Fateful tweet brings Fort St. John author's debut novel to bookshelves

When Jenna Morland couldn't find a book she wanted to read on the store shelf two years ago, she took an old adage to heart, and her keyboard: she would write one herself.

It was February 2016 when Morland started typing the first words to Empress Unveiled, and chased away the boredom of long and dark winter nights, her husband working out in the oil patch and her two young children tucked in early in bed.

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Morland's debut young adult fantasy novel was released today through UK-based OfTomes Publishing, and she'll host a book launch and social in Fort St. John on Sept. 8.

"My imagination is just a little crazy, and I had picked little pieces of what I liked from so many things over the years and just created one thing that I loved," Morland says.

"That's where my inspiration came from, picking pieces from movies and books, what I would want to see on the big screen one day and what I would want to see in a book, and put it all together."

Empress Unveiled is billed for fans of fantastical adventures, unexplained magic, and deadly romance.

It follows Swayzi, a 17-year-old teen sick from a mysterious illness her entire life, and sent home from the hospital to die at home. That's when she sees something she probably shouldn't have, Morland says, setting off a chain events that shows her who she truly is and why she's sick, and how the fate of a magical world depends on her survival.

"It's a fun read and it's an easy read, and it's for people that either like fantasy, or ones that have maybe never read fantasy but want to try it," Morland says.

The story is other-worldly and easy to follow, Morland says, and Swayzi is a relatable character for all ages as she overcomes adversity.

"I relate to her on a teenage level as well as an adult, discovering herself and how to change the things in her to better her life," Morland says.

"The decisions that she needs to make, she would be a good role model for girls to look up to because she does take a leadership role eventually in the book. There's so many books and movies out there that don't have many good, solid role models, and I think Swayzi would be that."

Morland caught the attention of a number of publishers and agents during a pitch party on Twitter in March 2017, but it was OfTomes that won the rights and offered her a publishing deal months later in July.

"I said in email that I thought they were meant to publish my book. I genuinely felt that way," says Morland, who had been following the company on social media.

"Everything is changing in the publishing industry — the way that authors are presented, and how publishing works. The traditional houses, it's getting harder and harder to get into, especially with book stores slowly not having as many books.

"I really liked their style. When they came back to me with an offer, I had to choose between them, two other publishers, and an agent. I went with them."

Morland will hold a book launch and signing at Coles Totem Mall on Saturday, Sept. 8 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., followed by a social at Browns Socialhouse from 4 to 6.

"I got 200 books in the mail the other day and just looking at the boxes and boxes of them, I was like, oh my gosh I need to sell all these books," she says, adding that so far the response from readers and reviewers online has been positive.

"I'm just hoping to keep the momentum. But, it is definitely terrifying, having my work out in to the world and people judging it and liking it and loving it and hating it. Who knows? You can't please everybody. But I'm excited for people to finally meet these characters because I love them and they will too." 

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca.

© Copyright 2018 Alaska Highway News

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