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Tuesday, February 22, 2022

SPFBO Finalist Interview: J.D. Evans

AUTHOR INFO: J. D. Evans writes fantasy and science fiction romance. After earning her degree in linguistics, J. D. served a decade as an army officer. She once spent her hours putting together briefings for helicopter pilots and generals. Now she writes stories, tends to two unreasonable tiny humans, knits, sews badly, gardens, and cultivates Pinterest Fails. After a stint in Beirut, J. D. fell in love with the Levant, which inspired the setting for her debut series, Mages of the Wheel.

Originally hailing from Montana, J. D. now resides in North Carolina with her husband, two attempts at mini-clones gone rogue, and too many stories in her head.

Publication Date: January 23, 2020 Publisher: Whippoorwill Press LLC Page Count: 422  Cover art: Tatiana Anor Formats: ebook, paperback


Thank you for agreeing to this interview. Before we start, tell us a little about yourself.

So, I’m terrible at talking about myself. It feels very weird. Therefore, you get a list. I’m a mom of two boys, a four year old and a one year old. I spent eight years in the Army as a military intelligence and civil affairs officer in the Middle East. I’ve worked seasons in national parks, ski resorts, and backpacked around Scotland. I would like to point out that I spent the night by some standing stones and was definitely NOT transported back in time into the arms of a tartan wearing hottie. I’ve jumped out of planes, trained international soldiers, knit sweaters (but no socks), I cook, I garden. I’ve studied Russian and Mandarin (please do not test me, I can barely remember my name these days, let alone syntax).

Do you have a day job? If so, what is it?

I raise boys (please, someone help). I write books.

Who are some of your favorite writers, and why is their work important to you?

Tamora Pierce, who introduced me to the kick-ass girl trope. Jacqueline Carey, who taught me my love of political fantasy, all while writing a female character who owned her sexuality. Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, whose Dragonlance made me a lover of epic fantasy, meddlesome gods, morally grey characters, and a hater of cardboard cutout female love interests. Robert Jordan, who taught me a series can NEVER be too long 🤣 Juliet Marillier, her atmospheric retelling in Daughter of the Forest still haunts me- #writergoals. I didn’t know there was such a thing as fantasy romance until Grace Draven, she made me realize it was ok to write what I wanted. There are so many. I’ll stop there.

What do you think characterizes your writing style?

I can’t characterize my writing style, that’s like trying to write your own performance review. When I asked my sister to tell me what my writing style was, she said: “Strives for a classic fantasy voice and style while maintaining compact and clean storytelling.” I’ll add “with steam”.

What made you decide to self-publish Reign & Ruin as opposed to traditional publishing?

We (my hubs and I) were struggling financially, and I was in this weird, paranoid, new mom stage with my first son and wanted a way to support myself if something ever happened to my husband. I felt ready, and I didn’t want to go through the very long query and publishing process of trad. Also, my sister had self-published her YA books and had been preaching the benefits for several years.

What do you think the greatest advantage of self-publishing is?

Control. There is no aspect of the process I don’t have control over.

On the other hand, is there anything you feel self-published authors may miss out on?

Depending on your genre, exposure can be tough. It’s hard to stand out among thousands of other authors without the big budget and reach of a trad publisher.

Why did you enter SPFBO?

I have been told that my book exists right on the edge of fantasy and romance, in a perfect 50/50 split, and I guess I was hoping some exposure to it might help spread the love of fantasy romance, since it gets kind of dismissed in some circles. But uh, honestly, I did not expect to make it past the first cut. Let alone to a finalist.

What would you do if you won the SPFBO?

Cry. For. Days.

How would you describe the plot of Reign & Ruin if you had to do so in just one or two sentences?

A princess defies those who would control her by allying with an enemy prince to save her people, and his, from war.

What was your initial inspiration for Reign & Ruin? How long have you been working on it? Has it evolved from its original idea?

Reign & Ruin is a Frankenstein’s monster of many ideas and stories that came before it. It actually wasn’t the first story I wrote for this world. I wrote a draft of book four in the series first, and Naime was a side character in that book. I decided I was going to write a series, and that Naime’s book had to come first, because of the way I’ve structured the books to reflect the spokes of the magic Wheel.

If you had to describe it in 3 adjectives, which would you choose?

Political, romantic, banterific (it’s a word).

Is it part of the series or a standalone? If series, how many books have you planned for it?

It’s part of a series. There will be six main books, but I keep thinking of side novels. There’s a prequel that wasn’t planned, and I have two other extras in mind. Someone stop me.

Who are the key players in this story? Could you introduce us to Reign and Ruin’s protagonists/antagonists?

Naime Sabri is the only child of the current Sultan of Tamar. Traditionally she would be married to a Vizier’s son and become little more than a decoration. But she wants to rule, and protect her country from the threat of a growing Republic to the north that wants to wipe out magic. To do this she plans to stand a Circle of Mages, including death mages, who were driven from Tamar 200 years prior.

Makram Attaraya is a prince of Sarkum, an enemy to Tamar, and a death mage. His people are dying of starvation because of a crop blight, and there is threat of invasion from the Republic. He knows an alliance with Tamar and its more powerful mages is necessary, but his brother, the ruler of Sarkum, does not agree.

Behram Kadir, Grand Vizier of the Tamar Sultan’s Council. He opposes Naime at every turn, seemingly with the singular purpose of marrying her to his son so that he can control the throne.

How did you select the names of your characters?

Since I drew a great deal of inspiration from the Ottoman Empire, I used Turkish names.

Does your book feature a magic/magic system? If yes, can you describe it?

It’s based on a six spoked wheel, where each spoke is a House of magic (Air, Water, Creation, Earth, Fire, Destruction). The Wheel is both their magic and their religion. It’s turning depends on balance, achieved through harmony and opposition within the Houses. In Reign & Ruin, the Wheel is broken. The Sundering War 200 years prior drove destruction mages from Tamar, and in balance, creation mages disappeared as well. A creation mage has not been seen since, and magic is fading from the world.

Within magic there are ranks of mages, their amount of power dictating how they cast their spells. The lowest must use spoken spells, the next highest can also draw runes, and the highest common mages can cast spells with a thought, drawing on their own internal energy to do so. The most powerful mages, who can draw on the energy of others, have not existed since the Sundering War and the breaking of the Wheel.

Cover art is always an important factor in book sales. Can you tell us about the idea behind the cover of Reign & Ruin?

I spent a lot of time looking at fantasy romance covers to try and figure out how to brand my books, since they are, frankly, not exactly to market. I struggled to find premades or stock photos with the right costuming, I couldn’t afford some of the artists I queried for a custom illustration. And I didn’t want the cover to read as YA. I noticed a preponderance, at the time, of darker colored covers and I thought “you know what would stand out? A black and white cover with just a splash of color”. So I started poking around for black and white covers, and stumbled on Tatiana Anor’s work on pinterest. I hired Eric C. Wilder, who has this incredible minimalist style, to do the cover design, and Tanya did the art, and the rest is history.

Which question about the book do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!

I honestly can’t think of one that hasn’t been asked yet.

Can you, please, offer us a taste of your book, via one completely out-of-context sentence.

“You are King or currency.”

What’s your publishing Schedule for 2021/2022?

Working on book four now, looking to push that out the first quarter of 2022. 2021 was a dumpster fire, and my whole schedule is off. My plan is to pick the pace back up for 2022 and also get book five done and published.

Thank you for taking the time to answer all the questions. In closing, do you have any parting thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?

Thank you for being awesome! Readers make it all worthwhile.



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