Cinders of Yesterday is a worthy entry into the collection of “let’s explore family trauma through magic and girls kissing.” The town of Dawson, Maryland is haunted by not only a necromancer named Spectre, but the sealed-away magic of Emilie Lockgrove’s family. Dani Black seeks revenge for her partner and a way to put the villain down for good. With a common goal and mutually beneficial abilities, the two team up for some supernatural hunting and perhaps more.
Author Jen Karner swings by on her debut day to talk about this spooky, queer debut featuring necromancy, bisexual disasters, a cute medium, and your new knife wife.
Which element of this story came to your first? Was it the characters or the world?
That’s actually a tricky answer. My original idea for Dawson showed up first, but it changed from a megacity to a little town. Next came Emilie and Dani, but likewise they were in entirely different stories, it was years of having all three in my head before I realized they all belonged together.
How did you decide on Maryland as the location for this tale?
I’m a native Marylander and I haven’t been able to travel extensively, so it was a way of being able to ground it in little elements I know about like the weather or geography. Dawson is also a location based on a real placeI go camping and that contributed a lot as well.
I also really love the way some authors can bring their state or location into a story. Like Stephen King with Maine. I wanted to bring my view of Maryland to life, and kind of show off this weird little state I live in to people who’ve never been here.
Had the story stayed consistent throughout the revisions process? Did any elements stay the same or did they emerge through the various interactions?
The basics of the story stayed the same, that it was a dual-pov story about trauma and how we survive it. However, the ending changed dramatically, the entire third act was rewritten a few times, and I had several different beginnings. I think because I’d been working on this particular story in my head for so long before I started to write that there weren’t major changes during revisions.
The biggest interactions that changed through the drafts were how into each other Dani and Emilie were. The first draft they didn’t even really flirt, and it wasn’t until my Critique Partners read it that I realized how much they wanted to kiss. Seeing their dynamic sharpen over each draft was amazing, and I loved it because they are both such absolute disasters.
Did you have a favorite scene or moment to write?
In the third act there is a particular chapter that I LOVED writing, and it’s Emilie facing her past. It’s a longer chapter and a rough one for Emilie, but it was the culmination of so many little things sprinkled throughout. It also let me play with theme and style a lot because of what happens immediately before that chapter starts.
I also adore chapter four, and the interaction between Dani and Merc. The scene where he asks if she’s a hunter because of “talent, tragedy or legacy”, is one of my favorite scenes and it showed up in the first draft so it’s been in there since the very beginning.
Is Cinders of Yesterday your first book?
It’s my first finished novel and my first published book, so yes!
What can we look forward to next?
I’m currently working on book 2 in the Legacy of Shadows series, which is a sequel to Cinders of Yesterday. I have one more book in the series after that, and then I have a spooky lake book to edit and a list of books waiting to be written.
How are you refilling the creative well?
I spend time watching D&D shows, listening to music, reading, and spending time with my partners. I also try to spend time doing physical activity, seeing friends when I can, and finding things to do away from the internet. I’m also a big fan of journaling which helps me to kind of de-stress and let things go so it’s easier to focus on writing when it’s time to write, and not stress when it’s time to relax.
What are some books that you’re particularly excited about, not limited to 2021 releases?
Ooh baby! Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo, Alecto the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes, The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling, Little Thieves by Margaret Owen, and Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia are all books I’m super excited for. Really my TBR is massive and grows daily, and these are just the books that came to mind first.
Jen Karner is a queer writer and nerd living in the Baltimore area with her nesting partner and their rescue dog. A feminist banshee, she enjoys listening to true-crime podcasts, marathoning horror movies, and writing about sharp girls with complex emotions. Cinders of Yesterday is her debut novel and is arriving June 22, 2021 from City Owl Press.
She is represented by Jessica Reino at Metamorphosis Literary Agency. You can follow her on Twitter and IG @Articulatedream.