Author Interview: Jan Foster

Biography

By day, Jan juggles consultancy work with her family, but by night she sneaks off, into the past. Her penchant for sprinkling history with magic is fueled by coffee and Cadburys. When not writing, Jan takes her dogs and small monsters into the countryside, especially if there is a castle or historic building there with a cozy coffee shop in which to escape the rain of Manchester, England.

Share a little bit about your book, Anarchic Destiny and The Nature Series.

The Naturae series is a historical fantasy mostly set in the century of Tudor rule, in England and Scotland. It blends magical realism with actual historical events and people, featuring as main characters two fae who have differing views on how their life should pan out but are dedicated to being together, no matter what. Of course, when they are ripped apart, they each face challenges which can only be resolved by being together!

I’ve also written a prequel set in 800Ad which is when Vikings invaded the Orkney Islands (which has a significant impact on the story!) which is the tragic story of a villain’s descent, or creation!

Disrupting Destiny, book 1, sets out these main characters and establishes the world of Naturae through a dramatic journey towards accepting one’s destiny to rule.

Anarchic Destiny is Book 2 in the series and introduces the main antagonist for the remainder of the series, a morally grey vampire, Henry Fitzroy. Subsequent books will take the reader through the remainder of Tudor rule, culminating in the Civil War.

What inspired you to weave fantasy with history?

I’ve always been interested in history, and more importantly, what it can teach us about today. Fantasy allows the writer to ask trickier questions, sometimes human ones, and explore them. You can give characters wings, what a pain when corsets are a requirement. You can make them dependent upon blood alone – how handy if the Catholic church regularly ‘lets blood’ as a cure.

My stories verge on alternative history, and the challenge for me is skirting with how far can I go with having the characters witness or participate in real historical events without it actually changing the course of history as we know it.

Do you know how many books you plan for the series?

I think when I’m done there will be 6 books – including 2 prequels. The next on my list is a second prequel actually – the love story between my two main characters set in the 1400’s.

You also have a children’s book, Mitch and Mooch try Swimming. Tell us about it.

It’s a children’s picture book / early reader aimed at 4-7 year olds. The series, Mitch and Mooch Try, is all about new experiences, and equipping both parents and children with what to expect from a first lesson in a sport.

There’s some specific terminology help, what sort of activities you might do, and also addressing some common fears which children have about an activity (like, what happens if water goes up my nose? The book is also written with dyslexia in mind, the font is dyslexia friendly and the style is more like a comic book with speech bubbles as these things can help reluctant or struggling readers.

You have a whole website dedicated to Mitch and Mooch. Talk about what it offers.

The website is where parents and teachers can find out more about the book, as well as download some free resources like colouring sheets, word searches, and certificates for effort. There’s articles on there about rising to the challenges of parenting as well, kind of, what works for me or what  issues I’m working on with children in my life.

When can readers expect the next Mitch and Mooch book?

The next few books are written, but right now, I’m in the process of looking for a new illustrator as unfortunately, since COVID, mine has stopped illustrating. The next is Mitch and Mooch Try Gymnastics, but I don’t know when it will be published as yet.

Do you have any odd writing habits?

I don’t know whether there are ‘normal’ habits to compare with! Everyone is different. I don’t know if it’s peculiar, but I have to write in absolute silence. I tried writing with music or in a public place, and frankly, it just didn’t work for me. Perhaps it’s because I have to really get my head into 500 years ago!

What is the best piece of writing advice you have received?

AIS – it stands for Arse In Seat. The words won’t write themselves; you actually have to be there, ready to write, for them to get onto the page. Sounds obvious? Hard to do sometimes, but very necessary. Of course, words might come at other, inopportune times, but to get a novel written, you have to make time to actually sit down and write them.

What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?

Ignoring all the other things which require my attention, and getting absolute silence in a busy household!

What does success look like for you as an author?

Success would be someone I don’t know, picking up my book in a book store, and going, ohh I’ve heard of this, I’ll buy it.

Anything additional you want to share with readers?

Subscribe to my newsletter https://www.subscribepage.com/mailingsubscribe and I’ll send you a free copy of the Naturae Series prequel Risking Destiny (a full length novel set in Viking Age Orkney) to enjoy!

Fancy getting Advance Reader Copies of all of my books? Join the Launch Team here https://www.subscribepage.com/naturaelaunchteam

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Book Locations:
Anarchic Destiny
Disrupting Destiny

Excerpt

Whilst checking the concealing mist level, a desperate messenger fae had found Joshua, requesting his presence most urgently at the citadel. Despite flying the several miles back as quickly as he could, he fretted he would be late. By the time Joshua reached the High Hall, the hastily called Council meeting was already in session. A worker fae crowd gathered to watch the proceedings, so his flustered entry was hardly unnoticed. He paused by a trunk-seat, to straighten his attire after his rush from the far edges of Naturae island. Now, on top of being damp from the droplets of the cloud, he was sweaty and ill-prepared for whatever lay ahead. Joshua caught his breath in the humid atmosphere of the vaulted-ceilinged hub of their community and sent a brief prayer upward to calm himself. Already, he sensed the tension within the vast chamber, although tempered by silent respect from the observers as their representatives deliberated.

