Today we welcome Jennifer R. Povey, who contributed the short story “Guest Athletes” to “The Phantom Games,” the Tokyo 2020/2021 Olympics anthology.
Born in Nottingham, England, Jennifer R. Povey now lives in Northern Virginia, where she writes everything from heroic fantasy to stories for Analog. She has written a number of novels across multiple sub genres. Additionally, she is a writer, editor, and designer of tabletop RPG supplements for a number of companies. Her interests include horseback riding, Doctor Who, and attempting to out-weird her various friends and professional colleagues.
Tell us about the “Lost Guardians” series.
A few years ago, as you might remember, vampires were a huge thing. Vampires were so big everyone was done with vampires.
I wanted to write a story that had some of the elements of vampire fiction, but didn’t involve vampires. Instead I went with demons and fairies (which, of course, were the new fad by the time I finished the series. Lesson: Don’t dodge fads).
The main four book series is, to avoid spoilers, a romantic urban fantasy between a cynical ex-villain and a more innocent woman (who turns out to be…well, that’s a spoiler). It involves multiple romantic arcs and an overall plot that involves preventing Armageddon (in the broad sense, not in the massive-war-in-the-Middle-East sense). And lots of snark. Lots of snark. The relationship between the primary romantic leads is, shall we say, more than a little bit banter-y. The first two books are set in Washington, D.C. and the second two in London.
I just released a prequel novel, The Secret History of Victor Prince set in New York, which explains how the ex-villain became an ex-villain, and is very much focused on redemption. I’m a sucker for redemption arcs!
What was the inspiration for “Guest Athletes”, the story in the “Phantom Games” 2020 Olympics anthology?
When I saw the call, I was intrigued. The call was for either stories set in Japan or stories about the Olympics. Having never been to Japan…
As a science fiction writer, my mind went immediately to the idea of the Olympics as a diplomatic event, and how that might interweave with first contact with aliens. What happens when the aliens see the Olympics and decide they want to play? Do we let them? Do they win?
How did the tumultuous events of 2020 affect you, and what do you think will happen in 2021?
I discovered I don’t do well in confinement! Unfortunately, 2020 has lowered my productivity (while causing me to learn more than I ever wanted to know about epidemiology and virology. Again, science fiction writer. I tend to research things to death when they come to my attention).
As for 2021, I’m going to stick my neck out and say that the developed world will see a return to something like normalcy at about Labor Day. However, we aren’t going to get rid of this virus. If we’re unlucky it’s going to be another “flu” with annual vaccinations. If we’re lucky, and I personally think we will be, it’s going to be another cold-causing virus that only frail and immuno-compromised people have to worry about.
I also think that as we move out of this, we’re going to react to it. There are going to be so many parties when people feel safe again. That’s what happened last time.
We’re also in a very volatile time politically, which I think will all work out well, but 2021 is going to be a year of a lot of tension, with the need for countries in the West to deradicalize their nationalist elements.
But it’s going to be better than 2020.
Tell us about a couple of the other anthologies in which your work has been included.
I have a story, “Living Yesterday” in the forthcoming horror flash anthology 99 Tiny Terrors, published by Pulse Publishing and edited by the wonderful Jennifer Brozek. I don’t have a publication date yet.
Also coming out this year is Fix the World, the first anthology from Liminal Fiction, edited by J. Scott Coatsworth. This contains my story “As Njord and Skadi,” a lesbian reverse romance. The anthology is of LGBT+ hopeful climate fiction. It’s going to be released on April 10, and you can preorder it right now. (https://www.amazon.com/Fix-World-twelve-sci-fi-writers-ebook/dp/B08NZ9YSNV/)
I’m very much looking forward to both of these books.
If you want something that’s available now, I have a story, “As Much As The Crows,” in last year’s Triangulation anthology, Extinction. It’s a story that speaks to the possibility of human speciation.
What are you working on now? Do you have any future projects you’d like to talk about?
My next big project is a five book science fiction series tentatively titled Council of Worlds. I already have the first book, Kyx drafted, and am about to start on book two.
