BOTH: Frog and Esther married in 2002. For a decade, they swore not to read anything the other wrote, lest catastrophe befall their marriage. Then, the stars aligned in the heavens. In a moment foretold by prophets, they broke their own rule. The result is their critically-acclaimed Gift of Grace urban fantasy series. Since then, they spend their free time watching anime, playing board games, and writing. Their short stories can also be found in several high-profile anthologies, such as Straight Outta Deadwood published by Baen books, and alongside Brandon Sanderson, David Farland, and Todd McCaffery in Dragon Writers published by WordFire Press.
Frog Only: Frog Jones is a hard-working public defender by day and a hard-dreaming author of urban fantasy and editor of anthologies by night. He ventures off his lilypad to go to science-fiction conventions and for the occasional visit with his daughter the Tadpole. He loves MMO games and has a strange fascination with medical procedurals. He is the editor of the It’s Your Cow anthology and co-editor of the Quarantales, as well as being the co-author of numerous short stories.
Esther Only: Esther Jones is a hard-working supervisor of legal assistants in the day and an inspired author of urban fantasy and publisher by night. An elusive creature, she can be found attending your local science fiction convention when not watching K-dramas or reading manga. As executive editor of Impulsive Walrus Books, she is responsible for the formatting and online marketing of all Impulsive Walrus products, as well as co-authoring novels and numerous short stories.
2. CONTACT INFORMATION
Peter “Frog” Jones: firstname.lastname@example.org
Esther Jones: email@example.com
Publishing company: http://www.impulsivewalrusbooks.com
Publisher Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/impulsivewalrusbooks
3. Sample Q & A
Q: So, what started the two of you off writing as a married couple?
The two of us met in college—when Frog started dating Esther’s roommate. Several shenanigans later, and we became a couple. At the time, both of us were pursuing English degrees, and we tried reading each other’s writing.
After the yelling, tears, and recriminations faded, we made a hard and fast rule—we wouldn’t read each other’s writing. That rule held for over a decade. Even after we married, it was firmly in place. It took the writers competition of SpoCon 2011 to break it—Esther finally broke down and asked Frog to critique her entry. It was this urban fantasy with a female protagonist, and Frog started that critique.
Having had over a decade to really cement itself, the relationship weathered that beating much better.
At the time, the two of us were commuting an hour and a half each way—and we kept talking about the world her story was set in. We expanded on the magic system and the society. And finally, we decided that we’d built too much to contain within a single short story.
And thus, Grace Under Fire began—and the writing has continued since.
Q: What drew you to the urban fantasy genre?
The nice thing about urban fantasy – whether it’s humor, horror, or action-adventure – is that it’s set in today. As an author, you can draw inspiration from everything around you—and as a reader, you get to picture the world you live in as a magical place. Other forms of speculative fiction take you to another world—urban fantasy takes the world you live in and transforms it. That makes it a special, unique experience. It allows you to explore the undercurrents of our world and make them feel safer to talk about by putting them in a fantastical setting.
Q. What do you think makes your series unique? What do you love about it?
First off, the characters. Robert’s impulsive teenage recklessness just works alongside Grace’s savvy skill. It’s a female-male duo that isn’t a romance. We really wanted to show the female and male lead in a master-student relationship. If anything, Grace is much more Robert’s big sister.
Second off, the world. In most urban fantasies, the magic is a secret thing. Hidden. In ours, the entire world knows about magic—and has outlawed it. Summoners form this organized-crime syndicate called the Grove system—and the cops are constantly hunting them. What the mundane people don’t know is that summoners are really the only thing standing between us and all manners of threats from beyond the borders of our reality. That inherent tension has led to a lot of interesting, character-driven dynamics, and it really brings a richness to the piece.
There’s so much more—but most of it would be spoilers, so go start reading and find those out for yourself.
Q. Why did you pick summoning as the magic for your urban fantasy series?
This began with the first little urban fantasy short story that Esther wrote. That story is about a young, sort of naïve female protagonist back in the 70s who summons a spirit. The spirit ends up being cunning and malicious, but she doesn’t know that, and it ends very badly for her. So that was sort of the premise we started with.
