had to learn to learn that at some point, the book has to be finished. You can’t nitpick it forever, though it would be really easy to. Working with an editor also improved my writing so much that I now write quicker and cleaner first drafts, which has been amazing. I’ve been able to streamline my process much better, but it evolves and changes with every book.
Q: What’s your number one tip for tackling imposter syndrome?
A: Talk to other authors you admire! Every writer deals with imposter syndrome, and it is hard. Talking to somebody who understands and taking a step back to look at the bigger picture is really helpful. Even the most accomplished authors deal with this sometimes, so we aren’t alone in our feelings. We put so much of ourselves into our art, so it’s scary to share with the world. Especially at first. But I think it’s one of the most life-changing things we can do for ourselves and for the people we connect with through our writing. These obstacles make us grow as writers and as people. For me, looking at that bigger picture helps a lot.
Q: How do you refill your creative well?
A: Reading, watching well-written TV shows, and listening to creative podcasts. Recently I have been listening to I Am All In with Scott Patterson dissecting the show Gilmore Girls (he played Luke Danes and has never watched the series before). His passion about the characters and storylines is really inspiring! I have also been listening to Felicia Day’s podcast, Felicitations!, which is all about creativity and supporting creative endeavors.
I also play Dungeons & Dragons with my partner and friends, which is actually how the story for The Book of Chaos started. My partner has been running a campaign for a group of us for over four years now. When we started it, he asked me the write a back story for my character, Fable (a wild magic sorcerer). That three-page short story sparked the whole idea for Starfell. D&D is a fantastic game to flex those character, world, and story building skills.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: I am currently working on Starfell Book Four: The Curse of the Warlock. It will be out at the end of March 2022.
If you'd like to follow Jessica on her writing journey or find out more about her stories, this is where you can find her:
Facebook: Jessica Anne Renwick - Romance Author