At 22 years old, I will be publishing my first novel this upcoming August.
My name is Jaelynn Hart, and I’m the author of the upcoming adventure/fantasy novel, Of Thrones and Thieves, the first of many to come. After nearly a year, the hard work and long, sleepless nights up writing with only the moon to watch me are finally paying off; in only a few months, my first novel will be in my hands, a real, tangible object, no longer trapped only in my head.
In Of Thrones and Thieves, you’ll first meet Princess Elara of Metanoia, soon to be queen, in all of her anxieties. You’ll follow her as she is kidnapped by the ruggish pirate Captain Kai on the day of her coronation, stolen from everything that she knows and forced to face her own insecurities as she finds herself in over her head, pandemonium breaking out over her castle. She is whisked away from everything that she knows, taken aboard a ship of pirates hired to kidnap her by a mysterious third party. Princess Elara, unwilling to admit defeat, will do whatever it takes to escape her captors and return to her family, even if it means battling Captain Kai herself.
As tensions rise, it becomes clear to Elara that these pirates aren’t what they seem to be; their secrets are hidden behind tight lips, and the princess finds herself drawn to their mystery — especially that of the captain. As answers force their way to the surface, Elara realizes she must choose between two sides — will she hold loyalty to her kingdom, or will she be drawn in by the sudden, surprising freedom she’s been granted as a prisoner?
The plot of this book blossomed in March 2019, sprouting out of nowhere while I was sitting in a pizza restaurant, of all things. I knew I wanted to be an author when I was ten and writing LGBTQ+ fiction, in particular, has been at the top of my bucket list. As a lesbian woman, I grew up never seeing myself as the heroine of my favorite novels. Even in the stories that had nothing to do with romance, they (the authors) still found a way to weave it into the narrative, pairing the dashing hero with the damsel in distress. No matter how it was written, it was always the same: Harry always ended up with Ginny, Percy always falls for Annabeth, Katniss and Peeta find solace in each other — the list goes on.
For a while, I thought that was just how it was — the hero and the heroine, always ending up together. It wasn’t until I turned 14, when I realized that I was gay, that I also realized just how wrong that was.
To some people, representation seems silly. It’s just a television show or a movie or a book — why does that character have to be gay? Or nonbinary? Or black? Or Muslim? I get this question sometimes when I explain my story, or describe my characters, and in response, I look at them and ask, “As opposed to what?” At this, they look at me, and I can hear the unasked question just behind their lips, hanging in the air: Why can’t they be normal?
Because it’s true, this is what a lot of people in our society have been conditioned into believing: The default of any character is white, cisgender, and straight. Normal. That’s what normal looks like to them.
This is the why of Of Thrones and Thieves. This is a novel for those kids who are growing up seeing that “default” character, the one who is white and cisgender and straight, because that’s not how it has to be. My novel has queer characters in every letter — lesbian, bisexual, gay, nonbinary. It has people of color. It has disabled characters. It has neurotypical characters. Because this is normal. There is no default person, so there is no default character.
Representation is important, especially in young adult fiction. With these teenagers who are just figuring themselves out, their minds are so malleable. If they see only the “cookie-cutter, default” character that we’ve been conditioned with, if/when they start to stray from that norm, they’ll think something’s wrong with them. They’ve only seen this one thing for so long — what’s wrong with them that they can’t fit into this mold?
If I had seen characters like mine in a book when I was younger, it would have saved me a lot of grief.
So, the what and the why are out of the way — now the question is how? How can you learn more about Of Thrones and Thieves? If you head over to Instagram and follow me @jaehartwrites, you’ll be able to follow me along my publication journey. You’ll be first to know when my campaign goes live and you can preorder your own copy of the novel! Go give me a follow and get ready to set sail with Princess Elara and Captain Kai in Of Thrones and Thieves.