Hello everyone and welcome to my stop Of Silver and Shadow by Jennifer Gruenke hosted through TBR and Beyond Tours.
You can find the full tour schedule here.
On my stop today I am sharing an exclusive Q&A with the author. So, without further ado, let’s get to the interview!
About the Book
Published by Flux on February 16, 2021
Ren Kolins is a silver wielder—a dangerous thing to be in the kingdom of Erdis, where magic has been outlawed for a century. Ren is just trying to survive, sticking to a life of petty thievery, card games, and pit fighting to get by. But when a wealthy rebel leader discovers her secret, he offers her a fortune to join his revolution. The caveat: she won’t see a single coin until they overthrow the King.
Behind the castle walls, a brutal group of warriors known as the King’s Children is engaged in a competition: the first to find the rebel leader will be made King’s Fang, the right hand of the King of Erdis. And Adley Farre is hunting down the rebels one by one, torturing her way to Ren and the rebel leader, and the coveted King’s Fang title.
But time is running out for all of them, including the youngest Prince of Erdis, who finds himself pulled into the rebellion. Political tensions have reached a boiling point, and Ren and the rebels must take the throne before war breaks out.
About the Author
Jennifer Gruenke is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara, where she studied communication and writing. She grew up among the redwoods of Northern California, and now lives in Charlotte with her books and the houseplants she hasn’t killed yet. If she’s not writing or reading, you’re most likely to find her in a cafe, music venue, or the aisles of Trader Joe’s.
1- Of Silver and Shadow is told from multiple, distinct POVs. What was your writing process like developing multiple perspectives? Did you always plan to write the book from various viewpoints?
I actually never planned for it to be a multi-POV story, but now I can’t see it working any other way. There are so many moving pieces and there’s so much going on in different parts of the city with different characters that I don’t think the story could have been told without multiple perspectives, at least not in a wholly satisfying way. But when I first started writing OF SILVER AND SHADOW, Ren was the only character with a POV. I don’t quite remember who came next — it was either Adley or Kellen. Darek was last. I didn’t add his perspective until a good quarter of the way into drafting, when I realized that we were missing important insight into the rebellion without him. That was how the writing process went: each perspective was added organically as they were needed to tell the story.
I do write by exploration, and giving all four main characters perspectives really allowed for the opportunity to dig into the why of each of them, their motives and flaws, their internal struggles and all their complexities. I was able to build them out in a way that I don’t think would have been possible without this insight. A big theme of the book surrounds the idea that people go to great lengths just to survive from one moment to the next. This often leads to a facade that hides the truth of a person. With the four different perspectives, we really get to see each of the characters grapple with this in their own way, whether that’s Adley forcing herself into the headspace of a heartless warrior to keep hold of her sanity, or Kellen’s struggle to fit in with his sociopathic family.
2- The concept of silver magic is super intriguing. Where did the inspiration for the magic system come from?
The idea of silver came from a trip to see the Avengers in theaters when OF SILVER AND SHADOW was nothing more than a chapter or two long. I had been trying to write a magic based around illusion, where Ren manipulated the faces of playing cards and scared off assailants with the image of lunging, rabid dogs. It was a cool idea in theory but for whatever reason didn’t work when I tried to write it. I was a little stuck on what I wanted to do with the magic system, and then there was the Scarlet Witch. I should say that while I’ve seen all the marvel movies more than once, I’m not a comic book person and I had never heard of the Scarlet Witch before then. I just thought she was so cool, and I wanted my magic to be as cool as hers. So it really started with a simple visual. The rules to silver and the things it could do came later.
3- There are some incredibly violent and dark scenes. Do you do anything to get yourself into the right headspace to write these scenes? Did you always intended for Of Silver and Shadow to be so dark?
It’s kind of ironic, but I can’t watch torture scenes. Most things in TV don’t bother me, but if the villain grabs the pilers, I’m out. Goodbye, see you later, if you need me I’ll be watching How to Train Your Dragon for the hundredth time. But with OF SILVER AND SHADOW, the torture scenes are seen through the eyes of characters (namely Adley) who don’t relish what’s happening. It was less about getting in to the right headspace to stomach writing these really violent scenes and more about getting into the headspace of the characters and how they stomach it. I did a lot of character work on Adley in particular during these brutal scenes, so I was largely focused on how she felt about what was happening, how she rationalized it to herself, and how she got through it. I never wrote brutality for the sake of it,
I never said to myself, I’m going to write a dark book, but it was what naturally transpired. If I had to pin it down, I do think it might have started with the setting. I wanted a dark, gritty, Ketterdam-esque world, and once I headed down that darker path the rest of the story went with it. Ren popped up and she had no interest in being part of a light-hearted story. Then we had a rebellion aiming to overthrow a tyrannical, sociopathic king. The rebellion’s plot, the character motivations, and the relationships that form are all deeply influenced by the brutality of this world. The book is as dark as it is because that’s what the story needed.
4- Did you start writing Of Silver and Shadow knowing how you wanted it to end? Or did it come to you as you wrote?
I didn’t know the ending, but even if I had, it wouldn’t have mattered because the story changed pretty drastically from what I set out to write, from the characters (Ren’s moral compass still pointed north and Darek was an amalgamation of himself and his brother) to the plot itself. I’m not one for plotting and I never feel a need to know the ending before I start. I think stumbling my way to the finale is part of the fun. But I will say that the final line in the book came to me really early on.
5- What surprised you the most during the writing and publishing process of your debut novel?
You hear this a lot before selling your first project, but I was still surprised to learn just how much was out of my control throughout this process. My publisher has been great about obtaining my input along the way, but in the end you truly can only control what’s on the page. You can’t control marketing budgets, you can’t control reader reactions, you can’t control pre-orders or how well the book sells. In the end you can only write the best book you possibly can. The last couple years have definitely been a lesson in learning to let go.
6- Can you share anything about your next project?
I can’t share much since the project isn’t finished. I will say that it is another fantasy novel but it’s unrelated to OF SILVER AND SHADOW. I’m so looking forward to the day I get to see it on shelves. It’s going to be years, but I think the wait will be worth it.
7- Lastly, what do you hope readers take away from Of Silver and Shadow?
The magic of reading, at least for me, comes when I’ve fallen so far into another world that mine barely exists. It comes when the clock hit 2 a.m. a long time ago but I’m so enthralled by the pages in front of me that I don’t notice or care, when I’ve connected to characters so deeply that they no longer feel entirely fictional. I just hope readers find a little bit of that on the streets of Denfell.
What About You?
Have you read Of Silver and Shadow? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!