Writing Through a Character’s Eyes- an interview with Bryan Prosek

December 2021

This month I had the pleasure of interviewing Bryan Prosek, author of A Measure of Serenity. Read on for more insider info on the main character, Serenity, and how Prosek gets into her mind to make her a compelling and complex character.

  • What was your inspiration for this novel?

I have two parts to this answer. First, I’ve always been fascinated by parallel dimension and time travel stories, whether it’s in a book, a movie, or even a television show, so I wanted to write about one of those story lines. Time travel has been written about far more often than parallel universes, so I chose the latter. I also wanted to keep the setting on Earth rather than another planet, galaxy, or fantasy dimension. I wanted it to be more dystopian than hard core science fiction. The second part of my inspiration was that I wanted a female protagonist. I had not written a story or book with a female lead, and having a teenage daughter and coaching a teenage girls soccer team, I had a lot of young adult teenage girl experiences to draw from.  So those two things combined to inspire me to put a teenage girl in a parallel universe in A Measure of Serenity.

  • Measure of Serenity is written in first person, what were some important considerations when getting into the mind of Serenity?

I wanted Serenity to have a special or unique ability but I didn’t want her to have a superpower. I wanted her to be more realistic, even if her mental abilities are exaggerated from what I person might possess in real life. So I decided on extraordinary intelligence.  That’s where I had to really work to get into her mind since I’m lacking in that area. LOL! Finally, I wanted young adults to be able to relate to her, so I made her unique gift (her mind) also a burden for her, something that she constantly struggles with and which causes her to question her actions or inactions.  The incessant counting and calculating puts a constant strain on her. And her mental genius makes her socially awkward, which is another personal flaw that she struggles with. Having said all of that, I chose to write the book in the first person so that I could really feel what Serenity might be feeling, and be better able to express those feelings in my writing. In other words, first person made it easier and more relatable in expressing what was going through Serenity’s mind.

  • What was most challenging about writing from Serenity’s point of view?

The most challenging part was probably writing from the viewpoint of a teenage girl when I am a middle aged man.  I had to think how a teenage girl would react and adapt to the situations that Serenity finds herself in, not how I would react. However, as I mentioned, I had a lot of experience to draw from working with and talking to teenage girls, but it still took a few rewrites of a couple chapters in order to get it right.

  • What qualities do you think you share with Serenity? In what areas do you think you are most different?

First the similar qualities. While I didn’t really go there is the book, I believe Serenity is a bit OCD. A person with her mind set almost has to be, since she compartmentalizes every thought. While I don’t have Serenity’s intellect, I am somewhat OCD. I think that helped in writing her character, as I understood that part of her thinking. As for the differences, besides the obvious age and gender differences that I discussed above, the biggest difference would be her ability to retain everything she sees and hears. I am pretty good at remembering faces, but if you introduce me to someone, thirty seconds later I have to ask you again what his or her name is. LOL 

  • Serenity has an incredible memory and calculates everything she sees. In the novel we see her wrestle with these skills. Would you consider it a blessing or a curse to have Serenity’s memory and calculating mind?

This was one of my favorite parts in writing this book, Serenity’s struggles with something that others might long to possess. It’s kind of like the job interview question, “What is your greatest strength and what is your greatest weakness?” In most cases, the answer should be the same. To answer your question, for me, on the outside looking in at Serenity, I would call it a blessing. I would love to hear, see, and remember things like she does. However, from Serenity’s viewpoint, having this ability, I can see how it can be a curse. Constantly knowing what’s going to happen, your  mind never resting, always calculating, and always feeling like things are your fault because you knew what would happen and were unable to stop it if it was something bad. This is somewhat similar to OCD. Always feeling like things are out of place. Always needing to fix or correct things.

  • How often did you need to research quantities of e.g., feathers, leaves, streetlamps down the average street? 

Great question! The answer is all the time! Every time that I needed Serenity to count or calculate something, I first had to come up with what it was I wanted her to count or calculate. That depended on the difficulty of the situation that Serenity was in. After that, I had to research what the answer was for what she was counting or calculating. For example, I had no idea how many feathers a bird has or how many leaves are on a typical tree. I assumed no reader would know the answers to these either, but I wanted to be accurate in case a reader researched it.  So I researched and had to come up with an average number in most cases. I also had to do a lot of mathematical research to come up with difficult formulas or calculations that most readers wouldn’t know. I wanted it to be shocking to the typical reader, that Serenity would know this off the top of her head, but I also wanted it to be accurate.

