Interview with Jen Williams (THE NINTH RAIN)
Jen Williams lives in southeast London where she works as a bookseller and copywriter. Her first three books were nominated for British Fantasy Awards in 2015, 2016, and 2017 respectively, and she won the award for Best Fantasy Novel in 2018 and 2019. She has written for various magazines as well as her various novels. Her latest novel, thriller Dog Rose Dirt is due out in 2021 with HarperFiction.
Hi Jen, welcome back to the Hive! Thank you so much for joining us for Women In SFF.
Readers: if you want an interview looking at Jen’s writing process etc, you can read our previous Author Spotlight here.
You come upon a creature of alien beauty, entangled by the willowy roots of an ancient oak. It begs of you release, telling you it’s been trapped as punishment for its arrogance. It tells you that it will be in your debt if only you cut it free with its weapon, a sword whose blade is buried half-way into the ground but a few feet away from the oak. What do you do?
Well I happen to have some experience with alien entities trapped within the roots of ancient trees, and I have learned not to trust them (unlike some of my characters). I’d probably ask the tree how it felt about the situation. And then steal the sword.
Vintage is known, and loved, for her no-nonsense fiery nature. How would she deal with Boris Johnson?
Vintage has absolutely no time for liars, and even less regard for people who use their power to enrich themselves to the detriment of others. She would challenge him to a public debate, where naturally she would slaughter him, but of course Johnson would never agree to it because he has the intellect of a doorstop and knows full well he would lose. Perhaps then she would commit to a long-term campaign of showing him up for the creature he is – every lie, fact checked; every abuse of power, dissected on street corners with mega phones. And then eventually, exile him into the worst bit of the Wild she can find.
What fictional character would Wyd cause most trouble on a night out with?
Nanny Ogg is my traditional answer here, since Wydrin is a kind of long lost Ogg daughter. They would enjoy trying to drink each other under the table very much. I do also wonder how much of a mess would be left in various taverns if she spent some time hanging out with Crowley from Good Omens, but perhaps that would end badly – Crowley can just miracle away his hangovers, and I don’t think Wydrin would appreciate that sort of ‘cheating’.
If you could travel back in time to anywhen, when and where would you go?
I would quite like to zip back to pre-Roman Britain, to get a good look at what was going on then, the sorts of culture and gods we had (we know so very little about it, really) – or perhaps to the Tudor Court. I would like to be able to leap in and out of places, so I could blip into existence, shout ‘oi Henry you twat!’ and then vanish again, my appearance to be pondered over by scholars for centuries. Shakespeare would probably reference me as ‘that rough ghoste’ and it would be great.
Ah The Adventures of That Rough Ghoste, I studied that for A Level!
Given that Tor is one for moaning about… everything, if he was put into our current situation and was in lockdown with a dwindling supply of wine, how would he cope?
Well when you think about it he has already experienced something like it, when the Eboran civilisation started to fall to pieces. I don’t think they were especially close to running out of wine, but you can bet it would definitely have been on his mind. Tor’s solution to this would be like most things: ask Vintage to sort it out.
You’ve probably been asked this a million times already but, what kind of creature would your war beast be?
A giant lemur would be pretty funny, but I suspect my war-beast would be rather like Kirune: a massive grumpy cat. Battlecat but with more attitude.
Everyone’s favourite grumpy battlecat.
Jen help! The Jure’lia are here, and we’re trying to fight them off! A spider-mother has Entrapta cornered, but Bow is stuck and that maggot is bearing down on him – QUICK! You can only save one!
As much as I love Entrapta, Bow is essentially my favourite character of the entire cartoon, so, sorry Entrapta… (I’m sure her hair can get her out of it anyway).
If you could ship Sebastien with any other fictional character, who would it be?
This is a tricky one. He has the roughest time romantically of all the Copper Cat characters, and I left him in a fairly happy place, so I wouldn’t want to disrupt that… Having said that, I think Dorian from Dragon Age Inquisition would enjoy winding him up, and Sebastian would appreciate that moustache and sense of humour very much.
By the way, you can read more about Jen’s favourite Dragon Age characters here.
Jen, you’re moving away from fantasy for your next book and venturing into the crime/thriller genre, so we must ask – if you were to murder someone how would you do it?! Which serial killer scares you the most?
Well if I tell you how I would do it, then I can never use that method, can I? Much too suspicious.
All serial killers are pretty awful and scary just by the nature of what they do, but there are those that fascinate me particularly. Ted Bundy is an interesting case because of how completely he was able to separate himself from what he had done, how thoroughly he had believed in himself – to the point of representing himself in court (not wise). He clearly thought he was hot shit, yet watching interviews with people who knew him when he was younger, it’s fairly obvious everyone thought he was a bit of a twerp. It’s the extent to which people are capable of deluding themselves over who and what they are that fascinates me. Bundy was dedicated to avoiding responsibility, I think, and didn’t think of himself as a monster, which is truly remarkable, given all the things he did.
If you could murder any fictional character, why would it be Frodo Baggins you monster?
Hahaha, Frodo is safe from me, honest. It is hard to pick a character I would murder, because even the really awful ones are entertaining. Maybe the Emperor from Star Wars – I feel like everyone in that universe would have had a much better time without him around.
We’ve loved seeing your artistic creations! Who would your dream commission be?
I have had a couple of commissions that have involved drawing other people’s fictional characters, which I enjoyed a lot. Really my dream commission would be an old-fashioned kind of artistic patronage, where some very wealthy person gives me lots of cash in order to hang around drawing and painting and being a very serious artist.
Finally, let’s end on a serious note, are you returning to the world of fantasy in any future work? (Please say yes!!)
Hopefully at some point, yes! I enjoy writing fantasy too much to leave it alone forever, and I have a couple of novels simmering away in the background. I just have to hope someone wants them when they’re finally done.
Brilliant! Thank you so much for joining us today Jen.