Empower, the fifth and final book in Jessica Shirvington’s Embrace series, hit shelves earlier this month. In the high-stakes conclusion, Violet Eden risks it all to save her friend Spence. Two years after walking away from her friends and commitment to the Academy, Violet has to step back into her old life — and face the fallout — to make sure Spence is returned safe and sound. Here, Shirvington answered a few of our burning questions about the series and teases her upcoming projects.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How does it feel now that the series has finally come to an end?
JESSICA SHIRVINGTON: Emotional. The journey with this story and characters has not been small — a good four years of my life! I feel like I have watched each character grow and develop. I have laughed, cried, fought, battled, and loved alongside them. As the one writing the words, I have wanted their story to be everything it could be, so to have the final book now out on shelves, it feels like the end to an era, but in a very fulfilling way.
What has the reaction to Empower been like so far?
Amazing. I couldn’t have predicted the reaction would be as strong as it has been. Of all of my books, the response to Empower was always going to be one we could not have predicted. The end to a five book series comes with high expectations. To ask readers to stay with you for such a long time, and invest so much of their time in your stories…there are a lot of ways you can let them down. In the end, I just had to stick with what I have done from the beginning of this series and write what I wanted to read. And I desperately wanted this ending to the series, and so far it feels like readers agree.
Have you always known how the series would end? Or did it change during the writing process?
I always knew the basics of how the story would end, but much of the story in each book happened as I was writing them and researching along the way. I like giving the characters a more organic feel, and I like being free to see where they might take the story. Characters like Spencer and Onyx took the story in directions I never would have expected. And characters like Steph and Dapper turned out to be so much more than I gave them credit for at the beginning of the series.
What about Violet and Lincoln? Was their ending always established?
Yes. I’ve always known how things would end for Violet and Lincoln — that was one thing I was always sure about. But because Empower is set two years after the final scene in the previous book, Endless, the characters are quite different at the beginning. That isn’t something I’d ever seen coming, and it changed the dynamic between them in, what I think, was a really interesting way.
Speaking of, you teased the two-year time jump between Endless and Empower the last time we talked. Why did you decide to do that?
I wanted to do something different. Let’s face it, I put these characters through a lot! After the way things finished in Endless it just didn’t feel right to try to bring the series to a close in the weeks following those scenes. I wanted the characters to grow, learn, and mature, and they needed time to heal as well. Two years seemed like a just amount of time to come to terms and be ready to move forward. When I started writing Empower it instantly felt right allowing for the time gap. And after asking readers to stay with me for four books already, I wanted to be able to give them a new dynamic in the final book. Having the two-year time jump helped provide that. Plus it was fun to write!
New Orleans plays a big role in Empower. Have you been there before? And what kind of research did you do to establish that setting?
Yes! I went there for a research trip while I was writing Empower. I’ve reached a point now where I’ve decided I will only set books in places I have spent time in myself. It was an amazing trip, and I covered a lot of the city. In the end, my trip there was essential to how I structured the story and the scene setting. All of the buildings and sites I use in the book are all really there (even the cross building where some of the big scenes take part).
Apart from going there to walk through every scene in the book, I also spent time touring the streets, eating the food, listening to the music, watching the people, and talking with the locals. And I spent a lot of time researching the history of New Orleans; those who have controlled it, influenced it, and those who are now famous parts of the city’s many tales. On top of that I have spent time in both New York and London—the other two cities featured in the story—so I felt very comfortable as I tackled each setting that I did so with intimate knowledge.
All of the books in the series have “E” names. How did you decide on Empower?
I wanted a strong finish. Violet is a strong heroine. It felt like it was the right title. Looking back, I never really considered anything else, and my publishers were incredibly supportive.
So as this series comes to a close, what are you working on next?
I have a new stand alone novel coming out in the U.S. in mid to late July called One Past Midnight, which I am really excited about. It is more of a contemporary, psychological thriller. And I am currently working on a two-book series called Disruption.