  • Identity is an important theme in A Measure of Serenity and Serenity’s identify is molded by those around her when she falls into her parallel life. To what extent would you say identity can be shaped by the people around us (as opposed to it being a constant internal concept)?

I have always felt that identity is shaped by the people around us. People that surround themselves with bad people, generally end up in trouble. On the contrary, people that hang out with generally good people, usually end up contributing more to society. There are exceptions, I know, but in general, I feel this is the case.  This shows in A Measure of Serenity. As we have discussed, Serenity really struggles with her blessing/curse and her social awkwardness in her universe. However, the longer she is in the parallel universe, and surrounded by her Resistance friends and supporters, the less she finds herself randomly counting and calculating and questioning her actions. While the risks and stress of Serenity’s life multiplied tenfold when she passes through the sphere, she eventually becomes more relaxed and comfortable, mainly due to the people she had around her.

A Measure of Serenity

Check out Bryan’s website: https://bryankprosek.com/
Follow him on instagram: @bryank.prosek
Twitter: @BryanProsek


A million thoughts, but only one right thing to do.

Eighteen-year-old Serenity Ashdown has a brilliant mind: she counts, calculates, and analyzes everything, all the time. Awkward. When her father suddenly disappears, Serenity follows his trail to a parallel dimension. The feds on the other side claim to want to help her go home, if she helps them reconstruct the right codes for the portal between worlds. But it’s soon clear they want something more: a gateway for invasion, because this version of Earth is dying.

When Serenity learns that her alter-ego was killed in battle, she assumes “the other Serenity’s” identity and uses her unique abilities to lead the resistance in a mortal fight against the tyrannical super-government that is poised to invade her universe. Serenity has no idea how to be someone she’s not, but she has to try—or she may not have a home to return to.

Pick up a copy of A Measure of Serenity here: https://camcatbooks.com/Books/A/A-Measure-of-Serenity

Contest of Queens Countdown

Only one month left until my debut novel is released! I still can’t believe it, and I’m so so excited to finally have people reading it!

Make sure to request this beauty at your local bookstore so they can order it in for you! And if you don’t want to put on pants to leave the house, let your fingers do the walking and follow the link below to preorder here:

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https://camcatbooks.com/Books/C/Contest-of-Queens

x Live Magically

Characters and the Party Dynamic: an Interview with Eliah Menchaca

November 2021

Welcome to my fourth Book Nook! Today I rolled a Nat 20 and had the honor of talking to Elijah Menchaca, author of They Met in a Tavern, an exciting whirlwind adventure about a party of “we used to be” heroes. We chat about writing different characters and how to create a functioning and believable party out of different personalities and architypes (even when they don’t like each other).

So boil the kettle, get out your d20s, and enjoy!

Check out Elijah’s website: https://elijahmenchaca.com/
Follow him on instagram: @phoenixagent003
Twitter: @PhoenixAgent003

They Met in a Tavern

They used to be heroes . . . and it was all downhill from there.

The Starbreakers were your classic teenage heroes. Using their combined powers and skills, they were the most successful group of glintchasers in Corsar. But that all changed the day the city of Relgen died. The group went their separate ways, placing the blame on each other.  

Seven years after their falling out, a hefty bounty is placed on their heads. Phoenix tries to reunite the Starbreakers before everything they have left is taken from them.  But a lot can change in seven years. And if mending old wounds was easy, they would have done it a long time ago.

Pick up a copy of They Met in a Tavern: https://camcatbooks.com/Books/T/They-Met-in-a-Tavern

Contest of Queens News

Contest of Queens Teaser Trailer

I am so excited to finally share the Book Trailer for Contest of Queens! A huge huge thank you to Bryan Johnston, a fellow CamCat author, who was the mastermind behind this stunning trailer! (I’ve honestly lost count of how many times I’ve watched it). And a huge thank you to all my dear friends who joined me for an in-person release- it wouldn’t have been the same without your oooooos and aaaaahhhhs (scroll across for some pictures from the night).

Visit Bryan Johnson’s website here: https://www.bryanrjohnston.com/ and check out his novel, Deep into the Woods.