Present around the wide oval table which he had helped to craft were his Queen and wife, Aioffe; her closest confidante and advisor, Uffer or Lord Anaxis, as he was formally titled, who now oversaw the running of the Palace instead of the Beneath; Overseer Thane, the acknowledged spokesperson of the entire community of worker fae; the aging Captain of the Guard and fifteen worker representatives from across designations. None of the Nobles were there, which suggested to Joshua this matter did not concern the wider realm but Naturae island specifically. Had it been a full session, Joshua hoped that he would have been given proper advance notice of the meeting, but, he was only the Prince and had no formal responsibilities within Naturae. This session was thus urgent, but not disastrous. But he could be wrong, he realised; the debate, as he slid onto his seat, was decidedly more combative than usual.

He dropped his wings and tilted his head slightly to acknowledge Aioffe next to him. She flicked a grateful glance his way, her elbows resting on the table and her chin in her hands as the Council argued. He slipped his hand to her knee and squeezed it, and she smiled without turning her attention from the conversation. The smile didn’t reach her eyes. Instead, he saw they were a darkened blue and filled with worry.

“He needs to be kept away from us all, for our own safety!” Uffer said. His fists stopped just short of pounding the polished wooden surface.

Thane sided with him. “Lyrus is of the old order. It’s too much of a risk to have him around.” His head shook, causing tiny particles of mud to spray into the air. Down one cheek, a dark smudge still decorated his weather-beaten face.

“We should have left him buried,” a worker representative said, shaking his head. “I wish we’d never dug him out.” Thane nodded sagely, his mouth downcast.

Joshua leant over to Aioffe and whispered, “What did I miss?”

In a trembling voice, she muttered, “Lyrus was pulled out of the remains of the Beneath this morning. Alive.”

Joshua gasped, “Still alive? After seventeen years?” He leaned back as he tried to imagine what it must have been like to be buried underground for such a long time, unable to die in the suffocating darkness.

“Barely, but yes.” She turned her attention to the conversation. “I would appreciate hearing the opinion of the Captain of the Guard, please? Before we can come to a consensus about what should be done with him.”

The Captain nodded curtly; the grey hairs turning silvery on his head as they caught the light streaming through the windows, which only added to his gravitas. “My Queen, it would be remiss of me not to point out that I have a conflict of interest. Lyrus was my predecessor. He was, regardless of his actions, an outstanding soldier. He taught myself, indeed, all of our older army, everything. For that, we have a debt of responsibility towards him. A duty of care, you might say. But,” he sighed, “I also fear that rehabilitation into our ranks, were he to recover sufficiently in a physical sense, risks his opinions, his manner and style, corrupting our new generation of soldiers.”

“So where does that leave us?” Thane interrupted. “What are my workers to do with him? I won’t tolerate him spreading discord.”

Shrugging, the Captain said, “We no longer have a Beneath in which to hold him whilst we wait out his recovery and ascertain the threat level he poses. And, he was the most senior of all Guards – Captain as I am now. He should be accorded the respect he is owed.” The loyal officer then glared through his tufty grey eyebrows at Thane.

“He will surely need medical attention for many months,” Uffer interjected. “Perhaps if Lyrus were to be placed in one of the palace rooms, under strict guard, until such a time as we can determine where his allegiances lie?”

Joshua thought this sounded like a typically sensible suggestion from his friend, and nodded. All the while, he kept a gentle hand on Aioffe’s knee for support. His other fist clenched and unclenched in his lap. Two previous encounters with Lyrus had both resulted in differing traumatic outcomes. He held Lyrus fully responsible for kidnapping Aioffe and dragging her away from him, then leaving her captive in the Beneath, thinking he was dead.

Joshua glanced across the table, pondering the changes which had happened since then. The re-building of Naturae and establishment of Aioffe’s new Queendom had taken precedence, and their community grew closer as well as in numbers. No-one had missed Lyrus, and there had been no need for the Beneath; that entire area had been forgotten about – until they needed the space. Joshua knew they were excavating around there to build new ground level outbuildings to house their growing numbers of livestock, but he hadn’t anticipated they would dig so deep as to discover what lay in the Beneath.

