A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Today, a book is released that many of us have been waiting for since 2014 — Judged, the final instalment in Liz de Jager’s The Blackhart Legacy!
If you haven’t yet started The Blackhart Legacy (and why not?), it’s a YA / adult crossover urban fantasy trilogy, and is hugely entertaining. It’s got a kickass heroine, fae, monsters, magic, fighting, some very sweet romance, strong friendships, and banter and humour in bucketloads.
This series is also graced with *the* prettiest book covers. Let’s take a moment to admire them all…
Kit’s job description includes solving crimes – the supernatural kind . . .
Glow, a fae-created drug, is rapidly going viral and the suppliers have to be shut down. Teaming up with Aiden and Dante, Kit follows leads across London, tracking down dealers. They stir up trouble, making themselves a target for the gang they’re trying to stop.
In the Otherwhere, Thorn stumbles across a secret that could destroy both the human and Fae worlds. The Veil that separates our human world from the fae realms is weakening and the goddess is dying. And if she dies and the Veil fails, madness and chaos will wreak unstoppable havoc upon both lands.
Thorn turns to the only person he knows who’ll be able to help him: Kit. Torn between working the Glow case and her loyalty for the young prince, Kit is propelled headlong into a world of danger. She faces enemies from both the Otherwhere and our world. And as the stakes are raised, the consequence of failure for both Kit and Thorn, and two realms, could be devastating.
I’m lucky enough to have already read Judged, and it was a fantastic end to the series. I asked Liz de Jager some questions to find out more.
How does it feel now the final Blackhart book is out in the world?
It feels so odd – liberating but also quite scary. Nothing can change now and the stories are what they are. From here onwards these characters definitely no longer belong to me at all. *cries quietly*
When you decided to write a trilogy, you presumably had an idea of how you wanted it to pan out. Do the three books as published fit your original vision, or did you change things along the way?
They fit the vision in that they come full circle, like all books using the heroine’s journey as a guideline. But, writing (and not just trilogies) is so very organic and unplanned things happen, no matter how much you plan, so you have to take all of this bit of chaos into consideration, as I’m sure you know. Judged had to be replanned twice and rewritten twice. It was the hardest book I’d ever written because I had to make sure I tied up loose ends and not leave too many dangling. I needed a satisfying ending and the one I had planned at the start of Banished flew out the door midway through writing Vowed because so much had changed and evolved and it no longer felt true for where my characters were heading. It was terrifying. And I do hope people like how it ends!
I loved the balance of friendship vs. romance in the trilogy. Kit has a super-cute but complicated relationship with Thorn, yet on a day-to-day basis her focus is on her friends and family. Her friendship with Aiden and Dante felt just as important and powerful as a romance relationship — I loved the trio’s banter and the way they looked out for each other. I also loved that Kit could be such great friends with two guys without entering love triangle territory. Was it important to you to keep friendship and family as the focus?
It is so important to me. I come from a huge family so I know what it’s like having everyone’s nose be in your business and how if you’re the youngest you’re always always the baby. As for the no love triangle: I wanted to show that platonic friendship is in fact possible and fought really hard when we went on submission to keep this as a clear objective: a girl can be friends only with members of the opposite sex. I am not sure why there’d been this huge upswing in love triangles in YA and some of them are written very well but a lot of them are just … no. So yes, from everyone I’ve heard thus far they all expected the love triangle and then when I undermined it, it felt a little bit rebellious and I loved it and my readers loved it too. Although I know that there are quite a few Kit and Aiden shippers out there as I’ve been told!
The three books contain a plethora of Fae, strange beasties, magical happenings, as well as lots of real-world weapons and fighting. Though the trilogy has its own distinct world-building, it felt like there was a lot of knowledge behind the details. How much research did you have to do?
Loads but not in the sense where I swotted up specifically. I’ve read folklore and mythology all my life so the majority of creatures I discovered along the way populate the Blackhart world in some form or another. My most favourite creature is a cameo appearance by a kirin in Judged. This is a creature from Japanese folklore and I loved the thought of it (I did the research and found out some unique stuff about the kirin) until I saw it beautifully represented in a Keanu Reeves movie and I KNEW I had to have the kirin appear in my book. Because of important reasons. *is mysterious*
If you could have the strength and power of any character / beast in the series, who / what would you choose to be? (Just don’t say the sluagh…)
I’d love to be Suola for a night and a day. I’d love to know what she knows. As the Queen of Air and Darkness and ruler over the Unseelie Court, I want to know her magics and see how she influences the fae under her control. I still maintain she knew exactly who Dante was at the start of Vowed which is why she enticed him to join Kit on her new mission.