These books are in the same world as my space opera books Transpecial and Araña. Kyx introduces the readers to the homeworld of the ky’iin, the race humanity makes dramatic (and violent) first contact with in Transpecial, and the other books will explore the homeworlds and lives of the other aliens introduced in that book, and of the species humanity makes contact with in Araña…and end by coming back home.
What’s one of the best things that’s happened to you as an author?
Oh, that’s a tough one. Any time I get fan mail feels like one of the best things. I think I have to go with sharing a reading hour with the amazing Kim Stanley Robinson. Stan is a total gentleman.
What is one thing that you’ve learned about yourself as an author?
That I need to do things and stay active to have a solid muse. We all get our inspiration in different places. I get it by observing the world.
What does your research process look like?
Depends on what I’m doing. For Lost Guardians, it involved a lot of use of Google Maps and Google Street View, especially Secret History. I’ve been to New York, but I wouldn’t say I have the kind of deep familiarity with it I really wanted. I highly recommend using Maps and Street View to move your characters around the real world virtually if you are writing contemporary fantasy, or anything else set in the real world or similar.
I’m about to embark on a serious research process for Tyranis, the second Council of Worlds book. One of the themes of that book is going to be environmental remediation, and this isn’t a topic I know a huge amount about. I’m anticipating taking advantage of my two library cards (hopefully what I need will be in electronic form) in the near future. I’m also looking for a professor willing to talk at me about it. The MC is going to be an alien scientist seeking help from Earth, which in this timeline is recovering from climate change, to fix her world’s problems.
Which book or books are you reading at the moment?
Right now, I just picked up The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, which is Suzanne Collins’ prequel to The Hunger Games. Which feels kind of ironic given the fact that this is kind of an anti-redemption arc prequel as opposed to my redemption arc prequel.
What book would you like to see turned into a movie, and who should play the leading roles?
I really want to see a movie of Richard K. Morgan’s Thirteen (U.K. title Black Man). The actor I’d cast is a little more obscure, his name is Jordan Calloway, and he’s currently playing the reluctant villain Painkiller in the Black Lightning TV show. He’s got the perfect face and the perfect sense of controlled rage.
For those not familiar with the book, think Bladerunner with a focus on race and genetic destiny rather than identity. It has some pacing issues, which turning it into a movie would absolutely fix.
When you aren’t writing, what can you typically be found doing?
Playing D&D. (Which I recommend all writers try at some point, it builds amazing improv skills). Reading voraciously. Researching random stuff that I find that sometimes finds its way into stories.
Tell us about something in your life that brings you happiness. What is it, and why?
Horses. I sadly don’t have the money to own one, but I do ride regularly. There’s just something about interacting with these amazing (and large) animals that is good for the human soul. (Dogs are pretty good too).
Where is an interesting place you went to before the COVID-19 travel restrictions?
Again, it’s hard to pick just one. I hope to be able to travel again soon. But my most recent trip was to Helsinki and the wonderful city of Tallinn. I highly recommend Tallinn for an interesting combination of medieval architecture, more recent history, and amazing food. If you do go there, check out the Maritime Museum. Half of it is in an old tower and the other half is in a former seaplane harbor that looks like a Mars colony dome.
What tasty dish have you cooked recently?
I married my husband for his cooking! Seriously, though, I did make stir fry recently based on a recipe my dad found somewhere. It’s a family recipe so I’m sitting on it.
But mostly I let him cook. It’s not one of my skills.
Tell us a strange, random fact.
Horses can’t breathe through their mouths like we can. They can only breathe (and “talk”) through their nose.
Any final thoughts?
I’m really glad to be here (I didn’t mention, but I actually enjoy author interviews a lot). I would like to end by expressing again, that I think 2021 will be better than 2020 and by 2022 we will all be out partying harder than ever.
Just for right now, please stay safe, wear a mask, and get vaccinated as soon as you can. Please.
You can find Jennifer R. Povey and her books right here, on her Amazon author page.
You can read “Guest Athletes” in the Olympic-themed anthology, right here!