“I don’t want to say a word against brains – I’ve a great respect for brains – I often wish I had some myself…” — Jewel’s favorite quote. From Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe
Jewel was one of the first people I idolized when I first decided to take the Indie Author route seriously—and for good reason: she’s crazy talented, super sweet, and approaches her role as an indie author with a profound level of professionalism. It’s no wonder I often find myself trying to emulate her as I grow as an author.
I fell in love with Mrs. Leonard’s novel Tales by Rales and could not put it down until I finished it. I’ve been a fan of her work ever since. As both a fan of hers, and as her friend, I have anxiously been awaiting the arrival of Alight…and it’s here!
Maeve lives a charmed life in the small desert town of Redington in Arizona Territory–where spousal prospects are sorely lacking, career choices are shamefully limited to the saloon, and Death himself has a vendetta against her.
All Maeve wants is her independence but 1883 society has decidedly different expectations for her.
Enter Shadow Wolf: notorious for his dark reputation and grotesque mechanical arm. The gunslinger, a suspiciously werewolf-esque man whose social situation bears some obnoxious similarities to Maeve’s, has found his place among the masses by walking on the wrong side of the law.
When Maeve stumbles upon Shadow Wolf’s scheme to rob a stagecoach, he forces her to choose between her life or breaking the witches’ Golden Rule. Despite certain karmic retribution, Maeve relies on her wit and a sprinkling of magic to survive the heist. When nothing goes according to plan, she finds herself not just on the ride of a lifetime, but also roped into an unanticipated romance with a sexy bandit at the reins.
It sounds GREAT, doesn’t it? In celebration of this momentous occasion, I jumped at the chance to sit down and ask Jewel some questions in hopes to help you get to know her as a person and author as well as some insights into THE WITCHES’ REDE: ALIGHT.
Without further adieu, let’s dive right in to this fascinating mind.
1.) I think when someone “becomes” a reader or a writer, it’s a lot like falling in love. Sometimes it’s a gradual thing, other times it’s an instant attraction. Do you remember what book made you fall in love with the written word? If so, what was it, and has any other book ever given you that same smitten feeling?
I don’t remember any particular book that made me fall in love with the written word. I was, however, greatly inspired by The Baby-Sitters Club series. I remember reading them, loving them, and very firmly believing, “I can do this, too!” I think one of the books that really changed the way I looked at the craft (from the standpoint of emotionally breaking me into shards of my former self) was the last book of LJ Smith’s Forbidden Game trilogy. I loved all her books, but it was the 3rd book in that series which did me in. I’ve definitely been touched and influenced by other books since then (that’d be a heck of a dry spell if I didn’t!) but I don’t think anything has wrecked me quite the same way since and I’m perfectly fine with that! I like reading fluff for darn good reason.
2.) Do you keep everything you write? Do you look back on it to see how far you’ve come, and would you care to share a personal favorite line or passage from something you wrote long ago that you’ve never published?
I do keep everything, and that almost changed when I wrote Possession for NaNoWriMo a few years ago. Hubby had to come to its rescue (and in retrospect, I’m so grateful he did!) … There are a few old stories I revisit from time to time, not so much to see how far I’ve come (although oh boy, have I!) but because despite that writing being atrocious at best, the characters are old friends and being back in that setting is a bit like returning to the place you grew up, only better—it hasn’t changed. My hometown is nothing like how I remember it. A passage from something old that I’ve never published? I vacillated between sharing one of two options—The Immortal’s Caveat and The Carriers. The Carriers is a departure from my usual genre, so I’m opting to share an excerpt from it rather than the former. This writing is over 6 years old and unedited (so please be gentle!) and the idea came about after a shockingly explicit dream I had that I felt was worth pursuing. To this day I remember it quite vividly and stepping back into these words (all 1600 of them) was a bit like being doused with cold water. The excerpt itself isn’t anything wild, but I remember clearly where this goes. I didn’t have the chops to get very far with it at the time, as it’s a genre I was not well-versed in (unlike, say, paranormal romance) … but it’s an idea I think is worth pursuing sometime down the road. Well, without further ado, here it is:
From his position behind them, Jeremy introduced her to the panel. “This is Meredith Healey. Among the top of her class at the CBP School for Girls. She is the one I selected.”
The members of the panel exchanged glances, sizing the girl up carefully. At the far end of the table, grey-haired and wrinkled Audrey Malone stood and approached Meredith, walking a circle around her. “Hold out your arms.”
Meredith did as instructed. Not only was she docile on a typical day, but fear caused her to be doubly so under the circumstances.