It’s grown, since then. Summoning is a power that allows you to move anything—items, forces, spirits—from point A to point B. You can’t create anything. You can’t subtract anything. And if you’re moving things from one Weave—one reality—to another, you have to exchange something.
But it started with that one basic premise. That dealing with otherworldly spirits is a risky business, and that we absolutely need people who can do it—lest the otherworldly spirits destroy our world.
Q. Why do you have foster kids, at risk youth, and orphans in your series?
For the same reason we took on a foster kid in real life!
In his day job, Frog has been an attorney representing at-risk youth and children stuck in the foster system for years. Since 2015, he’s been the chairman of the board of the Mason County HOST program, which works with the foster system to provide housing for homeless teens. One of those kids is Brionna, who has affectionately become known amongst our writer friends as “the Tadpole.”
So it was only natural, when writing an urban fantasy, to begin with a foster kid. It increases the amount of volatility you can give your character. It begins him from a place of instability—when the series begins, Robert is already in survival mode and has been for years, even though he’s never really interacted with magic or demons yet.
That gives him a place to grow from that you don’t get with an average teenager. Foster kids have such a struggle just to bring themselves up to the level all the other kids start at—by placing one in an urban fantasy, we got to show all of that, but heighten it by adding magic and demons.
Q. Do you have something against the federal government and cops—I mean your main protagonists are in an unground mob-like organization, aren’t they?
There are good cops, and there are bad cops. We wrote very hard to include positive law enforcement characters—people who really want to do the right thing, and think they are. Yes, the police largely serve as an antagonist in the series, but they aren’t the villain.
Summoning is illegal because it’s been scapegoated. It’s a law passed out of fear. And we do have a problem with passing laws out of uneducated fear—with any luck, our series shines a spotlight on that flaw. But there are many good individual men and women who are, for better or worse, employed by an imperfect, human system.
Not everything in our series is black-and-white. The interactions between law enforcement and the federal government and our summoners aren’t about good and evil. They’re about trying to find a mutual understanding, despite a history of mistrust and suspicion. That sort of story has always been far more compelling, to us.
Q. Why is there such an age gap between your two main characters? Didn’t you want to be able to do romance stuff?
There’s no doubt that romance is a powerful storyline. And (spoiler alert) there is a long romantic arc that spans the course of the Gift of Grace series.
But the relationship between Grace and Robert is that of master and student. We really wanted that strong female protagonist to step into the role as not just urban fantasy heroine, but as a mentor. Romance just wasn’t right for those two characters.
Since the first book, Grace Under Fire, was released, we’ve gotten a ton of feedback from parents. It turns out that having a book written from both the perspective of the troubled teen and the person trying to provide guidance to a troubled teen has been a useful resource parents to communicate with their own teens. By sharing their thoughts on Grace and Robert’s perspectives, they’ve actually come to understand each other’s perspectives.
We sort of wish we were smart enough to say that we’d intended that. But we’re ever so grateful whenever we hear a story about how our art is improving the relationships between teens and their parents.
Q. Why is Grace such a foodie? She’s always making me hungry…
Because duck curry is delicious.
Q. Where do you get all the ideas for all of the weird demons and spirits that show up in the series? Do you have a favorite?
So, we’ve never wanted stock-standard monsters. We all know what those look like. So with this urban fantasy, we wanted to cut loose and make our own beasts with their own unique rules. Cornuprocyon, Lycaon—all of these sorts of things come from us just brainstorming and talking over what sort of useful Visitor or demon we could bring in.
Q. Are you ever going to release an origin story for this series?
We already have—though it’s a bit tough to find at the moment. Currently, “Blood and Spirit” is only published in the League of Extraordinary Writers compilation from Spocon 2011. Not a really heavily distributed volume, that one. But the good news is, it will re-appear in our upcoming collection of short stories, Unmitigated Chaos, so stay tuned for that!
Q. How do you come up with the bigger supernatural mysteries for this series?
By talking to each other. Collaboration works because we’re always adding to the other person’s ideas. “What if” is a question we ask each other a lot, and it causes our stories to grow and evolve into things that neither of us conceived of going into a conversation.
Q. Would you want to be a summoner in this alternate version of our reality?
With how much we consistently torture our summoners? No.
