Janella Angeles: “I had always wanted to write a Phantom-esque story.”

5 Questions With...

Janella Angeles

[Note From Frolic: Our resident YA expert Aurora Dominguez got the opportunity to interview author Janella Angeles and ask her five(ish) questions. Janella’s novel Where Dreams Descend is out August 25th!]

Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?

Janella Angeles: Thankfully they’re all in the short pitch which I will forever be screaming from the mountain tops: Phantom of the Opera meets Moulin Rouge and a twist of The Night Circus. I had always wanted to write a Phantom-esque story, for almost as long as I’d wanted to write a story featuring glamorous magicians and circuses. It didn’t occur to me until much later to combine the concepts into one story, to swap music for magic, and to lead the story with a main character descending on a chandelier who was born from the question: “What would happen if Christine—beautiful, talented singing machine Christine—was not at all timid, but was ambitious and actually owned her star power? What would that spin on Phantom look like?”

What character in this novel do you most relate to and why?

I often feel as though I’m nothing like my main character Kallia (I could only aspire to be a bold, brazen showgirl with sass for days), but in the end, her vulnerabilities and refusal to give up on herself even when the odds are against her really speak to me. I wrote this book during a time when I could not be more doubtful about my writing and direction in life, so to share some mutual inner strength with a character who was also on a rocky path to her dreams has bonded us for life.

Why do you feel novels with powerful and unique characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?

I feel like we’re always gravitating toward powerful characters with a lot of agency; but for me personally, I’m definitely craving them now more than ever just due to life experiences and current events. When you’re living in a time or place, or even at a certain age, where you might feel a little hopeless at times, there is no better solace than finding strength and escape through a character who has the power to do the impossible. Writing Kallia, in many ways, was my response to a lot of areas in my life where I felt powerless, angry, and doubtful. She is unlike any character I’ve ever written, and I’m so glad she’s reaching others who might need some strength as well.

Please describe the content of your latest read and what can readers expect from it.

I recently finished All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson which was fantastic. In this memoir, the author reflects on his experiences growing up as a Black queer boy from childhood to young adult-hood in a deeply personal narrative exploring themes of identity, family, sex, toxic masculinity, bullying, and more. Honest, intimate, and heartbreaking at times. I seriously recommend the audiobook, as the author narrates it which I always find makes the read even more special.

What’s next for you in the bookish world?

I’m currently working on the sequel to Where Dreams Descend, and hopefully after that, I can get started on the next shiny new idea I’ve had my eye on all year.

Who is your current favorite writer? Why?

I’ve always been a big Leigh Bardugo fan. Reading the Shadow and Bone trilogy when I was a teen showed me how setting and strong aesthetics can be like characters of the story in their own right, which truly made me want to level up with my own writing. I’m also just so impressed with the way her work has expanded within and outside of the Grishaverse, having followed her journey from the very beginning of it.

Any writing advice for aspiring writers?

Find writing friends! This was extremely game-changing for me in my early writing days. Writing can be such a solitary activity, and as much as you want to cry-complain to your sibling about why you can’t seem to finish a certain draft (which I am 1000% guilty of doing), chances are they might not understand your creative turmoil in the way you wish they could. It’s crucial to have those people you can turn who will just get it, who are dreaming the same dreams as you so you all may grow together through all the ups and downs. My next piece is to not be afraid of failure, but to be prepared for it. There is so much beyond our control when it comes to finding an agent, publishing a book, navigating the pre-publication waters—so much so that failure is honestly inevitable and should not be feared, but accepted as part of the process and your personal journey with writing. It’s such a good teacher, if you’re open to seeing the lessons that can be gleaned from it, but of course it can be so difficult. For all the successes I’ve had, I’ve faced even more failures just to get there. But if I’m being honest, those successes feel all the more meaningful because of the struggles that came before. So as best as you can, don’t see failure as a reason to stop. Try looking at it like a step, and keep going.

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