What books do you recommend for readers who’ve finished Judged and are left with a craving for more clever, gritty fantasy?
Holly Black, obviously. Even her Spiderwick books she did are so lovely and sweet and subversive and scary and not just for younger readers. Also: Rosemary Clement Moore – all her books! I’m such a fan-girl. Maggie Stiefvater, naturally. Kendare Blake who wrote Anna Dressed In Blood. Tessa Gratton’s Blood books but also her Asgard books. Closer to home, this other author called Helen Maslin? Do you know her? She’s kinda awesome. She’s written this Gothic novel with great supernatural bits and such a great strong female character with a good sense of self-preservation. The book is called Darkmere and I fangirled so hard at pure Helen I think I lost all my street cred. Francis Hardinge, obvs. I have all her books. I am very protective of Ms. Hardinge as she almost seems not of this world and her books don’t really fit in the squares most books fit into. I love them for their differentness. Also, she’s bloody awesome. William Hussey and Steve Feasey – two of my favourite male YA writers when it comes to fantasy and the supernatural. Will Hill has done amazing things with his Dept 19 books and I’d pay a lot of money to see these turned into a movie. Also, Zoe Marriott because we are soul-sisters and her writing style and mine are so similar it’s quite frightening. We are nerds when it comes to writing supernatural creatures and fantasy and I kinda have a girl crush on Zolah. 😀 And really, I could spend a day talking about favourite fantasy authors and so I think I should stop now.
You’ve had three novels published in less than two years, as well as holding down a day job, and, presumably, eating and sleeping. What are your tips for being efficient and getting the words down?
Deadlines. Signing a contract. These are all the things that keep you on the straight and narrow. As to how I fit it all in? You make time. You become really very jealous of your writing time and you enforce it. I write before work, in my lunch unless I am doing something else like shopping for stationery (coughs). When I get home I’d make dinner and whilst eating catch up on a tv show or watch half a movie. I’d then go and sit in the dining room where I have a permanent area set up and write there till about ten or eleven unless my brain refuses. If my brain refuses I try and get a good night’s sleep. On the weekends I’d try and have at least five hours writing time to myself, sometimes a full day. I’m lucky that my husband, Mark, also writes and is being published this year. Together we’ve fallen into a routine. We both use our version of the Pomodoro technique – i.e. write for 40 mins then take a break for fifteen then get back into it again. Writing with someone is good – it also keeps you on the straight and narrow. And if you are competitive with word-count, it’s a great way NOT to realise how much time you’re spending writing and you’ll be amazed seeing how your word count grows. There are loads of little tricks to keep yourself at that keyboard! Mostly it is just BIC – Butt In Chair.
What’s next for you? Would you ever be tempted to write another trilogy?
I have no idea what’s next for me. I won’t lie. I’m trying to find my feet across three different projects to see what sings to me loudest, but I keep getting distracted. Can I clone myself and write all three at once? As for writing a trilogy again? I’m not sure. I would like to do a duology as I love the idea of the completeness of the number 2. Also, I’d love to do a few standalone novels – possibly contemporary teen romance books? They are my go-to when I need to refresh my mind and I love reading contemp romance and I always think I should do it, but I really don’t know if I can. Maybe if there are explosions…? Or a sword-fight thrown in, for sure. I definitely want to try my hand at writing a MG series that’s full of action and adventure with some great unique heroines and heroes. Basically, I want to write All The Things All At Once!
Thanks for a great chat, Liz, and have a fantastic book birthday!
Liz grew up in South Africa and is the youngest of six kids. In the year 2000 (AD) she moved to the UK with her husband and they now live in Kent with their Jack Russell, Sparrow. Liz ran My Favourite Books book blog for several years and wrote articles and reviews for other online sites about comics, movies and best writerly coffee shops in London. During the day Liz is an executive assistant in London, but her mind is always busy with writerly thoughts and how to get her characters into deep(er) trouble.
Kendra is a YA author represented by Lutyens & Rubinstein Literary Agency. Glimpse, her debut novel, was inspired by Alfred Noyes’ poem ‘The Highwayman’. It was published in 2014 by Constable & Robinson. Kendra also runs a chocolate company. When she’s not writing, she can usually be found taste-testing chocolate, reading YA, or trying to steal other people’s cats.