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We would like to introduce Jenna O’Malley, Author of the Arsinoëphorus Alliance.
Arsinoëphorus, try saying that when you’ve had a skinful. Jenna is exceptional—and yes, on this occasion, I’m allowed to say it, she’s a favourite client. She was one of our three original clients when I launched the business in Nov 2020. Apart from being a thoroughly lovely lady, being one of our first clients gives her a special place in the Best Book Editors collective team heart. We’re a gang of eight now, but she put her faith in me when I opened the business on my own.
BBE: Welcome. Let’s get to know you first before we talk about your books. While my team alter the bright lights to shine—just so, tighten the thumbscrews and hook up the polygraph; why don’t you start at the beginning and tell us about your early life and upbringing?
Jenna O’Malley: One of the few things my parents could afford to impart was a love of learning. I was reading as early as three years old thanks to Mom’s early exposure and modelling of why books need to be loved. Dad never had to fight in persuading me to watch history documentaries with him. The library provided much of my entertainment, and as the youngest of five kids, I spent a great deal of time alone. However, working hard was a requirement.
BBE: Where are you from, and where do you live now?
Jenna O’Malley: I was born in Baltimore, Maryland. We lived blocks outside the Inner Harbour and Pigtown until 1995 when we moved to Cumberland two hours away in the mountains to the west. As with many families, my parents wanted to escape the rising crime and drug rates. I miss the cultural experiences of a larger city. However, the mountains have remained my home because I enjoy their quiet.
BBE: how did you perform at school, top of the class or the child they said would never amount to anything as long as he had a hole in his—inkwell?
Jenna O’Malley: My father would roll in his grave if I didn’t mention how much he laughed at me for playing the role of teacher after school as a child. I was the honour student who excelled in everything except math. Most people I graduated high school with would say I was quiet and odd, but the people who knew me would say being “The Lady Nerd” is fitting.
BBE: Where are you now? Tell us a bit about your life, work, family?
Jenna O’Malley: I am one of many burned-out teachers questioning their impact. English and developmental reading are my loves to share, and not just as an author. When one of my former creative writing students asked why I hadn’t caught up with him and other students by publishing my own work, I put my favourite therapy tool to good use. I’m in between jobs and focusing on my writing while I decide if leaving the classroom for less traditional means of teaching or tutoring would be a better fit. I’ve been married to the local Cheesecake Man for nine years as of July 2021. We are the proud parents of seven felines: Molly, Drina, Hime, Thor, Loki, Swizzle, and Asta. The blessings of human children elude us due to my ongoing battle against infertility. However, as the youngest of five children, I’ve been spoiling nieces and nephews since I was four years old.
BBE: Where do you go when the world gets scary?
Jenna O’Malley: Into my writing. People have questioned whether I do it to remain in control of a situation. Maybe that’s the case, but I see writing as a form of therapy. I was that quiet kid who didn’t feel welcome in school, so I always carried scrap paper to keep myself occupied. The great thing about writing is it makes thoughts tangible, and therefore it’s easier to cope with daily life. These days, I find writing makes me smile, cry, and process emotions I didn’t understand back then.
BBE: Which five people, alive or dead, would you invite to a dinner party?
Jenna O’Malley: I’d want my father and eldest brother to attend for sure. Dad died of lung cancer in 2010, and my brother George was killed a few years later. Neither of them would be surprised to see Anne Sexton, Freddie Mercury, or David Bowie sitting there. I think the reason I want Freddie and David there is obvious, but Anne Sexton is my favourite poet. Fans of her work who read Harumi and Frey’s plotlines in the Arsinoëphorus Alliance might understand the likeness for this poet more clearly than others. I was engrossed in her career at two points in my life: once as a teenager battling the beginnings of war with my mental health and a second time as a college student grieving a parent. I think the dinner conversation would be philosophical, and if not, the entertainment would be wonderful.
BBE: What is your method for writing?
Jenna O’Malley: I like to outline. I taught essay writing for a decade—more than fiction writing—and some of the lessons stuck on both sides of the divide in my own practice. My friends would call me remiss if I didn’t mention the amount of music I consume when writing—to the point of pestering them to fill the radio station in my head with new tracks all the time. I tend to do a great deal of historical and sensitivity research when I am unsure about a topic. Having flexibility around the outline and writing for a few hours a day as a minimum is necessary for my process. Sometimes I can’t foresee what happens on paper or in life, and I have to adjust. For battle scenes, I rely on my experiences with d20 tabletop RPG systems. Ironically, I use a lot of math in my writing for somebody who nearly flunked the subject in high school and college.
BBE: Favourite food, drink, pet, film and book?
Jenna O’Malley: Let’s get listing!
Food: currently, salads—I live on them some weeks as part of my keto weight loss journey. I have lost 125+ pounds to date. However, I’m fluctuating post-2020 like most people.
Drink: If we are talking alcoholic, a screwdriver (thanks, Dad), and if not, then tea because it’s rising in popularity up the list right now
Pet: I have seven of them, and they meow.
Film: Hayao Miyazaki’s Kaze no Tani No Nausicaa (Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind)
Book: Ready Player One? by Ernest Cline.
BBE: What makes you different?
Jenna O’Malley: My writing is different. When I tell people that I write about paranormal romance as the subgenre, they wrongly assume that my books are full of steamy encounters. I’d rather dial in on the action scenes and let people’s imagination fill in the gaps about what goes on between the sheets. I think this paradigm shift could attract more readers instead of sending them packing.
BBE: And how did you come to writing?
