Award-winning author J.C. WELKER has been, among other things, a fashion designer, a graphic designer, a filmmaker, and occasionally a kickboxer (seriously). Her novel THE WISHING HEART won the YARWA Rosemary Awards, Athena Awards, and was a finalist for Best First Book. She continues to work towards giving a voice to diverse stories, while facing magic and monsters along the way.
Voyage: What was the inspiration behind your novel, The Wishing Heart? What made you want to tell this story?
J.C. Welker: The premise of the story came about of an unloved girl who was searching for healing for her sick heart through wishes, and she finds herself immersed in a world where all the myths she only ever read about turn out to be more real than not. In many ways it’s a metaphor of some of my own experiences growing up, at a time where I felt invisible, was hiding who I was, and like the character, I looked to stories to fill that hole.
V: When you write your stories, what is the one thing you hope readers will take away?
JCW: I hope they feel empowered. If I had a book like my own when I was younger it might have made life more bearable, reassuring me that I wasn’t invisible. That I mattered. This is something I wish to perpetuate for others, that queer people can have their own fairytales, and we are our own heroes.
Stories can be healing. They are for me. And in writing The Wishing Heart, I wanted to give young queer girls something I never had growing up, knowing somewhere across the world that there is maybe a youth who needs to hear that they are valid, who will be saved because of a single story. The most memorable experience of my debut was that moment I saw my book in physical form and everything finally hit me, all the things I’d been striving towards—because that moment was also a victory for me, for all the times someone told me who I am “was wrong.” The little book in my hand was telling me how RIGHT I am. That’s the best part. Authors don’t just create fantasy, we can create hope. Even for ourselves.
V: What was the hardest scene of The Wishing Heart to write?
JCW: Probably the second to last chapter—the ending. It holds a lot of symbolism not only for Rebel’s character arc but what she is ultimately forced to choose between. No spoilers, of course. But at one point Rebel says, “I won’t let you use my heart against me.” At the time I wrote it, I had to pause and go back to reread it. Then I had a good ugly cry with sobs and hiccups because that one sentence was emblematic of what many people face. How others try to use your heart and whom you love against you. And I had come to a point in my own life where I wasn’t going to let that happen anymore.
V: If you could tell your younger writer self anything, what would it be?
JCW: One of the best things I’ve read on writing was about Octavia E. Butler. She literally wrote her future into existence with positive thinking. She would write affirmations to herself that she was already a bestselling author and that her books would be read by millions. She wrote: “I will find the way to do this. So be it! See to it!”
V: What are your writing must-haves?
- A computer, one preferably with a lazy cat beside it.
- Scrivener—the Divine’s gift to writers.
- An outline and a mental picture of the scene I’ll be writing and how best to make the reader either love me or hate me.
- The Mythical Creatures Bible, and The Compendium of Magical Beasts, for research.
- Music. A playlist to help get into the character’s mood—and to drown out all the noise in my house. My family is its own separate book.
- Scented candle, preferable one that smells like a fireplace.
- Did I already say cat? Somewhere sitting either on my lap or on my keyboard and hindering my writing.
- Also, dog.
Head to our Instagram page (@voyageya) to hear J.C. read the first page of The Wishing Heart! Find J.C.’s video under the IGTV tab.