Jeffe Kennedy is joining us today to talk about her novel, Shadow Wizard. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Lady Seliah Phel can’t escape feeling like she’s one of those fairytale princesses awakened from a long slumber—except that her life is no romantic story and there’s no happy ending in sight. Though she has her magic and she’s been rescued from the depths of madness that consumed her since adolescence, Selly finds that the years she lost aren’t so easily recovered. Everyone treats her like the child they remember. To prove something—perhaps only to herself—she’s recklessly volunteered to stave off a host of monsters with only the enigmatically alluring, cuttingly sarcastic, and probably deceitful wizard Jadren El-Adrel for company.
Jadren isn’t the heroic type. In fact, he’s not much of anything. Relentlessly groomed into a shadow of a man by his sadistic mother, he’s the perfect spy and tool, with no real will of his own. When he’s stranded in the wilderness with Seliah Phel, he figures the outcome is immaterial. Live or die, it’s all the same to him. But Seliah is a different story and she isn’t like anyone else. Though he reminds himself she’s basically a child in a woman’s body, he finds it increasingly difficult to resist her artless charms and relentless curiosity.
As their predicament goes from dire to disastrous, Jadren realizes his many failures have jeopardized Selly’s future, perhaps her very life. Far from home and trapped without resources, Selly has only Jadren to rely upon—the one person she can’t possibly trust. There seems no possibility of rescue from their friends and family back home at House Phel, so Jadren and Selly must work together to survive… if they can.
What’s Jeffe’s favorite bit?
I really loved writing Shadow Wizard, so it wasn’t easy to pick my favorite bit. The protagonists are secondary characters from previous books who come from traumatic pasts. They’re both smart, shrewd, and use sarcastic banter to cover their deep vulnerabilities. They go on an epic adventure that rockets them from bad situations to worse. I loved so much about them and how they learned about themselves and each other, that I nearly rhapsodized about that. But then I remembered that I could talk about how I also got to play with a super fun trope I’d been wanting to explore for a long time.
While this is book #1 in the Renegades of Magic trilogy, the story continues the arc begun in the Bonds of Magic trilogy. That means most of the worldbuilding had been established. All the big pieces of the society and magic system were in place, which let me focus on more specific bits and explore them.
In this book, that specific bit is a house that may or may not be self-aware.
Magic is the most valuable commodity in this world. All the comforts of life derive from the application of magic, and Houses hold trademarks for specific applications of magic and the resulting product lines. My wizard protagonist is from a house that specializes in enchanted artifacts, and there have been previous references to the physical house itself being the ultimate conglomeration of magical devices. Over generations and centuries, the wizards of House El-Adrel have added onto the physical house, building on bits and pieces to suit their projects and fancies.
There was no doubt a fair amount of showing-off, as well.
The result is the ultimate funhouse, a sprawling manse full of wonders and horrors. Run by enchanted clockwork, entire wings of the house have an unsettling habit of moving or disappearing altogether—and woe to the unlucky who might be trapped inside at the time without the wizardry to influence what the house decides to do. With magic layered upon magic, and perhaps more than a few people absorbed into the framework of the manse, the house has developed a mind of its own. Along with an agenda that’s not aligned with what its denizens have planned.
In the course of this story, my protagonists end up trapped in this house, trying to find their way through it, and hopefully, out of it again. That’s where the fun for me came in! I got to invent all manner of crazy rooms, towers, tunnels, and staircases to nowhere. Whimsical, beautiful, occasionally horrifying, the enchanted aspects of this house provide a crucible for the protagonists, and allowed me to imagine pretty much anything I wanted.
And, ultimately, the house plays a critical role in the outcome of events, in ways that even I didn’t expect. In discussions of worldbuilding, we sometimes talk about whether the world can function as a character. In this book, it literally did, and it was a blast to play with.
Jeffe Kennedy is a multi-award-winning and best-selling author of epic fantasy romance. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) and is a member of Novelists, Inc. (NINC). She is best known for her RITA® Award-winning novel, The Pages of the Mind, the recent trilogy, The Forgotten Empires, and the wildly popular, Dark Wizard. Jeffe lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is represented by Sarah Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency.