"That Penslayer Girl" // Interview with Jennifer Freitag - Part 1

#Plenilune - Jennifer Freitag
On Monday, there was a cover-reveal of the novel, Plenilune, and today. . . well, today, I am very excited to say that here is an interview with its authoress, Jennifer Freitag! Or, to be precise, the first half of an interview, as it was Jenny's idea not overwhelm you all with a gigantic long question-and-answer session and hand you an excuse not to read this interview (Isn't she so nice to you all?). Next week, Lord willing, Jenny will be posting the second half of the interview questions on her Penslayer blog, and I will leave a link to it over here so you won't miss out on it. But fiddlesticks! If I had known it before, I might not have kept some of my favourite questions till last. . . hopefully, this at least should keep you on your toes. After seeing the wonderful cover of Plenilune and hearing all about it, an interview with Jennifer Freitag is just the sort of thing that we need to help us keep calm till October 20th. . . 
Don't you think? Or Not. . . 
But first, for any folk around who are still unsure what "Plenilune" book must be about, then here is a little to help you along :).
The fate of Plenilune hangs on the election of the Overlord, for which Rupert de la Mare and his brother are the only contenders, but when Rupert’s unwilling bride-to-be uncovers his plot to murder his brother, the conflict explodes into civil war. 
To assure the minds of the lord-electors of Plenilune that he has some capacity for humanity, Rupert de la Mare has been asked to woo and win a lady before he can become the Overlord, and he will do it—even if he has to kidnap her.
En route to Naples to catch a suitor, Margaret Coventry was not expecting a suitor to catch her.

"That Penslayer Girl"
Part 1

Hello, Jenny, what a delight it is to have you on Fullness of Joy blog for this interview today! To start this off, would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself and how you first started writing as a profession, and then also some of your hobbies/interest/ random happy details of your life?

To cut to the chase, I started writing when I was very young, probably not much beyond eight years old.  I actually vaguely recall my first story—something about very colourful ponies, and one particular mare that was jet-black with tiny coloured flecks on her hide.  I wrote it up on an old Gateway which, as time and technology progressed, became my own computer, and in the end I was the only human being who could make the dinosaur work.  Poor thing. 

I must say, I don’t have any hobbies.  I am not usually interested in anything, and those few things that do strike my fancy, I don’t do by halves—such as writing, or fashion.  As for a random happy detail, I know it is a little cliché, but I am particularly pleased with my nursery.  Everyone always asks about colour schemes: I go for a white wash with yellow and light grey geometric patterns.  It’s not super feminine, but it’s tasteful. 

Without giving too much away, could you be persuaded to tell us a bit about your newly released novel, Plenilune and how it fits into the whole “planetary fantasy” series you’re writing?

In terms of being written, Plenilune is the first book, obviously.  Like C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, it is not the first chronologically within the timeline.  In a sense, Plenilunar history happens and I’m just on stand-by to write it all down for your enjoyment. 

I call it a fantasy, because that is technically what it is, but my approach to fantasy is generally very down to earth.  Like more historical accounts, Plenilune hinges upon a political struggle—a political struggle very personal to those involved.  In many ways, this made writing Plenilune all the harder for being so true to human life and human society: unlike many fantasies, one can’t simply “make stuff up.”

Cast your mind back if you can; at what age did you first start writing and develop a love for wordcrafting? Was there someone or something that influenced you to start this journey?

I’ve always enjoyed reading.  My house was full of books, my homeschooling curriculum was book-centred.  I was also born with an avid imagination and, what with one thing and another, writing seemed inevitable.  The only difference between myself and other imaginative youngsters who naturally take up writing as an expression of creativity is that I stuck with it for the long-haul, and became an author. 

This is always rather a difficult question, but can you recall what inspired the plot of Plenilune?

