Author Interview: Janine A. Southward


Today I am interviewing Janine A. Southard, editor of the new urban fantasy anthology, Untethered: A Magic iPhone Anthology.

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DJ: Hey Janine! Thanks for stopping by to do this interview!

For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Janine A. Southward: Hi, DJ. Thanks for having me! I’m a science-fiction/fantasy author and editor. (My most popular book is probably Queen & Commander, for those of you who read young adult space adventures.) In the past few years, I’ve been writing more and editing less, so it was great to get back to working with other authors on this new project.

DJ: What is Untethered: A Magic iPhone Anthology about?

Janine: Untethered: A Magic iPhone Anthology is about the intersections of magic and technology in our modern lives. We all walk around with smartphones in our pockets these days. We sleep with them and consult them for the tiniest things. But do we really understand how they work? Would adding a magical element make a huge difference?

This anthology includes fantastic explorations of modern human nature, from the guy who ignores a phone that always gives perfect directions to the team of programmers who create an app that does magic.

My favorite thing about these stories is how positive they are about technology. Lately, half the non-fiction articles I read complain that phones and digital culture are destroying human interaction. Not in Untethered: A Magic iPhone Anthology! It’s got matchmaking phones and helpful diet trackers instead.

DJ: What were some of the inspirations behind Untethered: A Magic iPhone Anthology?


Janine: This anthology was inspired by my award-winning novel Cracked! A Magic iPhone Story. That novel is a modern fantasy comedy about storygamers who acquire a magic iPhone and have to survive its machinations.

I didn’t want to let the concept go just yet, so I asked my mailing list if they’d want to see what other authors might come up with. I’m glad they said they replied with an enthusiastic yes because I love this anthology.

(For the curious: the award that Cracked! A Magic iPhone Story won is a Cygnus Award from Chanticleer in April 2016.)

DJ: What kinds of stories can readers expect in the anthology?

Janine: Oh my gosh, all of the stories are so clever. That’s the top thing a reader can expect, I suppose. These stories run the gamut from techy to witchy. There are glimpses of alternate worlds, programmers struggling with apps, resourceful visitors from other planes, and (of course) the obligatory call to customer support (where the caller wants to talk about his blender, not his phone). From disturbing to comedic, readers can expect a slew of great concepts!

DJ: Being an editor, what do you believe makes a good science fiction or fantasy story?

Janine: “I know it when I see it,” said every editor to every frustrated writer ever.

In seriousness, though, for me there’s a three pillar approach to making a good story: clever concepts, quality writing, and a sensible information order.

That third one can be the hardest. The obvious example is what I refer to as “Chekhov’s gun done backwards.” That is, you can’t pull a gun off the wall in the climactic moment if you didn’t mention it hanging there in the first scene. More subtly, this means starting in the right place; for a short story, that’s usually one or two sentences before the inciting incident.

I’ll point out that this is just my personal trifecta. For instance, other editors put greater importance on a character hook than on clever concepts.

DJ: This may be a difficult question to answer, but what are some of your favorite stories in Untethered: A Magic iPhone Anthology?

Janine: Aaaah! Not only do I love all the stories (hand-picked by me!), but each one is special in an individual way. (At one point, I wrote paragraph-long introductions to each one that were basically me saying, “OMG! This story is awesome! Let me tell you why!” But I had to cut them from the final volume because they were ridiculous.)

