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Author Spotlight: Janella Angeles

We are absolutely delighted today to discuss the magical, dazzling ending to the Kingdom of Cards duology, WHEN NIGHT BREAKS by our dear friend, Janella Angeles which releases this fall! Let’s dive right in!

Can you give us the logline for WHEN NIGHT BREAKS? What can readers who loved WHERE DREAMS DESCEND expect in the sequel?

Janella: Of course! While WHERE DREAMS DESCEND was pitched as Phantom of the Opera meets Moulin Rouge, I’ve pitched WHEN NIGHT BREAKS as Phantom of the Opera meets Moulin Rouge meets Hadestown! Because I, of course, had to fit ANOTHER epic musical into the mix. For readers not as familiar with the last comp, you can bank on seeing some Orpheus/Eurydice vibes, a little Hades/Persephone, and a whole lot of underworldly aesthetics. Also angst. Lots and lots of angst.

So what were you most excited or nervous to write and explore in the sequel?

Janella: EVERYTHING. I was probably more nervous because I’d never been in a position to write a Book 2 for anything, let alone the end to a duology/series. That pressure of having to address unanswered questions in satisfying ways and also make a finale land as solidly as it can is a lot to throw into a sequel. However, because Where Dreams Descend ended on such a cliffhanger/impactful note (sorry!), to me it felt a lot like the end to Act 1 in a musical. With When Night Breaks, after a year of “intermission,” we’ve reached Act 2 where the show is now finally complete, which is exciting to think about.

Were there any moments that surprised you in WHEN NIGHT BREAKS? Did these moments make the cut?

Janella: Just about everything surprised me, and I’m not exaggerating. It’s no secret that I struggled A LOT with this book–mostly because it was written and revised during 2020, the Worst Year to ever Year, which also left me in a constantly scattered and anxious headspace where nothing on the page worked at all. I had to rewrite this book many, many times, especially that beginning. With so many iterations of this book, I had started losing track of what was canon and what wasn’t due to so many cut characters, scenes, dialogue, and just largely rewritten and overhauled chapters. Because of this, technically a whole lot of the work was cut from the book which are just too many moments to count.

Although many things that came together did surprise me in the end, the most surprising thing to me by far was seeing later in the revision process how many themes of mental health played into the story. I always thought the main focus of this series was all about power and ambition and holding onto both, but this book–and all the global events and stress outside of it–truly taught me how easy it is to question your own power, strength, and agency when it feels like you’re losing everything all at once. I went on my own mental health journey while writing this book, but even then, it still surprised me to see my characters’ arcs take on similar threads which was not my intent going into it. And because of this, although When Night Breaks has been the most painful book I’ve had to write so far, it ended up becoming my most personal one, too.

I’m really curious to know if your writing and revision process changed in any way between WHERE DREAMS DESCEND and WHEN NIGHT BREAKS? 

Janella: Haha. Hahahahah. Hahahahahahahaha. *breaks out into near-crying laughter*

The short answer is, yes. So much changed. I couldn’t have had more opposite experiences with two books. Writing Where Dreams Descend was such a joyous ride. It was the cleanest first draft I’d ever popped out, had the clearest and strongest voice from a main character I loved, and was just the most fun I’d had with writing since fanfiction. In my eyes, Where Dreams Descend was truly my dream and a dream to write, at that. 

When Night Breaks, however, was the nightmare. I was working on this during a pandemic and my debut year, so I honestly struggled more with this book than I ever had with any other project in my life. Looking back on it now, it was a blur of missed deadlines, personal tragedies, global anxiety, work stress, and all the health problems that had arisen from it. Like most in the world, I truly felt like a disaster, and my writing/revision process reflected that. 

But once I started prioritizing my health, I was able to see beyond the huge shadow that always hovered over this sequel. I kept comparing it to my experiences with the dream that was Where Dreams Descend and was constantly disappointed in myself for failing so many times with When Night Breaks. It was only until someone pointed out to me later down the line that the sole reason the sequel was so difficult to write was because I kept trying to make it into a dream when, after all this time, it was a mirror. A broken one, but a very distinct mirror that demanded more honesty and a bit of pain to make it. After that epiphany, it became very clear what sort of journeys my characters were supposed to go on, which then made the writing a lot smoother. Not necessarily easier, but what I clawed onto the page was finally sticking.

Is there any advice that you have for authors writing a sequel, in particular a duology?

Janella: STICK TO STANDALONES.

Lol, just kidding. While I was tearing my hair out trying to write When Night Breaks, I studied sequels and the process of making them to understand their basic components and what they should be accomplishing, storywise. The most important takeaway, in my opinion, is that every sequel needs to expand upon the main character’s personal stakes so that their journey is complementary–not identical–to what was introduced in the first. And because we at Writers Block Party love Shrek, I’m going to look at Shrek 2 as a shining example (sorry Melody, lmao). 