Blog Feature

Rant and Rave Review

I was recently featured in Dana Flanders’ blog “Rant and Rave” and she had some lovely things to say about Contest of Queens!

One of my favourite comments she made was:

My favorite part about this book was that Jacs had her priorities straight. As someone who reads quite a bit of young adult books, it is soooo refreshing to see a strong female lead who prioritizes her family, her friends, and her mission above the romantic interest.

Dana Flanders

I know this feeling will only get stronger as more people read and review my novel, but I just love to hear what each person gets from it. My hope is that it has a little nugget for everyone 🙂

Book Tour Feature

Thank you TBR and Beyond Book tours for featuring Contest of Queens!
Click the picture for more information

If you’re like me, you love a good sale

Black Friday Sale at CamCat!

My publisher, CamCat Books, have an incredible sale on from November 25th until December 1st. 20% off any order on their site. This means you can get any of the wonderful titles already released (including novels featured in past Book Nook interviews):

Or upcoming novels available for pre-order!

And look at that gorgeous title four from the left (not that I’m biased…).
We only have 2 months until Contest of Queens is released and I am so so excited to share it with you all! To preorder your copy, follow the link below:

https://camcatbooks.com/Books/C/Contest-of-Queens

Live Magically x


Contest of Queens Cover Reveal

August 2021.

Hello, dear Readers!

August has been a wild and wonderful month, namely because I was able to reveal the cover of my upcoming novel, Contest of Queens! It was such a magical and humbling experience, and it just kept on going!

The day was spent out at Two Jack Lake with a group of wonderful humans who all took time out of their Saturdays to come celebrate. We had champagne and nibbles, and laughed in the face of the orange smoke that turned all our photographs sepia tone. Billie Marlow captured the day perfectly (check out her photography on instagram: @marlowb).

On top of the in person magic, the cover was also released online through The Nerd Daily, and the story was covered by the Rocky Mountain Outlook (keep scrolling to see what they had to say). I know this journey is truly just beginning, but I honestly cannot believe how lucky I am to be on it! Thank you to everyone who came out and supported the release in person, thank you to everyone who is showing their support from afar, AND the pre-order link is up, so if you want to be the first to read Contest of Queens, please pre-order your copy now!

The Nerd Daily Reveal
Thank you to The Nerd Daily for hosting the online cover reveal on their website! You can check out the full article here: https://thenerddaily.com/contest-of-queens-by-jordan-h-bartlett-cover-reveal/

Rocky Mountain Outlook Feature
And thank you to the Rocky Mountain Outlook for the two-page spread in their August 26th issue. You can read the full article here: https://www.rmotoday.com/mountain-guide/banff-authors-fantasy-turned-into-reality-4251498

xx Live Magically,
Jordan

Magic and Magic Systems in Fairytales: an Interview with Brandie June

July 2021.

Welcome back for my second book nook! A space where I get to sit down and geek out with incredible authors about their books. Today I had the honor of chatting with Brandie June, debut author of Gold Spun (released earlier this year) about magic and magic systems in fairytale retellings. So boil the kettle, pour the tea, grab some bickies and settle in!

For more information:
Check our Brandie’s website: https://www.brandiejune.com
Follow her on instagram: @thebrandiejune
TikTok: @brandiebooks
Pick up a copy of Gold Spun here: https://camcatbooks.com/Books/G/Gold-Spun2

Live magically x

Gold Spun

If Nor can’t spin gold, she can always spin lies.

When seventeen-year-old Nor rescues a captured faerie in the woods, he gifts her with a magical golden thread she can use to summon him for a favor. Instead, Nor uses it for a con—to convince villagers to buy straw that can be transformed into gold. Her trick works a little too well, attracting the suspicion of Prince Casper, who hates nobody more than a liar. Intent on punishing Nor, he demands that she spin a room of straw into gold and as her reward, he will marry her. Should she refuse or fail, the consequences will be dire. Desperate for help, Nor summons the faerie’s aid, launching a complicated dance as she must navigate between her growing feelings for both the prince and faerie boy and who she herself wishes to become

Brandie June can be found at www.brandiejune.com and follow her @brandiejune.

Fairytales, Retellings, and YA Fantasy: an interview with Aamna Qureshi

July 2021.

