Interview / Reviews

Creating Beware the Night & Defy the Sun: an interview with Jessika Fleck

Defy the Sun
Jessika Fleck
(The Offering Series, #2)
Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication date: March 10th 2020
Genres: Dystopian, Fantasy, Young Adult

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In this electrifying YA dystopian sequel to Beware the Night, Veda is captured and leveraged against her best friend, who fights for the opposing force.

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Civil war has come to the island of Bellona. Veda Adeline believes in the Night. She’s joined the underground revolutionaries, led by Dorian Winters, and they’re determined to overthrow the ruling Imperi and find justice for her people.

Nico Denali, Veda’s childhood friend and maybe-something-more, is one of those ruling Imperi, and he’s just been named heir to the most powerful man above ground.

As the war intensifies, Veda and Nico are leveraged against each other: Veda is above as a hostage of the Imperi and Nico is below, taken by the Night. There’s no way Dorian is letting such a valuable hostage go.

The island will burn unless Veda and Nico can come together to rip everything apart. But Nico and Dorian will never trust each other, and Veda’s heart might be the biggest casualty.

Hi, everyone! I’m excited to host another interview here at UFM, this time featuring Jessika Fleck, author of Beware the Night and its newly release sequel, Defy the Sun.

For a bit of background, I recently listened to Beware the Night on Audible and enjoyed it quite a bit. The fantasy element isn’t too heavy here; rather, I’d describe the book as largely dystopian with a fantasy-esque backdrop. The story begins with the protagonist Veda very much falling in line with the established constructs of her society. Little by little, she and other characters begin to see the cracks in their world, though Veda is interesting in that she clings to what she’s been raised to believe even after its flaws become more and more pronounced to her. To me, it was refreshing. (I have a pet peeve with dystopian stories where the protagonist is somehow raised in the same environment as everyone else and yet has a strikingly similar set of values and beliefs to someone raised in a modern, progressive household.) So Veda’s journey as a character in the first book was believable and engaging to read. I loved the contrast of the two societies in this world: the mysterious people of the Night against the organized and obedient people of the Sun–a contrast that also shines in the amazing cover design.

But I’ll quit yammering and get to the interview. 🙂

Urban Fantasy Magazine: Beware the Night and Defy the Sun have a unique and interesting setting. How did you go about building the world of Bellona?

JESSIKA FLECK: Building the world of Bellona, like anything else that takes time to perfect and flesh out, had its own process of evolution. I always knew I wanted the setting for Beware the Night to be a secluded island where the world could be timeless: not so far off from our own that it’s difficult to relate but different enough that it transports the reader someplace completely new and unique. I also knew I wanted to model it after Venice with its canals and cobbled streets as well as Rome with larger than life, ornate government buildings and a coliseum type of arena. From there, it was a slow process. There was a lot of trial and error and two steps forward one step back, but it eventually came together beautifully. And after several large revisions, Bellona itself became its own character—something I always strive for with setting.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: Did you plan this series to be a duology from the start or was that something that evolved as you wrote?

JESSIKA FLECK: When I began writing The Offering series, I had it in my head that it would be a trilogy. There was A LOT of story to tell. However, once it was picked up to be published and after the first book went through a major overhaul, a two-book series ended up being perfect. And honestly, the story changed so much over the course of revisions that much of anything I might have thought would happen in the series, no longer applied. Had I written more than one book pre-publishing contract, I would have had to throw most of it out and start anew with a blank page. Suffice it to say, I’m glad it turned out the way it did.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: Are there any unique challenges in planning out a duology rather than a stand-alone novel? How did you approach them?

JESSIKA FLECK: YES (lol). For me, that main challenges in writing a series were:

1. Backstory. It’s difficult to tell backstory and recap the main points from book 1 without dumping a lot of tedious information on the reader or without it sounding sort of scripted.

2. Expectations. It was so hard to try not to dwell on the fact that each reader has their own expectations and hopes of what will happen in book 2 and how the series would end (*cough* love triangle *cough*). This was probably the most difficult part of the process because there’s no way to please everyone and that fact can be quite debilitating to the writing process.

3. Making the continuation of a story new and exciting. It’s tough to take a story where the world and characters have, for the most part, already been established new enough for a reader to want to keep reading. All of that deep world-building and character development that happened in book 1 doesn’t necessarily occur in book 2, at least not near to the extent it did in the first edition. So, I had to come up with ways to expand on secondary characters, bring in fresh faces, create new threats for the characters and the island, and, more or less, take an old setting and plot, flip it on its head, and create something exciting. I think I pulled it off. 😉

Urban Fantasy Magazine: What’s your writing routine like? Are you a daytime person or a nighttime person?

JESSIKA FLECK: I prefer to write during the day when my teens are at school and my house is quiet. For example, right now, I’m sitting on my comfy couch with my dog, Opal, cuddled up by my side, a yummy candle burning, twinkle lights on, and a cup of coffee in front of me (or else, I’d probably not be able to resist the temptation of a puppy-nap). However, more often, I end up at my local coffee shop in the evenings which isn’t near as comfortable, but I’m probably more productive. I always have a playlist playing when I draft and/or ambient sounds on when I’m revising.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: How do you go about naming your characters? Did any characters’ names change as the story evolved?

JESSIKA FLECK: Interestingly, none of the character’s names changed over the course of the story. The title of ‘Sindaco’ did though. Originally the leader of the Night was called the ‘The Grand Master’. As for actually naming my characters… it probably sounds strange, but many of them just come to me already named. Like, I’ll think of a person’s story and know their name. When I don’t ‘just know’, I’ll look up popular names from their time and place in history or background. For instance, in Beware the Night and Defy the Sun, the setting is loosely based on Rome and Venice, so for some characters I researched timeless Italian names. From there, I’ll usually try to put my own spin on whatever I find if possible.

Urban Fantasy Magazine: If you could have lunch with any of your characters, who would it be?

JESSIKA FLECK: Hands down, Poppy. <3

Urban Fantasy Magazine: I sure can’t argue against that choice! ^_^ Thanks so much for the interview! Readers, you can order Defy the Sun, learn more about the author, and enter the awesome giveaway below:

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo / Google Play


Author Bio:

Jessika Fleck is an author, unapologetic coffee drinker, and knitter — she sincerely hopes to one day discover a way to do all three at once. Until then, she continues collecting vintage typewriters and hourglasses, dreaming of an Ireland getaway, and convincing her husband they NEED more kittens. Her YA debut, THE CASTAWAYS (Entangled TEEN), is now available. Her next YA novel, BEWARE THE NIGHT (Swoon Reads/Macmillan) releases March 12, 2019. More at www.jessikafleck.com

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