I’m kicking off a new year of author interviews with the delightful Jewel E. Leonard. Jewel is the author of Rays of Sunshine, Smiles by Trials, and more. Her newest book, Alight: The Witches’ Rede book 1, is a historical fantasy romance as fun and delightful as it’s author.
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.
Jewel calls herself a writer of romantic biographies for fictional people. She lives with her husband, 9-year-old son, 3-year-old daughter, and minion of darkness in Arizona.
Jewel has been writing since the early 1980s and enjoys reading historical fiction, paranormal (vampires? yes please!), and romance (the steamier, the better). She has a long-standing affinity for witches, werewolves, ghosts, vampires, and epic relationships. Her alpha-style leading men fall in love hard and fast (and on occasion, even unapologetically). On the flip-side, her leading ladies are feisty, head-strong, and disinterested in falling in love (until the right man comes along).
When not writing, Jewel may be found wielding pointy sticks (knitting hats, gloves, and socks) or crocheting, and she has even been known to paint the occasional landscape. She fancies herself a photographer (those pictures in the header of the website are all from her shutter-button-finger and come from a variety of places–from the World Famous San Diego Zoo to the Grand Canyon, Walt Disney World to Disneyland, and the list keeps growing).
Those who know Jewel well can tell you all about her penchant for pumpkin spice everything, coffee, felines, flowers, and friends.
- Tell us a little about you and what you’re working on.
Hi there! My name is Jewel. I’m a mom of 2, wife of a wonderful man, a yarn crafter, and—of course—a writer. I live on caffeine, my imagination, and the continued wishful thinking I may someday get a full night’s sleep.
I enjoy romance, the paranormal, the fantastic, and various points in history (so, yep, that’s what I write!).
My current WIP is a long-term project that I classify as Steampunk although it can be categorized into many genres, especially when the genre influences shift from book to book. My genre is life!
This pretty much perfectly describes the second book in the series!
If I can keep my schedule, it’s going to have me publishing 2 books a year through to 2021. Hope I don’t die before then!
You As A Reader
- When did you first fall in love with books?
You know, honestly, I don’t remember an exact moment. My earliest reading passion was Ann M. Martin’s Baby-sitter’s Club series and I positively ate those up. From there, I moved into Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High series, as I think was the progression many girls took.
And then I was introduced by a middle school friend to LJ Smith’s books (many of you would be familiar with the TV show based on her Vampire Diaries series), suffered my first real book heartbreak at the hands of The Forbidden Game—for which, this many years later, I STILL don’t forgive her—and it’s been a love for the paranormal ever since.
- What’s your favorite book from your childhood?
I’d have to go with Bunnicula. (See, seriously, it’s always been about those fangs for me!)
- Of the books you’ve read, which one changed you the most?
I don’t remember specifically which book it was, but I know for sure that Nina Bangs wrote it.
She has had a profound influence on my writing and I didn’t even realize by how much until I picked up one of her older books and read what felt so familiar … not because I’d read it before (I did) but because I guess my style became a bit of an unwitting homage to hers.
I really don’t think I could have picked a better influence.
- What’s the last book you read and your current favorite?
I’m currently reading Dangerous Books for Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained by Maya Rodale—it was a gift from the glorious Vania Rheault, and I’m enjoying it very much. It’s inspiring me to put together a blog post of my own on the topic. (Just … maybe, um, don’t hold your breath that it’s coming anytime soon.)
My current favorite would have to be Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. I need to give that one a re-read one of these days.
- If you could meet any author, alive or dead, who would it be?
Nina Bangs. I’d love to thank her for being such a positive influence in my writing.
You As A Writer
- When did you first know you were a writer?
This is kind of a tricky question. I’ve been a writer since I was a young child … 5, 6-years-old. I didn’t come to accept that I was a writer until I was in my 20s.
I didn’t embrace it until, I’m ashamed to say, I hit my mid-30s. Only a few years ago. It’s been a process.
- Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? If so, what was it about?
The first story I wrote that was a “complete” story was done in Kindergarten. My teacher went so far as to bind it and create a beautiful little cover for it. I don’t know if any of my classmates still have their books, but I still have mine—well, my son has it, now. He read it as a Kindergartner, himself, and loved it as a reader as much as I know I loved it as a writer. I can’t even begin to tell you how wonderful that felt! Better yet: He insisted on keeping it.
I haven’t looked at it for a couple years, but I recall it was about a bunny who ran away from home.
I have … never really gotten away from that formula. I must have some long-standing hang-ups!
- What has been the most difficult part of your writing journey? The best part?