Welcome to my book nook! A place where I get to indulge my nerdy side and talk books with amazingly talented authors. Today’s guest is Aamna Qureshi, author of The Lady or the Lion which is coming out July 20th, 2021, and When a Brown Girl Flees which is coming out in 2023.

It was such an honor to speak with Aamna today, so I hope you all enjoy our discussion about fairytales, retellings and their place in YA fantasy (with a little romantic intrigue thrown in for good measure!)

Live magically x

Aamna Qureshi is a Pakistani, Muslim American who adores words. She grew up on Long Island, New York, in a very loud household, surrounded by English (for school), Urdu (for conversation), and Punjabi (for emotion). Through her writing, she wishes to inspire a love for the beautiful country and rich culture that informed much of her identity.

For more information, check out Aamna Qureshi’s website: https://www.aamnaqureshi.com/
Follow her on instagram: @aamna_qureshi or Twitter: @aamnaqureshi_

Welcome to the PW US Book Show

June 2021.

On May 27th, 2021 I was lucky enough to be one of the authors featured on CamCat Books’ panel Writing Debut YA at the PW US Book Show. It was such a surreal and wonderful experience chatting with these amazing women, learning more about their worlds, and how they wrote their inspiring female leads. If you have a cup of tea ready, watch the full thing below and enjoy the show!

Also, if you look really closely, you can see a sneak peak of my book cover for Contest of Queens!

For your second cup of tea, check out these two wonderful authors:

Aamna Qureshi can be found on IG @aamna_qureshi and Twitter @aamnaqureshi_, or on her website: https://www.aamnaqureshi.com/

The Lady or the Lion

He sunk his teeth into her heart and she let him.

As crown princess of Marghazar, Durkhanai Miangul will do anything to protect her people and her land. When her grandfather, the Badshah, is blamed for a deadly assault on the summit of neighboring leaders, the tribes call for his head. To assuage cries for war, the Badshah opens Marghazar’s gates to foreigners for the first time in centuries, in a sign of good faith. His family has three months to prove their innocence, or they will all have war.

As Durkhanai races to solve who really orchestrated the attack, ambassadors from the neighboring tribal districts arrive at court, each with their own intentions for negotiations, each with their own plans for advantage. When a mysterious illness spreads through the villages and the imperialists push hard on her borders, Durkhanai must dig deep to become more than just a beloved princess—she must become a queen.

To distract Durkhanai from it all is Asfandyar Afridi, the wry ambassador who tells her outright he is a spy, yet acts as though he is her friend—or maybe even something more.

Gold Spun

If Nor can’t spin gold, she can always spin lies.

When seventeen-year-old Nor rescues a captured faerie in the woods, he gifts her with a magical golden thread she can use to summon him for a favor. Instead, Nor uses it for a con—to convince villagers to buy straw that can be transformed into gold. Her trick works a little too well, attracting the suspicion of Prince Casper, who hates nobody more than a liar. Intent on punishing Nor, he demands that she spin a room of straw into gold and as her reward, he will marry her. Should she refuse or fail, the consequences will be dire. Desperate for help, Nor summons the faerie’s aid, launching a complicated dance as she must navigate between her growing feelings for both the prince and faerie boy and who she herself wishes to become.

Brandie June can be found at www.brandiejune.com and follow her @brandiejune.

Away

Something a little harsher. Mild violence warning. A short story about escapism.

This will likely be my last short story published here for a while. I have three incredible writing projects I’m so so excited about working on this year and between those and my day job- I don’t see myself having time for much more. But I hope you’ve enjoyed them. If you want more, please check out my short stories from previous months, and in the meantime, save a space on your bookshelf for my upcoming novel: Contest of Queens!

Image credit: https://www.deviantart.com/hibbary/art/caught-in-light-4024772

She closed her eyes.

A Griffin stood before her. The sleek feathered head, wings, and talons of an eagle merging seamlessly to the silky haunches and tail of a lion. It towered over her, head high. A Queen surveying her subject. The sunlight shone like gold on its fur, and shimmered across iridescent feathers. Its eyes held an ancient knowing of one who has understood their power for as long as a mountain has known its height. 

Without thinking, she sunk into a deep, reverential bow. Pain bloomed down her left side as she bent forward. Her breath caught, she squeezed her eyes tight shut, and focused on the creature before her. She watched the breeze playfully ruffle feather and fur, watched the creature’s long tail flick ever so slightly. Minute adjustments and shifted posture gave life to this creature of legend. With every breath, the goddess became mortal.

