Barbara Ann Wright interviews Jennifer Karter:
Welcome to BSB, Jennifer! I was excited to read your book during the selection process. Tell me where you got the inspiration for such a well-developed, colorful world and such memorable characters.
Thank you so much! That means a lot to me, as I’m a big fan of your novels. I enjoyed your Katya and Starbride novels so much that my Allusian nickname for my three-month-old daughter is Daniloved.
Amusingly, the inspiration for The Witch Queen’s Mate came from a semantics debate I was in about whether a book is not a romance if one or both characters die at the end, using Romeo and Juliet as the chief example, since technically star-crossed lovers means fated to die. I decided I wanted to write a lesbian romance that pulled on the warring cultures aspect of Romeo and Juliet, but not the star-crossed or the love-at-first-sight aspects. In order to create warring cultures, I wanted two groups that on the surface seemed opposite in their actions and attributes, with more commonality under the surface. For every norm, custom, or belief of the Svekards and Neamairtese, there needed to be a value driving it, so that when Barra and Silvi began to dig beneath the surface, they could find common values. Those common values are then what drove the romance. I definitely pulled inspiration from historical European and Eurasian cultures as well as common fantasy tropes like Tolkien elves and dwarves.
What is your world-building process like? Do you start with characters and plot or more history/surroundings?
I like to think of my process as a triangle, where one point is world-building, one point is characters, and one point is plot/romance. Inspiration will strike in any of the three. I start at one point, whichever drives the idea, and then work my way around. For example, in The Witch Queen’s Mate, I started with the plot. I knew I wanted an enemies-to-lovers romance that took a new approach to the Romeo and Juliet-esque conflicting groups, specifically with the idea that the two women had completely different cultures and couldn’t speak to each other. From there, I built their cultures and the world they lived in, and lastly, I created the characters to fit the world and plot. For the book I’m working on next, I started with the world, then the plot, then the characters, but I’ve also started with characters when planning a story. As far as the world-building goes, I find that one of the easiest ways to start is to build up their religion, because so much of a group’s values, gender norms, views on sex and sexuality, role of the family, and how people treat each other is rooted in religion. Religion doesn’t have to be an earthly religion or a pantheon—it can be religion in the broad sense of how do people answer the questions: Where do we come from? Where are we going? And why?
What drew you to write fantasy? Have you always been a SFF reader?
I have been an SFF reader since before I could read. My parents both read me SFF bedtime stories like The Hobbit, the Wizard of Oz series, E. Nesbit’s novels, and David Eddings’s Belgariad series. My parents were Trekkies, and my first crush was Wesley Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation. I’ve always been captivated by the idea of other worlds and loved creating them for my action figures when I was a child. My family also started me on a simplified version of Dungeons and Dragons when I was seven, and I’ve been a fan ever since, mostly in the Dungeon Master’s chair, building worlds for my players to explore. What made me decide to write fantasy was a life of reading and watching SFF and wondering why it was always men in the lead and why the relationships always had to be heterosexual. I wanted there to be more stories about powerful women taking on epic challenges and falling in love…with each other. So I decided to take my love of world-building and make it happen.
Are we going to see more stories from this world in the future? And are there other stories or ideas that you're excited to write about?
Yes! I have a sequel to The Witch Queen’s Mate planned that takes place in the same world hundreds of years in the future and is another unlikely crosscultural romance between a Victricite noblewoman and a Razirgali shakli (a person who chooses to have neither the requirements nor rights of a woman or a man). It draws on the events of The Witch Queen’s Mate, but with new characters and challenges. The story I am currently working on also takes place in the same universe, but the setting is the Dark Lands, which is referenced in The Witch Queen’s Mate as the place where the dark gods were banished. So same universe, different world, different cultures entirely.
I have several ideas for other lesbian SFF romance stories that love to constantly distract me that don’t fit into this world or the idea of disparate cultures. There are evil fairies that demand ritualistic slaughter every hundred years, alien invaders trapped on Earth so they can’t burn the world and leave, a resort where the customer service is a little too good to be true, and a lesbian Peter Pan that live in my head asking to be written. For all of these I have all three sides of the triangle worked out: plot, world, and characters. I just need to find the time to move them from my brain to the page.
What's the best place to find and chat with you online? Do you have any personal appearances scheduled?
The most reliable way to reach me is by email: Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find me on Instagram (Jennifer.j.karter) and friend me on Facebook (search for my email). I’d love to hear from readers. I attended DC Capital Pride where I sold books with other authors at the Sapphic Lit Popup. Nothing else planned yet, but stay tuned!
That's it. And again, welcome aboard this fantastic ride!
Thank you, I’m grateful to be on this ride with such great likeminded literary adventurers.