Janna G. Noelle is a historical fiction writer, wanderer, and all-around workhorse who resides on the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations, colonially known as Vancouver, British Columbia.
Her writing is set in the pre-modern (medieval and classical) era, which she uses to explore intersections between parts of humanity’s heroic/mythic past and the origins of many of the same societal issues and restrictive perceptions we grapple with today. She is also co-founder/co-host of #HFChitChat, a Twitter community for historical fiction writers that hosts regular Twitter chats and an annual reading challenge.
A former park ranger and environmental educator, Janna now works in the non-profit sector as a program manager, strategic researcher/evaluator, and advocate for anti-racism and social justice. Her hobbies include bike-riding, running up and down hills, belting classical crossover and 80s love songs, reading, and tramping through the woods with her field guides.
More about me…
Like so many writers, reading was my first love—my earliest hobby when I was young that has stuck with me through to adulthood. As a child, my mother used to drop me off at the local library while she did her shopping. Hours later when she returned, I would complain that she’d come back too soon!
I started writing both out of worship of my favourite authors and because I sometimes couldn’t find the types of stories I wanted to read. Although I’d always written little tales in my early childhood, I started having more complex story ideas in high school and during university, and started thinking of myself as a writer who would someday seek publication.
My journey as both a writer and a reader began with epic high fantasy, and in my 20s I wrote my first novel in that genre. However seeing as this masterpiece was both 900+ pages and still incomplete(!), it was an epic disaster, and was eventually relegated to the electronic oblivion that it deserved.
My next novel was also fantasy, but in the course of writing it I found my interest starting to drift toward a different genre—that of historical fiction.
When worldbuilding for fantasy, you often have to do just as much research as for histfic—and then still have to make things up after that. Historical fiction seemed like a lot less work! But more than anything, historical fiction lets me dramatize real people/places/ideas/events of the past, and reflect on their enduring legacy in the present.
No matter how far back in history a story is set, it always needs to hold relevance to modern audiences. History repeats, and it holds many valuable lessons for those who heed them. It’s in this way that I use historical fiction as a vehicle to examine modern social issues at a remove of emotional safety. Issues of particular interest to me include domestic violence, hypermasculinity, the positive role of immigrants in society, racial discrimination, and colourism.
This remove from modern times is even greater given my fondness for the pre-modern era, which harkens back to my days of epic fantasy. No matter how many issues I tackle in a story, I still want it to be a gripping, character-driven read that’s both immersive and a little adventurous. I often stay true to my fantasy roots by including the paranormal beliefs people held in the past, although usually in a way that neither confirms nor invalidates their reality in the narrative. Each reader can either believe in magic or consider the historical context and commentary that magic represents as they see fit.
I’m currently querying a novel set in medieval England and drafting another one set in ancient Greece. I blog about my writing journey, as well as writing craft in general, plus other topics including, reading, travel, music, opinions, gender, movies, TV, historical research, and more to come.
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~ Janna G. Noelle