“She’s got the proper proportions. Obedient, too. Good traits, excellent traits.” Audrey nodded decisively. “She’s up-to-date on her vaccinations?”
Another member of the panel nodded from his seat. “We’ve got her medical records updated and ready for transference.” He was a lanky man in the medical profession judging by the scrubs he wore, holding a small vial up with slender fingers. “I’ve the microchip ready.”
“And this will be a suitable candidate for Pom E’Turi?” Audrey asked. To Meredith, she said, “Please put your arms down. Thank you.”
Jeremy nodded as Meredith lowered her arms. “She’s the one. The ship departs at dawn tomorrow.”
He put a hand on the woman standing beside him. “This is Darien. She’s Meredith’s porter.”
Darien was a well-fed young woman, with cheerful eyes and a wide smile. Had Meredith any clue what was happening, she might have been comforted by the friendly-looking woman who was charged with her care.
“Then if there are no objections, I’m going to install Meredith’s medical records,” said the doctor.
“Who agrees to this transfer?” Audrey asked of the panel.
Everyone in the room raised a right hand, save Meredith.
“Then it’s done.” Audrey nodded to the doctor. “She’ll have one last physical here, and you can install her medical records. Darien will take her from there and assure her safe arrival at Murth.”
Jeremy smiled. “Thank you. It’s been a pleasure.”
Audrey went to him in the back of the room, shaking his hand. “Give Pom E’Turi our regards. I’d love a progress report in a few months.”
“I will,” replied Jeremy. “And I’d be remiss if I didn’t provide you a status update when they have news.”
Audrey gave him a forced smile. “That, you would.” She returned to Meredith. “Congratulations!” she announced with that same forced smile. “You’ve been chosen to be the ambassador for our biological exchange program! You will be apprised of your duties on your trip to Murth.”
“I’m—I’m sorry, but you must be mistaken.” Meredith blurted. “Headmaster Bolton!” she cried in an uncharacteristic outburst.
Jeremy, who’d been on his way out of the panel, paused at the door. He turned. “Yes, Miss Healey?”
“I’m honored you’d select me for such an . . . important sounding position . . . But . . . I must contest. I’m a mathematician, not a biologist!”
“Can you multiply?” asked Jeremy.
“What does that have to do with—well, yes.” Meredith frowned. She was an expert in advanced Calculus and certainly, if he knew how well she did in school, it must be assumed, then, that she knew the most elementary of mathematical concepts. “Of course, I can.”
He smiled. “Then you are the right woman for the position. My decision stands. Safe travels and much luck.” Without another word, he left the room.
“That was not so obedient,” Audrey chastised Meredith. “We’ll just be thankful he was good-natured about that indiscretion. Now, no more protests; off to your final exam.”
:shudders: I can see any number of things I’d fix in that. Well, maybe someday!
3.) Where and when are you most likely to be inspired by your next project?
Always when it is least opportune. For instance, when I’m driving and can’t stop to jot notes, or just as I’m falling asleep. I can trust the little lying voice in my head that promises I’ll remember it tomorrow, or get up, write, and then have trouble falling asleep when I’m done several hours later.
4.) If the main character from your first novel were to hang out with the main character from your current novel, what do you imagine that would be like?
My main characters from my first novel and my current one are actually very closely related and I imagine if they were to hang out, it would be really awkward. And, surprisingly, I don’t think they’d get along very well at all. (First novel MC, in retrospect, was a loner and had difficulty establishing friendships, especially with other women. Current MC has many close friends and tends to easily befriend those who don’t, like, assault her when they first meet. The former doesn’t forgive, the latter does—to a fault.)
5.) Why do you self-publish versus going the traditional route?
I initially sought an agent for Alight … I felt like it was the only way to be validated. I felt like it was the only chance I’d have for getting my work out there (because agents and publishers TOTALLY market for you and don’t expect you to do any of it, LOLOLOL). I felt like certain people in my life would take me seriously only when I had the approval of professionals in the industry. And I think (IMHO) those are all the wrong reasons for seeking an agent/publisher. I know some people consider indie publishing a consolation prize, especially if it follows failed querying … (“Oh, you couldn’t hack it traditionally, huh? Your writing must suck. So you’re just gonna take that loser MS nobody wanted and slop it up on Amazon with a cover you did in ten minutes using MS Paint, right?”) In my case, when I finally opened my eyes to reality, indie-publishing wasn’t second place. It was a better fit for my passion and my personality (I’m a teensy bit of a control freak and the thought of a character on my front cover who doesn’t match my description could make my fine hair curl!), and this is something I wish had occurred to me much sooner. And hey, since I’d be expected to market every bit as much as an agented author as I must as an indie, might as well go indie and keep all my hard-earned profits, right? I’m currently drafting a blog post to go into more detail about this decision. I hope to have it done sometime around Alight’s release date … but maybe don’t hold your breath waiting.