Jenna O’Malley: I think my love of writing came about because I loved reading first. I watch far too many anime and play enough RPG video games to spark plenty of references and muses. When I was a teenager, I hung out on text-based RPG message boards, which is how I learned to type fast and accurately. I was writing more seriously around 2003, but I couldn’t finish any projects. I believe I had to grow as a soul before I could fully tell a story.
BBE: What are your influences and your writing ethos?
Jenna O’Malley: A strange mix of William Shakespeare, J. R. R. Tolkien, and J. R. Ward are often within my reach. The first two men make sense, considering I write historical fantasy. Still, J. R. Ward is a logical choice when you consider my love of paranormal fiction. However, her sarcasm and humour inspired me to let my own snarky voice out from time to time. I agree with what she says about writing: “No one needs to give you permission to call yourself an author.” In the same breath, she goes on to say, “Own your shit.” Regardless of going traditional or indie, only one person is in the driver’s seat, and nobody is going to write it for you.
BBE: How far have you come, and where are you going with your writing?
Jenna O’Malley: I feel as if I am barely starting. When I look back to a year ago when Book 1 wasn’t even half-finished, I gasp sometimes. How did I write two complete books in a little over a year? Why did I put it off for so long? I want to teach writing again, but I want to see how I can help other writers with my career. I’m not sure where that will take me outside writing for myself, but I don’t imagine stopping any time soon.
BBE: Ready—Set—Go. Tell us about your books in order of publication?
Jenna O’Malley: Book 1 for the Arsinoëphorus Alliance, Bound by Fate and Blood, released on Amazon in February 2021. This book follows two unlikely lovers, Nephtyri and Christian, during a time when being an interracial couple could be their death. Add that she’s the last pure-blooded female vampire known to be alive, and things get interesting fast.
Book 2: Bound by Oath and Heart picks up where Book 1 ended. It follows a second couple in the mix: Bjorn and Rochelle. This book comes out September 6, 2021, and the cover reveal will be on my social media on July 1, 2021.
BBE: Which is the favourite of your books?
Jenna O’Malley: Is it fair to say the one I’m drafting? Book 3 is my favourite. This book trades out Bjorn and Rochelle’s POVs for Frey and Lee’s. The couple has faced some harsh tragedies, and I adore them. However, this book will require tissues and an unhealthy addiction to stand up comedy.
BBE: And your favourite character, how did they come about? What do you like or dislike about them?
Jenna O’Malley: I adore so many of them for different reasons. Nephtyri has been with me the longest. At one time, Frey would have been my answer. But, lately, the Draco archer, Vouvry, has grown on me. Spoiler alert! He and Maria will be Book 4 or 5’s leading couple.
BBE: Tell us about your writing achievements and about things that haven’t worked so well for you?
Jenna O’Malley: Simply publishing my work and having the bravery to share them with others speaks volumes to the people who’ve known me for years. I have anxiety, among other mental health diagnoses, so this step is a massive achievement. The YouTube videos and putting my face and brand out there fall into the same reasoning. I’m learning how to be more marketable and refining my writing process, though it’s a struggle sometimes.
BBE: What are you working on?
Jenna O’Malley: I’m finishing Book 2 for September’s launch and drafting Book 3. And, I’m preparing a second series with world and character building to release the first book in a year or so.
BBE: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Jenna O’Malley: Hopefully, I’ll be writing and editing full-time or tutoring from home. I’m working on ironing out the process. I might have most of the Alliance series of books finished by then, too.
BBE: Which is your favourite cover? How did you come up with it, and did you do it yourself?
Jenna O’Malley: So far, I only have two book covers. My Book 2’s cover is my favourite. I like the art style because it’s more appropriate for the characters represented (Rochelle and Bjorn/Shakespeare). I have built a fantastic rapport with Jeremy Green of @SontrowaArts. He’s insightful and takes a base concept with some reference art and runs with it. After several check-ins along the way, he created a movie poster for my book cover. I’m asking him to do more character sketches for me, Book 1’s redo, and most of my future projects. His history of anime and gaming has influenced his digital style, and I adore how he locks into what’s asked for with precision.
BBE: How do you market and promote your work?
Jenna O’Malley: I’m still learning this part of the process. Being self-published means, I am my marketing department, too. With my first book debuting this year, I have plenty to learn. I’ve been posting on my FB and Instagram pages with more YouTube videos cropping up.
BBE: Tips for other writers?
Jenna O’Malley: Read more than you write. Support others to teach them your strengths while improving your own weaknesses. However, most importantly, tell anybody that doubts your goals they have no right to poison your creative process with negativity because you don’t have time for that noise while you learn and grow to improve—especially from your inner (and worst) critic.
BBE: What will your epitaph say?
Jenna O’Malley: At this point in my life, I think Anna Corina, Ian’s sister from my books, has the right idea: Count blessings, not riches.
BBE: Is your second novel series similar in genre and theme to the first?
Jenna O’Malley: The second series has its feet in contemporary fiction. It follows a group of friends who have to prioritize life in the digital and real worlds. For anybody that enjoyed Ready Player One or anime and manga films like Sword Art Online or even just MMO games, they will want to keep an eye out for that series’ first book next year.
@jennathesoulwriter on FB and Instagram
BBE: Thank you for taking our interview. We hope you’ve enjoyed it. Best Book Editors wish you every success with your career, with life and with you.
Born in South Shields, Tyne & Weir, Katherine Black lives on the tip of the beautiful British Lake District. She lives with her partner, father-in-law and 4 dysfunctional but co-mingling pets. She is mother, grandmother and secret keeper of all. She is Best Book Editors’ principal editor.