The desire to writing something planetary fantasy had been in me for awhile, but did not germinate until I happened to read E.R. Eddison’s The Worm Ouroboros and Rosemary Sutcliff’s Knight’s Fee.  It is no secret that I love The Worm Ouroboros.  I had been putting off Knight’s Fee for some years simply because it was not Roman, and because I had a few negative attachments associated with it (these had nothing to do with the plot at all).  In the end, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the story, and I suppose it is a piece of justice that the book I had avoided for so long wound up being such a catalyst for my own novel. 

Isaac Newton was known to have said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Who have been the literary giants or “Greats” that have inspired your writing and perhaps even your life thus far? 

There are too many and they are too diverse to enumerate, and the fact of the matter is that I learn intuitively more than I learn concretely, so what I take from other authors is generally subtle and not always remarked by myself.  Honestly, my learning process is pretty boring for the outside observer.  I just read and absorb.

Now, if you could have been the author of any published book besides your own, what would it have been?

I know I just recently mentioned Lew Wallace, but the truth is that I wish I could write on a scale and with such cohesion and depth as he put into his world-acclaimed Ben-Hur.  The grace and majesty of the prose, the sense that all these scenes are real and that you are really living in those situations, the dynamics of the characters, all are exquisitely executed in multiple dimension off the page.  To claim such a title to myself would be wonderful and terrifying.

Readers of “The Shadow Things” and followers of your “Penslayer” blog would probably cheer me on when I say you have a truly beautiful gift of capturing details in a flame of gold, and in the way you write your world with colours of emotion and poignancy. How do you feel you may have matured and developed in this gift with “Plenilune” and your latest works? Is there ever a time in writing when you feel that too much detail can remove some of the power of storytelling? (A little tip or two about writing description won’t go amiss here!)

I’m flattered that you think so!  I confess, it is often a struggle, and the struggle is compounded the more people fixate on my “ability” to write colourfully.  I become very self-conscious and shy. 

It’s true, too much detail can rob the passage of its impact, and that happens to me sometimes, in which case I have to go back, cutting and culling.  As with sleight of hand and martial art, the glamour must turn the reader’s attention just a certain way and no more, the impact must have such force in such a place and no more.  Everything must be balanced: this goes especially for description. 

What part of the writing process do you dread the most? Can you tell us what your favourite part is?

Rewriting from scratch is my nightmare.  Once I get into the swing of it, I am sure I will do passably and even make something better than the original, but the thought of completely rewriting a novel is galling.

My favourite part of writing is probably going back over something I have written which I feel is actually quite good.  On the first pass, I am so wrapped up in the writing that I don’t have the opportunity to enjoy the writing as writing; going back and reading over it can be encouraging when I find I like what I have written.

Can you imagine your novel being adapted into a movie? In the stuff of your day-dreams, who would you choose to direct the films, and who would you cast for your main characters?

I would probably make a very bad director and a nuisance as an author-on-set, although I would definitely want to be involved in the event of this story being put on screen.  As for actors, I can say I would be interested to see how Eva Green portrays Margaret.  In terms of the film, I think a story of such scope would probably be best served in the format of a mini-series (take “North & South” for example) rather than a single film or even chopped up into several films.  The mini-series seems to find that happy medium between feature length and a story gone on too long.

While writing, did you find yourself learning any lessons or going through any of the journeys/struggles that your characters went through yourself?

I tend to learn in retrospect.  I usually discover, after the fact, that some aspect of a character’s life or behaviour sheds light on some circumstance I may be going through.  I am something of a fan of Plato’s notion that a great deal of what we know is actually recollection, especially since this is borne out by my personal experience.  I find examples for myself looking back on my own writing.

As a Christian as well as an author, how do you feel your faith affects your writing generally and your Plenilune novel with its sequel stories in the series specifically?