6.) The antagonist from the last book you read is your new main character, the setting is the last place you went on vacation, their weapon of choice is the first blue object you spy, and their superpower is your biggest fear. Describe this book and give it a title!
Oh my good lord this question! LOL! OK. So Jack Torrance goes to Walt Disney World brandishing a Christmas stocking. He suddenly, for some reason, has the ability to transform into — ok you know what? as I go, this is actually becoming a really fun little writing prompt! — so he suddenly has the ability to transform into a human-sized scorpion. Flying scorpion, let’s really up the ante here, shall we? OK, so flying scorpion Jack Torrance swoops into Disney World with blue Christmas stocking in han—claw—in claw. Hijinks and merriment ensue. I’m pretty sure it’d be called Jack Scorpance and the Christmas Stocking of Fate. Maybe this is next year’s NaNo project! ^__^
7.) Where did the inspiration for Alight come from? When did you first begin writing this story?
Well, for reasons, that’s classified information. I’ll say this: I was writing a series of stories for many years that I could not get published even if I took it upon myself to do so. For … reasons. Despite those reasons and the quality of my work, I had several lovely people encouraging me to make the changes necessary to legitimately publish this behemoth I’d spent almost a decade and a half playing with. (I’m not belittling myself or the work by saying I was playing with it; it was play. I learned a lot through it, but it was play, nonetheless.) It was Christina Olson, one of my few ultra-close friends, to say the magic word that fateful afternoon in 2013: Steampunk. She found that little bridge I needed to get my silly self-indulgent stories from where they were to the beautiful book coming out on December 21, 2017. Anyway, I think I wrote rather eloquently about that day in an interview I did with Christina on my blog, here. The rest is history … Wonderful, romanticized, magical and fantastical, alternative-Victorian/Wild West history.
8.) What has been your biggest hurdle to clear when writing Alight?
It’s kind of a toss-up between knowing where to start, knowing when to back away, and knowing when to let it go. Alight was a pretty significant learning experience in so many ways.
9.) The cover for Alight is AMAZING! How involved were you in the design process, and how did you go about accomplishing such a masterpiece?
Thank you so much! I was actually involved fairly little in the design process (oh, hubby’s gonna kill me dead for sayin’ that!). Hubby’s my design guy. He’s done it professionally and had very clear ideas for the cover of not just Alight but each book in The Witches’ Rede series. The hardest part was finding the perfect artist. We solicited many … and some were either well beyond our budget, weren’t accepting new work, weren’t interested in this project (just the one book cover or the series),or … well, weren’t good enough. And then I lucked upon the artist we chose, Ryuutsu Art, when I saw her commissions for fellow author Errin Krystal appear in my Facebook feed. (Thank goodness for that!!!) It was a glorious day when she agreed to do the commissions for us. Working with Ryuutsu has been an absolute joy from beginning to end. Her artwork is gorgeous, she’s a genuinely sweet person, and has even helped me check the ebook formatting of Alight (my Kindle is old, pathetic, and I don’t trust it’s providing an accurate view of my document). I adore the book covers she’s done for me so far and look forward to getting the next set done this coming year. They definitely act as motivation to get more writing done!
10.) What can your fans hope to see in 2018?
Well, books 2 and 3 of The Witches’ Rede are scheduled for release in summer and winter of 2018! Beyond that, I’m aiming at expanding and improving my website, and blogging more regularly. Step back, world, here I come!
Obligatory Question: What writing advice would you give to a budding indie author?
When you’ve convinced yourself no one will read your work … when you think the only reviews you’ll get (if you get them) are going to be 1-stars … You’ve got to remember you’re doing this for yourself, first and foremost. At the end of the day, you’re the only one you can guarantee will read (and, I sure hope, enjoy!) your work. Also, please do yourself a favor and remove “aspiring” from your bios. You are not an aspiring writer if you’re writing. You’re a writer. Embrace it! Don’t wait as long as I did to finally figure that out. You’re just wasting time and hurting yourself. This is a fantastic journey if you grant yourself that enjoyment.
I’d like to thank Jewel for the opportunity to get to know her a little better—this was such a great interview!
Want to get to know her even more? Check out her site: http://www.jeweleleonard.com/
Need an escape from the stress, hustle, and bustle of the holidays? Immerse yourself in the The Witches’ Rede: ALIGHT!