An Interview with Jenna Weatherwax
By Lauren Dooley
Can you really be whole with only half of your soul?
This is the question that Jenna Weatherwax explores in her debut novel, The Promise of Lightning. This Greek mythological epic explores the idea of humans only possessing half of their soul until they are united with their soulmate. However, the main protagonist Vanessa Reyes’ does not experience her Happily Ever After, but something straight out of a Greek tragedy. This book explores polyamory, consent and love from an inspiring angle. To celebrate her debut release, I reached out to Jenna Weatherwax regarding her inspiration for this compelling fantasy and her experience with LGBTQ+ literature and publishing.
When did you realise that you wanted to become an author?
I was a huge reader as a kid, but I got burnt out on it by middle school and didn’t read anything for two years. I had an absolutely amazing English teacher who encouraged me to scour her library and find anything that looked interesting and give it a shot. I ended up finding an old copy of the first Percy Jackson book and finished the entire series in a week. I wrote my first novel that year, when I was eleven or twelve, and haven’t stopped since. I think that was when I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I realised I wanted to publish when I really started getting good feedback from friends and family in college.
What was the inspiration behind The Promise of Lightning?
There were a lot of things that inspired me, honestly. I’m a hopeful romantic at heart, so I think the ideas of soulmates in fiction and in fanfiction really made me start considering how that would look in a modern world. I also wrote the first two chapters on a train ride from Rome to Florence while in Italy on spring break during my study abroad in Greece. So my Classics education and interest in reading mythology in its original languages were a huge part in inspiring the actual craft of my writing. It’s hard not to be inspired by reading Euripides at the actual Acropolis or Ovid in Rome. I was also just in the beginning stages of exploring polyamory and non-monogamy for myself, so the idea of having two soulmates was the starting place for The Promise of Lightning.
Does sexuality play an important role in this story?
In a way, I wanted it to not be such an important part of the story. Love is love and I found a lot of solace in consuming content with queer relationships without having to worry about the consequences of homophobia. A great example of this is Schitt’s Creek. In a world where people are together because of the soul and not because of gender, I think normalising same-gender relationships was an essential part of world building for this universe.
What is your opinion on the current representation of polyamory within this genre?
Speaking from my own experience, I think a lot of representation comes in waves. I know, if I want good poly representation, I still often have to look for it in fanfiction before published works. But there has been so much progress lately and I’m really excited to see how much more progress is coming. I just hope the genre stays away from harmful aspects of polyamory like unicorn hunting (where heterosexual couples seek a bisexual woman to spice up their relationship through fetishising sexuality), because I think it’s caused a lot of problems for bisexual women, specifically, myself included. Any kind of representation, I think authors should do research before jumping into it, because there are real people and real communities out there who are living happy, polyamorous lives and we should treat it with respect.
Do you remember the first book you saw yourself in as a young reader?
I had a hard time even remembering a book or series that included queer female characters when I was a young reader. I read the Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris when I was in high school, so I think that was probably the first time, sexuality-wise. I’m genuinely so happy there are more options for young readers now.
What two authors influenced your writing the most?
Formatively, Rick Riordan and L.J. Smith were huge influences on me. Both do an incredible job at merging magic into the real world and creating complex characters with individual motivations for the story. I’ve read Percy Jackson and The Night World series, respectively, probably a dozen times. To push the question a bit further, more recently, I’ve found that reading ancient authors have really influenced my writing in a more poetic sense – Sappho and Ovid, most predominantly.
The Promise of Lightning is now available in paperback and eBook on Amazon.co.uk.