All right, I’ll pick five favorites for you. J

  • “ERROR: KAPPA NOT FOUND” by Amanda Hackwith. Quick summary: A programmer battles the demon chained to her start-up company’s servers. Why I love it: This story really captures the combination of smartphone tech and magic that I was going for with the anthology call.
  • “The Magic Palm Pilot Pro” by Aaron Giddings, Sr. Quick summary: A put-upon vampire’s phone tries to control him… and not for the first time. Why I love it: This story is the most in line with Cracked! A Magic iPhone Story; it has that same Douglas Adams-esque narration.
  • “What You’re Called to Do” by Dale Cameron Lowry. Quick summary: A smartphone encourages its owner to ever sweeter feats of cat-rescue before it plays matchmaker. (This one was the copy-editor’s favorite, btw.) Why I love it: I hadn’t planned to take any romance stories for this anthology, but when I read Lowry’s piece I had to have it.
  • “The Road Once Taken” by Stephanie Djock. Quick summary: A person sees her life in alternate timelines via text messages. Why I love it: This story combines a familiar science fiction idea with a fantasy rationale and then ends up really being about character development.
  • “One App to Rule Them All” by Manny Frishberg & Edd Vick. Quick summary: A man struggles against his phone’s fun-sucking and food-limiting proscriptions (for his own good, of course). Why I love it: This is the one story in the collection where technology gets used for negative purposes. The push and pull between characters and between humans/phones is so great.

DJ: What was your favorite part about editing Untethered: A Magic iPhone Anthology?

Janine: My favorite part was definitely working with the authors to make their stories shine. Some of the stories came to me practically perfect in every way. Others had amazing ideas that needed a bit of help. Sometimes, that meant asking questions about what genre the author was shooting for, and other times it meant pointing out ways to strengthen climaxes.

I’m pleased I had the chance to work with the authors to hone their works. The metamorphoses themselves can be incredible.

DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?

Janine: I hope readers will be inspired to look forward to whatever technology comes after smartphones. Maybe they’ll want to discuss the nature of modern life and how all our devices make lives better, even if the average person doesn’t know how they work.

DJ: Where can readers find out more about Untethered: A Magic iPhone Anthology?



DJ: And where can readers find out more about yourself?

Amazon Author Page:


Twitter: @jani_s


Newsletter: (Get a free book! I’ll send you a free ebook when you subscribe to my newsletter (approximately one message a month).):

DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!

Janine: Thank you for having me to chat about Untethered: A Magic iPhone Anthology. (I’m always happy to share how wonderful my authors are!)

Untethered: A Magic iPhone Anthology releases on October 1, 2016. Interested readers who live in the Seattle, WA or Porland, OR metro areas may be interested to hear about release-day parties in those cities.

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*** Untethered: A Magic iPhone Anthology will be released October 1, 2016!!! ***

Buy (Pre-Order) the Book: 

Amazon | Goodreads | Kobo

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About the Book:

20 stories of magic and technology

Almost everyone carries a smartphone these days. They sit in pockets and on tables. They sleep on headboards and are the first things their owners check in the morning. They’ve edged out more mundane equipment like calendars and MP3 players.

They aren’t magical, of course. Or are they?

In Untethered: A Magic iPhone Anthology, 21 authors twist reality and call into question the mundanity we hold in our hands. They ask the question, “Is that smartphone completely explainable by science?” and they decide the answer is a resounding “No!”

From award-winners and bold new voices, from experienced fantasists and professional technologists, these stories are fun, clever, and often positive about the power of technology.

Enjoy new stories from:
Rhiannon Held / Manny Frishberg / Edd Vick / H.M. Jones / Kris Millering / Raven Oak / Jon Lasser / Sarina Dorie / Jonathon Burgess / Jeremiah Reinmiller / C.S. O’Cinneide / Stevehen Warren / Aaron Giddings, Sr. / Amanda Hackwith / Dale Cameron Lowry / Dawn Vogel / Kyle Yadlosky / J.S. Rogers / Angela Dell’Isola / Stephanie Djock / A. Moritz

At the intersection of fantasy and technology, iPhones could go either way.

Magic knows your number, and it’s calling you.

81kbqj32pbl-_ux250_About the Author:

Janine A. Southard writes speculative fiction and videogame dialogue from her home in Seattle, WA. She sings with a Celtic band and is working on the next book in the Hive Queen universe. She’s also been known to read aloud to her cat.

The cat appreciates all of these things. Maybe.


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