Today I am so pleased to welcome Pene Henson to Joyfully Jay. Pene has come to celebrate her latest release, Storm Season. She has also brought along an excerpt and a giveaway. Please join me in giving Pene a big welcome!
It’s such a huge deal to send a book out to the world.
You spend a lot of time, months and months of time, writing and knowing the world in your own head. I’m naturally a pretty visual writer. I write with images in my head (and on my computer and printed out beside me) of the characters and their spaces in the world. But when my books were released I realized that it’s not just the images in my imagination that count any more. I had to let go of having any control of all these characters I loved. I still love them, but the characters can’t belong to me alone. Suddenly the readers own the characters and their settings and their story. And the readers get to have their own ideas of aesthetics and scenery and how freckly a character is. That moment, when you give the story and the characters to readers is wonderful and daunting.
A few weeks after the release of Into the Blue I thought to see if anyone had tagged me (I’m as narcissistic as anyone). When I went in, I was amazed. Two complete strangers had not only read my book, but they’d seen it through their own eyes, and they’d felt strongly enough about what they saw that they created art for it. And the art was gorgeous, and it wasn’t precisely how I saw the characters but that made it even better. Since then a number more people have done the same thing and it never fails to thrill me. Reading and enjoying is one thing, but the fact that my book could inspire people to create something… that’s a huge highlight for me.
The first time someone made an aesthetic edit for my novel made me purely and foot wigglingly happy and I will never forget it.
Every time I look at these varied aesthetics it makes me happy. They show different Tais and Ollies from book one and different Liens and Claudies from this book. Every time their face is different, and their build and the colors that are around them. All these things are different from what I imagined while writing. They’re so true to the book and it’s powerful to see.
And then more recently a new reader messaged me. She had read Into the Blue and was simply thrilled by meeting Ollie, one of the protagonists. Ollie’s a talented surfer, and a fiercely loyal, prickly, reserved, driven, and wary of the love of a boy. In the book he might not know all the words to define his own sexuality, but he is both demisexual and queer. In the course of the book he explores love for the first time. Ollie feels so real to me, some of his experiences with touch and love resonate with my experiences. And it was such an amazing highlight to find that his sexuality and experiences were a joy and a relief to this gorgeous reader. Diversity shows the world the way it really is, and gives real people the chance to see themselves reflected.
Shifting her weight, she tests her knee as she watches the rain. This is the same injury that derailed all of her plans eight years ago. The pain flings her brain back to those days when everything she’d ever dreamed for her future was over forever. But then she was playing soccer. Knees don’t matter so much now. A bit of a limp is not going to stop her from music reviews, interviews with bands, fashion watching, and articles about the festival lineup and the crowd and new Australian music at Rivers Fest.
Wind and rain batters the tin roof. The chair in the other room squeaks. The sound is just audible over the noise of the storm.
The night before is a haze of stupid decisions and rain. And a superhero park ranger. This morning is going to be better. Lien limps into the main room on bare feet, careful to make no noise. The early morning light is delicate, hazy green and gray. It creeps across the walls and over the wooden floorboards.
The main room takes up the whole width of the cabin. Its windows extend between the floor and the ceiling. Through the windows, there are a few trees standing near the cabin and shooting straight from the earth to the sky. Beyond them the valley drops away and the view is a canopy of treetop after treetop, stretching green over the nearby mountains as far as Lien can see. The seclusion seems boundless.
Musical instruments hang on the white walls: a couple of acoustic guitars, one of which has seen better days, a twelve string, a bass, an autoharp.
Lien’s superhero park ranger is stretched out in the blue-gray chair. In the fear and shock of the night before Lien didn’t take Claudia in except as Wonder Woman with glorious shoulders. Now, with Claudia safely asleep, Lien can’t help but look her over. She’s older than Lien, somewhere in her thirties. Her face is angular, with prominent cheekbones, a wide mouth, and dark hair and eyelashes. Her hair is roughly layered, like a cut that’s growing out from something that was cool on Joan Jett in the 70s. Somehow, though, it perfectly frames Claudia’s face. Even asleep, she seems comfortable in her solid, long-limbed body. She was comfortable moving, too, even when she was supporting Lien. Her shoulders take up most of the width of the chair. She has slim hips and a broad back and muscular thighs. She’s not fashionable, but she seems confident, with that accidental gorgeousness Lien sometimes envies.
Her perfectly fitted jeans look old enough to have molded to her thighs. Lien wishes she’d thought to ensure Claudia had a chance to get into her pajamas or whatever she sleeps in.
Even asleep Claudia’s imposing, impressive, though maybe that’s hero worship talking. After all, Claudia appeared out of the darkness and rescued Lien. It’s hard to see past that.
Claudia stirs. Lien freezes when she blinks awake. Her eyes quickly fix on Lien. They’re dark clear gray, reflecting the sky and the rain.
“Hi,” says Claudia.
Lien glances away. Claudia’s distracting. Maybe she can’t tell that Lien was staring, cataloging Claudia’s striking features. This whole thing is awkward. They are strangers and, yes, they slept here in a tiny cabin.
“Hi,” Lien says. She tries a tiny smile.
If she had Beau or Annie here, she could laugh about last night, laugh about her shoes and the rivers of rain running down her hair and into her underwear. Instead she’s faced with this serious woman, dressed in boys’ T-shirt and jeans, with the outdoors etched into her face.
Lien’s gestures to the instruments hanging on the wall. “You play?”
Claudia glances at them. “Yep.”
“All of them?”
“They’re not decorative,” says Claudia.
The great outdoors isn’t so great for Sydney It-Girl Lien Hong. It’s too dark, too quiet, and there are spiders in the toilet of the cabin she is sharing with friends on the way to a New South Wales music festival. To make matters worse, she’s been separated from her companions and taken a bad fall. With a storm approaching, her rescue comes in the form of a striking wilderness ranger named Claudia Sokolov, whose isolated cabin, soulful voice and collection of guitars bely a complicated history. While they wait out the weather, the women find an undeniable connection—one that puts them both on new trajectories that last long after the storm has cleared.
Pene Henson has gone from British boarding schools to New York City law firms. She now lives in Sydney, Australia, where she is an intellectual property lawyer and published poet who is deeply immersed in the city’s LGBTQIA community. She spends her spare time enjoying the outdoors and gazing at the ocean with her gorgeous wife and two unexpectedly exceptional sons. <em>Into the Blue</em>, her first novel, was published by Interlude Press in 2016 and received a starred review from <em>Publishers Weekly.</em>
Storm Season will be published by Interlude Press on February 2, 2017. Connect with author Pene Henson at PeneHenson.com; on Facebook at facebook.com/penewrites and on Twitter at @penehenson.
Pene has brought a $25 Interlude Press gift card and Storm Season ebooks to give away to winners on her tour. Just follow the Rafflecopter below to enter.
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