The strongholds are vast and old, with twisting paths and abandoned rooms, some of them containing objects that have been lost and forgotten even by the archivists. And in one of the collapsed chambers, Lina discovers a secret. Hidden deep in a cavern is a half-buried airship like nothing she has ever seen before. She’s determined to dig it out and restore it. But Lina needs help, and she doesn’t know anyone she can trust with her secret.
Then she meets Ozben, a mysterious boy who has a secret of his own—a secret so dangerous it could change the course of the Iron War and the world of Solace forever.
Today we welcome Jaleigh for an interview!
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer or did you want to be something else?
I knew from about the time I was in seventh or eighth grade that I wanted to do something that involved writing, even if I wasn’t clear on exactly what I needed to do to make a career of writing. I just knew I loved making up stories.
How long does it take you to write a book from start to finish?
A first draft, from start to finish, takes me a little over two months these days. That’s going at a pace of roughly 1000 words a day, every day. But if you count the time spent outlining before I start the book, editing once I have the rough draft, then sending the manuscript through crit group and through several rounds of revisions, the process takes more like nine months to a year.
How do you come up with themes for your stories?
Theme is a tricky thing, or at least it is in my work. I often don’t know exactly what the themes are (or only broadly) until I’ve finished a couple of drafts of the book. I think that’s because I don’t know the characters well enough yet to know what they’re really fighting for. I know what they want, but I don’t yet know how the story will change them, so the themes come later, but when they do come, they come from the characters.
Do you have a schedule of when you write?
I have a day job, so my writing schedule has to fit in around that, which usually means I write in the evenings and on weekends. That’s also when the 1000 words a day schedule pays off. No matter how busy or tired I am after work, I can always get at least 1000 words without feeling overwhelmed. I’ve tried other methods and schedules, but this is the one that consistently works for me.
How are you able to balance other aspects of your life with your writing?
I don’t always balance things very well—how I wish I did! When you have two jobs, there are always going to be days when you think you’re neglecting one or the other. And you don’t want to miss out on time with your friends and family either. Sometimes, the best thing I can do is take things one day at a time, try to go easy on myself and set realistic expectations for what I can get done.
What elements do you think make a great story line?
Speaking for myself, I always look for great characters, people I want to root for and who I’m interested in following for 300 pages. If I’m invested in the characters and their journey, I’ll follow an author anywhere—down the rabbit hole or into space!
What was the hardest thing about writing a book?
Trusting my process and how I work. My first drafts tend to be very rough, lumpy things. At certain points, I think I’ll never be able to make the story any good. You get lost in the weeds. This happens with every book, and I always find my way out again, but it doesn’t stop me from worrying when it happens. I share these worries and uncertainties when I speak to students about their own writing. I think it helps them to know they’re not alone. We’re all in this together.
How many books have you written so far? Do you have a favorite?
I’ve written five books for adults and four for middle grade readers. Two of those MG titles are still in the editing/revision stages. I don’t think I could ever pick a favorite!
Do you have a favorite character?
I don’t think I could pick a favorite character either. There are so many things about them that I love—Piper and Gee’s courage, Anna’s intelligence, Lina’s resourcefulness, and Ozben’s honor.
Where do you write?
I have an office in my house, but I also like to write on my screened in porch in my backyard, especially in the spring and fall.
When deciding on how to publish, what directed you to the route you took?
I had a lot of help from my wonderful agent, Sara Megibow, in choosing a path that worked for me. Random House and my editor, Krista Marino, have been a dream to work with, because everyone involved understands what I’m trying to accomplish with the Solace series, and they’ve worked hard to let me realize that vision.
Have you gotten feedback from family about your book(s)? What do they think?
I’m very fortunate to have an amazing circle of family and friends around me. They cheer me on, trek to book events even in the dead of winter, and they recommend my books to others. I’m so grateful to have them in my life.
What kinds of things do you like to do outside of writing?
My husband and are gamers. Doesn’t matter what it is—tabletop board games, video games, roleplaying games—we’re there!
What kinds of advice would you give to someone who wants to start writing?
Make sure that you always love the process, that you love creating. Write for yourself first.
What is your favorite book? favorite author? Do you have an author that inspired/inspires you to write?
One of my favorite books growing up was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. And I got lost in places like Narnia and Middle Earth. The fantasy worlds created by those and so many other authors are what inspired me to want to create a fantasy world of my own. Solace is the result of years of that inspiration.
Do you have any go to people when writing a book that help you with your story lines as well as editing, beta reading and such?
I have a writing group that includes three other writers. They are my first readers, the ones who will take the book off my hands when I can’t bear to look at it anymore, and they’ll help me see the plot holes I’m blind to and make suggestions to make the story better.
Are you working on anything now?
Two books at once--whee! Book three in the Solace series, and a new project that I can’t speak of yet, but I’m very excited about!
Tell us 5 things that make you smile
1. My husband’s laugh 2. A great game with friends. 3. Movie night on the couch. 4. An excited reader. 5. A letter from a reader.
Tell us 5 things that make you sad
1. An empty coffee cup. 2. The absence of cake. 3. A natural one. 4. Finishing a book I adored. 5. When someone tells me they don’t like to read.
If you could travel anywhere in the world to visit a place so you could use it as a background for a book, where would it be?
For years and years it was Venice, Italy. I finally made that dream come true last year. I’m not sure when I’ll write the book, but I have lots and lots of ideas…
Thanks so much for stopping by today, Jaleigh. It was great having you here!JALEIGH JOHNSON is a lifelong reader, gamer, and moviegoer. She loves nothing better than to escape into fictional worlds and take part in fantastic adventures. She lives and writes in the wilds of the Midwest, but you can visit her online at jaleighjohnson.com or on Twitter at @JaleighJohnson.