does the author matter? by jenelle schmidt

In honor of her new release An Echo of the Fae, Jenelle Schmidt is taking over the blog with a guest post on the topic of deconstructionism, or, more colloquially, the death of the author. It’s a fascinating discussion (or, at least, my little nerdy heart thinks so, so thank you for humoring me Jenelle!) and one which writers need to be prepared to engage. Enjoy!

When I studied to become an English Education major at Taylor University, one of my classes studied the different ways to approach a piece of literature from a critical stance (versus just reading a piece of literature to enjoy it). I don’t remember a lot of the things we studied in that class. I know we talked about archetypes and various other methods of studying literature. A lot of that class blurs together in my mind as being one of the most useless classes I ever spent time in, as well as one of the most boring.

The only thing I remember with any clarity from that class is that my least favorite type of literary criticism was also the one I excelled at implementing. Deconstruction. 

That was the only perfect grade I received in that class, and I was a little resentful of that, since I disliked and disagreed with the basic premise of the theory.

I couldn’t tell you how to do it now. It’s been fifteen years since I even thought about literary deconstruction, and I certainly don’t want to spend any more time on it than necessary. But Kaycee asked me to talk about my view on “death of the author” in light of whether or not it is important for readers to know an author’s personality, headspace, beliefs, background, etc in order to better interpret a story.

I was unfamiliar with the term, so I looked it up. It reminded me a lot of deconstruction. Yep, that’s the link we’re going with. (Sorry, Kaycee!)

Personally, I kind of think the author is a rather important part of the story they tell.

I may be just a wee bit biased on that count.

But to be a little bit serious, I do think a story can be understood without knowing anything about the author. I think it’s possible to understand The Lord of the Rings without knowing anything about the life and beliefs of J.R.R. Tolkien… but knowing that he wrote much of that story as a way of coping with the horrific things he saw during WWI definitely enhances the meaning we take away from this story. To be sure, knowing the context of the author’s mindset ensures that we take away the author’s intended meaning, rather than our own, but I don’t think that’s always a bad thing. 

Stories, at their very heart of hearts, are more than just entertainment. Stories are a way of understanding the world around us. At times they help us comprehend our own place in the world and at others they help us understand those around us. If they can help us understand someone vastly different from ourselves, so much the better!

As an author, I find it impossible to divorce my own worldview and beliefs and personality from my writing. The words that flow through me are uniquely mine, and I can only give them my voice. So understanding who I am and the experiences I have had can only add clarity to a reader who picks up one of my books.

Now, I believe there are absolutes. And I believe there are universal truths. And if some of that makes it into my story, I think a reader should be able to see it even if they have no idea who I am or what life was like when I was writing. My specific emotions while writing a story will probably have little bearing on what the reader gets out of the story.

In a hundred years, if my stories last that long, if someone picks up one of my books, it might not be important to know that I grew up in America or was a Christian or had an amazing family or suffered the loss of two children before they were born… and I hope that my stories can be enjoyed and truths gleaned from them without any of that knowledge. But there is a certain amount of kinship of feeling that can be gained from knowing that the author was a human being, just like the reader. And if they do some digging and find out those things about me, I believe it will only enhance their reading, not detract from it.

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts, Jenelle! Personally, I completely agree. The author(s) of a work of art provide a definitive place to begin an analysis. If the author is removed, there is nothing permanent or objective on which to begin a thought concerning the creation. As you pointed out to me privately, there is something theologically profound about that concept.

I’ll spare you the rest of my musings and, instead, urge you to go order a copy of An Echo of the Fae today! You can purchase it on amazon at the following link:

an echo of an interview: jenelle schmidt

My wonderful friend and author extraordinaire, Jenelle Schmidt, has published a new fantasy novel titled An Echo of the Fae. I’m not going to spoil it for you, but I am very excited to share my review of it in a few days. She was kind enough to stop by for an interview. Enjoy!

You’ve mentioned on your blog and in person how this story surprised you
with the urgency it compelled in you to write it. Can you describe that
urgency a bit more?

Sure! It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I was trying really hard to write a different book last year, and every time I sat down to write, I felt stalled out. I felt like I had to almost wrestle the keyboard for every single sentence. I kept putting “Echo” on the back-burner, but I couldn’t ignore it. So I tried making it my “reward.” I would slog along for 2 hours, getting my word count on Towers done, usually aiming for 500-1000 words and then I’d write 100-200 words of Echo before shutting my computer. Every single time, I exceeded the 100-200 word goal easily in the span of 5-10 minutes.

It was kind of breath-taking, actually. I finally laid Towers aside and focused on Echo and the story continued to drag me along behind it. Sometimes it felt like I couldn’t type fast enough! 

