SP: Hi JJ! Thanks for joining us on the Spinning Pen. Before we get into book stuff, we’d LOVE to hear a bit about you and your writing journey! When did it all start?
JJF: It’s wonderful to be here! Thanks so much for having me.
Oh, where to begin? So, I started writing my first novel at age fourteen. I was on a family holiday touring Australia, in a place called Jurien Bay in Western Australia, when I had a dream of the opening scene of a novel. It contained just about every story cliché you can imagine, and was ditched VERY quickly, but I kept on working on that novel for years…plus, “Jurien” later became the first name of my villain. I’m sneaky like that.
My first degree was in English literature and creative writing, and I badly wanted to be a writer and editor. But people are always, “Oh, you need a day job”…and back then, I’m sorry to say I listened. So, I got myself a “day job”—I was very interested in human psychology and mental health, so I started down that pathway. Seven years of study later, I ended up as a clinically-trained psychologist. Everything was tracking along just fine until the beginning of 2018, when I started getting sick with a rather debilitating illness. By October that same year, my illness intensified to the point that I had to give up my job practically overnight. I was completely devastated, because I’d really come to love working with clients.
But God had a plan—and oh boy, was it a plan! As my symptoms went up and down, I ended up finishing that novel I’d been procrastinating over since age fourteen, and pitched it to publishers. It eventually found a home and was published in February 2021. I was completely hooked and kept on writing (the sequel to my debut was published in July that same year). While I haven’t been able to go back to psychology, a diagnosis of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) has led to some amazing treatments which have almost put me into remission, and I’ve been able to launch my own editing business, which has taken off in a way I never expected. I’m currently working on my eighth book (Calor is my fifth overall). Two of my books are out, and five are contracted, all with US-based publishers.
God has been so very good to me! It’s been a very hard few years, and my husband actually had cancer last year just after my illness relapsed, but God’s had His hand on us every step of the way. His mercies truly are new every morning.
SP: You talk about yourself in terms of Dr. Fun and Dr. Serious, which is hilariously brilliant by the way! Tell us more about where this came from and how it impacts your writing.
JJF: Ha! I’m stoked you enjoyed my website bio. I had so much fun writing that. So, I’m an odd kind of person. I love to laugh and have fun (I’m a compulsive meme-maker in my spare time, and my friends actually nicknamed me the Meme Queen)—the book I’m currently working on is a comedic fantasy. But I also like to write about very deep, very serious stuff. If you’ve read my debut duology, you’ll know I put my characters through a LOT. (I always end with a HEA, I promise.) But there’s lots of snarky dialogue and happy moments along the way. And I think that’s very true of life. There’s lots of hard times, lots of sadness and pain and trauma, but if we can laugh with abandon and search for the joy in-between, that really lightens the burden of living in this world.
SP: We hear you’re from Down Under. What’s it like living in Australia but working with American publishers? How do things differ culturally, if at all? *Cue me listening intently for your gorgeous Aussie accent.*
JJF: Oh, I love this! I never consider that I have an accent—everyone’s deaf to their own accent, I guess. 😉
So, you probably realize that here in the Land Down Under, we have beautiful beaches and amazing national parks but the trade-off is that we have to share them with a lot of very mean, very much out-to-kill-you creatures. Those cuddly, sleepy little koalas you see on TV—even those can do some damage. So I think we Australians are a pretty hardy breed, used to living with a constant level of soul-sucking fear. We’re also quite agreeable folk, because sometimes you just have to laugh and smile, or else you’ll cry.
Unfortunately, the downside of our lives flashing before our eyes almost every day is that we just don’t sweat the small stuff (and sometimes the big stuff). We’re more relaxed, more chilled…more apathetic, which is not a great thing. One of the things I’ve noticed about Americans is they’re so passionate about stuff. Which I completely love. Whether it’s talking books or faith or anything else, Americans are all-in. I reckon we Aussies could learn a thing or two from that.
I’ve absolutely loved working with Enclave Publishing and Mountain Brook Ink. The time zones thing can be hard at times (I still haven’t found a good time zone calculator), but it’s such an honor and privilege to be included as an international author—I love how welcoming and generous Americans are. I’ve learnt so much from Steve and Miralee and their respective teams.
SP: Ok, now for the exciting stuff! Your cover reveal for Calor just happened and it is STUNNING! I already added it to my TBR from the cover alone. Were you surprised when you first saw your cover? Was it what you envisioned?
JJF: Oooh, that makes me so happy to hear that!
So, I’ve always been a fan of Enclave’s covers—honestly, they are all incredible. And it’s been a longtime dream to have a cover by Kirk DouPonce. When the first draft of the cover dropped into my inbox, my heart just about jumped out of my chest. I was completely enthralled. It wasn’t at all what I’d expected, but Kirk just captured the book and the world so completely. That cover just makes you feel things, right? I’ve looked at it approximately 1,456,373 times since, and I’m still fangirling over it. The cover reveal last month was like Christmas morning, seeing everyone loving on it as much as I have.
