2021 Debut Author Interview: Anya Josephs

In 2019, we made it our goal is to work with as many debut authors as possible and to spread the word about their debut novels. It was such a success last year that we decided to continue the fun for years to come! Follow us this year as we pick the minds of the 2021 debuts and chat with them about their writing process and what it's like to be a new author. Also stay tuned for news of giveaways, Twitter chats, and more!

At the end of 2020, we Tweeted about wanting to discover more debut authors and their books. We ended up finding Anya Josephs and her novel QUEEN OF ALL, and we have been interested in it ever since! We are so excited to have Anya on the blog today to answer some of our questions! 

Anya Josephs was raised in North Carolina and now lives and works in New York City, where they are pursuing a career in social work. When not working or writing, they can be found seeing a lot of plays, reading doorstopper fantasy novels, or worshipping their cat, Sycorax. Their writing can be found in FANTASY, ANDROMEDA SPACEWAYS, and MYTHAXIS, among many others. Their debut novel, QUEEN OF ALL, a fantasy for young adults, is forthcoming from Zenith Press.

Keep up with Anya: Website / Twitter / Goodreads

The Book Bratz: First of all, congratulations! How does it feel to be a debut author?

Anya: Thank you so much! It feels beyond incredible to be a debut author. Literally incredible, as in unbelievable, as in, I often have to remind myself it’s really happening and not some kind of dream. I worked on QUEEN OF ALL for more than a decade, and spent another five years intermittently revising and querying, before I found a home for it, and I’m so excited that soon it will be in peoples’ hands—on the days when I can believe it’s really happening, that is!

The Book Bratz: In your opinion, what's the best part of the writing process? What's the hardest?

Anya: My favorite part of the writing process is when I have a shiny new idea and I’m just sitting down to draft. Everything feels so easy then, when I’m full of inspiration! The hardest part for me is whatever part I’m in currently that isn’t that. More seriously, having now been through most of the publication process with QUEEN OF ALL, the absolute hardest part was developmental edits. Getting feedback from someone I didn’t know well, on a deadline, in the middle of a pandemic, and knowing I had to figure out how to incorporate it into my book… that was incredibly difficult, and I took longer than I want to admit to get it done. 

The Book Bratz: Where did you get the idea for QUEEN OF ALL?

Anya: I was a really imaginative kid. I read a lot, and I liked to play elaborate games of make-believe, often loosely based on books, which I’d rope anyone who happened to be standing nearby into. One of those games, with my brother and a childhood best friend, went on for years, and those characters (especially Jena, obviously portrayed by me), stuck with me. As I grew out of make believe games, or at least out of dressing up and running around in the woods to play them, I channeled that energy into writing. I was probably 11 years old when I wrote the first draft of what would become QUEEN OF ALL!

The Book Bratz: Who was your favorite character to write? Who was the most difficult?

Anya: This is actually the same character! My favorite, and the hardest to write, is Jena’s Aunt Mae. It’s so hard to depict an adult character well in YA. Of necessity, grown-ups need to take a backseat, and frankly YA plots often necessitate the adults being at least somewhat dysfunctional (now that I’m a grown-up myself, I realize that no one should be letting fifteen-year-olds wander off on unsupervised quests!) But I also wanted every character to be interesting and well-developed. In the very last draft I wrote, I found a way to really make this character click for me. It’s my favorite scene in the book, and I’m really pleased with the balance I’ve struck, but it wasn’t easy!

The Book Bratz: What surprised you the most about the publishing process?

Anya: Oh, I wish I had a more encouraging answer for the aspiring writers out there, but the truth is the most surprising thing about the publishing process is how much work it is! I naively thought that, once I had signed that deal, the work would be at least mostly over for me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Three rounds of edits, endless self-promotion, and more… this process has required me to develop a whole new set of skills. It’s not just writing a book, but getting it into readers’ hands, that matters. 

The Book Bratz: What do you hope that readers will take away from QUEEN OF ALL? 

Anya: My big hope is that readers will broaden their idea of what it means to be a hero. Those who need books most: the kids with anxiety, the kids that are bullied for looking different, the kids that are just figuring out that they’re queer—often don’t get to see themselves represented in this kind of epic fantasy. I know when I was that age, I devoured adventure fantasy stories, but the heroines never looked like me. Even when they were outsiders in their own worlds—even when that was central to the characters and the plot!—none of them were plus-sized, like me. They might struggle to fit in, but they weren’t struggling to accept that they were queer, like I was. I want to get QUEEN OF ALL to the kids who are tearing through every book in their library, maybe not even knowing that they’re just looking for someone like them in the stories they love.

The Book Bratz: Do you plan on returning to the world of QUEEN OF ALL in the future, or do you have any other projects in mind? Can you tell us anything about them?

Anya: I also have a novel for adults that’s in the revision and querying stage right now. It’s a retelling of King Arthur set in a patriarchal, dystopian far future where only women can control technology, which is seen as magical. I’m quite proud of it and I hope it’ll find a home soon! As for this world, QUEEN OF ALL was always conceived of as a trilogy, in classic YA fantasy tradition. This book is really only the first part of Jena’s story, and I’m thrilled to say that I will be able to return to it with books two and three! Right now I can’t say much, except that I’m hard at work on the manuscript for book two, and I’m super grateful to have the chance to tell the whole story. 

Author: Anya Josephs
Publication Date: June 8th, 2021

Summary: The only interesting thing about fourteen-year-old Jena is other people. Her mother disappeared when she was a baby, and her best (and only) friend, Sisi, is not just the lost heir to a noble Numbered house, but also the Kingdom’s most famous beauty. Jena herself is just awkward, anxious, and often alone: not exactly heroic material. But when a letter summons Sisi to the royal court, both girls find their own futures, and the Kingdom’s, in Jena’s hands. Sisi, caught between the king and the crown prince, searches for a magical secret the Prince is willing to kill to keep. Jena can save her: but only if she is willing to let her go, maybe forever. It’s hard to do that when she’s in love with Sisi herself. 

Thank you so much to Anya for stopping by and answering our questions! We are super excited about QUEEN OF ALL and can't wait for it to be out in the world on June 8th!

Celebrate So Excited GIF by Hey Violet

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