BLOODFLOWER is a high intensity epic fantasy with all the things. We have tech from the future. (Space! Flying ships! New torture equipment!) Yet it is also set an archaic world, before guns or computers so we have horses and swords, grit and hand-to-hand combat. Harrowick gives us the perfect amount of romance and longing—a love triangle, or parallelogram (or is it both, or neither?) Strong female and male leads, a nonbinary secondary character, and otters. Never a dull moment from beginning to end, Harrowick will keep you guessing in this completely unpredictable and nonformulaic epic fantasy romance.
I was intrigued about the evolution of this book, so I cornered KJ Harrowick and asked some questions about how this book came to be, her writing process, and well, other random things I was curious about!
LL: How did this story evolve? How long have you been working on it, what was your path to publication like, etc.?
KJH: Oh man… you just aim right for the soft spot-LOL!
In 2001, I began building the universe for Bloodflower. For years I played around with languages, improbable star systems, and even wrote (very badly) a few short stories.
In the summer of 2007, I created Jàden as an rpg character. She was sweet and empathic to others, and she lived on a gorgeous horse farm–in an entirely different universe. But she was too close to my heart, so I created other characters and got better at digging into wounds, personality quirks, and honestly just had tons of fun destroying my characters’ lives. But Jàden kept calling to me, and in 2009 I threw a destruction bomb into her (RPG) life.
It was great! But it still wasn’t enough. I grew as a writer, but became constrained with the canon world she lived in, and I was still picking at the Hàlon universe. Around this time I connected with a dark and tragic such novel that kicked me right in the face–Roadhouse!–and it was then I hit two epiphanies:
So I threw them together, and boom! The chemistry was instantaneous. That’s when I wrote the first draft of Bloodflower, very badly I might add. It was horrendous–nine POV characters, scene hopping, and no interiority. Plus the story just deadstopped. A friend of mine read it and to this day I feel guilty. It probably took a lot of whiskey to get through.
But the truth is that the first draft put the first structural beams in place. Over the next decade I rewrote the story six times from start to finish. Every iteration got a little better, but I was still a novice writer with tons to learn. At one point I even wrote the second novel–Ironstar–in the series as the first, which is now in broken pieces getting a full rewrite. I wasn’t getting anywhere with the story, so I tossed it into the abyss and wrote others. A lot of others. I spent the last decade writing, crafting, learning, anything that would help me understand what I was doing wrong.
After many epiphanies and a lot of growing pains, I fished Bloodflower out of the abyss and refocused the entire story. The legs were still there, but I had to stop the cardiac arrest. Then in 2019, after some very hopeful query responses, I entered the story in RevPit. The response was amazing. A few weeks later it was under the critical eye of the lovely Carly Hayward–who terrified me. I thought for sure she was going to gut it and let her cats drag the innards all over the room.
She didn’t, but her insight was fabulous. Carly understood my vision and how to scrape away the mundane pieces of Jàden’s world and bring the weird stuff to light. For a solid year during the pandemic I worked on it, then ignored it, then worked on it. But the world was on fire and one agent/agency after another erupted in flames. I didn’t want my book caught in the backdraft, so I never queried the final version. Instead, I did research into Indie publishing and made the leap to do all the work myself.
While Bloodflower isn’t (yet) a bestseller, I’m content with my decision. It’s had a long road, and there are some exciting, dark and super weird things in store for the upcoming sequel, Ironstar.
LL: I know you are an extremely talented graphic designer, and you design gorgeous websites. Did you design your own cover?
KJH: Awww… you’re so sweet! <3
I teamed up with talented illustrator Rebecca Wilcox for my cover. She created a gorgeous scene of Jàden in the Veradóran woods near the bunker door. Once she was finished, I compiled pieces of her illustrations using light filters and some of the elements from my style of design to give the cover more of a technical look. So you might say it was a joint effort, but I assure you all the magic was hers.
LL: What is your advice for aspiring writers?
KJH: This is a tough one. There’s so much good advice out there, and it all resonates differently with each writer. So I’ll just say:
Write without limits. Edit with purpose.
LL: Tell us about one book that made an impact on you.
KJH: I’m going to cheat on this question–a lot.
The first impact to hit me was Iron Cage by Andre Norton. Still in elementary school, I knew right away the story was something spectacular. Creepy, alien, and so engaging I couldn’t wait to get back to the library and check out Norton’s entire catalog.
The next hit came from Ivan Cat and Darren Sarvari with The Eyes of Light and Darkness. This story to date has had the strongest impact. It combines a deep fantasy world, science fiction, aliens, horror, and a claustrophobic thriller vibe from the first page to the last. I would read the entire catalogs from either of these two writers, but both seem to have disappeared into the abyss after The Burning Heart.
And now for more cheating…
The video game Myst had me by the throat. Only later did Rand & Robyn Miller write a trilogy spawned from the games, and to this day, anything in the Cyan/Myst/Uru universe gives me all the feels.
One more cheat. No seriously…
I’m a sucker for dark SFF stories, and in 2021 I hit the jackpot with a whole slew of books that have made a new impact on me. You can see my big fangirling article on Bookish Valhalla.
LL: What's your secret or not-so-secret superpower?
I collect scars that have nothing to do with major trauma. Observe:
All my traumas and car accidents? Nada. Walked away from all of them–no (physical) scars.
LL: What is one quirk you have that might surprise people?
KJH: I love the smell of cigarette smoke. It’s a calming scent from my childhood and all the days I spent at my second mother’s house. Some of my happiest days were at her farm in the country where I’d ride horses all day long, walk through her huge garden, or sneak away across the back field to spy on the winery (no idea why this was entertaining).
The people I always loved most were smokers, and (surprise) so is my husband. This has turned into a love of candle & incense scents, so I’m always burning something when I work or write to pull me into a more relaxed state of mind.
LL: What’s next for you? I assume there are several books planned in this series?
KJH: Yes! I’m currently working on Ironstar, the second book in The Hidden Flames Artifact series. I anticipate this series will have five novels (and several more short stories).
I’m also working on a new short story to span the bridge between the first and second novels, and thinking seriously about a twisted gothic asylum space horror.
Also look for me hanging around the RevPit hashtag this year. I’m not entering the contest, but I may just be instigating gif wars between the editors and supporting writers.
LL: What are you most looking forward to in the coming year?
KJH: Hahahahahahahahaha! LOL/SOB Why are you so mean, Lara? ^_^
To be honest, I really have no idea what I’m looking forward to. As always I’ve got plans on paper, but with only two hands it’s tough to get things done as fast as I want.
One thing I’m hoping to do is lean a little harder into concept art. I’ve done a lot of work with blend art, but I’d like to take my work to the next level.
Copyright © 2023 Lara Lillibridge
Public domain imagery courtesy of Snappygoat.com