Welcome to the sixth Author Spotlight post of 2022! Every month, I showcase an indie author and interview them to find out more about their writing life.
This month, the author in the spotlight is J.E Glass! I met J.E. through social media and was so excited when she came out with her debut novel. If you like Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, make sure you pop over to J.E.'s accounts to check out her spectacular Gideon cosplay (and her wife's spectacular Harrow cosplay), plus some amazing Undergrounder art!
Bio: J.E. Glass is a Washington DC suburbanite who grew up on a healthy dose of monument hopping and city exploration. Her time traipsing through the suburbs served to feed her deep love for hidden worlds and galactic mysteries. When she's not bent over her laptop or plying her carpentry skills to her latest nerdy project, she can be found attending conventions or happily getting lost in the woods with her wife and best friend of sixteen years.
Q: Can you tell readers a bit about Undergrounder and the inspiration behind it?
A: Undergrounder is a modern sapphic retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in post 9/11 New York. It follows Alex Bailey and Leanna Farrow, two women from vastly different worlds colliding in a time of crime and crisis that will either unite them in extraordinary ways or burn their worlds to ash.
The inspiration behind the book came from a lot of different things. I grew up on a healthy diet of Gargoyles, Hellboy, and the old 1987 Beauty and the Beast TV series, so it was only a matter of time before those leaked into my writing, but I also wanted to showcase my love for hidden worlds tucked away right under our noses and unconventional yet honest romance.
Q: Undergrounder has such a strong sense of place. How did you go about building the setting, both Topside and the Underground?
A: I really had to focus on extreme opposites while building up both worlds. Topside was easy. That’s our world with a set of rules we all more or less understand. Especially those who grew up during 9/11 and the world that tragedy created. The Underground needed to be Topside’s exact opposite. Not Utopian because no place on earth is ever truly perfect, but I wanted there to be a sense of old world charm there. Where life seemed simpler and kinder.
Once I figured out the emotional foundation, building the physical aesthetic was pretty easy. I worked backwards from the image in my head that went a little something like: New York is a jungle so why not have the Underground be like a cave system under that jungle? If it is, how do the people live? Where do they get their food? How is it delivered? Do they have modern creature comforts or something more primitive? And so on.
Q: How do you choose your characters’ names?
A: While I’d love to give a really cryptic answer about name symbology and such, I literally just sat and scrolled through a bunch of names until one stuck out at me. If I felt it fit, I tacked it on and went to the next character. The only character I didn’t do this with was Georgia. I really wanted her name to be an homage to the first African American police officer, Georgia Ann Robinson, and the first African American NYPD officer, Samuel J. Battle. Georgia speaks in canon about her family’s history with the PD, so I wanted her roots to be as legitimate as possible while also being respectful.
Q: Have any of your characters surprised you? If so, how?
A: Georgia and Emilia both really came out of left field while my wife and I were hashing out the first draft of the story. Georgia’s role was much smaller in the beginning, but the more we talked about her the more we realized her growing importance. Em wasn’t originally Peruvian in the first take of the book, but thanks to one of my best friends who is also my Spanish translator, she took on a life of her own and really blossomed as a character. Readers have my friend to thank for her snark and humor!
Q: Why did you choose the self-publishing route?
A: Control. That’s the easiest answer. While trad publishing has its obvious perks, I wasn’t keen on the idea of having someone I didn’t know and who didn’t know me tweak or remove parts of my story to either make it more “palatable” or condensed. I also didn’t want to give up the gorgeous cover done by my cover artist in lieu of someone who didn’t know my work attempting to make a new cover. Especially since paranormal romance and lesbian stories have a standard “look” that I’ve never been impressed with. Thanks to self-publishing, my book is exactly how I want it, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.
Q: What advice would you give authors who are looking into self-publishing?
A: On top of doing your research and picking the avenue that appeals best to you, realize that YOU are now in charge of selling and marketing your work. Hitting publish isn’t going to ensure success. You’re going to need to learn how to pitch your work, how to network, and how to swallow the fact you’ll have more lean times than times of plenty. But also remember that this is a learning experience and be okay with failing. Failure isn’t the period at the end of a sentence. It simply means you try a different tactic. Never give up.
Q: Do you have any writing rituals? (e.g., lighting a candle before you write, meditating before you write, going for a walk to get ideas)
A: I’m a very boring person. When I’m ready to write I just sit down, turn on my TV, set it to mute, and then start writing. That’s it.
Q: What does your research process look like for your writing, if there is one?
A: Google and Wikipedia are close friends of mine. Honestly, it's a little [wild] how much research I do for something that’s marketed as paranormal romance and urban fantasy, but I want my world to be believable and grounded in reality as much as possible. I've spent hours pouring over Google Maps, moving the little floating human around on street level, trying to pinpoint the perfect location for a scene, or combing through hundreds of Wikipedia pages looking for a sliver of a fact that will add agency to an upcoming scene. A good example is the research I did into dry drowning, which is mentioned in the first few chapters of Undergrounder. Or Lee going to the foot of the suspension tower to break in. I spent so much time on Google Maps I probably alerted the FBI.
Q: Do you have any specific authors or books that you've learned from on your writing journey?
A: The few that come to mind are Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series, Alex E. Harrow’s The Once and Future Witches and Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora. All three of these authors have such a unique way of crafting stories and the worlds they inhabit.
Q: What’s your number one tip for tackling imposter syndrome?
A: Is it terrible to say that when I figure it out I’ll tell you? Because I get hit with it so often I should probably sue for emotional damage.
Q: How do you refill your creative well?
A: Reading fanfiction or crafting. I love working with my hands and completely detaching from the writing world really lets my brain rest and reset. Reading fanfics is also a great way to unwind with low stakes stories and characters I already know while absorbing awesome prose. Honestly, some of the best stories I’ve read were fics.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: I know the answer should be Topsider, but I’ve never been one to write in chronological order. The next book I’ll be publishing, and the one I’m currently finishing as we speak, is Blood and Tines. This brute of a book will serve not only as a kick ass standalone dark fantasy but also the foundational story for the world I’m creating. The same world where Undergrounder exists some 200+ years after the events in Blood and Tines, and where the rest of my books will take place. You won’t understand what’s going on in Topsider until you read BaT, and I promise it won’t disappoint.
If you'd like to follow J.E. Glass on her writing journey or find out more about her stories, this is where you can find her: