Saturday, February 16, 2013

Interview with Author J. Leigh

Give us a quick introduction on yourself and your book.
Well, I'm a South Jersey girl, fond of sushi, horror movies, cats, and ren faires, and I've been writing my high-fantasy/sci-fi fusion Way Walkers world for as long as I remember. (Literally, I started it at the tender age of eleven.) I recently published an 'interactive novel' using my world with Choice of Games/Hosted Games titled, Way Walkers: University back in August, and now, much to my eternal delight, one of my traditional novels set in the world has been signed by Red Adept Publishing. It shall hopefully come-out sometime this year. (It has yet to be officially given a title, but it's set in the Tazu Nation, a place where the main race can shape-shift into dragons.) Way Walkers is an incredibly detailed world full of fascinating and deep characters, danger, humor, and above all, magic. I could spend literally all day talking about it, but for more information on the world, just visit

What inspired you to write your first book?
I actually had a globe in my room that had the texture of the ocean floor on it. I was up late one night, running my fingers over it, and thought, hmmm, I wonder what a world with this kind of layout would be like? 18 years later, I'm still coming up with stories for that same world

Do you have a specific writing style?
Though I am a primarily fantasy writer, I have a certain love of the mystery and horror genres, and I try to infuse a little bit of them into my overall story-arch, as well as a bit of sci-fi flare. Past that, I'm a heavily character-based writer, and really enjoy torturing the poor souls that I breathe life into.

How did you come up with the title?
The term 'Way Walkers' stems from a great deal of brainstorming over many cups of hot chocolate and coffee. In the end though, like so many things, it just felt right.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I think all the work I do in the Way Walkers world comes down to choices, most importantly the choice to live and believe as you will. It is a personal philosophy, as well as the crux of the Way Walkers tenants, whose first law states 'do not impede upon the freewill of another.' It is an ideal, yes, one often unattainable, but it is one that speaks to my heart. In the end, it comes down to respect, tolerance, and an understanding that what we choose to believe is the most important choice of them all.

How much of the book is realistic?
Oh, that's a hard one to answer for a fantasy/sci-fi novel! The simple thing to say is I like to try and make my characters' relationships as realistic as possible, despite a highly fantastic world full of shape-shifting dragons. I also like to try and make the world as probable as possible within the laws I put down--all of which are based off of real scientific theory and physics. That being said, I base a good deal of the spiritual aspects of Way Walkers off of real-world beliefs and experiences, both from my own life and those of many metaphysical, spiritual, and religious groups across the globe. So I suppose with a good deal of those aspects, it's as realistic as you want to believe it is. ;)

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Again, a tough one to answer. The short response is, yes, a good deal of the characters and certain experiences do stem from things which have happened in my own life. I haven't however, actually based a character off of a real person, rather, the conversations just flow from ones I've actually had. And I will say you'd be surprised how many of the fantastic things which go on are based off of very real events--especially anything involving ghosts.

What books have most influenced your life most?
The bad ones! *chuckles* No, seriously, I won't list them out of respect, but there's been a lot of very bad fiction that's passed through my fingertips. I'd find myself reading along, and just....rewriting the stories in my mind, a "this is how I'd do it" kind of thing. It mattered a lot to me, and helped shape my imagination as a child. Past that though, I was a complete LJ Smith junkie as a pre-teen, then picked up the big boys, Tolkien, Shakespeare, and a very long list of the classics. Now that I'm older I'm very fond of Laura Joh Rowland, J K Rowling, Anne McCaffery, Jacqueline Carrey, and many, many more who escape me now.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Well he's not 'new' per se, but he's new to me, so I'm going to say Brandon Sanderson. I only recently picked up his books after a great deal of insistence from some of my friends, who've told me our styles are similar. I have to say, we definitely have the same love of seeding a story with seemingly innocuous things that later turn-out to be pivotal plot-points. We also both add-in random bits of levity into very series situations, so have to say I'm looking forward to reading more of his stuff.

What are your current projects?
Currently, I'm dancing between working on the sequel for the new Red Adept book coming out, and the sequel for the Choice of Games/Hosted Games title, Way Walkers: University.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I have to give this one to my dear friend Macaela UlloaRea, who's been with me in this insanity since college. She's been like a sister, and I have to say no one has contributed as much for so long to my craziness. I would have given-up on this whole writing thing many times over the years if not for her, and the list of what she's contributed to the world-building of Walkers is staggering. (Though I must also give a second place shout-out to my friend Patrick, who is my creature-creator and has helped to make just about every wild beasty that's ever tried to eat anyone in Walkers.) Love you, guys!

Do you see writing as a career?
Yes. I realized long ago I'm not fit for anything else, as carrying on imaginary sword fights in public places is entirely frowned upon....unless you then shrug and go, "sorry, I'm a writer."

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I'd make it shorter! Seriously, I tend to over write-things, and especially with Way Walkers: University and it's ever-branching 'choose your own' style. I have to say I've written myself into a crazy land with far, far too many factors to track. However, I'm stubborn in the fact I want things to be good, and so, I keep going despite.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I picked up a pen! Honestly, I've always been a writer; I've never been anything else in my mind from the time that I was four. If there was paper, I was writing on it. Simple as that.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I'm dyslexic, so that's always been (and still is) a challenge to overcome. There were many teachers and professionals over the years who instantly labeled my work as 'worthless' or 'stupid' simply because of spelling errors. It took a lot to overcome not only the issues of not being able to spell, but the hits to my confidence as well. Even today, I still visually can't tell the difference between 'defiantly' and 'definitely' when I'm reading along, though I must say I have to thank ever-wiser spell checks over the years for getting me this far. And my copy-editors. ;)

What was the hardest part of writing your book?
For my Red Adept book, the most difficult bit was nailed the main character's voice. Jathen is very different from any other character I've ever written, and he has a strong visual love of architecture and engineering, two things I'm not the most savvy on. So I had to do a lot of research, then meld it enough so it fit without being cumbersome. For Way Walkers: University, by far and away the hardest part was the coding needed to make it a 'choose your own' app. Between that and tracking all the possibilities, let's just say I had a few late nights screaming at my laptop

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Be true to yourselves and don't sweat the small stuff. Write every day, read a lot, have mentors but don't try to be like anyone else. And learn to balance between taking advice to improve yourself, and being a slave to everyone's opinion. Not everyone is going to like what you do--but learn to weed out the good advice from the people who tear down just because your style isn't what they prefer. It's a very fine line, but stay humble, stay open minded, and trust your gut. I've seen far too many good writers become paralyzed because they aren't 'original enough' or 'edgy enough' or 'used too many or too little of this or that' or some other such rot. Write what you'd like to read, and all should, eventually, fall into place.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Other than "thank you, I am your eternal servant?" Honestly I do want to say thank you specifically to the Way Walkers Facebook Fanclub for being so incredibly supportive, and I'm glad anyone who has read Way Walkers: University has had the chance to 'take a walk in my world' so to speak. I hope the traditional novels please you guys as well, and know I do it all for you guys.