Interview with CL Jarvis

Dark City Rising: Interview with CL Jarvis

It’s our pleasure to host CL Jarvis, the author of the SPFBO 10 entrant Dark City Rising, a standalone fantasy novel out now!

This interview is posted as part of the Wyrd & Wonder Month hosted by some amazing ladies. Check out all content on TwitterInstagram, and BlueSky!

Wyrd & Wonder 2024
Artwork by Ehtisham Sajid
Meet the Author
CL Jarvis

Originally from Scotland, CL Jarvis holds a PhD in chemistry and worked as a science journalist, healthcare copywriter, and medical writer before sitting down to write her first novel. She’s held together by cat hair and double espressos, and lives in Philadelphia, USA.

Connect with CL Jarvis

About the Book
Dark City Rising by CL Jarvis

He wanted to fix the archaic medical education system. He ended up changing the world.

Scotland, 1748. Professor William Cullen has a secret: he’s developing a new, egalitarian system of magic. If Scotland’s aristocrats learn he threatens their stronghold of power – upheld through dark magical means and buy-in from the Edinburgh’s illustrious medical school – he’s dead. When a noble is murdered for daring to champion Cullen, he realises confrontation is inevitable and he must take his fight to the enemy.

Aided by his prodigious former student Joseph Black, Cullen must navigate a hostile academic system, locating the source of the aristocrats’ power before his secret abilities are uncovered and the assassins return for him.

Fans of The Embroidered Book and The Baroque Cycle will be enthralled by this sweeping reimagining of 18th century Edinburgh on the cusp of scientific and philosophical revolution.

Welcome to the Asylum, Claire! Take a seat by the fire, have a glass of beverage of your choice, and tell me something about yourself, that’s not in your bio!

Thank you, I’m delighted (?) to be here. I’m a double espresso fiend, but I didn’t start drinking coffee until I was 19. I feel that’s quite a late age.

Well…I’m 36 and I never drank coffee, so…I guess it’s relative 😀
What inspires your writing? Do you listen to music, stare into the fire, listen to the whispering of the wind, or make deals with the Devil?

The ‘idea generation’ part of the process happens in random locations, when I’m doing something else (e.g. walking to the shops, tidying my kitchen). When I’m actively writing I like to hang out in coffeeshops or my local park. I usually have a playlist associated with every novel and its key scenes if I need help getting into the correct mental state.

What was the most memorable place you’ve visited? Did it inspire any of your work? How did that experience affect you personally?

Maybe Iceland? I visited one summer when I was a teenager, and the landscape was like nothing I’d ever seen before. Gorgeous, in a stark and brutal way. Sadly, I’ve never been struck with the urge to write Viking-era fiction. I suppose it may one day hit me.

Remind me to introduce you to Bjorn…he *loves* Iceland.
Tell us about your publishing journey! When did you start writing, how did you decide on self-publishing and what were the most important lessons you’ve learned so far? How did you utilize those lessons when preparing to publish Dark City Rising?

I’ve always been a writer. Up until my university years I was an ardent scribbler: writing poetry, stories, essays, reviews. Then for the best part of a decade I lost that side of myself, thinking it not a “serious” pursuit. In a sense, self-publishing allows me to be serious about writing again, and to treat it as a worthwhile use of my time. 

I didn’t require a lot of deliberation about trad vs self-pub: I realized early on that my historical fantasy story ideas didn’t fit the current market. They’re too pulpy, a little too silly, nor is my time period of choice (mid-to-late 18th century) particularly popular in the historical fantasy genre. I also like the entrepreneurial/business side of the equation, so I don’t mind doing my own marketing, etc.

The most important lesson? You can’t please everybody. While I’m mindful of genre and market expectations, at the end of the day I’m not trying to write stories that will appeal to everyone. But if I’m passionate about the idea, I can bet readers will recognise that too.

Talking about Dark City Rising, what was the main inspiration for the story? Which aspect of the book was the most challenging to write and why?

