Author Interview: Jessica Cluess @jesscluess

As promised, here is my interview with the author of A Shadow Bright and Burning!  Her answers are a lot of fun, so I hope you enjoy seeing where the story and characters came from.  She also hints about the future of the series as well.

Jessica Cluess

  1. What inspired A Shadow Bright and Burning? Any chance you watch reverse harem anime, which is what it reminds me of?


The book came about because of Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens. There’s a scene where Nicholas, the hero, stops an assault on a helpless boy. I wondered how a girl in the Victorian era might have handled such a thing, and came up with an image of her opening up her hands and shooting fire. The story came surprisingly quickly after that. As for reverse harem anime, I had no idea such a thing existed before I wrote ASBAB. Now, I am very aware of it! It sounds like fun.


  1. Where did you find the names for your characters?


Henrietta’s name came because I wanted a heroine who had kind of a boring, plain name. Howel, her surname, came in homage to Howl’s Moving Castle. As for the sorcerer boys, I actually found them on Wikipedia. I went to a page giving a list of ‘real world’ magicians, and found names like Magnus, Agrippa, Blackwood, and Lambe all laid out for me. I just picked them up and ran.


  1. Can you tell us anything about the sequel yet? Because I need more of this world and these characters!


What I can say is that Henrietta leaves London to visit the countryside, makes some powerful new friends, and uncovers some secrets. Also, there is a lot of making out.

A Shadow Bright and Burning (Kingdom on Fire, #1)

  1. Is the cover representative of Howel’s House seal?


It is! The designer did a fantastic job bringing it to life.


  1. Did you have a favorite character for writing?


One favorite is definitely Henrietta. Since I chose to write the series from her POV, it’s probably a good thing I like writing her so much! Also, the magician Jenkins Hargrove is another favorite. I love snarky, secretive characters with their own agendas.


  1. What made you want to be a writer?


It was reading the book Dune for the first time just after college. I hadn’t been a huge sci fi or fantasy person up to that point, but I was at a bad place in my life and needed an escape. I found out that genre fiction can be such a wonderful refuge and source of strength, and I knew I wanted to join in.


  1. Do you have any favorite authors?


For fantasy, Susanna Clarke is hard to beat. I also love Stephen King. I grew up with him, so even when his books get truly dark and scary it feels very safe and comforting. I was a weird kid.


  1. Do you have any other projects you can tell us about?


Unfortunately I have to keep a zipped lip about specifics, but there’s one project in particular I work on whenever I get the chance. I’m unbelievably excited about it, and pray that it sells. At the moment, though, I’m occupied with writing book 3 in my series. But one day!


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