Today we talk to author and gryfon extraordinaire, Jess E. Owen. She has delighted the furry fandom with her gryfons for a few years now (and sparked the endless debate on gryfon vs gryphon vs griffin). So long as we all agree to accept the different spellings of the species, Jess is here to discuss her success in self-publishing, as well as moving on to traditional publishing.
Tell us a little bit about your most recent project (written or published). Was there a particular inspiration for it?
I currently have two writing tracks going! My indie published fantasy world features gryfons and epic adventures, and I am working on the second book in a series sequel to the complete “Summer King Chronicles.” This story is a sequel to “Rise of the Dragon Star.” On the other track I have an agent and traditional publishing deal for two contemporary Young Adult novels (humans ;D ). The book due out in spring of 2022 is “A Furry Faux Paw,” about a young furry artist who attempts to break free of her controlling hoarder mother by escaping to a furcon with her friends. I’m nervous and excited and hope the fandom enjoys it.
The inspiration for the Summer King Chronicles was, at its heart, to write something unique with animal characters, featuring a fantasy species I felt was underserved. There are lots of dragons around, and a few unicorns, but not too terribly many gryphons.
The inspiration for “Faux Paw,” was, obviously, the fandom itself. My original books brought me into the fandom where I’ve found friends and wonderful experiences and a truly unique culture, and I wanted to write about someone in that “world” and so . . . I did!
What is your favourite thing about the furry fandom? Why write furry fiction?
I have always been drawn to animal fiction since I started reading. I think there’s a little part of all of us who wishes we could truly transform, have the animal experience, fly, swim, run. Writing furry fiction is a way of exploring that, and as a fantasy writer, it stretches the imagination to inhabit a whole other species and way of being. I think one of my favourite parts of the fandom is the joyous abandon with which people own their creations and share with each other. And after reading so much animal fiction as a kid, the transition to writing it just came naturally.
What is your writing process like? Do you outline and plot, or are you a “pantser”?
After years of writing, I’m still discovering my process! I have found that my stories do best when they’ve had a year or two (!!) to marinate and form in my brain, sifting and picking up and discarding ideas until the real story steps forward. So I really try to pick the story I’m going to work on well in advance so I can obsess and inhabit it when the time comes to write. Then I do a loose outline with a general three act structure, at least a main character arc and so on. I’ve tried various methods and decided I’m a “plantser.” I need a beginning, some fun scenes to pin the plot to, and ending in mind, but otherwise I find much of it as a go, and new things occur to me as I visualize scenes and continue fleshing out the characters.
What do you consider your biggest strength as a writer?
I like to think that readers are able to connect quickly with my characters, and that I can draw them into my worlds with specific sensory details. I pride myself on my scene-level pacing and walking readers through a variety of emotions to hit them in the Feels when it counts.
What is your favourite kind of story to write? Does it align well with what you like to read?
I like writing all kinds of things and I think it changes the more I write an explore. Currently I really dig into writing characters with high emotional stakes tied to whatever they’re trying to accomplish, no matter the genre. I realize when I get bored of a story it’s because the character doesn’t have enough inner conflict going on and I gravitate to characters who are conflicted or trying to overcome some pain. I gravitate toward reading fantasy, obviously, but I tried to read across genres and experiences to really have a well-rounded scope.
Which character of yours do you most identify with, and why?
Ooooo so many. In the Summer King Chronicles, I think, even though Shard is the main character, by the end I bonded thoroughly with Caj and Sigrun because they are both just gryfons trying to do the best thing for their family, struggling through difficult and conflicting goals, in a very dangerous and trying time.
Which authors or specific books have most influenced your work?
Meredith Ann Pierce was a huge influence, both her Firebringer Trilogy and her Dark Angel series. Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea Cycle had a huge impact on the themes I like to bring to my fantasy—oof, so many!! Those are a top two for sure. I’ll think of a dozen more later.
What is the last book you read that you really love?
I loved “Spinning Silver” by Naomi Novik. It is sumptuous and perfectly crafted.
Besides writing, how do you like to spend your free time?
“Free time…?” I draw and paint, I work a day job. My husbird and I have never-ending house projects, and this summer has seen a lot of family obligations. When I have actual free time I try to get out in nature or hunker down in a coffee shop and watch people go by.
Do you have any advice to give other writers?
Never stop learning. You can hear the same bit of advice ten different ways and it won’t help you until one day, someone says it in a way that makes sense to you, and it will change your world and help you level up. Challenge yourself. Terrible at action scenes? Read a bunch write one, keep improving. Finish projects. You learn more from writing more things, new things, than from tinkering with one thing for twenty years. Trust me. And finally: take all advice with a grain of salt and do what works for you! 😉
Is there anything you would like to see more of within furry fiction?
I am excited to see more authors dipping their toe into (or at least expressing an interest in) Young Adult furry fiction. There are so many young people coming into the fandom, as well as people (like me!) who simply enjoy the YA reading and writing experience.
Where can readers find your work?
Well, next year in May/June you’ll be able to buy “A Furry Faux Paw” by Page Street Publishing (cover reveal coming in November!!) wherever books are sold, and the Summer King Chronicles & other gryfony stories are available through just about every online retailer there is. You can start with the first book here: https://books2read.com/u/3JXwvJ and of course my website www.jessowen.com where you can contact me or explore more about my fantasy worlds.
Tomorrow we talk to another one of the furry fandom’s publishers. These people may be some of the newer publishers to the game, but they’re already making great ground in the work they are producing. We hope you’ll join us tomorrow to hear what they have to say.