Author Interview Danielle Bennett And Jaida Jones
First of all, I owe everyone an apology. To Danielle Jones, Jaida Jones, and TBR and Beyond, I apologize. This post is late. That is completely my fault. Much like my interview with Chloe Gong was late, so was this interview post. As, I hope my history will show, this is not how I operate. It has been a rough time since Pavel passed at the end of July. That isn’t an excuse, it is just a note as to why. But it is on me and again I want to give my apologies for not upholding my date (Tuesday). It is also, in no way, a reflection of my love for this interview, or Master Of One, which I feel a great deal of love, for both! At the bottom of this post, you will see a link to the “tour schedule.” Even though the tour ended, please visit everyone’s posts. They are wonderful!
Now, as I’ve said forever and a day, and then some. Don’t fuck with the Fae. They will spite themselves rather than help anyone. The Fae are one of my favorite reading subjects. When Master of One was first announced, I went ballistic, and Master of One did not disappoint. When I put this interview together, I couldn’t wait to dive in with Danielle Bennet and Jaida Jones, not just about the Fae but the magic system, themes, and trajectory. And they did not disappoint in their demented thought process, in developing this amazing debut.
Don’t Mess With The Fae… So You Started A War?
…and trying to steal their magic. This can’t possibly end well. Who came up with this thought? Did the other say- Woah wait? We want to live through this and not stir the fae gods? As Blanche Devereaux
Jaida: (Shoutout to Blanche Devereaux, whose experience writing in one of our favorite Golden Girls episodes is the greatest representation of what writing feels like to us.) Ahem. Perhaps obviously, the first draft of this book was written in the shattered aftermath of Dani being diagnosed with breast cancer, so it definitely got a lot darker than either of us anticipated. Oops? (Or yay, depending!) We ourselves were trying to come to terms with having all our plans blasted to shrapnel, all the fragments of our lives scattered to the four corners of the universe, and the psychological horror of losing our basic trust in the continued functionality of our actual, physical bodies. Simultaneously, fascism, imperialism, and the gross distance between the wealthy few and the rest of society intensified all around us, and thus, Master of One’s miserable world was born!
Dani: I love this question because it made me rub my hands together and cackle in fiendish glee. I would love to someday do a prequel-style exploration of the Fair Wars period because I bet all kinds of crazy shenanigans went on. I think there was probably a perfect storm between a bloody-minded queen and a dangerous sorcerer, both wanting to dominate and control, both willing to do anything to get there. That kind of zealotry would easily have overcome any of the more rationally-minded folks who perhaps did not see the wisdom in going to war with the fae.
Bloody Mary Bloody Mary Bloody Mary…
Master of One and Beyond the Ruby Veil have two of the most unique magic systems I’ve read this year. Mirrorcraft is dark with far-reaching implications. I can imagine, although I won’t ask for any spoilers for book 2, that we haven’t seen how far it will reach, or the extent of damage it will cause. How did that idea come about and get developed?
Dani: The shard of glass in the heart takes its origins from The Snow Queen. Something about the image of magic mirror slivers piercing your heart or your eyes really stuck with both of us! As a kid, I was always terrified of that party game where you go into a dark room and say Bloody Mary 3 times into the mirror. I think that reflections are just about the scariest thing there is, and I love combining magic and scary! Without revealing too much, I can safely say that we hope to stretch the limits of mirrorcraft in book 2.
Jaida: Exactly what Dani said! I was one of those kids absolutely mind-numbingly terrified of Bloody Mary, yet constantly attempting to conjure her, to find the right mirror that would bring her up for a chat. (I was also trying to conjure a long-lost relative, but that’s a weird kid digression…) Mirrors hold so much power. The fun thing about them is that they usually have silver in their plate backing, so it seemed like the perfect, tangible vehicle for the sorcerers’ magic system in the book. (My only rule about creating magic systems is that I like to have that tangible vehicle, something mundane but with liminal properties, to pin the system to.)
About these magical animals?
Dani: For sure, I consider them familiars! Even if they are mechanical, they still have what I would call a soul in its crudest terms. Kind of a classic artificial intelligence trope. But it’s a fun duality to play with because they are made, they’re created, and by a tricky fae king, at that.
It’s easy to focus on the bond fragments form with their masters, but there’s an otherworldliness there as well. There’s nothing human about them and they aren’t really made for humans.
Jaida: YES to familiars, though the fragments aren’t technically familiars in the customary sense. We have a lot of cats, and the thing I love about cats is that they don’t belong to their so-called “owners” in any way. They’re these mysterious, fathomless, small, and demanding roommates who share a bond of love with you that cannot be explained or even fully understood. We tried to draw on that when conceiving of the fragments and giving them sentience, also looking to the Gundam/mech genre in our conception of the Great Paragon. I’ve been such a sucker for that genre my entire life—from Transformers to Pacific Rim, from Power Rangers to Gundam Wing—and I love the powerful connection built-in those sci-fi franchises between humans and their mechs. We really wanted to convey some of that but in the fantasy genre.
Would You Like To Play A Game…
Looking at 1-3- Each on their own is about enough to carry a book. How did you find a way (which you did an incredible job) to take each and build this intricate chess game utilizing these moving pieces?
Jaida: It took a LOT of editing! The first draft was so slim and so many corners were left unexplored in comparison to the final book. (Also, oh my God, it’s an actual book, what the hell! I’m still having trouble fully believing that…) We ended up weaving in almost ten new POV chapters for Somhairle in one of our editing passes, which was an extra level of puzzle play that my brain, at least, struggled to keep up with. We had to break the book down into its individual fragments in our attempt to put together a coherent and cohesive whole!
Dani: It was definitely a story where we had to have the finished draft before we could start to pick it apart and make sure everything worked. The editing process was huge in terms of fitting all those puzzle pieces together. We knew the basic beats we wanted to hit, but making sure there was a natural flow of action between the protagonists and the discovery of their fragments was something that we added in fairly late to the writing process.
Politics, Classism, And Representation…
Speaking of chess games… the politics of the royal court and that queen! What kind of dark sorcery is this that she is playing. I am all for political intrigue. And how that plays into classism, ripple effects of the rest of “her people,” it is very relevant to all that is going on today. Especially when you look at the characters and the representation that they bring to the table. How did you choose where your focus would be when it came to class, culture, sex, and disability (physical/mental) representation?
Jaida: If I could marry this question, I would! Right now it seems to me that imperialism and its lasting ripple effects on our society are a true poison, a villain of our current world. When thinking of what it might be like if humans today, for example, encountered a land with a beautiful, powerful, unfamiliar fae population native to its shores, it’s pretty clear that humanity’s first instinct would be toward domination. Take what appeals, and destroy the rest. That’s the mindset we were in when we were writing Master of One, and it didn’t improve over the course of the editing process. But for my day job, I work with teenage poets and activists who are doing so much to shed light on the various injustices of class and race in the US and beyond, and their strength is matched only by their powerful insight and wisdom. I’m constantly inspired by how they organize and build community through mutual aid, how certain and proud they are of themselves and their identities. If anything, I just wanted to honor them and their fight however I could, because I fully believe they’re going to save this broken world.
Dani: I also love political intrigue! In terms of representation, it was really important to us to have a variety of diverse characters. Whether they’re of noble birth like Inis and Somhairle or commoners like Rags and Cab, each of them is an outsider in their own way, and that band of outsiders coming together to create their own group where they finally belong is a big theme of the book. We wanted it to be obvious that the Queen’s rule is damaging to characters from every walk of life.
We all know how that ended up…
Prologue And Killing Characters Up Front
What is with the trend of killing a character in the first paragraph of a book? It is insanely catching, and fantastical fun- but also quite the corner for an author to paint themselves into, no? Is that the kind of thing you start with and write backward? Or do you write the book and then have the idea to pull that out, and start it upfront? In Adult Psychological Thrillers you often have a piece or clue to the ending upfront- but not that much, even (rarely, maybe).
Jaida: We actually wrote the prologue much later in the game, after we received our editorial letter from our amazing editor, Alice! Normally, I am a wuss, and I do not like to kill characters, as there is enough death and misery in the real world and the writing I like best doesn’t always have to tear your still-beating heart right out of your chest. In prior drafts, we’d only alluded to the horror of the Ever-Loyal massacre in the manuscript’s pages, but getting the opportunity to—even if only briefly!—see things from Tomman’s point of view hint at what that night was like for him was a twisted kind of fun. Unfortunately, he then became one of my favorite characters, which is troublesome, seeing as how he is extremely dead.
Dani: There was never a draft of the story where Tomman was alive, but I don’t think either of us expected to write from his POV. It was in the editing process that we ended up giving him that agency. Inis’s experience of living through the Ever-Loyal massacre is even more powerful after having seen it through Tomman’s eyes, I hope. But it is just like us to get fascinated by something told in flashback enough to want to pull it to the forefront.
Messaging And Themes
Did you ever feel concerned about misrepresenting cultural appropriation in reality when creating a world where people are trying to steal magic from the fae? What message is there to be gained (other than- I imagine- it is going to come back and bite them because you don’t mess with the damn fae)? 🙂
Dani: It’s definitely going to come back and bite them! How that will shakedown is something Jaida and I are both really excited to explore. I think Master of One is about this generation of kids realizing the world they know is a product of cultural appropriation. Both Rags and Inis start out with some ideas about the fae that turn out to be wildly inaccurate, because history is written by the victors, and the current victors are human. The people trying to steal magic from the fae are definitely the bad actors in this story!
Jaida: We definitely didn’t want the fae to be a direct parallel for any one culture, but we definitely did want what the Queen and her sorcerers did to them to be a clear example of how dangerous cultural appropriation is. There’s some literal leeching of the fae’s vitality, their lifeblood, in ways that are spoilery so I won’t get too into them, that we hoped would drive that point home!
Leave A Message For Eachother!
Jaida: I am so sorry for what an actual monster I become while we’re deep in the weeds of editing, Dani!
Dani: Thank you for being the best writing partner a person could ask for!
What Would You Master?
Jaida: I was going to say languages, but also, parkour. Or visual art. Can I choose all three?
I mean you can but.. what is that saying? LOL
About the Authors:
Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett are married co-authors (without wanting to divorce yet) who live in Brooklyn with 8 cats. Danielle is from Victoria, British Columbia, and works freelance as an independent editor, proofreader and plagiarism checker. Jaida is a native New Yorker. Their published work includes four novels from the Volstovic Cycle, in addition to their many twitter rants on intersectional feminism and the NYC subway system.
About Master Of One
Master of One by Dani Bennett and Jaida Jones
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publishing Date: November 10, 2020
Master Of One Summary:
Sinister sorcery. Gallows humor. A queer romance so glorious it could be right out of fae legend itself. Master of One is a fantasy unlike any other.
Rags is a thief—an excellent one. He’s stolen into noble’’s coffers, picked soldier’s pockets, and even liberated a ring or two off the fingers of passersby. Until he’s caught by the Queensguard and forced to find an ancient fae relic for a sadistic royal sorcerer.
But Rags could never have guessed this “relic” would actually be a fae himself—a distractingly handsome, annoyingly perfect, ancient fae prince called Shining Talon. Good thing Rags can think on his toes, because things just get stranger from there…
T young adult fantasy debut will have readers rooting for a pair of reluctant heroes as they take on a world-ending fae prophecy, a malicious royal plot, and, most dangerously of all, their feelings for each other.