This week we had the pleasure of interviewing YA Fantasy author J.E. Klimov! Her debut novel, The Aeonians, follows Princess Isabel Deran as she seeks to regain her royal amulet and keep her kingdom safe from Bence Brechenhad, the leader of the swarming Aeonian army that has infested the land.
Join us as we talk Fantasy, character building, and the ins and outs of publishing!
What made you want to become a writer?
While I was always interested in science in school, I had a creative side. During classes, I couldn’t help but draw characters in stories that would unravel organically. In high school, I drew graphic novels and shared it with my friends.
I had to put all of that in the back burner while I was earning my doctorate—many people told me to focus on my “career”, and that writing and drawing won’t “pay the bills”. While that may be partially true, I learned you can’t just abandon your passion. I was miserable without an outlet.
After months of anxiety attacks and depression-filled days, I decided to pick up drawing and writing once more. What kick started it? National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I turned my high-school fanfiction chicken-scratch into my own, unique story. At that point, I was completely dedicated. I joined a writer’s group, began editing, and conducted research on publishing.
What is your favorite thing about your chosen genre (YA Fantasy)?
Firstly, I find the YA genre as a whole very appealing. I think the term “young adult” can be misleading—I feel this category reaches a broad audience. It interests teens but adults in their 20s, 30s, 40s etc too.
I gravitate toward fantasy because I love the ability to create your own world, creatures, magic system (if any). Books are meant to be as escape, and fantasy really stretches the imagination—kind of like mental chewing gum!
Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind The Aeonians?
“The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” was what it sparked it all. People in my age range 20s-30s may especially understand this. I’m not a huge gamer, but I recall the days in my childhood playing The Legend of Zelda series and falling in love with the sense of exploration and growing with the character, Link. It was bright, beautiful (as far as 64-bit games go), and emotional.
At first, I just wrote fan-fic from that game during classes in my notebook when I couldn’t focus (oops…). As I grew, I wanted to create my own world, my own characters, and my own plot. So, this eventually turned into a completely unique story, but those who have played the Legend of Zelda series can see some of its influences.
In your novel, you switch back and forth between the perspective of your heroine, Isabel, and your villain, Bence. Was it hard to find their separate voices? How do you develop your characters?
Actually, I created the second voice, Bence’s, because I was having such a hard time with Isabel’s! It’s really odd, and I can’t exactly put my finger on why.
The more I revised my story, the more I took interest in my antagonist. Bence isn’t the typical bad guy for the sake of being a “bad guy”, and because he had such potential for internal conflict, I wanted the reader to see it.
I’m considered a “pantser”—someone who writes the plot as it goes. Same goes for my characters. Because The Aeonians was originally fanfiction, I had to start everything from scratch. Thankfully, my characters grew organically. For example, Princess Isabel lacks self-confidence. I have that similar flaw, and so I was able to relate and strengthen her as the plot progresses. Bence developed beautifully as I added more layers to him. I also use a character building sheet that forces me to answer a plethora of questions to fully flesh each character out.
This is your first published novel, is there anything you wish you had known before going through the publishing process? Do you have any advice to give other authors looking to finish and publish their first novels?
Absolutely, but I think every first-time author will say the same. For me, I wish I didn’t rush the end of my own editing process. Even The Aeonians was released with Silver Leaf Books, I am a firm believer in putting as much effort in editing before sending it along to a professional editor.
· Research and educate. This seems obvious, but hours scouring through Writer’s Digest magazine and their book “Writer’s Market” taught me a lot. Articles prepped me for rejection and how to write queries. “Writer’s Market” lists thousands of publishers, what they need, what they don’t like, and what their criteria is.
· Speaking of criteria: If you plan on submitting to publishers, ALWAYS pay close attention to their requirements. In this industry, the smallest mistake can send you into their slush pile
· Join a writer’s group if you haven’t already. I met amazing authors on Scribophile, and my novel would NOT be half as good without their help! You’ll be surprised at the amount of support you can find when networking with other writers!
· Edit, edit, edit! Have multiple eyes on your work. My biggest mistake was reading my draft too much that I missed some pretty obvious typos.
· Mentally prepare yourself for rejection. Seems silly, but when I received my (multiple) rejections, I didn’t feel as defeated and kept going.
· Just do it! No, I’m not promoting Nike. I mean, pick a handful of publishers, submit your queries and don’t look back. (Or self-publishing—just pick a platform, format it, work on the cover etc.) Just don’t stop the momentum.
How did you feel when your debut novel was finally finished, published, and out there for purchase? How did you celebrate?
Receiving the email accepting me into the Silver Leaf Book’s family was monumental. I was filled with a sense of pride and fulfillment. It was the confirmation that, yes, I can do it, and that, yes, I am good enough.
It all happened in a blur, so I don’t remember much of celebration. Honestly, I probably felt giddy for weeks, but I hit the ground running: I developed my blog, social media accounts, business cards, and researched events I could attend. I used all the excitement to fuel my efforts in preparing for launch. That’s the thing, once you’re published, your job’s not done!
You run a blog that also has book recommendations, interviews, and an “ideas” section filled with photos to use for writing prompts. Do writing prompts or pictures help inspire you when you feel stuck? Did you use any that helped with your novel?
When I first created it, I didn’t have a direction; however, when The Aeonians was released, I channeled my energy into one purpose: supporting other authors and promoting creativity in those that wish to write.
My “ideas” section is due for an update—haha. But yes, photos really provide inspiration. For example, some are from Japan and others are from Sedona, AZ. When I traveled there, the breathtaking sights and unique landscapes drove me to write!
You’re also part of the Just-Us League. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your group or just give a shout-out to them?
My beloved Just-Us League! It’s an online writing group that I was welcomed into. It’s a tight circle of like-minded authors that help one another. After some time, a handful of us wanted to put together anthologies. We have three volumes out, with a forth one to be released late February (if we are on schedule). Each anthology have a theme: fairy-tale retellings, super heroes and villains, and horror. I’m proud to collaborate with talented authors around the world.
Anyone interested in short stories in the genres above? Check them out: http://jlwriters.com
What’s next for you?
I have a few things. I just completed the sequel to The Aeonians. If you like this novel, you can expect The Shadow Warrior late 2018. I also completed my short-story for the next Just-Us League anthology: “The Charcoal Cat” in Of Legends and Lore: A Collection of Fairy Tale Retellings to be released approximately late February 2018. Now that those two are finished, I’m looking to either start the final installment of the Aeonian trilogy or work on a completely new project. I have a few ideas, but I may stick to either fantasy or science fiction for now before expanding genres.
Was there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
I’m simply humbled to be featured here, and if you want an action-packed, yet fun read, I suggest giving The Aeonians a try. If not, you can follow me on my blog for my “Authors Supporting Authors” segments where you can find a plethora of suggested reads.
I’m just a humble author who pursued my dreams after years of excuses. I hope there are writers out there that read this and find the courage to take that next step! Go get ‘em!