The Griffin inclined its head slightly and clicked its beak. Hesitantly, she approached. Each step soundless, weightless. She slowly bridged the distance between them; its great eye watching her all the while. She was now close enough to count the barbs along individual feather vanes. Each snowy white feather crowned in soot black. A loaded quill awaiting parchment. 

She raised a hand, the Griffin bowed its head, and she placed her palm against its cheek. Her nails were decidedly intact, her wrists purposefully unblemished. Tan on black on white. Eyes level, she saw the turn of the Earth within its iris, saw the depth of the night sky within its pupil. Gently, she stroked its cheek. The Griffin closed its eyes and made a contented sound deep in its throat. A dove’s coo harmonized with a kitten’s purr. She smiled, wincing only slightly as her lips pulled taut and cracked. 

Her eyes slid down its neck to rest on the space between its wing joints. Again, the Griffin beckoned, shifting its head. She tentatively traced her palm down the line her eyes had drawn. Then, her body unnaturally light, lifted herself upward and settled in between the wing joints. She could almost feel the warmth against her thigh and the feathers slipping between her fingers as she sought a handhold among the rachides. 

She inhaled. Warm notes of hay, chestnuts, and pine resin danced in her mind, fighting back the scent of mildew and gasoline. 

A sudden metallic crash rang in her ears and resonated within her skull, rattling her bones.The screech of something monstrous. She buried her face in the Griffin’s neck. Her eyes squeezed shut. Through the reverberation, she could hear the gentle cooing echo in the creature’s throat. The soft sound drowned out the dying crash. Heavy footsteps followed, but had no place where they were headed. 

Emboldened, she sat upright and applied the slightest pressure through her knees. As though awaiting this command, the Griffin tossed its majestic head, flicked its tail, and set off at a gallop. The approaching footsteps became the pounding of paw and talon. 

One,

Two,

Three great strides and the creature launched itself into the unknown.

The field slipped away from them as they rose higher towards the heavens. She was the fulcrum, and the world spun beneath her. All life now orbiting her place on the Griffin’s back. Air currents swirled around her, cooling her feverish brow. She stretched her arms to either side, embracing the light, and was almost able to ignore the dull ache spanning the length of her ribs.

She felt a bubble of laughter building in her chest. Light and playful it burst forth and danced around the clouded realm. The anticipated windswept laughter hit her ears with hollow dissonance. Losing its substance as it fell from her lips, the marrow sucked from a bone. A dry, rasping husk of joy. 

Still she looked higher. Clouds enveloped and released them. They soared above meadows of mist. Fluffy white mountains and milky valleys stretched away below; all edged in a golden glow. 

“Alright girly, get up,” a harsh voice scraped from coarse throat. Its notes flew at her. The words chased her as she spurred the Griffin forward. She glanced behind them, her breath caught in her throat as she glimpsed the sinuous shape emerging from the gathering clouds. Ruby eyes gleaming, scales glistening, it stalked her on the wind. 

She bent low over the Griffin’s neck and urged the creature onwards. Great wings beating on either side of her, matching and masking the sharp, swift flashes of pain blossoming within her like fireworks.     

The clouds darkened, billowing up to meet her. Shadows corrupted the valleys of light. A patch of sun remained high above her. She pleaded the Griffin higher. Arms outstretched, pain devoured her as she reached her fingers towards the sun. 

Then her wrists were wrenched behind her. Manacles materialized and she felt the hard back of a chair along her spine. Her last patch of light snuffed out. Shadows rose up to consume them as down, down they fell. Wings became paper thin and useless. Hands and talons grasped at nothing. The Griffin screamed. Eagle cry blended with lion roar. The crashing of thunder merged with howling winds. The scream exploded in the void, echoing through the darkness, struggling for purchase in the abyss, growing softer and weaker, until finally, dying in a girl’s whimper. 

Slowly, her eyes opened.

A man stood before her. She glared up at him through swollen eyelids. Breathing heavily through gritted teeth and cracked ribs, her vision swam. Blood smeared his knuckles. He dragged a forearm under his nose and spat near her foot. For a moment, she caught sight of the gleaming red eyes of a serpent. The inked beast twisted around his wrist.