It came as I was working on my main historical fantasy series (The Edinburgh Doctrines series). I knew it would feature a clash between two magic systems, one older and based on alchemy, the other based on more ‘contemporary’ (given we’re talking about the 18th century) scientific concepts, such as the made-up elements phlogiston and aether. I also knew I didn’t want to devote much time in my main series to exploring how the older system was supplanted – it’s referenced with allusions and the occasional idiot trying to resurrect it. So that backstory I conceived would be a separate novel. But it’s also borne out of my love for sweeping historical fantasies like The Embroidered Book and The Baroque Cycle, which is why what is ostensibly a prequel has become a fairly bulky standalone story in its own right. I think the biggest challenge was re-introducing the world. I’ve already written 3 of the 4 novels in the main Edinburgh Doctrines series, but I wanted Dark City Rising to be its own entry point to the world, and not be too dependent on the main series. I had to double-check that my Dark City Rising characters didn’t know/assume things they knew/assumed in the main series, which takes place several decades later. Dark City Rising was when they discovered this information.

Your book is set in Edinburgh. What’s your connection to the city? What do you think makes it such a good setting for many fictional books? 

As far as I’m concerned, Edinburgh is the most beautiful city in the world. I first came to study for my undergraduate degree, and I’ve lived there for several stints after (and probably will again!). I love that it’s compact enough to walk, deeply historical, and aggressively geographical (the city is full of sneaky hills, and has some lovely parks made from extinct volcanoes nearby).

Actually, I feel Edinburgh is under-represented as a fictional location, particularly in fantasy. There are more iconic fantasy stories set in London than I can count. But I can think of only a handful based on Edinburgh. I think a mega-city like London is big enough it can be whatever you want it to be: Edinburgh is distinctly its own flavor (and a strong one at that), which limits the author a bit in how they can portray it, and the sort of stories it fertilizes.

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Dark City Rising will be published on May 30, 2024. Congrats! If you could have a release party with your MC(s) present, how that would go down? 

Would be an awful experience. My main protagonist Dr William Cullen, and several other physicians from the novel, would probably spend the evening mansplaining self-publishing to me. I love those guys…but I’m glad there’s over 200 years separating us!

What would you say the main themes are in Dark City Rising?  Is there something you’d like readers to take away from it?

It’s a story about change, progress and responsibility. How best to bring about change? How much should you compromise when trying to change a system? Is effecting change without assuming responsibility possible?

Let’s talk a bit about the characters. What was one thing about your MC(s) that you can identify with, and what were the most challenging bits of their personalities to write? 

William Cullen, the protagonist of this book, can be a little infuriating. I think we’re both stubborn, but his is a more inflexible kind. But because he’s charismatic, witty, and gregarious I find him very easy to write: he has great chemistry with whoever he interacts with.

If you were a character in your book, how would you be described? And what your profession/role would be? How long do you think, you would survive?

If I’m heading into 18th century Scotland with decent health and a strong immune system, I probably would survive a while. Unfortunately, as a woman, I’d not have many great options: life as either a rich married lady of leisure, or solo business owner (e.g. shop or tavern ownership) would be my best outcomes.

Describe an asylum set in the world of Dark City Rising!

Mental health “care” in the 18th century was no joke. The concepts of public health and state welfare that we recognise today just didn’t exist.  

What are your future plans? Are you working on something now? Do you have plans to visit any events?

Right now I’m wrapping up my Edinburgh Doctrines series at 4 books. I have a mixture of future project ideas that will hopefully all see the light of day eventually. Those include stories set in the Edinburgh Doctrines universe (some darker, others more comic); historical-ish epic fantasies in a totally made-up world; and fun projects like fantasy romances I’d write under a separate pen name. I’m not 100% sure what I’ll do work on after the Doctrines series finishes – I suppose it depends how much of a change I want.

While you are locked in here for eternity, we will allow you to invite one visitor (fictional and otherwise) – who would you invite? And no, they can’t help you to escape.

The poet Virgil from Dante’s Inferno. There’s a solid, reliable guy who can help when you’re going through Hell (metaphorical or literal).

Well then, it was a pleasure to have a chat with you! Please allow these nice attendants to escort you out. We hope you’ll enjoy your stay in the Asylum! Any last words? 

I’m not locked in here with you…you’re locked in here with me!

*locks door*

Grab a copy of Dark City Rising by CL Jarvis!

Dark City Rising by CL Jarvis

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