Author of Storyteller
Today I am chatting to Jenifer Kodanko from the writing team of Jennifer and Luke Kodanko who are the authors of fantasy book series The Hurricane Chronicles of which the first two books Storyteller and Intruder are now available.
Helen: Welcome Jennifer. So excited to meet half of a writing team. Tell us how it works!
Jennifer: My pen name is J.L. Kodanko, and the initials stand for both mine and my husband’s first names. (Jennifer and Luke) Our writing is a joint effort and we truly make a phenomenal team. I usually have the seed of an idea, and my husband helps flesh it out into a full story. I dream up the characters, and he helps round them out into credible people. Together we work on the plot and scheme up all kinds of twists and turns and schemes to make it the most enjoyable reading experience possible.
Helen: Sounds like a perfect writing team! So what books are you working on?
Jennifer: My current fantasy series is called The Hurricane Chronicles. It’s a Young Adult Fantasy series that follows Reka of the Agiles. Our tagline is “She knows all the legends, but she doesn’t know her own story.” The series has two books published, and there will be two more before it is complete. By the end of Storyteller (book 1), all the players have been assembled. By the end of Intruder (book 2), we understand that things are not as they seem in the drought ravaged land of Orosea. And in the final two books, we will see the culmination of this story, where our heroes will hopefully triumph over evil, as long as I do my job right!
Helen: I have Storyteller on my physical TBR list. I am looking forward to starting your series! The cover is gorgeous, how did you come up with the design?
Jennifer: Reka sits around the fire with her traveling acrobatic troupe and tells them stories in the evenings. Through them we learn about the world of Orosea, and the problems that have been plaguing it. So choosing a cover with a dynamic fire was a shoe-in, and the sword is meant to evoke the warrior that she encounters in her travels. He will be a critical part of her story! This was our first attempt at designing a cover, and a year later I’m still thrilled with the results!
Helen: I love it when the cover supports the story. Tell us what made you write this particular story.
Jennifer: Three years ago, my husband challenged me to write a book-any book, start to finish. I chose to write a historical romance. It’s not going to win any awards, but it proved to me that I could, in fact, write an entire book. After that we started playing around with ideas for the premise to a fantasy series. We found our inspiration in Mayan mythology and I started writing. Six months later, I had a complete manuscript! I let a few friends read it and they loved it, and we started getting serious about publishing it. We chose to go the self publishing route because it allows us to retain all of the creative control over our work. Also, we can publish as quickly as we can write the books, which is immensely satisfying for both us and our readers!
Helen: Why did you choose to write fantasy?
Jennifer: I write fantasy because I learned from Star Trek: The Next Generation that you can tackle really big issues if you place the story in a fantastical setting. Fantasy has a way of putting people at ease, because no one feels attacked and everyone likes escapism. Then, once you’ve drawn readers into your fictional world, you can talk about things like courage, equality, honesty and integrity. Fantasy breaks down the walls that society builds, and I truly love that about the genre.
Helen: That is a great way of looking at it. When you think of your writing journey, what is the best piece of advice you’ve recieved?
Jennifer: This is specific to writing, but my mantra these days is “done is better than perfect.” I’d rather take a crack at something, give it my all, and then move on before I can spiral out into endless revisions and tweaks and adjustments. Looking back on the two books I’ve published, I’d change word choices and even some aspects of storytelling. But overall, I’m still really happy with the books I’ve written. I strive to improve with every book, and as a reader, I always enjoy watching an author grow in their craft. I’d rather have ten good books finished and published than one almost-perfect-but-it-needs-one-more-pass manuscript that no one else ever sees. For me, so much of the enjoyment of writing comes from hearing how people enjoyed my stories. If I don’t publish them, I’ll never get to share them with others. By and large, our readers have been immensely kind and supportive of the fact that writing is an endless learning curve.
Helen: How do you fit writing into your daily life?
Jennifer: It depends on the season I’m in. Sometimes I can schedule out 3-4 hour uninterrupted blocks each day to write, and that is glorious. Other times (like right now), I write for an hour in the mornings, fit in a little more throughout my day, and then another hour after the kids are in bed. That last hour is usually also brainstorming plot points and character arcs with my husband. It’s a bit piecemeal, but I’ll take writing time however it comes!
Helen: I’m the same. I think most writers have to fit writing into pockets of time, but sometimes, when I have a writing urge, I just have to take time off work because I can’t concentrate until I have got my thoughts on paper! How about music? Do you listen to music when writing or do you prefer silence?
Jennifer: I almost always listen to instrumental music when I’m writing. If I’m really stuck on a scene, music is one of my foolproof writer’s block busters. I’ve used Marvel Avengers soundtracks heavily in my writing of The Hurricane Chronicles-the scores are just so epically inspiring!
Helen: Which do you prefer, writing or editing?
Jennifer: 1000% writing. I see the value in editing, and I do it because my books are so much better after that effort. But writing a first draft is…magical. Everything is possible. The story is yet undiscovered. My characters are still raw, vague ideas in my mind. And I get to watch it all unfold through my fingertips. It’s glorious. I wish all writing could be just writing, and no editing!
Helen: So, if you didn’t write fantasy, would you try another genre?
Jennifer: I’m trying my hand at contemporary romance. It’s a whole different beast, and although I’ve written several different things, I feel like I’m just starting to get a handle on it. Emotional stories that aren’t plot driven are MUCH more difficult to write! But I’m a diehard romance fan, so it’s worth it to me to learn how to do it.
Helen: Thank you so much for joining me today, it has been great chatting with you. Last question, what are some of your favourite books that you’ve read recently?
Jennifer: I recently finished The Folk of the Air series by Holly Black, and I wholeheartedly recommend the entire series. That said, The Wicked King was my absolute favorite. The writing was top notch, I fell in love with the characters, and the entire plot was just so clever. Also, I’ve read An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir and her worldbuilding was masterful. I need to get back to that series! If you’re looking for a lovely, simple fantasy romance, Radiance by Grace Draven was an absolute delight. And I’ve read A Court of Mist and Fury so many times I’ve memorized some parts, so I guess that deserves a mention as well.
About the Author:
My first memory of a writing assignment should have been a signal to me that I would end up writing epic fantasy stories. I was tasked with a two paragraph story in second grade, and I filled two pages, front and back! My next memory of writing is a fun little story in sixth grade called Molly and the Terrible Day. It was a cast full of anthropomorphized kitchen items; the star, Molly, was a chipped cup (perhaps a Beauty and the Beast reference?). The villain was a blender, and the kitchen item in distress was a birthday candle. I printed it out (by hand!), bound it, and even gave it a hand drawn cover. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that I eventually ended up becoming serious about writing stories, since I was obviously a child prodigy.
High school and college gave me enough writing assignments about horribly boring things that I never had time for creative writing. Then I got married and started playing around with words again. I wrote a decorating blog for seven years, but then I started having kids, and time (along with sleep, and clean clothes) became a scarce and oh-so-precious commodity. Fast forward a few years, with a husband who never stopped encouraging me to write, and I finally just sat down and started writing. And the rest, as they say, is history.
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