Becoming Jessica: Mageborn by Jessica Thorne (Ruth Frances Long)
When Bookouture made an offer to publish The Queen’s Wing, my strange little space opera fantasy, I was over the moon, to say the least. Often a book just has to wait for the right publisher and the right editor, the people who can see what it can be and what can be done with it. I don’t think I’m exaggerating to say it’s like finding port in a storm. At first there’s disbelief, then joy, then complete and utter relief. It never changes and it never goes away. The book of my heart had found a home.
And then we started to talk about a pen name. Would I be open to it?
Well here’s the thing, sometimes a different kind of book needs a different name. I had been published as both R. F. Long, for epic fantasy and paranormal romance, and when I submitted The Treachery of Beautiful Things, I thought I’d written more of the same genre. Imagine my surprise when I was told it fitted more firmly into the young adult genre, which was at that time soaring to new heights. In order to differentiate between my adult novels and the new young adult one, we made the decision to use my full name and so the writing persona of Ruth Frances Long was born.
So using a pen name wasn’t new to me, but since the pen names I had used so far were variations of my own name, it had not been a challenge. Not really. Jessica Thorne was something new.
So what is the point of a pen name? It’s no secret that I am currently writing for Bookouture as Jessica Thorne and Jessica Thorne is me. If you go to my website, it’s all there, out in the open. So why use a different name?
In many ways you can look at pen names in the same way as branding. The name on the book tells you what kind of book you’re going to read, as much as the cover and the blurb on the back. I worked closely with the PR team to come up with Jessica Thorne and they were so helpful and supportive. It’s an odd feeling to see another name on your books, but at the same time, they are still my books. When someone calls me Jess or Jessica, it’s still me they’re talking to. And that is the thing about working with a publisher – everyone is aiming for the best thing for the book.
Just like picking that amazing cover, or finding the perfect tagline, a pen name is part of the overall package. There’s no need to feel funny or defensive about it. There’s a balance to working as a writer which can be tricky to maintain. We write because we want to share our stories, we can craft believable characters because we feel empathy and can put ourselves into their minds and emotions, and we work on our own, weaving worlds from our own creativity. And then we need to work with others, accept changes and present our stories with new faces. Putting a new name on that is yet another facet of this and it can be terrifying.
There are two sides to the writing life – the internal and the external. We spend so much of our time in our own heads, and so it can be terrifying when we have to switch lanes and put on the professional hat. There’s a hard-headed aspect to being a writer and part of this is being willing to work with others. Your book is no longer yours alone. Suddenly a whole host of people are working on it, working to make it better, make it appealing to readers and make it the best it can possibly be.
The difference between my previous books and my Jessica Thorne books is a subtle one. They’re all fantasy of one form or another, all contain magic (or science that acts in the same way) and fantastic creatures. But where The Treachery of Beautiful Things and the Dubh Linn trilogy were based in our world (partially) and dealt with folklore and fairytales, The Queen’s Wing is space opera, fantasy set in space and on other worlds. It is aimed at a crossover readership. For these reasons, Jessica Thorne was born.
The Stone’s Heart followed, the sequel to The Queen’s Wing. It’s currently shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Fantasy Romantic Novel of the year award which is really exciting. Then my editor suggested I write a second series, this time fantasy romance and for an older market again. This new world is darker, sexier and quite a bit more adult. To be honest Mageborn is the book I wanted to write for as long as I wanted to write.
I grew up reading fantasy, especially fantasy romance. If there wasn’t a romance in the book, whatever book it was, I would mentally insert it for myself, shipping different characters together and imagining other endings. It’s probably one of the reasons I started writing in the first place.
Mageborn, book one of The Hollow King, is set in a whole new world, this time one where magic is real and can be stolen, where gods and goddesses walk the earth and terrible things can happen. Wonderful things as well. Memory is fluid and can be wiped away, identities change and shift.
Using a pen name has opened up new possibilities for me, new options. I can still write as Ruth Frances Long and R. F. Long, but Jessica Thorne has a whole range of worlds opening up for her as well. Yes, you can look at it as simply a marketing exercise, but there is more to it than that, a subtle difference between novels and novelists, a shift in genres and sub-genres which helps readers find the story that appeals to them the most and helps authors change and grow.
(c) Ruth Frances Long
The room is small and dark. Row upon row of jars line the shelves, each one sealed with blood-red wax. The seal’s mark is a twisted circle of briar with gleaming, gold-tipped thorns. And in each jar a flicker of forbidden magic dances… beautiful, but deadly.
Sold to the Crown in the aftermath of the Last Great War, Grace Marchant has never known her parents. Now, she trains as an elite soldier tracking down mageborn – those born with an ancient and long-outlawed magic – and destroying them if they don’t surrender their power to the Crown.
The mageborn who submit are collared, then handed over to the King’s cousin and heir: the elusive Bastien Larelwynn, Lord of Thorns, locked away in his shadowy workshop deep inside the castle. What becomes of them is hard to say – the Lord of Thorns keeps his secrets close.
Grace has always fought the voice inside her that questions whether the law is truly just, but when her closest friend is next on Bastien’s list, Grace’s loyalties are tested to the limit. Confronting Bastien – searching his strangely compelling obsidian-black eyes for answers – Grace is shocked to feel herself begin to change, to show the first signs of the wild magic she so fears.
Only the Lord of Thorns has the power to save her and the rest of the mageborn – if he doesn’t destroy them all first…
A dark and addictive fantasy read, perfect for fans of Graceling and Sarah J. Maas.
Order your copy online here.