Author/Novel Spotlight: Kara Jorgensen, The Winter Garden

In this post I hear from Kara Jorgensen about her forthcoming novel, The Winter Garden, the second book in the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series.

Kara Jorgensen is an author and professional student from New Jersey who will probably die slumped over a Victorian novel. Midway through a dissection in a college anatomy class, Kara realized her true passion was writing and decided to marry her love of literature, history, and science through steampunk.

What made you decide to publish a novel?

Since I was ten, I have wanted to be a writer. I always thought I would need to search out a publisher and wait to be picked from the slush pile, but when I realized self-publishing was a viable option that would allow me more freedom than traditional publishing, I jumped at it. I had my first book, The Earl of Brass, pretty much ready to go. It’s been a learning experience, but I love doing it.

Where do you get you inspiration to write?

From reading other works, I think. I read a lot of Victorian or Neo-Victorian literature, and they often inspire me to write during that period. Social issues can also inspire me to work them into my books. How do they differ now versus the Victorian Era? Often, I find they don’t differ that much, but by taking the issue out of its normal context, readers will consider it differently.

If you could pick just one phrase from your writings to preserve for future generations, what would it be?

Technically, it’s two sentences, but you need both for understand the quote, “He really wanted to, but the voices of his long-dead parents, his boss, and the queen echoed through his mind, forbidding his thoughts. One day they will be dead, and I will still be here as unhappy as I ever was.”

The character, Adam, is struggling between societal norms and morals while his heart is telling him otherwise. He ends up choosing freedom and happiness over restriction just to uphold societal standards.

Why have you chosen this book as the spotlight?

I have two books in the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series thus far: The Earl of Brass and The Winter Garden. The latter is coming out in a few weeks, so I want to get the word out a bit. As much I love The Earl of Brass, I love The Winter Garden more. I think it’s the characters and tone of the story. It’s a little dark at times, but that suits me.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

The Winter Garden began its life a long time ago, before my first book actually, as a very different story. The two main characters, Immanuel Winter and Emmeline Jardine, were transformed between conception and execution. He became a science student at Oxford who is kidnapped because his ancestors created a potion that could reanimate the recently deceased, and Emmeline became a Spiritualist medium. During the Victorian Era, all sorts of pseudo-sciences surrounding the paranormal and occult popped up, and The Winter Garden uses those as a basis for its plot. There were even rumours at the time that Prince Albert was not really dead, which appears in a subplot in the novel.

Different authors have differing approaches to writing. Some prepare very detailed plot outlines before they begin on their first draft, while others have a much looser outline and like to see where the story leads them. What was your approach with The Winter Garden?

I tend to be a loose plotter. I always have an outline going and know generally where the story is headed, but I tend not to lock myself down in a set plan. My characters love to spring things on me, and I like to leave myself open to a little surprise. Plus, where would be the fun in writing if I knew everything ahead of time?

Was there any part of the story that surprised you as it appeared on the screen in front of you? If so, can you tell us about it (without giving away any spoilers!)?

That’s tough because my characters often do things I do not expect. I think one of my characters, who was a bit uptight in book one and stoic in book two, finally cracked. The side he was repressing was finally unlocked, and he ends up feeling much better after he is able to release twenty-four years of pent up emotion. This is a small surprise, but I found out that one of my characters is a flirt when his author is anything but.

What part of The Winter Garden did you find most difficult to write and why?

The “final battle” scene killed me. For a few weeks I avoided writing it because I was stuck on the choreography.   I had quite a few people in the room that I had to keep track of and not lose in the scuffle. Typically, most of my scenes have four people at the max, but this had about twelve, none of which I could really get rid of. In the end, I outlined the entire scene, which helped a lot to get the words flowing.

Books  that are part of a series can go one of two ways. Can you tell whether The Winter Garden ends on a cliff-hanger or whether the story resolves itself sufficiently to be standalone?

Both of my books in the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series can be read as standalone stories. There are always plot threads left from one book to the next, but the major plots are finished in each book. If you read book two alone, you may not know some of the background information about a few characters mentioned, but it’s definitely do-able.

Some readers of fantasy like end-to-end action, while others prefer a greater emphasis on the personal journey of the main character(s).   Where would The Winter Garden sit between theses two types of story?

All of my writing tends to lean toward the personal journey end of the spectrum. My background is in literature and I am working toward an MFA in creative writing, so it is drilled into us that we should focus on our characters. Plus, that is what I enjoy in a novel. There is action though in dribs and drabs along with some suspense. If it was a ten point scale with character journey at 1 and action at 10, The Winter Garden probably would sit around 4.

Without giving too much away, can you tell us a little about how the story will develop in the next books in the series?

In the coming books, the characters that appear in both The Earl of Brass and The Winter Garden will be put against new obstacles and enemies and forced to deal with their problems. Book three, which is still untitled, will focus on Eilian and Hadley from book one as they embark on a new life together. Book four will focus on Emmeline, Immanuel, and Adam from book two as an old enemy returns. I am also thinking that there will be a novel featuring Emmeline and a new character in book three.

Are there any underlying messages hidden within the story (e.g. life lessons, commentary on society, religion, etc) that you’d like to share?

Each book tends to focus on the individual and how our identity is often lost or forced into hiding by society. My characters struggle with finding their true selves and where they fit into this world, if they do fit at all. I also try to promote tolerance in my works, so I focus on LGBTQA characters as well as characters of other races and explore why characters are treated certain ways and how it should be different.

Authors can grow quite attached to some of their characters, and sometimes that attachment can be with minor characters who maybe don’t have a big part to play in the novel. Is there a character from The Winter Garden who you’d like to explore in more depth – if not in a subsequent book in the series, maybe in a spin-off or maybe short story?

I am looking forward to book four, which will follow four characters I have added in book two and three. Immanuel and Adam are two of my favourite characters, so I’m dying to work with them again. Also, Emmeline was a main character but wasn’t explored that much in The Winter Garden, so I’m hoping in book four and her novella to get deeper into her character and her relationship with Nadir, who appears in book three.

Thanks Kara, for your time letting us know about your new novel.  Good luck with it and the subsequent books in the series.

The Winter Garden e-book is currently available for pre-order on Amazon – you can link from here.  Both e-book and paperback will be available for purchase from 15th March 2015.

To learn more about Kara and her writing, you can visit her website at http://karajorgensen.com

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