Author Spotlight – Jane Routley (SHADOW IN THE EMPIRE OF LIGHT)
Jane Routley has published 6 books and won two Aurealis Awards for Best Fantasy Novel. Her seventh book is Shadow in the Empire of Light. She has had a variety of careers, including fruit picker and occult librarian and she lived in Germany and Denmark for a decade. She recounts her experiences doing customer service at a railway station in the blog “Station Stories”. She is a keen climate activist and player of Fantasy Role Playing games.
Welcome to the Hive, Jane Routley. Let’s start with the basics: dazzle us with an elevator pitch! Why should readers check out your work?
Shadow in the Empire of Light has been described as modern Jane Austen with magic. It stars Shine, an orphan without magical gifts in a family of powerful mages, who is stuck in the country managing the family estate with only an eccentric aunt and a telepathic cat for company. But when the family descend on the house for the annual Fertility Festival, Shine is plunged into intrigue. While helping one cousin to find a compromising letter, rescuing another from an unwelcome alliance and hiding a fugitive, she also discovers a smuggling ring and is forced to run for her life
Okay, time to escalate things: reality warps and you suddenly find yourself leading a D&D-style party through a monster-infested dungeon. What character class are you, and what’s your weapon of choice?
I’ve never actually played D and D, but if I did I’d chose a sword fighter with a bit of battle magic. I mostly play Call of Cthulhu and in that case I’d play one of those feisty twenties suffragette types who drives cars, shoots, flies planes and rushes in where angels fear to tread. Kind of like Phryne Fish from Kerry Greenwood’s detective novels. Someone completely unlike me.
When you’re not trawling through dungeons, how do you like to work? Tell us a little bit about your writing method!
I used to work in a study full of books but I kept getting distracted by the books. So now I take my laptop out to the kitchen table. Doing the dishes is strangely easy to put off. I get up early and try to write for two hours in front of the computer before I go to work mid-morning. I have to have this routine because almost everything in the world is easier and more important to do than writing. Yet if I don’t write at all – and I won’t if I don’t have the routine – I get sad.
If I get stuck I write some other part of the book, but I stay in front of the computer otherwise it won’t happen at all. I fly by the seat of the pants for my first draft which means I get into a story by writing about the character, places or situations. If I start working on idea and keep asking myself why such a thing is happening, the story grows. It means I do a lot of rewriting.
What (or who) are your most significant fantasy influences?
I love good writing of any sort so I’m a big fan of Jane Austen, Angela Carter and Georgette Heyer –who I think could count as fantasy. Aside from Tolkien and Lovecraft, I loved LM Boston as a child and anything else that was uncanny without being horror. I really loved Suzanna Clarke’s, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell for instance and this year I’ve become totally enthralled discovering Francis Hardinge. So rich and deeply textured. For the same reason I enjoyed Kathleen Jennings Flyaway which was a wonderful combination of fairy tale with a strongly evoked Queensland backdrop But I love to laugh as well so Diana Wynne Jones and Gail Carriger are favourites too.
Excellent choices, particularly Austen, Carter and Clarke!
Are there any writers or creators whom you’d love to collaborate with?
There’s lots I’d love to workshop with. I admire people like Kate Elliot and Frances Hardinge. When I was first starting out N.Z. writer Cherry Wilder mentored me and she was great. But I don’t know about collaboration. I always have a very strong idea of what I want to say and how I want a book to be. If I was by nature a collaborator I’d write something like screen plays or role playing games.
We always appreciate a beautiful book cover! How involved in the process were you? Was there a particular aesthetic you hoped they’d portray?
Solaris gave me a wonderful book cover. They really “got” my book. They went for a magical Jane Austen-y aesthetic
It really works! Not to mention I’m a sucker for a black cat…
The world shifts, and you find yourself with an extra day on your hands during which you’re not allowed to write. How do you choose to spend the day?
What a lovely dream. I’d go outside and garden or go for a walk in a forest preferably near water. The Japanese call it forest bathing and I’m a big fan.
One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
I’d choose a winged lion – elegant and furry as well as being betoothed and beclawed. I love cats.
Tell us about a book that’s excellent, but underappreciated or obscure.
I’m not sure if fantasy readers still read Angela Carter. I apologize if she is actually very mainstream. Her “The Lady of the House of Love” is one of the most beautiful of vampire stories, I’ve ever read. She excels at gothic fairy tales with a feminist twist
Hard agree! I’m a big fan of Angela Carter and don’t see her name mentioned nearly enough!
Finally, can you tell us a little something about your current work(s) in progress?
I’m working on a sequel for Shadow which doesn’t have a name yet. Shine and her cat get to go to the big city where she is plunged into further family plots. It’s taken me a while to find my way with it but it’s finally falling excitingly into place. She may even meet her long lost mother.
Thank you so much for joining us today Jane, and we wish you the very best with the sequel to Shadow!
Thank you so much for the chance to talk to you.