Explore the Queendom with Jordan H. Bartlett

In a Queendom divided, can one girl unite the realms?

To save her people, Lower-born Jacs must infiltrate the Upper Realm and earn her place to compete in the Contest of Queens. In a story about friendship, love, bravery, and defying gravity, Jacs will strive to prove that a Queendom is strongest when united.

Jordan H. Bartlett delivers a beautiful masterpiece that masterfully uses fantasy elements and preaches the importance of kindness and bravery.

Jodan has devoured literature her entire life and spent the last three years working on her debut novel, Contest of Queens to add to the world’s library. Learn more about Jordan and her work at https://jordanhbartlett.com/

Without further adieu, here is my conversation with Jordan:

Do you have a favorite passage you’ve ever written? If so, what is it?

That’s so tricky because the whole book feels like my baby! I also don’t want to give too much away. I think my favorite quote, and the quote that I’ve had a few people comment on after the fact is: “A girl must be on her own jury when her future is being discussed.” 

Your book is set in a Queendom rather than a Kingdom (which I LOVE). Why is this? And how do you think this affects the story?

I’ve always thought that one of the most wonderful things about fantasy is you can create all the rules. You create the world, the sun, the stars, and the values of your people. I get a bit annoyed reading fantasy where the author decides to keep the same old sexism from our world- for me, fantasy is an escape, so I decided to make a women-run world. This was not to show how everything would be a utopia, but actually to show the contrary. People are people at the end of the day, and if you give one group of people power, some will corrupt that power, and some will use it for good. What better way to explore the absurdities of gender-based values and prejudices, than to flip them on their head?

It affects the story in the sense that it flavors this world.

Contest of Queens is “a story about friendship, love, bravery, and defying gravity.” Did the story precede the themes or did the themes precede the story?

For me, I definitely have some themes in mind before I start writing the story, but for the most part, the themes begin to emerge and flesh themselves out as I write them. Then once I finished the first draft, that was when I could go back and solidify them further. I think the main theme I really wanted to convey is the importance of kindness.

Also, why “defying gravity”? Is that literal? Perhaps a nod to a certain hit musical song?

Haha, while I absolutely love Wicked, I promise there are no green-skinned witches in this novel! This novel’s defying gravity is literal and also metaphorical as the Queendom is hierarchical in nature and Lower-born Jacs has to rise through the social hierarchy to compete for the Crown.

Are there real-life models for any of your characters?

Not specifically. I think I moreso use real-life models for how a character looks. A few friends have inspired  Lena, Councillor Dilmont, and Amber- the latter of whom was named for a friend of mine who passed away, but I think it’s easier to write a character that isn’t anchored by a real-life muse.

If this book had a playlist, what songs would be on it?

It actually does have a playlist! Here’s the link: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/40pLCsal02E7dJnulFlB2X?si=7d9c9a1b4d704928 and the first seven songs include:

 Lloyd Alexander said, “Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.” Do you agree with this? How does Contest of Queens help you understand reality more?

Oh gosh yes. Fantasy settings allow us to really fully explore the human experience. Yes, there may be magic and mythical creatures, but the experience is still human and if anything, the fantasy setting often can amplify the specific elements you’re interested in. For example, with Contest of Queens, I used the matriarchal Queendom to better explore the nature of prejudice and discrimination. I also flipped the gender roles to shine a spotlight on some of the absurdities we’ve come to ignore when it comes to gendered ideas and values.

At what point do you think someone can or should call themselves a writer?

When you put pen to paper, or fingers to keys. While ‘author’ in my eyes requires publication, ‘writer’ needs no gatekeeping. Anyone can write, and I think that’s so beautiful. So if you write, you’re a writer! Congratulations 🙂

Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not? If you did, what name would you use?

No. I mean, names hold such importance, and I love my name. My parents chose a goodie, and I made sure the H was in there to pay homage to my Poppa’s (Grandfather’s) side of the family. My middle name is his last name, so it was a lovely little nod.

 If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick?

That’s a tricky one, I love so many of my characters. A story about Master Leschi as a younger woman would be interesting, but I’d love to write more for Amber. Youngest Knight in generations with a Soterian medal to boot? Yes, she’s definitely got a lot to her.

What is the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing?

When people say they can see it as a movie- that makes me all warm and fuzzy inside- but honestly, it’s when people quote my book back to me. When they’ve not only read it, but read it deeply enough to have remembered a line I’ve written. That’s phenomenal. Just a dream.

What are some of your favorite books and/or writers?

I love V.E.Schwab (Darker Shades series and The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue) for her aesthetic and characters, Patrick Rothfuss for his prose (The Name of the Wind and The Slow Regard for Silent Things), Brandon Sanderson (Stormlight Archive) for his worldbuilding, and J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter) for the nostalgia and magic.

What is the hardest part about writing? ​​What is your kryptonite as a writer?

The hardest part about writing for me is more of a physical one… it’s my posture! I am so bad for slouching and can honestly sit and write for hours at a time. One day while writing Contest of Queens I wrote for eight straight hours and had to take a few days off because I got such bad back pain… As for my writing kryptonite, I think that social media is a serious brain number. If I spend a lot of time on my phone, I know that’s zero time I’ve spent working on the plot or figuring out characters, so it’s just a time sink.

Is there a question no one ever asks you that you wish they did? What is it and how would you answer it?

What’s your favorite fact about your world that makes you nerd out?

There’s an instance where the clock in Jacs’ town gets set back 5 minutes because a flock of starlings landed on the minute hand, and this actually happened in England with Big Ben. I thought it was such a random/cool fact I wanted to add it to my world too!

Order Contest of Queens here and follow Jordan on her Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, and Goodreads.

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