Meet Jaleigh Johnson.
Jaleigh Johnson is the author of the New York Times Bestselling novel The Mark of the Dragonfly, and The Secrets of Solace, from Delacorte Press. She has also written for the Dungeons and Dragons Forgotten Realms fiction line. In her spare time, she is an avid gamer and also enjoys gardening, reading and going to the movies with her husband. Visit her online at www.jaleighjohnson.com or on Twitter @JaleighJohnson.
Now onto the interview…
Did you sketch the World of Solace before even writing the first novel, The Mark of the Dragonfly?
“I sketched a lot of it out beforehand, yes. For this series, the world of Solace came first. It came with questions like, what if you had a world of forgotten objects and limited resources? What if two kingdoms fought over them? With so much focus on the world, I had to sketch out where the Dragonfly territories were, how big the Merrow Kingdom was, what was the 401’s route—things like that. It helped me see the shape of what I was creating. It was also a lifesaving reference tool the further I got into the plot.”
What was your main inspiration in creating the World of Solace?
“The 401 train will forever be my biggest inspiration for Solace. The steam train in the novel is loosely based on the real 401 Southern steam locomotive at the Monticello Railway Museum in Monticello, Illinois. You have to understand, I have a pretty serious train crush. The travel, the romance, the technology—trains are just amazing to me. And the 401 is one of my favorites. I can remember standing at the depot when the engine pulled away, steam clouds billowing, that classic chug chug chug you can feel vibrating in your chest. That’s enough to make anyone want to build a story around it, but I was always fascinated by the idea that the 401 could have very easily been a forgotten piece of technology from another era. Volunteers at the railway museum restored it and preserved it, but that idea of beautiful, forgotten things stayed with me, and Solace became a whole world of beautiful, forgotten, abandoned things—and people. ”
Your Things I Love page on your website is fun and interactive. Can you pick one thing out of your list that you go to more than the others when you have writing woes?
“Thank you! I always return to food (no big surprise to those who know me) when I have writing woes. Baking is one of my go-to hobbies when I need to step away from the computer and refresh the brain. Something about the meticulousness of the process is very soothing to me, and it lets my mind work story problems while my hands are occupied. Also, at the end of it, there are treats. Treats are good.”
Did you ever write any fan-fiction inspired stories for the games that you’ve played?
“I’ve never written fan-fiction stories for the games I’ve played, but I have delved into the fan communities for games I’ve loved like Dragon Age and Mass Effect. The art, the gameplay anecdotes, the lore discussions—I love how the internet creates spaces where fans can come together and express their passion. It’s a wonderful thing, and it energizes me to work on my own world when I see all the cool things creators are doing.”
How did you transition from your older teen/adult fiction novels to a younger audience? Describe the process if possible.
“*grins* It wasn’t so much a transition as feeling like I tumbled face first into it. All I knew going into the Solace series was that the characters were not adults. They were children who had been lost/abandoned/broken in one way or another, and they had to rely on themselves to survive in the world. From there it was…I wouldn’t say easy, because it definitely wasn’t, but the territory was familiar, if that makes sense. I still needed to write a story that held readers’ attention, create a world that felt alive, and so I just told myself to write something that *I* loved and trust that younger audiences would love it too. It helps that most of the time I feel like a twelve-year-old masquerading as an adult!”
Is there anything else to share today?
“You can learn more about the world of Solace at my website: jaleighjohnson.com and you can find me on Twitter @JaleighJohnson where I mostly tweet about books, food, travel and gaming. Come say hi!”