Q. What’s it like to write with your spouse?
We were told it would end our marriage. But really, it’s been amazing. Open, honest communication between us has been key, and once we got that down we’ve managed to create unique voices for our characters and unique plots by bouncing ideas one off the other. By working together with each other, when we know each other this well, we can make something far better than the sum of our talents. It’s been a major advantage.
Now, there’s times when we’ll be arguing with each other, then pause and realize that it’s actually our characters arguing with each other. Robert is naturally inclined to pick fights with Grace, and Grace is naturally inclined to try to reign in Robert. And sometimes the two of them decide to use the two of us to argue it out directly. As long as the two of us are aware of what our characters are doing, though, it’s been a thing we’re both amused with, and not a major marital issue.
Q. How many books will there be in this series?
When first we started writing the series, the answer was three.
Currently, the answer is six. We’d really like to wrap up this amazing urban fantasy action-adventure series at six books, but…check back with us in another book or two, because who knows what we’ll say then.
5. BOOK EXCERPT – GRACE UNDER FIRE
I HADN’T ACTUALLY EXPECTED to be crammed into a small corner underneath Seattle’s Pier 57 pedestrian bypass with a plate of Smoked Halibut & Chips in one hand and an unruly fledgling spirit in the other.
I don’t dress for stealth. I wore a loose blouse and skirt in bright red and blue, plus silver bangles. I even had an electric blue head scarf over my perfectly ordinary brown hair. In hindsight, my “hiding place” only qualified because I am such a tiny person in the first place. I could smell the food in the shops just above me and hear the long row of sidewalk vendors haggling with their customers, much too close for comfort.
My original idea consisted of a quick and delicious lunch at the Salmon Cooker before heading to the Grove headquarters for a little extra research. Gotta love compound rune sets. I’d just paid and started down the pier toward the water. Today the sky shone uncharacteristically bright for late August. I loved it. Then a black- scaled bipedal Visitor about six inches tall with long pointed ears streaked past my feet to steal a potato wedge from a tame, unsuspecting seagull standing only about a foot and a half in front of
—oh, eff me.
I scooped the spirit up on reflex, shoved him under the folds of my long blue jacket and made for the nearest hiding spot I could find. Which resulted in my current predicament, awkwardly crammed under the walkway. If anyone saw me with him, I would be well and truly screwed. I didn’t think anyone would mistake him for a pet. His thick-lidded blue eyes took up half his face. They held no white at all. His ears resembled large varnished bat wings. He clutched my thumb and forefinger in his little hands, already squirming to get free.
The best thing would be to banish him as quickly as possible, but I had to find out where he came from first. If I was lucky, his presence here meant a small hole had developed in the Weave somewhere nearby. If I was unlucky, someone had summoned him here and then set him loose to run amok on purpose. I hunkered down a little farther under the boardwalk, listening to a multitude of tourists’ footfalls clunking above.
“Do you and yours have business here? Were you invited?” I asked it. The tiny spirit looked at me curiously, cheeped, and stared intently at the plate in my other hand. Then back at me, then at the plate. This little guy appeared too young to have developed much sentience, or possibly only possessed animalistic intelligence to begin with. “You’re no help.” I sighed, grimacing.
As any first grader can recite, summoning is outlawed in the U.S., deemed to be the second greatest threat to homeland security after terrorism. President Herbert Hoover recognized its existence in 1930, then turned around and immediately outlawed it. Apparently, he blamed summoning practices for the Great Depression. A lot of natural disasters can be traced back to a sloppy, vindictive, or inexperienced summoner, but as far as I know the stock market crash isn’t ours. Now, if he’d alleged that a summoner caused the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927—that’s a whole other story.
Really, I suppose it doesn’t matter which disaster got us outlawed, but it’s always rubbed me the wrong way that the event used to outlaw our very existence is one time we didn’t do anything at all.
Yep, don’t mind me. Here I am, out in public, lots of curious tourists everywhere, and a baby Visitor in my lap.
6. USABLE PHOTOGRAPHS
These photographs may be distributed by any media outlet. This is a license, and the intellectual property contained within these photographs remains the intellectual property of Frog and Esther Jones.