In the first movie, we meet our main character Shrek: a grumpy ogre who just wants all of the invading fairytale creatures out of his swamp so he can live alone in peace. But why does he want to live alone in peace? Shrek 2 expands on that perfectly, as his journey in the follow-up is him embarking on a mission to change his appearance so that he can fit more perfectly into Fiona’s royal life and so that others will be more accepting of him. In the first movie, we see hints of Shrek isolating himself because of how society regards and rejects him for the way he looks and the stereotypes attributed to being an ogre. He chooses loneliness because it’s more preferable than encountering the pain that comes with what he can’t change about himself. In Shrek 2, now that he can no longer choose loneliness, he’s confronted with that insecurity from the first movie in a way he can’t hide from anymore. The hero learned an important lesson in the first tale, but the learning isn’t over. Far from it. What they must learn now is built upon what was introduced in the previous story.

That, for me, is one of the core elements of an incredible sequel, and something I wish I knew before going into When Night Breaks so I hope it can be of help to someone. 

Also, write your sequel before your Book 1 comes out. Just do it. Please.

Now it’s been quite a year for all of us but I’m wondering how has your writing process evolved for the better in the past year?

Janella: Haha, yes, let’s think happy thoughts now! 

I wouldn’t say my writing process evolved for the better necessarily, but I would say that my outlook on writing and life did. Before this year, I was so hyper-focused on writing that my work-life balance was nonexistent. It was all I ever wanted since I was thirteen-years-old: getting published and hoping to garner enough sales to hopefully make a career out of it. Writing truly was the one area in my life I allowed myself to dream at all, and because 2020 threw everything into flux, I suffered for it. I threw too many eggs into a basket that turned out to be more fragile than I could’ve ever imagined. It’s painful relearning over and over again that no matter how much hard work and patience and rejections go into something, those elements will never determine the results. Sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. But in a weird way, 2020 was actually the biggest wake up call for me to put myself first instead of writing. Although I hit my lowest point, it was also the year I learned to prioritize taking care of myself, being present, and living beyond just writing. This industry is already so hard to get in, the challenge of staying in is to have enough perspective and resilience to keep going when times get rough. While not entirely writing-related, those strengths are some of the most crucial ones to have when entering the publishing battlefield.

In a world where mirrors show memories, what would you say is your greatest memory that stands out to you so far in your author career?

Janella: Definitely the few in-person events I was able to do before the world went into lockdown. I was able to attend Winter Institute and ALA Midwinter in January 2020 as an author, and it honestly felt like such a dream. Being able to meet readers, booksellers, librarians, people on my publishing team, and other authors I’d only known online; signing ARCs for those who were so excited to read my book; and of course, just feeling like I was living my younger self’s wildest dreams and aspirations. I savored everything about that trip of so many firsts that I had been working toward ever since I was a kid reading YA books in the library. Now, more than ever, the memories are so very precious to me, knowing how those firsts would become lasts with how the world unfolded soon after. The fact that I even got the opportunity to have those experiences in the first place is something I’m so deeply grateful for and will never take for granted if ever given the chance again. 

If your characters were in our world, which Broadway or Off-Broadway productions would they be cast in?

Janella: ooooh this is a fun one.

For Kallia, she would of course love the flair and drama of Satine in Moulin Rouge on Broadway, but I can absolutely see her cast as Velma Kelly in Chicago. Or anyone in Six the Musical, she’d have such a blast. 

For Demarco, I don’t know why, but my gut is telling me he would make a really good Dimitri in Anastasia but would prefer being Emmett in Legally Blonde the Musical.

For Jack, I think we can all picture him as Phantom from Phantom of the Opera without a doubt. But outside of that, I could picture him as Aaron Burr in Hamilton or Fiyero in Wicked.

Aaros could 100% pull off the Genie in Aladdin and any role with the most chaotic energy. 

Finally, in celebration of theatre coming back into the real world… what is your favorite theatre memory?

Janella: I have SO many, but the first one that comes to mind is when I saw Hadestown in New York during a trip to BEA (when those were still a thing!). For the first time, I bought tickets just for myself–truly the best way to get cheaper tickets with amazing seats–and I remember just loving everything. The view was fantastic, I was able to cry as hard as I wanted to with no judgement from the strangers around me, and it felt oddly magical experiencing it alone? I’m someone who actually does enjoy going to movies alone, so I was thriving

And after the show finished and everyone began leaving the theater in a mass exodus, I found myself walking to the exit alongside someone who I thought looked a lot like Roxane Gay. Turns out, when I checked Twitter later that night, it was indeed Roxane Gay.

Such is the magic and spontaneity of musicals.

Pre-order WHEN NIGHT BREAKS by Janella Angeles, out October 5, 2021.

Janella Angeles is the bestselling author of WHERE DREAMS DESCEND and the forthcoming WHEN NIGHT BREAKS. A Filipino-American writer, she got her start in writing through consuming glorious amounts of fanfiction at a young age–which eventually led to penning a few of her own, and later on, creating original stories from her imagination. A lifelong lover of books, she’s lucky enough to be working in the business of publishing them on top of writing them. She currently resides in Massachusetts, where she’s most likely to be found listening to musicals on repeat and daydreaming too much for her own good.

Be sure to follow Janella Angeles on Twitter @janella_angeles and Instagram @janella_angeles!

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