I was lucky to be granted an e-arc of Anya’s debut novel Queen of All from Zenith Press on NetGalley. A fantasy novel is outside of my usual reading preferences, but I was pleasantly surprised, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
When I found out Anya began writing the book at just twelve years old, I instantly wanted to find out more! Anya has very kindly agreed to take part in the following Author Q&A, thank you Anya!
Anya Josephs was raised in North Carolina and now lives and works in New York City, where she teaches foster youth pursuing college degrees. When not working or writing, she can be found seeing a lot of plays, reading doorstopper fantasy novels, or worshipping her cat, Sycorax. Her writing can be found in Andromeda Spaceways Magazine, The Green Briar Review, the Necronomicon Anthology, SPARK, UnLaced, Proud2BeMe, The Huffington Post, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Poets Reading the News. Her debut novel, Queen of All, a fantasy for young adults, is forthcoming from Zenith Press.
When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve known I wanted to be a writer for longer than I’ve understood that jobs were things people had! I loved books and stories from a very young age, and becoming a writer was a natural extension of that love.
You were so young when you started writing Queen of All, what was your inspiration behind it?
Queen of All actually began, not as a writing project, but as a game of “pretend” that I played with my brother and a childhood friend. (Shoutout to Aaron and Jane!) I loved games of make-believe, and this one in particular was intricate and had a years-long plot line that we were all very invested in. But Jane lived in a different state, so it was rare that we saw each other, and as we moved into the preteen years we started to grow out of the games. I wasn’t ready to give up on the story, though, so I decided to write it down.
How long did it take for you to write? (Either the first draft, or the entire process?) Has a lot changed over the years, plot, or character wise?
I actually didn’t finish a draft until a few years ago! I started writing when I was about twelve—at that point, the entire story was one gigantic, epic book—but could never get past about the midpoint of the story (what is now the beginning of book two). So many things kept me from finishing. At that young age, I obviously did not have the talent or stamina to complete an entire novel. I also struggled substantially with my mental and physical health throughout my teenaged years. As a result of these factors, I kept starting the book, writing some, getting stalled out, giving up, starting over, and so on. So much has changed over those years! Like I said, it was originally one giant mega-book. I was probably fifteen when I realized that this was way too much plot for one book, and that fortunately it split neatly into three parts. The title was different—for the longest time I called it just Jena. The overall plot is surprisingly similar, as are the characters, but some things that I think were merely implied about the characters are now on the page. For example, Jena was always very much based on me, and she always had very close relationships with other women, but I didn’t know I was queer when I was twelve, and so neither did she! These are the kinds of things that have evolved over the course of working on the novel.
Have you had any setbacks along the way to becoming published?
I think all writers have faced setbacks on the way to being published. I might have had more than my fair share, but only because I refused to give up on this book even when giving up on it would have been the logical thing to do. Most authors don’t publish the first book they ever write, but I had worked on Queen of All for long enough that I knew I wouldn’t be able to give another project a really fair shake. I actually wrote and revised another book, my adult sci-fi retelling of King Arthur, but I didn’t want to start querying it because I knew I couldn’t give it the attention it deserved. Some of the specific things that made getting Queen of All published difficult: like I said, I struggled a lot with my mental health during the years I was working on it. That meant the book took a long time to finish, and when it was done, it was hard for me to face the amount of rejection that querying a novel took. I got rejections from probably 20 or so agents, but it felt like thousands. I doubted whether or not I was a good writer, if my book was good enough to ever be published, and had a lot of black-and-white thinking about it. It’s also a difficult book to sell. It’s what publishers call a “quiet” book, without a big, flashy concept. It’s part of a genre—epic/adventure fantasy, what’s sometimes called “swords and sorcery”–that has gone out of style (a lot of people smarter than me have written about how hard it is when genres are considered “played out’ before marginalized writers ever get a chance at telling those stories). It’s part of a trilogy, which is harder to sell as a new author. And, because it’s so personal to me, I don’t think I did my best work pitching it! But fortunately, Zenith was willing to take a chance on me, and I’m so grateful for that.
Which is your favourite character from the novel and why?
My favorite character, not to write but in general, is Jena. I’ve loved her for years, and it means so much to see readers starting to connect with her and with her story!
Queen of All is the first in a trilogy, can you give us any hints of what may be coming next in the series?
I don’t want to spoil either of the upcoming books. I do want to say that Book Two is well underway (working on revisions now), and that book three is all planned out! The following books will follow the rest of Jena’s journey. You can expect a way deeper dive into the magic and history of this world. There’s also a lot more plot, and some very dark turns for this story. I hope people will enjoy the sequels as much as I’m enjoying working on them!
Thank you once again Anya for answering my questions!
I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the trilogy and finding out more about Jena’s journey.
You can find my review of Queen of All here.
Queen of All
The only interesting thing about fourteen-year-old Jena is other people. Her mother disappeared when she was a baby, and her best (and only) friend, Sisi, is not just the lost heir to a noble Numbered house, but also the Kingdom’s most famous beauty. Jena herself is just awkward, anxious, and often alone: not exactly heroic material. But when a letter summons Sisi to the royal court, both girls find their own futures, and the Kingdom’s, in Jena’s hands. Sisi, caught between the king and the crown prince, searches for a magical secret the Prince is willing to kill to keep. Jena can save her: but only if she is willing to let her go, maybe forever. It’s hard to do that when she’s in love with Sisi herself.