He glanced at Aioffe again, seeing the tension in the way she held her slim body. This must be a shock for her, although she focussed on the conversation as if it were just another matter within her Queensland. He worried about the conflicted emotions she surely felt – this was her brother they were discussing, even if there had been little love between them.

If Lyrus was alive, what did that mean for them? Joshua’s tongue ran over the gap in his jaw, left by the tooth Lyrus had extracted while torturing him for information, just minutes before the Beneath had collapsed in an earthquake. As this happened some seventeen years ago, Joshua had tried to bury the memories and his guilt. At the time, it had seemed perfectly reasonable for himself and Spenser to tie up and leave his enemy in the Beneath whilst they rescued Nemis and Fairfax, but now?

At some point, he would have to see Lyrus. Face the brother-in-law whom Joshua had thought was dead. Joshua could not have known, and frankly wouldn’t have cared at the time, that Naturae would be almost uprooted with the violent shaking. He guessed Lyrus would hold him responsible, but to his mind, his imprisonment underground still didn’t make them even. Whatever pain Joshua had endured, Lyrus had caused far greater emotional agony for his wife, and that was unforgivable.

Aioffe stared straight ahead, trying to ignore the glowers which were being exchanged around the table. “I would like a Council consensus on where he is to be housed whilst he recovers.” Her mouth tightened. “We do not have medical facilities and whomever we assign to his care must be able to withstand his ‘methods’ of persuasion.”

The Captain splayed his hands on the table, reaching forwards towards his Queen. His eyes grew earnest, as he said, “Many of us remember the way he would manipulate minds. Your Highness, I still think it wisest if he is placed directly under our care. He, being of royal blood, will doubtless recover very quickly with the Lifeforce we can provide. But his injuries sound severe. The Lifeforce will restore his essence and speed healing, but without correctly positioning of his bones and wings, he would be left a cripple. Although we fae are not healers, we could send for the one who knows our ways, to ensure he makes a full recovery.” He glanced at Joshua, “I believe you know of one such person, our Prince?”

Joshua’s lips pursed. One of the few fae to have been severely injured – several times – and his life saved whilst in the human world, only a tiny part of him empathised with Lyrus’s future, doubtless painful, journey back to health. Joshua’s own recovery, after being slashed and squashed by Lyrus, would not have been possible without the very man the Captain referred to – Maister Jeffries. A witch and heretic. A man Joshua had no option but to trust, only to have been used and betrayed. He nodded briefly, pushing away doubts about whether he wanted to be in contact with the monk again, to be deliberated upon when he had a moment with Aioffe. Until he knew her thoughts on the matter, he did not want to commit to anything.

“We can’t allow unknown others, even if they are healers, into Naturae.” Simeon, one of the worker representatives, cried out. Around the table, Joshua noted many of the other workers shared his concern. “We don’t need outsiders. The risk is too great they will talk about us.”

“There is also the Treaty to bear in mind,” the Captain said. “Remember, only fae are allowed onto Naturae. Any visitors would have to be certain their stay here goes unnoticed.”

“We go into their world when we like.” Thane weighed in, “It is only by the bounty which our Queen has bestowed on our city that we have sufficient resources, sufficient strength, to learn from humans ourselves. Do not forget that.”

Joshua smiled – Thane had proved over the years to be more open to mixing with the wider realm than Aioffe and he had ever expected.

Another representative, Oldy Elizae, known for her dislike of humans or indeed anything not fae, but well respected in the worker community, said, “Why couldn’t we ask a healer what they would do, without bringing them here? But then, I suppose it’s difficult to explain what we are without actually seeing the problem.” Her voice tailed off, realising she was not particularly helping.

Aioffe nodded her head slightly, and Oldy Elizae smiled once more, grateful to have had the chance to be heard. Aioffe said, “I understand your fears, and yes, there is always a danger of exposure when we try to involve ourselves in the human world. But,” and her eyes flicked over to Joshua, “We do know there are healers experienced with fae there, and even if we cannot find the one who healed my husband, we should think about how to find an alternative. Where is Lyrus now?”

“Outside.” Thane grumbled, “Shouting still, hissing his poison.”

“With no guards? We must protect our Queen! Who knows what he will do now he’s out,” Uffer said, frowning at the Captain. “And that means protecting her from the likes of Lyrus as well as foreign intervention. He should be kept apart from everyone until he has healed sufficiently to answer for his actions.” The voices around the table began to rise again.

“Lyrus cannot be expected to justify what happened before when he was under the orders of the former Queen.” The Captain grew defensive – understandably, Joshua realised. He likewise had served under her rule yet was respected here as if he had not also perpetrated the unkind methods the old Queen used to get what she wanted. “He should not need a guard. Lyrus is not a threat to anyone and remains a sworn Queen’s Guard.”

