We’ve officially moved into our next batch of storytellers with this week’s interview. I love how vast everyone’s fantasy realms are. In Otherworld, we’ve gone from floating islands to the other dimensions that lie behind the veil of our own world, to distant planets!
Today we venture to Clandestina, a world akin to our Victorian France and England. Author V. M. Jaskiernia is new on the scene, but eager to get her work out to interested readers. With some gothic tints, her story has a lot of flavor, and she’s got plenty of work in the background to draw from. Read on about her tale, Larkspur.
Tellest: When Larkspur finished, it left me wanting to know a lot more about what you had planned for the characters. Pierre has got a little bit more darkness in him than even I expected. Was this the last we’ll see of Pierre or Elizabeth?
V. M. Jaskiernia: Oh, no, it isn’t. I hoped the last scene left a little cliffhanger-clue that we would be continuing. We will have a lot more stories involving them, even after their initial series is finished. One of the main reasons I split up my stories by realm is that I tend to have a lot of information and history, and ideally a few generations of characters.
T: You’re already hard at work on your next story, Spadille. You’ve mentioned on your blog that it is a sequel to Larkspur. Can we expect this to directly follow your first story?
VMJ: Yes, this is a direct sequel. Larkspur was the entrée, Spadille will be the main course. We’ll start to deal with more characters and a wider story. Pierre has more responsibilities, he’s supposed to take on a few duties as duc, but between Elizabeth and teaching Wolfram he is not very focused. The advisors that Aimé left for him aren’t pleased.
T: In their interactions, Pierre and Elizabeth also talked a lot about the fee realm, and we’ve also experienced just the cusp of that realm of darkness, where Mora resides and Pierre visits. Will we get a deeper look at those other worlds as well?
VMJ: There will be stories more focused on the other planes of existence. Pierre’s sister is far more fée than he is, for instance (she lived in that plane, he did not). The lord margrave, who at the beginning of Larkspur asks Pierre about his medical practices, is actually her husband. In Triumphe (the kingdom/country) a margrave’s land is one that is closely linked to another plane of existence.
T: Are those other planes of existence the same one across Triumphe, or might we see other magical influxes that take place beside the realm of death or the fée plane?
VMJ: At the moment the directly accessible planes are limited to Faery,by certain people only, and one of the planes of death. (Mora’s plane is more a purgatory before more long-term afterlives). Dreams and Nightmares are explored in Ibella, but dreams and nightmares in any realm can be informative or important. That said, I may always find something that just fits and add more into the story. Faery was a fairly late addition overall.
T: While Larkspur takes place in Clandestina, you’ve also set stories in Astarctia and Ibella. They each have their own personalities and engrained magics. Despite that, could we see these realms intertwining and connecting down the line?
VMJ: There are many realms, and about ten of them are fleshed out to the ‘write a story in it’ level. Astrarctia is a bit far away, and the main story in that realm takes place a few thousand years ago. Ibella, and the in-story mentioned Italaviana, are closer. Both are based around Italy mainly. The latter will have some interaction with Clandestina, Italaviana’s magic can be linked to the same source as Clandestina’s—death, the keres. Vampires reside there, and they’re of great interest to Pierre.
T: You mentioned that Astrarctia’s story takes place thousands of years ago. Will that have a kind of trickledown effect to the storylines that occur closer to present day? Will we potentially see characters who are the descendents of your ancient heroes and villains?
VMJ: I’m hoping to work that in, yes. I have a long timeline written out so I can at least have the general ideas of what the feel of the world is during each era. But even so, something that happened a few realms over might not affect the rest of the world that much. Each realm is about ~2000 miles by ~1000 miles (on a flat map they’re perfectly rectangular, because magic). And as you know each realm has its own variations of magic and spirits. All that, in addition to technology levels varying from pre-mediaeval to Victorian, makes for a very interesting world.
T: These characters seem almost timeless in the way you write them. Do you ever intend to bring the storyline forward to something more modern?
VMJ: Thank you, that’s a lovely compliment. In terms of the world’s technology rate, I think my cap will be at something Victorian or steampunk. There is always a chance I’ll decide cyberpunk is awesome (it is) and I need a realm with a large amount of tech (perhaps at the loss of magic?). Actually, let me note that down.
T: Part of what made your story so appealing was how it barely scraped the surface for a lot of the characters. We’ve met Mora, but only just so. Will we see greater glimpses of her in the future?
VMJ: There will be more of her, certainly. I don’t have plans for her to be a main character, but with any of the stories involving necrocræft she’s a constant presence.
T: Mora is the last of her kind in the area that Larkspur occurs. But it sounds like there are more like her out there. Will we see them as well, or is part of their appeal the mystery of who they were?
VMJ: One thing I love about fairy and folk tales is that there are a lot of comparable mythological aspects between countries/stories. A female water spirit shows up in most cultures, a little different depending on the country it takes place in. I hope to do something similar with my world—it isn’t as easy as ‘all elves are elves’ that you might see in some modern fantasy. Keres are daimons in Greek mythology, the concept of violent death itself, and while I tied them to a French-esque land, the ones that left Clandestina are changed with their surroundings. Like I mentioned, there are vampires in Italaviana: a variation of spirits of death working within a body. In the more Asiatic inspired realms there are shinigami, which some might recognize from anime as death gods.
T: So as long as you have somewhere in your imagination to play around in, it’s safe to say we can rely on a lot more material from you!
VMJ: Certainly. I’ve been making up stories and worldbuilding for over ten years. It’s what I do when I have a spare moment, am doing a boring task, driving to class—it’s where my mind goes on default.
T: The sounds of the locales and citizens of Clandestina are very evocative. Where do you draw inspiration from regarding names and places?
VMJ: History is a large inspiration. I love cultures, past and present, and I try to integrate a lot of what I learn into my writing. Clandestina is a mix of things from gothic-lolita culture to having read Sabriel by Garth Nix one day and deciding that there should be more necromancy stories.
T: One of the other things that sets Larkspur aside from most other necromancy and dark magic tales is the time period and setting. The quasi-Victorian setting gives it a character all its own. What made you pick that era to focus on?
VMJ: I don’t know what exactly made me pick that era. Usually I write in a more a mediaeval setting, but with the medical aspect I also wanted to use some more ‘modern’ medicine than just herbs. Pierre’s a surgeon, and that just would not have ended well in an earlier time period. Well, it doesn’t end very well in the 19th century for us either, but it’s slightly better. That said, medicine revolving around the humours is ancient Greek, and not a real science in our world, but there’s some merit to it within Noctuina.
T: Though Larkspur is a short story, it hits a lot of interesting notes. It’s clear that you could elaborate a lot of points. Would it be unreasonable to expect a novel from you in the future?
VMJ: I am working up to greater wordcounts, I hope that I can write a novel involving these characters. But even so, there are a lot of stories that will be told, either in small doses or in a more lengthy work.
T: Do you find that finishing that first novel and having it published has helped with your pace? Now that you know people are purchasing your book, has it inspired you in any way?
VMJ: I’m still having a difficult time believing that people are buying my book and enjoying it of their own free will. Knowing that I can finish and edit a story is helping, I know my random scribbles can turn into actual subplots if I give it some time and don’t erase it.
T: Well we wish you all the success on this path, and can’t wait to see more stories from you!
VMJ: Thank you very much! This was a pleasure. I wish you all the best as well!
Thank you so much for being a part of our conversation with V. M. Jaskiernia. She’s a very lively author who is very keen on interacting with her readers. You can find her featured work, Larkspur, on Amazon.
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