Wednesday, 28 October 2020

A Slice of Cake With... Jean Lee

Jean Lee is a Wisconsin born and bred writer excited to share her Young Adult Fantasy fiction with those who love to find other worlds hidden in the humdrum that surrounds us. Her first novel, Fallen Princeborn: Stolen, is available from Aionios Books. She is also the author of Tales of the River Vine, including the novella Night's Tooth.

What kind of stories do you write?

Hello, Claire, and thank you so much for having me! Let’s see, the types of books I write…well, I am not much for romance, though I think love always has a form and place in any given story. I grew up as something of an action junkie, so if a story isn’t filled to the brim with magic and mayhem, I start yawning. Whether that mayhem takes place here and now, long ago, or in an Elsewhere beyond our world, that depends on the story. But for me, I must follow the crew of motley characters to the sweet—or bitter—end.

Can you describe your writing why?

As a child, I wrote to escape the life of a preacher’s child. Those years had their golden moments as well as nightmarish shadows, but storytelling saw me through all of them. I loved writing so much I even studied it in school—in hindsight, a horrible decision. I was buried in rules of what writing was meant to be according to popular markets rather than shown the potential of what writing could be when the imagination is unfettered. By the time I graduated my love of writing was so soiled I didn’t think I could ever return to it.

Fast forward a few years: motherhood. And with motherhood, post-partum depression. I struggled to my husband and children, emotions lost in the space between my room and the world outside. I just couldn’t…couldn’t feel. I loved my family, but something inside had cracked, deep, and I had no way to repair it.

Until I began to write.

It started with a friend challenging me to National Novel Writing Month. I had never heard of it before, but when I signed up that first time, there was an excitement to create I had not felt since I was a child. I was no longer being told what was “good” storytelling. I was, at last, in control of something. I could work through my dark, sticky feelings of depression by molding them into fierce monsters and flawed heroes. I could find peace in the conflict. I could feel. 

I could feel.

And in this feeling I found a stronger, better sense of myself. I love my family dearly, and they me. But I know I am better at feeling that love because I give myself time to write, meditate, pray, and hope.

Share with us your favourite passage from the book you enjoyed writing the most

You mean I have to pick ONE? Well, snickerdoodle, how am I supposed to do that?! Hmmm.

Well, I am one who loves to write to music. A song can inspire a scene, an exchange, a battle. (This is why I have an entire section on my website dedicated to music. Stop by if you like!) One moment in particular stuck with me all through the years of drafting Stolen, a moment started by the song “Heroes” as sung by Peter Gabriel. I felt a magic with the strings like nothing else, and that magic translated into the art Liam is so very passionate to share with those close to him.


Safe with Fire

Charlotte wakes to the sound of fluttering pages. The smell of roses. Knitbone. A few other scents she does not know. It’s the night of a new moon, and the world is dark. 

Wilted flowers flutter on a bedside table as Charlotte, still prone in bed, stretches both arms above her head, flexing her fingers. She wriggles her legs. No pain. Her fingers fumble on the nightstand and find the lamp switch.

The whole room glows: something in the green, blue, and gray paint catches the light and reflects it as a warm, natural twilight. The ceiling depicts Cairine, garden and cottage, the shore just on the periphery, the sun rising. The wall behind the fireplace and desk depicts a mountain range blanketed by storm clouds and besieged by lightning. The remaining walls are covered with pictures and blueprints of planes, jets, helicopters—anything capable of flight. Charlotte squints at the hand-scrawled queries and question marks that litter the blueprints. 

I’m in Liam’s bed. Charlotte rolls out so fast that she takes the blankets with her.

She listens. He isn’t here. A sigh of relief, and curiosity overtakes her. Layers of clothes and books litter the floor: bell-bottom pants, a red flag with golden hammer and sickle, Fitzgerald, Hess, suede coat, a metal helmet, Dickens, Heaney, high-top sneakers, an old motherboard, Jones, and—was that Roger Ebert? The desk, a grand thing of rich finish, bends under the weight of a books and scribble-filled notepads—Gaelic mostly, but also Latin, French, Greek, and English: “The earth revolves around the sun? Why do the Celestine allow mankind to uncover such secrets?…” And a slew of other unintelligible scribbles.


Muffled voices float down the hall, and a door on the right is open just a sliver: the library. Light flashes like a lightning storm, only there is no thunder. Just lots and lots of clicks.

“And it never requires matches or oil?”

“For the dozenth time, Liam, no. But you will need a new lightbulb if you don’t knock it off.”

Crash. End of the flashes. And the room goes dim.

“Well done, Dorjan. Pray tell, how does this prevent the need for a new lightbulb?”

