Welcome back to the blog, Justine! Please go on and tell me a bit about yourself (as you have a few times before!)…
Hello again! My name is Justine Alley Dowsett and I’m an author and the owner of a small publishing house based out of Windsor, Ontario (Mirror World Publishing). I tend to write either science fantasy for young adults, or fantasy romance novels for adults. So far, I’ve written and released eleven novels and two novellas, the majority of those I co-write with my sister, Murandy Damodred.
When I’m not writing, I’m usually playing with my dog, keeping up with all the things you have to do to run a small press, or playing Dungeons and Dragons.
Tell me about your recent YA release City of Ruby: Crimson Winter Volume 3. And you should probably also fill me in about Lands of Jade: Crimson Winter Volume 2 & Ruins of Sapphire: Crimson Winter Volume 1.
Crimson Winter is a YA science fantasy adventure set on a desert world where the sun never sets and the gods infuse their ‘Chosen’ with power. Yukari Namikoya, a sixteen year old girl from Tokyo, finds out she is one of these ‘Chosen’ after she gets transported to Crimson Winter while fleeing from the Vile Emperor, the tyrannical ruler of the Ruby City.
In the first book, Ruins of Sapphire, Yukari and her friends cross the desert to find allies in the last fertile land on the planet. In Lands of Jade, she risks everything to protect the Kingdom of Taiyou and the people she’s come to love against overwhelming odds. And now, in City of Ruby, Yukari must travel to the last place she’d ever thought she’d go in order to find the answers she needs to finally save the world.
What do you hope your readers’ takeaway will be for City of Ruby?
Crimson Winter is a story about a young woman who comes into her own. Before she leaves Tokyo, Yukari is a very intelligent, but socially awkward teen who has trouble relating to other people. As her powers grow and she is tested again and again by the harsh, dangerous world of Crimson Winter, she learns to rely on her friends and to appreciate the people she’s fighting to protect. In City of Ruby, she puts everything on the line to protect the planet she’s come to love.
I’m hoping that through Yukari’s journey people learn to appreciate one another, and also that one person, through connecting with the people around them, really can make a difference to a whole world.
What are your favourite scenes from the book?
So there’s this scene pretty early on that I won’t spoil for you, but let’s just say that every time I read through this part of the book I end up crying. This was especially troublesome when I was editing, let me tell you! It’s a heart-wrenching scene where Yukari comes to realize just how much a certain person means to her in the worst possible way and it’s my favourite, even though it hurts every time I read it.
Other than that, I really enjoy the finale. A lot of work went into it and I always remember writing everything I wanted to happen down on post-it notes and plastering them all over my wall so I could figure out the order of events and not miss anything. So that whole section of the book is special to me.
Why do you write genre? And why YA?
I love the concept of reading as an escape, so the more exotic the setting, the better. I like to invent new worlds and figure out the kind of people who would live there and what their lives would be like. YA is fun because the events at that time in a person’s life are so formative. Everything is more intense because it’s happening for the first time and the characters are just figuring out who they want to be.
What is your advice for aspiring writers—particularly genre writers, and writers of YA?
Crimson Winter was my first series, and this launch is a part of the re-release. So, I suppose the lesson I want to share here is that the work is never done. As you grow as a writer, you will continue to learn and it’s never too late to go back and improve what you’ve already written.
How has the pandemic changed the way you write, publish, and/or market your books?
The biggest change in my writing routine is that I no longer go to cafes or public spots to write. Instead, I’ve redecorated my ‘writing room’ and I pretty much write there exclusively now. Which is okay, because it’s comfortable, and I have the means to make whatever coffee/tea I would like.
The publishing part hasn’t changed, but the selling part has a little. Most of my sales used to be in person at events. Now, I’m starting to get back out there and have even booked some shows further away from home, but for a while most marketing was by necessity, online.
Tell me a bit about the other books you’ve written.
For YA, there’s Neo Central, a futuristic dystopian story about the last city left standing. And for my adult books, there’s the Mirror World series about two parallel worlds in careful balance to one another. And then there are a handful of standalone fantasy romances all set in the same world, Unintended, Uncharted, and Uncommon. Then, I also have two novellas; Fatestorm, available in the Far, Far Away Anthology and The Cassini Division, available in The Ringed Giant from Zombie Pirate Publishing.
What are your future writing plans?
Well, Mirror’s Fate, the fifth and final installment of the Mirror World series should be coming out later this year. Beyond that, I’m currently working on a series of novellas and short stories for a companion anthology to the Ismeran books (That’s Unintended, Uncharted, and Uncommon) as well as a sequel to Uncharted.
Tell me something about yourself that people may not know.
It may surprise people to learn that I have other skills and hobbies besides writing. I sew, for example, and used to make costumes on commission. I also know how to swordfight, paint believable scenery, and read palms and Tarot cards.
Thank you so much, Justine!