Interview with Jennifer Sowle

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in southern California, with desert chaparral on one side and ocean on the other, like living between two worlds. The daughter of a scientist and an artist, the imagery of different worlds found its way into my childhood writings and continues today. My young-adult fantasy series The Animal Guild combines the rich "reality" of the California geography with the fantasy of animals living in that geography in secret societies, having adventures that stray into the realm of magic.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I started writing The Animal Guild Series when I was 13 years old, and the plots have borne many revisions over the years (I won't say how many years, but the key word is "many"). The first five books in the series—The Animal Guild, Monsters in the Territory, The Marrhob War, The Nhorn and Outcasts—are available, with The Hikum (Book 6) coming soon. I'm currently working on the seventh novel in the series, which is also sort of like the first novel of a concomitant series. This concurrent novel is about a group of (human) kids involved in adventure and magic, and the plot segues into the Animal Guild world in some weird and intriguing ways. But the characters have their own stories to tell, and I try not to get in their way.

While The Animal Guild is a self-contained book, the trio of Monsters in the Territory, The Marrhob War and The Nhorn are a trilogy within the series, complete with cliff-hanger endings. The plot in these books veers toward the fantastic, but the crux is the bond between the two main characters, Corto (a dog) and Renard (a fox), their loyalty to their friends, their sacrifices, their teamwork, and their tolerance toward those who are different. Outcasts and The Hikum -- well, see for yourself!
Who are your favorite authors?
The list is long, but here are just a few: J.R.R. Tolkien, Patricia McKillip, Ursula K. Le Guin, Lloyd Alexander, Carol Kendall, Rudyard Kipling, Harper Lee, Fritz Leiber, Stanisław Lem, Hugh Lofting, Alexei Panshin, Terry Pratchett, Jules Verne, Roger Zelazny, Richard Adams.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I remember reading J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, and being blown away by the rich complexity of the world that he created. I had to wait my turn to read The Lord of the Rings (we had only one copy, and my older brother got to read it first), and that pretty much set me on the fantasy literature path. A few years later, I read Richard Adams' Watership Down; this work impressed me with its animal characters who base their adventures in the reality of the English countryside, but Adams mixes in the magic of visions and the gods. My own animal characters were already involved in their adventures, but Adams' themes of friendship and sacrifice encouraged me to continue my writing.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I keep a binder of all of the writing I've ever done (even the bad stories); no one knows where the binder is except me (probably a good thing).
What motivated you to become an indie author?
If indie ebook publishing had been around years ago, I'd have been among the first to use it! But I, along with so many other writers, have done the legwork of submissions to traditional publishers and agents and stuffed my "Rejections" file full of those dreaded letters. Yes, I even labeled mine "Rejections" after I accumulated several... While some publishers and agents wrote very nice, encouraging letters, in the end they were still saying "no." But with indie publishing, good, well-vetted and well-edited stories can now be told inexpensively while saving resources like paper and transportation costs -- and the royalties are nice, too (thanks, Smashwords).
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
The most valuable contributions that I've gained from Smashwords are its generosity of information and its encouragement. Every page of the website has suggestions, links, free ebooks on formatting and marketing, FAQs that contain thorough answers (and even more links!). While I am by no means a successful indie author, I feel that I am part of a growing movement to keep people reading, educated and entertained.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I am not writing, it is because I am distracted by running my household of two dogs, one cat, one husband, and large gardens in front and back yards -- while reading as many books as I can.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
While I have a very old Nook e-reader, I like to read on my iPad because I have Nook, Kindle and iBooks apps, and the display quality is better on the iPad. I may yet buy a Kindle or other e-reader, but I enjoy having all the apps on one device.
Describe your desk
I have a physical "desk" where my laptop sits plugged in, but my mobile "desk" is wherever I'm sitting with laptop, tablet or e-reader. I am one of those old-fashioned people who write longhand with pencil and legal pad -- so I might be in an armchair, on the couch, or propped up in bed. But I've always got pencils, pens, paper, backup thumbdrives, and lots of file folders with notes and drafts.
Published 2015-07-24.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Outcasts
Series: The Animal Guild, Book 5. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 77,320. Language: English. Published: July 26, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary, Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
Two outcasts. One is despised because of the past, the other is rejected as a mutant freak. One is the daughter of the deposed tyrant of the Kaffracuss Kingdom, and the other is Bhorg’s heir. Both have been cast out by their people as pariahs, but when Valon’s disappearance leads Corto and Renard into a bloody war, only the outcasts can save them—if they care.
The Hikum
Series: The Animal Guild, Book 6. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 117,850. Language: English. Published: July 26, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary, Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
Returning to the 233rd guild from Kaffracuss isn’t easy for Bhresh or Guelen, facing distrust or the constant reminder of a bloody past. But when the human child of Bhresh’s vision arrives and everyone is exposed to a deadly plague, both leaders must convince their people that beetle magic is behind it, and both leaders must save their people before it is too late.
The Nhorn
Series: The Animal Guild, Book 4. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 99,460. Language: English. Published: June 9, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary
Concluding the adventures of Monsters in the Territory and The Marrhob War, the 233rd guild has forged a rocky alliance with Bhorg, but Hlik and Surm are not only determined to destroy all animals, but also to usurp Bhorg’s rule, pitting Marrhob against Marrhob. Grueling battles, tragic sacrifices and heart-breaking treachery are only some of the surprises that await Corto and Renard.
The Marrhob War
Series: The Animal Guild, Book 3. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 116,250. Language: English. Published: March 7, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary
Continuing the adventures that started in Monsters in the Territory, the 233rd guild faces a deadly enemy—the Marrhob. Will these blood-thirsty “monsters” declare war on the animals and climb above ground to annihilate them? If Corto and Renard can’t convince Rhob Bhorg that tolerance and friendship are possible between species, their world and everyone they love will be destroyed.
Monsters in the Territory
Series: The Animal Guild, Book 2. Price: $5.99 USD. Words: 123,690. Language: English. Published: August 15, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » General, Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary
Two years after the adventures of The Animal Guild, Corto and Renard command a new guild. But things are going wrong in their territory; the guild that had lived there before them has vanished, monstrous creatures abound, and most importantly, something has happened to derail the friendship between them. Can they end their feud before the monsters in the territory end it for them?
The Animal Guild
Series: The Animal Guild, Book 1. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 113,300. Language: English. Published: October 2, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary, Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal
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What if you think you’re such a perfect leader that you enroll in Guild Officer Training School, but because you once lost someone you loved, you’re so afraid of friendship and trust that you may fail to graduate? Worse, what if a bully has sworn to kill you while a stranger has weird visions about your future? And finally, what if you're not a human, but a dog, and your guild is The Animal Guild?