Dorjan’s mutterings are indecipherable, but a few clinks, a clank, and one click later, the light returns. “Now just let it—NO! Don’t touch it! You’ll get electrocuted—I mean a nasty juddering. By the heart’s fire, you’re worse than a human toddling about in diapers.”

Charlotte’s mouth tightens to keep the snickers in. She really shouldn’t eavesdrop, and don’t they deserve some privacy? She’s certainly not been quiet about her own need for space.

“Suit yourself. I wager Jenny never created the likes of this.”

Shadows dance along the door’s edges. Lights flicker, but not from clicking.

Oh, one last look, then I’ll go. Charlotte crawls to the library’s door and peers down.

Liam faces a great stained-glass window that spans nearly half of the wall. Firelight flashes at his hips as his empty hands reach out, up. Glass and iron: they creak, moan, bend, break, shatter, again and again. Shards of colors move, slide, from inside vines of copper that twist, grow, branch out. Within Liam’s vitreous canvas, colors shift and transmute at his bidding, and sunshine turns his dark world into day. And shapes: a sea of greens separating water and sky, a lake of a thousand blues, tiny white waning moons tilting and dancing on the water—skipping stones.

Outside, the sun fades, and night returns to the world, dimming and obscuring the vision in glass. Liam sits, studies his work in the darkening light. 

“Nicely done,” Dorjan says somewhere—under the stairwell perhaps. He’s out of Charlotte’s sight. “It’s even better than the bit of Cairine you did in the herbarium.”

“Thank you.”

A weird silence settles in. Do they know Charlotte’s listening? No: “You have to let her go.” Pause. 

“Look, you’ve got enough on your hands. So does Arlen. River Vine wasn’t safe for her before, and now it’s a guaranteed death trap. You know I can get her to safety.” Pause.

Tell us about your latest project

My debut novel is the product of my first NaNoWriMo all those years ago, a Young Adult Fantasy entitled Fallen Princeborn: Stolen. I published it through a small indie press in 2018 and spent the following months preparing the second instalment, Fallen Princeborn: Chosen. In the spring of 2019, however, the publisher decided not to continue with the series. What to do?

I pondered a bit while writing my western fantasy novella Night’s Tooth. There was so much that I loved in Chosen. So many terrible places I travelled with my protagonists in the battle to keep them together, to find love together. I could not just let that story go unfinished.

That is why we are here. I chose to self-publish Fallen Princeborn: Chosen on Amazon at the end of October. There are mermaids to duel, stars to counsel, and beasts to battle. My main protagonists, Charlotte and Liam, may have won the day at the end of Stolen, but the fight has only just begun…not just over the cursed land of River Vine, but for the fire-heart of Liam himself.

CHARLOTTE’S FAMILY MAY NO LONGER REMEMBER HER NAME,

BUT HER ENEMIES WILL NEVER FORGET.

Charlotte just wanted to start a new life with her sister Anna out of the reaches of their abusive uncle. When their journey led to Anna’s disappearance from human memory, Charlotte hunted for her sister and the mysterious creatures that took her behind an ancient Wall that hid a land of magic the world had long forgotten. Charlotte woke the Princeborn Liam Artair, and with his return the conflict between factions of the magical Velidevour turned cursed and deadly.

Now Charlotte must end this conflict before the land of River Vine and the inhabitants she’s befriended are consumed by Orna, Lady of the Pits, who is still very, very eager to see her beloved return. And Orna is not the only one who wants hold of the Princeborn Liam’s heart. These Velidevour come armed with firey wings, crimson claws, and pale fire, and like dead magic, they know no kindness.

The Bloody Days are soon returning, and they will not end until a choice is made, a choice that could tear the heart of River Vine apart.

Fallen Princeborn: Chosen is a direct continuation of Fallen Princeborn: Stolen. Recommended for fans of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, Brigid Kemmerer’s A Curse So Dark and Lonely, and Sarah J. Maas’ A Court of Mist and Fury.


What is your favourite cake?

Oh, the sweet agony of indecision! I have so many. Once upon a time you could have asked this and I would have simply said “Sheet Cake,” for I was one of those notorious Frosting Fiends that would take a fork and scrape the border frosting from aaaaaall around the cake. Alas, my stomach no longer cares for buttercream frosting in any colour, so these days I tend to make dump cakes in my slow cooker. My favourite is a s’mores dump cake, which uses devil’s food cake mix, chocolate pudding, crushed graham crackers, and mini-marshmallows to keep that sweet summer treat warm and ready for the soul all year round.


Connect with Jean online:


Thanks, Jean - great to connect with you!

Join me next week when I have a slice of cake with Don Scobie.

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Claire Buss is a multi-genre author and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find out more about her books on her website clairebuss.co.uk. Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop.

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