Eh, that is a two-edged sword.  Being a Christian automatically causes people to assume my writing will conform to a certain fad-shape.  I think there is always a running “norm” at any given time, but it makes it awkward for those who don’t fit the mould.  One is unfortunately and unavoidably pigeon-holed until such time as one can obviously be shown to not belong to the majority standard.  In that sense, being an author as a Christian is almost a drawback.
On the other hand, it is of course an invaluable advantage over the unbeliever.  While unbelievers can hit upon truths, and even grasp them with a terrible clarity, these pale in comparison to the vision which can be attained through the lens of a redeemed mind.  There is no question of how my Christianity impacts my writing: it cannot be divorced from anything that I do.  It is the mind with which I process and create. 

In writing in the fantasy genre, do you hold to any convictions or guidelines on how you approach things like magic, sorcery and allegory in your books, as well as drawing the distinction between good and evil?

Honestly, it is not something I think about.  There appears to be a massive terror surrounding these aspects of “flights of fancy” which I fail to comprehend.  Hamlet once pointed out, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt about in your philosophy.”  This world is wild and baffles us with things like magic.  It is dominated by powers (including our own) which defy our comprehension.  It is full of picture upon picture which better represents itself from differing angles.  This world and human life are not accidents.  This is a superb, elegant story, chock-full of magic and sorcery and allegory, and Christian community does itself no favours by cutting loose from these terms and confining them to the devil.  If it would take a closer look at the mind of God and the nature of the universe, it would be surprised to find a glittering dimension of wonderment which it has made itself unequal to appreciate because of its current terror of anything which defies materialism.
Do you have any strange writing habits/quirks (like standing on your head for research or plotting assassinations in the shower)?

To my knowledge, no.  I am an exceedingly boring individual.  Too many people suppose that, to write exciting fiction, you must have an exciting life.  Naturally you shouldn’t have a cloistered, uninformed life, but the greater the stability of the artist’s life, the better able he is to create.  That is the story of my own life.

Since planetary fantasy is not the most common of genres, could you tell us a little about it? How much of a similarity in genre-style is it to C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy?

Planetary fantasy is simply what it says on the tin: rather than creating an alternate world, or working with magical realism, planetary fantasy is removed from our ordinary earth but still remains within our plane of existence.  In terms of genre, it bears a similarity with C.S. Lewis’s works in that both the Space Trilogy and Plenilune deal in terms of medieval philosophy.  Other than that, they are very different story-types within the genre of planetary fantasy.

Out of all the characters from Plenilune, which one do you connect with and love the most?

Unfortunately, if you have not read the book, that is not a question I can answer without spoiling it.  Suffice it to say that I believe the answer to be twofold, and that my love and connection are not confined to a single character.

 * * * * * 
Thanks so much for talking with us, Jenny, and sharing your thoughts on Fullness of Joy! It’s been a joy having you over, and I truly look forward to reading “Plenilune” come October 20th – I am sure it will be marvelous.

Jenny Freitag is an author of historical fiction and fantasy (largely fantasy), the wife of her childhood sweetheart, and the mother of an as-of-yet unborn child.  She lives in the piedmont of South Carolina with her burgeoning family and two cats, and currently spends her days working on her current project Talldogs and self-publishing her planetary fantasy Plenilune (October 20th, 2014)Her debut historical fiction The Shadow Things was published in 2010 and continues to entertain readers today.

Now, friends, don't forget to stay tuned for Part 2 of this interview on The Penslayer blog next week!


  1. THIS IS FANTASTIC!! I hadn't seen the cover until now and ohhhh gosh it is absolutely gorgeous. That is something I would have on my shelf in a heartbeat. x) Congrats to Jenny for it's release! And such an interesting interview. ;)

    1. Hey, Cait! Thanks for your comment :).

      Ooh, boy, YES! The cover of Plenilune is something truly smashing, isn't it? I just ordered from Amazon a paperback copy and I am just so full of anticipation to hold a copy in my hand and tuck it among my favorite books in my bookcase. *squeal*

      Aw, I am glad you enjoyed this interview. The interesting stuff is all Jenny's contribution. ^_^. Honest!


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