To be honest, I still don’t really feel like I wrote the story. The words just begged to be written. I definitely felt that the Lord had etched this story on my heart, and I would spend some time in prayer before each writing session and then as I wrote the words just came almost effortlessly. This is by far the easiest book I’ve ever written, and came together in the shortest time, and I definitely don’t feel like I can take credit for any of it.

That is absolutely incredible! As someone who loves the Lord and loves to write, the feeling of the two being in complete harmony with one another makes for such a peaceful experience and purposeful motivation. Speaking of motivation, you have a passion for writing stories that families can enjoy together. Is this one of those stories?

Definitely! I always hope that my stories can be enjoyed by families who love reading together, and this is no exception. The main character is a bit younger than most of my other protagonists, but I think adults can still get a lot out of the story. There are some big themes in this one that I think kids will understand and adults will appreciate on an even deeper level. 

Also, while I wrote this one with a more middle grade audience in mind (9-12 year olds), I didn’t pull any punches when it came to vocabulary, and there are definitely some words in there that I hope challenge that audience and delight their parents!

As funny as it might sound, vocab and wording both work to make a book memorable, particularly for younger kids. I remember in one of your novels you used the description “a ghost of a smile” for someone’s expression, and it has always stuck with me as beautiful throughout the next eleven years (ooooof) and onward. However, more important than fun word choices, are the themes and the story. What hopes do you have for the effect this story will have on its audience?

There are so many things I hope this story says to its audience, but mostly, I hope that it takes them on an adventure that teaches them something about themselves.

I hope it conveys the importance of family. I hope it leaves an impression about the power of adoption. I have an aunt and an uncle who were adopted and several friends as well, and to be honest, it’s often a struggle for me to even remember that they were adopted, because they are so tightly knit into their (our) families. I wanted to write this story a little bit for them, because their stories aren’t the kinds you usually read in fantasy fiction. Rather, their stories are beautiful. And while, yes, there are the painful, human moments in their stories as well, they are mostly beautiful. That’s not at all meant to discount the stories that are hard or messy or tumultuous, but I wanted to write a story that focused on some of the stories I actually witnessed and how they inspired me.

I hope that this story imparts its audience with the overwhelming power of forgiveness. There are some difficult themes that the main character comes face to face with and she has to choose whether or not to forgive those at fault. In one instance, she must forgive someone who has wronged her directly, while in another, she faces the decision to forgive someone who has wronged many others, and these are difficult moments for her.

And finally, I hope it speaks comfort to parents who have lost a child. Having experienced two early-term miscarriages, that is a sorrow that I truly, deeply empathize with. I hope that Echo’s story helps them know that they are not alone.

Thank you for writing your heart, even when it felt painful. I cannot wait for others to read this novel.

Jenelle has been very busy over the past few days, writing a myriad of posts on quite a few different blogs. If you’re interested in more of her writing (and, objectively speaking, you should be), a good place to start would be her blog.

An equally good idea would be to go ahead and pick up your copy of An Echo of the Fae. You can purchase it on Amazon.

Be on the lookout for more posts soon!

An Echo of the Fae: Cover Reveal

When I was 12 years old, I was absolutely obsessed with a fantasy series which is now known as The Minstrel’s Song. It had everything that I liked: headstrong heroines, broody warrior boys, sympathetic villains, snarky dragons, meaningful themes, and magic. Unbeknownst to me, I actually attended the same church as the author and, after I got over my initial bout of starstruck awe, we became good friends.

I say my initial bout of starstruck awe because it still appears now and again, and this is one of those nows and agains. Everyone, I am so, so excited to be a part of the cover reveal for An Echo of the Fae, the newest novel by author Jenelle Schmidt.

An Echo of the Fae

Echo enjoys the peace and solitude of the Faeorn forest, regardless of how strange spending time in the “haunted” wood seems to others.

But on the cusp of her thirteenth birthday, the discovery of a family secret reveals why Echo has never been drawn to the sea like her mother. This discovery shakes the foundations of her world and sends Echo on a quest, not merely into the forest, but into the heart of the fae-lands themselves, to rescue the sister she didn’t know existed.

Elves, dragons, and fairy courts will put Echo’s wit and resolve to the test. But with time running out for her sister, will Echo even be able to save herself?


This novel is incredible. I can’t wait to share more about it in the weeks to come, and, more than that, I can’t wait to see the effect this poignant little book will have on people, particularly on preteens. I can’t help but feel nostalgic for 12 year old me. The Minstrel’s Song helped me navigate those tumultuous middle years, and I know An Echo of the Fae will do the same.


An Echo of the Fae hardcover is available for preorder HERE

An Echo of the Fae Kindle version is available for preorder HERE

And be sure to check out Jenelle’s website! Her most recent blog post features a beautiful portrait of Echo, the titular character.