Some Thoughts with ... J.C. Rycroft

29 Jun 2023

The Author/s

J.C. Rycroft

J.C. Rycroft

I’ve written stories for most of my life.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been entranced by stories and storytelling. I am vastly entertained by the unchosen heroes who can’t quite believe it, by encounters that are funny by accident, by desire that pokes its head where it’s not quite wanted (why hello queerness fancy meeting you here… again!), by fury that fills the soul and cannot be tamed. I love some meat on the bones of a story, but I want a rollicking good read. So that’s what I write.

I’ve always loved, too, imagining other places, other ways of being, other ways the world could be built, other ways of thinking of time, other ways that people deemed other might relate. So it’s no surprise I’m drawn to fantasy and sci-fi as a genre. Imagining elsewheres and who might live there are some of my favourite things to do.

My PhD trained me as a cultural theorist, which means I have some pretty complex tools for understanding the world in reach. But it also means that I know that the ways that we talk about things – from our relationships, to the natural world, to political structures – make some things imaginable, realistic, realisable, normal, real. And others unimaginable, unrealistic, impossible, weird-as-fuck dreams. We talk about ‘world-building’ in fiction all the time – but I think all of the fantastical worlds we read and write shape our own as well.

So if this sounds like a ride you’d like to join me on, stick around. The best way to stay in contact right now is via my mailing list or on Facebook. But I’d also love to hear from you directly, so please don’t be shy.

The Interview

1.- What made you choose self-publishing?
I got old! lol. 
The truth is that I’ve been writing my entire life. I’d written a number of books, and queried one of them. But actually, I kinda hated the querying process (much as I hated the peer review process as an academic!), and I knew - just knew - that even if queerness were so hot right now in fiction, any queer fantasy was inevitably going to be a subset of the fantasy novels selected for publication in a year. That meant that my chances were narrower, and it was going to take a long time - to do the querying, and then to do the preparation for publication. 
Plus! Honestly, when you look into it, trad publishing is a scam built on the work of authors. Authors are probably paid less per hour than anyone else who works on their book. And I’d love one day to be able to call writing my job, rather than the thing I wedge in around the edges of the rest of my life…. and to get that to happen soonish, trad was just never going to work.
But mostly, really, I was inspired by others who I saw on Tiktok: AK Mulford who landed a massive publishing deal off the back of their indie success, and Isabelle Olmo, who proved that feminist fantasy had a definite audience. They were proof it could be done.

2.- What would you say inspired you to create the world of the Everlands Cycle?
Critical theory and philosophies of time. I almost wish I was kidding! But although the Everlands Cycle is pretty much high-octane adventure storytelling mixed with the occasional bit of sapphic spice, part of what’s behind it is me thinking out loud in story form about time. About mortality and immortality, about being and becoming, about stasis and change, about subjectivity and intersubjectivity, about relationality, about performativity, about temporality.
A lot of this heavier stuff unfolds in books 2 and 3, But I will also say that one of my favourite things to see in fiction is resistance. And so in a bundle of ways, Des’s world is not so distant from our own, because that let me explore the many and varied forms that resistance takes - resistance to normative gender roles, resistance to unearned hierarchy, resistance to homophobia, all the things. I expect this thread to continue. I want to explore how history could unfold differently from how it has…

3.- Sapphic relationships are an important part on the Blood-Born Dragon, would you say writing Liv-Des relationship was difficult?
It was hard in some ways - mostly because I felt bad for Des! - but I’m pretty sure it’s only going to get harder, for reasons I can’t go into because spoilery. But it was also super easy. Sexy stuff is fun to write, even if there wasn’t much of it in this book. But also - I’m sure we’ve all had exes that we just keep getting drawn back to. There’s a line about Des and Liv’s bodies knowing each other, knowing how they fit together. And part of the story is about how hard it is to break the hold of that kind of corporeal longing. 
In the first book, Des has done some hard yards in getting over Liv, and then Liv reappears and all of that work… well, it counts for shit, basically. She is drawn to her, against all wisdom. And Liv, well, Liv is gorgeous, and a bit beyond Des’s capacity to grasp, at least for now. The first book is focussed on how their history together shapes their current relationship - and the central plot. What happens when your untrustworthy ex appears tangled up in the international trade deal you’ve managed to plunk yourself in the middle of? Can you trust them to have your back?

4.- The Quenchers play an important role in this book, could you tell us more about the inspiration behind this group?
The Quenchers in this book appear to be some kind of mysterious group of people - they talk of themselves as a tribe - that live in the mountains. They have some key knowledge that Des needs. Their origins, it will turn out, are far less… naturalistic than they might appear. I didn’t draw on any particular inspiration, for reasons that will probably become clear as the trilogy unfolds. 
But! I was a teensy bit inspired by Gollum - the time they spend underground makes their eyes strange and pale, and that’s a characteristic that takes on some significance.

5.- How would you say your Australian origin has influenced this book?
In a few ways! 
First, I wrote the setting to be Australian and SE Asian-inspired. It’s not Australia, because the history of this fictional land is very different. There’s been a lot more migration than there was around/to Australia, and it’s meant that we also get things like castles hanging out alongside deserts, bush full of eucalypts, the occasional snake and kangaroo, rainforests full of bracken fern, jungly karsts, and a bunch of limestone caves with some gorgeous formations (inspired by the Temple of Baal cave at Jenolan in the Blue Mountains of NSW). So that’s one way. Setting.
The other is the humour, I think. A fellow Aussie read the book and enjoyed the smattering of jokes and funny stuff scattered throughout (you can see some of her vlog here). I’m not sure how well all of these translate because some of it feels very Australian. There’s also a tone to Des that feels pretty Australian - and really to everyone. There’s a tendency to disdain hierarchy, to swear like a fuckload, and to find humour in the toughest, roughest stuff. And that’s pretty Australian I think.
Also, in the prequel novella, I used the word ‘scungy,’ which my line editor assures me is an Australianism that no one else knows, but its connotations are so unique to the griminess, grubbiness, stickiness and dirtiness of bar room tables that I just couldn’t replace it. I did have one reader tell me I needed a glossary because of it!

6.- What does J.C. Rycroft like to do in her free time?
Free time? Free time? What’s that? Lol. I work full time in a pretty intense job, I have a family including a kid, and I decided to embark on publishing… free time is mostly occupied with writing-related activities just now! 
But I occasionally do things like take my kid bike-riding in national parks, walk the dogs, try to permaculture my backyard, and watch all the amazing TV I’ve had to mostly give up thanks to writing…!

7.- What can we expect from J.C. Rycroft in the future?
Oooh, I have such plans! The Everlands Cycle is a trilogy plus the prequel that’s already out. I’m hoping Book 2 will make an appearance if not this year then early next year (we’ll see!).
And then I already have a first draft of book 1 in a series I’m tentatively thinking of calling Everlands Origins, which is set during the Era of Storms, 500 or so years before Des is born but in the same world. It is, in my head, my dragons vs Australian megafauna book… but it’s also about colonisation, resistance, and, well, women. More sapphics, but also women’s solidarity and the ways that it can be the rock that shifts the flow of the river of history..
And then somewhere in the midst of this is me going back to one of my trunk novels which is essentially about a loyal soldier who gives birth to a child prophesied to destroy the royal family… so yes. Hang tight - there’s a lot yet to unfold!