SP: For readers who may not be familiar, tell us a little about Calor!
JJF: Oh, so much to tell you! So, it’s post-apocalyptic romantic fantasy, but for those who aren’t keen on too much post-apocalyptic, the world is very much fantasy-based. It’s written for adults, but fine for young adults too. The trilogy is a fantasy transformation of Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved 1843 tale The Nightingale, with echoes of the myths of Hades and Persephone.
Here’s a sneaky glimpse of the blurb:
What if you could edit memories with a single touch?
The world-that-was is gone, lost to everything except living memory . . . but remembering comes at a terrible price. Sixty-two years after the apocalypse, a new society has emerged from the ashes of the old world where highly valued memories are traded and nostalgia is worth dying—and even killing—for.
Enslaved by a cruel master, Sephone Winter is forced to use her rare ability to manipulate memories to numb the darkest secrets of the ruling aristocracy.
Then Lord Adamo appears, speaking of a powerful relic capable of permanently erasing memories and recovering Sephone’s own lost childhood. But not everything about the young lord is as it seems, and soon Sephone must choose between helping Lord Adamo forget his past or journeying deep into the land of Lethe, where the truth about who she really is might finally be revealed . . . and a long desired future restored.
SP: Where did the inspiration for your book come from??
JJF: Oh, this is a tricky one! As I mentioned, it’s very heavily influenced by Andersen’s The Nightingale, which is where the series title comes from. But even before that, I was toying with some ideas about memories and nostalgia. I’m a psychologist originally, and so those kinds of themes always influence my writing. Plus, I’m a huge fan of The Matrix, so I was fascinated by the theories around hyperreality and simulacra/simulation (Jean Baudrillard’s work, which partially inspired The Matrix) and the idea that we increasingly live in a world where the imitation has superseded the real—that is, we’re content to live in simulated versions of reality rather than reality itself. That concept gave birth to the idea of a post-apocalyptic society where people trade in memories of the world-that-was because they can no longer experience it for themselves, and the story just grew from there.
SP: What lessons have you learned along the way that you’d like to share with other aspiring writers?
JJF: So much to say here! But I think the thing I’ve learned the most, funnily enough, is to be careful how much advice you take on board, especially in the early days of your writing career. I wrote much of the first draft of my first novel without Internet on my computer—I know, terrifying, right? But it was actually hugely beneficial, because not only did it minimize distractions, but it allowed me to build a fantasy world without comparing it to the work of other authors. That’s one of the downsides of social media, that you’re always comparing yourself to other people. But you’re going to be a lot happier as an author if you work to your own pace and set your own standard/milestones.
The other valuable piece of advice I’ve come across is to read, read, read. There’s a wonderful saying by Pam Allyn: “Reading is like breathing in, and writing is like breathing out.” And that’s so true. If you’ve hit writer’s block, one of the best things you can do to read. We’re so fueled by other peoples’ creativity, and that’s a wonderful resource to tap into.
SP: Sadly, we’re running out of time here. Talk to us about marketing. What’s your strategy? Any tips for aspiring authors?
JJF: Oh, I hate marketing with a passion. It is my least favorite thing about being an author. I think the most useful piece of advice I’ve come across is not to sweat too much. Platforms come and go. Facebook and Instagram could go down tomorrow and you could lose all those followers you’ve painstakingly accumulated. Just focus primarily on writing the next book, and making it the very best it can be, and don’t forget to have fun on whatever platforms you inhabit, and your readers will be drawn to that.
One thing that I still think is important is to have a good website that captures your brand (rather than just your books). But once again, don’t sweat if you’re just starting out. Everything happens in good time.
SP: Ok, speed round. Favorite book?
JJF: You’re killing me! Can I have four tied equally for first place? Christy by Catherine Marshall, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers, and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (yep, that STILL only counts as one…)
SP: Word you can never spell? This may be a trick question…
JJF: Argh, so many… but maybe accommodate? That’s only spelt correctly because of spellcheck! Or maneuver!
SP: Most obscure hobby?
JJF: Artificial floristry! I can’t keep plants alive for long, so I do a lot of arrangements with artificial flowers. The quality these days is amazing. Also, I love practicing calligraphy. Is that equally obscure?
SP: Early bird or night owl?
JJF: Oh, my friend, I burn the candle at both ends. Who needs sleep?
SP: Where can we go to learn more about your books??
JJF: If you’re not afraid to know more about me, head to my website at www.jjfischer.com. There you can find all the linksss. (I said that in a Gollum voice. Did you hear it?)