BANFF – What started out as words on a high school student’s bucket list have become a reality.
Jordan Bartlett is a Banff-based author and recently released the cover artwork for her second published work and first novel Contest of Queens.
“I know when I was in high school, I made a bucket list, and No. 1 was write a novel, No. 2 was to meet J.K. Rowling. I honestly thought No. 2 was going to be more likely, but apparently not,” said Bartlett.
In 2017, Bartlett started to formally work on the novel and the idea snowballed from what was originally supposed to be one book, into The Frean Chronicles trilogy.
“I got about halfway through and realized I had a lot more to say. Actually, the ending of the first novel kind of snuck up on me,” she said. “I was writing in the Wildflower Cafe – typing away – and I hit this line and I’m like, 'OK, that's the end of book one.' And then where the rest of the story was going to go. I was like, 'Well, it has to wait.'”
Bartlett’s Contest of Queens is a young adult fantasy novel, a genre she said gave her a lot of freedom to create her own world.
“I’ve always loved fantasy, fantasy is delicious. You get to do what you want, as long as you create the rules, understand the rules, and then stick to them. You can really do whatever you want. You can make it entirely your own, and you don't have to be apologetic for it," she said.
The novel is set in a matriarchal society and follows Jacs, or Jacqueline Tabart, and Prince Cornelius Frean set in the Upper and Lower Realms of the Queendom of Frea. In the novel, Bartlett explores gender and the importance of kindness.
“You get to explore, what it would be like if women ruled the world. And I hope that I showed that it's not going to be perfect. People are people, and we're all going to make mistakes. Power is going to corrupt just as easily as it does in a patriarchal society, but there will always be people with goodness in them who are just trying to do good for goodness' sake,” Bartlett said.
For her first novel, the young author took inspiration from V.E. Schwab’s character development and magic system in her Shades of Magic novels and Patrick Rothfuss's prose in The Name of the Wind and The Slow Regard of Silent Things.
She also mentioned J.K Rowling as a literary inspiration. Growing up, Bartlett said the Harry Potter series was fundamentally forming for her.
“I’m not religious, so it wasn't, what would Jesus do? It was what would Hermione do?” Bartlett said while laughing.
Bartlett worked with artist Maryann Appel and the publishers on the cover design and said it came out differently than what she had originally imagined.
“I’m in love with it. I don't have children, but I think this is probably what people feel when they see their first born, like, 'oh, she's beautiful.'”
“I think too, because I recognize that writing in a kind of gender role reversal world, has the potential to turn male readers off. But I think the cover is very purposefully not exclusionary in that way.”
Though the novel will not be available until January 2022, it can be pre-ordered online at camcatbooks.com/Books/C/Contest-of-Queens.