We chatted with Wisconsin author, Jamie Pacton, ahead of her latest YA fantasy release, The Absinthe Underground. Jamie’s previous novels include The Vermilion Emporium and two contemporary YA novels, The Life and Medieval Times of Kit Sweetly and Lucky Girl. She has a forthcoming YA romance, Furious, written with Rebecca Podos, due out summer 2024.
1) Jamie, let’s chat about your books as a whole. You’ve written in a few different genres–contemporary, fantasy, romance–which is your favorite? Do you find it difficult to write across genres or do the stories kind of tell themselves?
I feel so lucky to have published across many genres (and there are more new and exciting things in different genres and age ranges in my publishing pipeline!). I don’t find it difficult to write in different genres– a story is a story and characters are characters be they in worlds with dragons or worlds with cell phones– and I think if you keep that in mind, it’s very possible to move among genres as a writer as the stories and your own interest takes you. I love all my books, but fantasy is forever and always my first love. All of the new projects I’m working on are fantasy ones, and I just thrive on creating new worlds, magic systems, and figuring out how it all works together and then plopping characters into those worlds and seeing what happens.
2) What was your favorite book as a teen?
I read a lot of very serious adult books as a literary-minded teen– (I remember devouring Anna Karenina by the ocean one summer, for goodness sake, lol.) But I also absolutely loved romance novels and some of the early YA-ish books that were publishing in the late 90s. Things like Homecoming by Cythia Vogit and all of Mercedes Lackey’s fantasy books. My absolute favorite book as a teen was By the Sword by Mercedes Lackey, which is about a fierce, sword-wielding woman in a magical world, and if you’re read my debut, The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweety, you can see why this book was entirely my jam as a teen.
3) What makes Absinthe Underground so special to you?
The Absinthe Underground is a story that’s particularly close to my heart. Here are 10 reasons why:
*I carried this story for more than a decade— from when I first got the hint of an idea at an art exhibit in 2012 to now. I carried this story for more than a decade—
*It’s a cozy, tender novel about two best friends who are (secretly) in love with each other and will do anything— even go to Fae— to protect the girl they love.
*It’s full of cats. Really, there are so many cats! (7 in one apartment alone!)
*It’s a love letter to all the queer people in history who have had to love each other secretly, and it’s a story of hope for queer kids now that’s full of joy and possibility.
*It’s the “The Were Roommates…” trope writ large with a hearty dose of magic, danger, dragons, Fae queens, and much more.
*It’s about overcoming fear and the freedom that’s waiting on the other side of that journey.
*It’s full of Fae magic and a portal fantasy about a lush Fae world!
*It’s got a decadent, Belle Époque night club like the Moulin Rogue, which is full of artists, writers, and dancers, and many other people drawn from history.
*It’s also got a green fairy who’s hanging out in our world, who is terrifying and beautiful in equal measure.
*It’s an absolute romp of a book with poster and museum thefts, a heist in Fae, magical traps, and much more.