Thane raised his voice, “Doesn’t need a guard? He was the cruelest of soldiers, the most wicked of any aside from Queen Lana, and the most scornful of those who were not his equal. I am not convinced he has any place in Naturae at all. Lyrus should be kept completely away from everyone. He has had years to plot what he would do when eventually discovered. Keeping him apart from us is the safest course of action. Isolate him under heavy guard somewhere else on the island. I don’t want the workers at risk. If Lyrus recovers, he will be strong, and there is no guarantee he will reform his behaviour and attitude to suit our current, more inclusive, circumstances. Our Queen has the full support of our workers, our army, and this Council – her security is paramount and he cannot be trusted.”

Joshua glanced at Aioffe, wondering how strange it must be to have your safety discussed as if you were not even present. There were too many differing opinions to make sense of, and he could see the tiredness in her eyes. He squeezed her knee again, but then Aioffe stood. Joshua’s heart swelled with pride.

“I do not wish to make a final decision about his future here without your full agreement on the matter.” She said, “All I know is, right now, my brother is lying in a clearing, surrounded by people staring at him and he can barely move. He is in pain, and certainly starving after so many years buried. Uffer, please ensure that he is assisted to feed from a small live animal. I know my brother – the urge to take Lifeforce will overwhelm him, and to deny him that risks him attacking any fae who happens to be close by. You will remember how fast he can be, even if injured. I doubt anyone would be able to fight off a crazed frenzy-feed from a maniac like him. Better to give him as much as he needs to heal from our supplies.”

The Captain said, “My Queen, then it would surely be safer for us all if he were to be placed in a chamber, rather than out in the open.”

“I agree,” Aioffe said, “There are many guardable side chambers which we could place him in for now. Rotate the soldiers outside but keep them close, Captain, and make sure they understand the potential threat he poses. We cannot afford for them to be swayed by his former authority over your army.” She smiled at the officer, “I know you will be cautious to keep us all protected.” She turned to Uffer, “As Lyrus will be kept within the Household, I can rely on you to ensure he is fed.”

Joshua said, “I recommend rabbits, Lord Anaxis. Small enough to sustain but will not provide much energy for significant or aggressive movement.” He looked at Aioffe to confirm. “We will need to first discover Jeffries’ whereabouts.”

Aioffe rolled her eyes. “That will be impossible with the few spies we have and such a large realm to cover.” She shook her head, glanced at the lowering evening light streaming in through the windows, and frowned. “I must take my leave, I have much to attend to.”

“Shall I assist, my love?” Joshua asked, standing as well.

Aioffe’s lips lifted, but the smile did not reach her eyes. “No, I know you have other matters to oversee. These are not affairs which I need you for.”

Joshua nodded and looked down at the table. He swallowed, then his eyes followed her as she flew out of the room. He turned back to the Council and saw most of them gathering their personal items and making ready to depart. Uffer engaged in conversation with some of the worker representatives about which rabbit enclosures to use. Thane met his gaze though, and they descended the few steps from the raised dais side by side. As they pushed through the cluster, Joshua heard the worker’s whispered shock. No doubt gossip about what had happened would travel quickly, leaving each to make their own minds up about the implications of the return of a known enemy of their beloved Queen.

Where the crowd thinned out, Thane, in his deep, authoritative tone which he only used when speaking in an official capacity, said, “Our Queen must be encouraged to proceed with the plans for the Ceremony. You know the workers are looking forward to welcoming this third generation into their ranks. The rite of passage it represents for our young must not be forgotten in the upheaval. I look to you, Prince Joshua, to ensure that this distraction does not take away Queen Aioffe’s focus.”

Joshua caught his regretful glance as they passed one of the smaller gathering areas to the side; neither of them had much time these days to sit and converse about their development plans as they had done in the early years of Naturae’s re-greening. Thane was the informally recognised leader of the worker fae, and Joshua felt honoured to work by his side, sharing ideas as they created and grew the citadel. The level of trust and mutual respect between them well established, so much so that Thane was not overstepping, however formally he had asked his favour.

“I will discuss it with her, of course. I cannot see any reason why we would not continue, despite the upheaval. Have we any sight of Ambassador Spenser and Nemis yet?” What a time for them to return, Joshua thought.

Thane shook his head. “I have had a watch close to the jetty as you requested, nothing as yet.”

“There is time still,” Joshua said. “Nemis may know where Jeffries has ended up as well.”

Thane stopped and glanced at Joshua, lowering his voice to say, “Are you sure you want to bring him here? It is well known what Lyrus did to you, and I realise how you feel about Jeffries.” He raised an eyebrow at his friend.

Meeting his eyes, Joshua said nothing, but his mouth tightened. “We have little choice in the matter. Lyrus is my wife’s brother. He is ‘royal’ as a result and that might be all that matters.”


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