I had a very difficult time just accepting the fact that I’m a writer. The occupation is not a particularly well-respected one (unless you’re one of the greats, which, obviously, I’m not) and it’s certainly not one at which you can make a solid living—unless you’re one of the greats, incredibly lucky, or have, as an indie author, an enormous backlist.
And maybe not even then.
I remember being at a gathering where other adults were discussing their jobs and careers and it came around to me and the moment I commented about my writing, the conversation moved on without me surprisingly quickly. It didn’t count. I may be a writer but I’m just a customer service rep, if you know what I mean. That’s what pays the bills, and that’s not a career either. It’s really disheartening.
Now, the best part? The best part, far and away, is the pride of holding a beautiful, finished book in my hands. How many people say “oh, I want to write a book,” but never actually do it?
There it is: Alight. 105,000 words, COMPLETED. Edited until both it and I cried. With a front and back cover. Its own ISBN. Ready to go out into the big mean world, to be loved, to be scrutinized. To get 5-star “Waiting on pins and needles for the next installment, Leonard’s now my insta-buy author!” reviews, and 1-star “DNF!!! I wish I could give it NO stars, death to the author!” reviews.
She’s (yes, Alight is a ‘she’) ready to go out there for people to pass judgment on, and for people to judge me over. That’s terrifying. I faced my fears and I saw it through. It took me 4 difficult years, but at long last, it’s done. I did it! How many people who say they want to write a book actually see it through to fruition?
That’s no small feat!
I own the badge of writer and author now. (Seriously, I should find one online and order it. And wear it where people can see it.) It’s about time!!
- Of all the writing advice you’ve received, what helped you the most?
I think the one that helped the most is probably the simplest bit of advice I’ve seen (really about life, in general):
“You do you.”
And it’s often what I tell others who’ve asked for advice on the topic. There is no one way to go about this journey. Writing is a subjective field—as every agent rejection letter will tell you—and as such, there’s no one right way to do it. Do it the way that helps you get your job done the way that makes you happy and produces your highest quality product.
Simple as that!
- Tell us about your current project and any others you’re working on.
Well, The Witches’ Rede is a hefty series—9 books in all, and likely many little side stories as time goes on. If each book exceeds 100,000 words (hahaha, “IF?”—they will), I will have written just shy of a million words by the time this series is done (excluding the little side projects and my previously published Rays of Sunshine book).
I’m going to try to concentrate on this series for the foreseeable future with what I consider a tight publishing schedule (1 book every 6 months). I realize other authors put out books more often, but I have 2 kids (whose special needs vary from slight—you’d never know unless I told you—to severe—she gets attention when we go out in public), a full-time job, and I turn into a raging monster if I don’t get my 8 hours (which … well, let’s just say I’m monstrous most of the time lately). I respect those writers whose lives are as busy as mine but who make the time. I write slowly. I edit more slowly. I take long breaks. It is how I need to work to keep myself happy with my process—and products—flaws and all. #TurtleWritersFTW!
(learn more about the TurtleWriters here.)
If people knew the conditions under which I do my work, I think it would be obvious a production schedule of 2 books a year is miraculous. Maybe someday when my daughter is in school full-time and I’m earning enough from my backlist, I can make the changes necessary to behave more like a big-time player.
A girl can dream, can’t she?
Fun Stuff About You
- Besides writing and reading, what are some of your other interests?
I love animals. I love photography, though it’s something I haven’t really done for a long time. I love nature, and I love to travel. Now that I’m back in Arizona, I’m waiting for things to settle so I can get outdoors with my camera and go see some of the most beautiful terrain in the country all within my state’s borders!
I also love knitting and crocheting, though those hobbies have taken a bit of a backseat to this writing thing.
And of course, music flows in my veins.
- If you could become an instant expert at any one thing, what would it be and why?
No-brainer: Motherhood, without a doubt.
The other day, I forgot to grab my daughter’s glasses before we took her to pre-k/her therapy. Her eyesight is in the 20/800 range. She is legally blind.
I can’t tell you how awful that felt!
For what it’s worth, her teacher said she’d never seen my daughter happier!
- You’ve just won an all expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world. Where would you go?
Another no-brainer: Pompeii. I have plans. *devious grin*
- How can people connect with you?
My favorite way for connecting is Twitter: https://twitter.com/JewelELeonard
I’m also on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/Jewel.E.Leonard/ (While I’m chattier on Twitter than I am on Facebook, Facebook is getting some exclusive content for Alight’s book release, and my team is likely to continue that way for future book releases.)
I’m on Instagram, though I’m not so good at it:
And, of course, I encourage people to visit my website:
I have an email, too: author (at) jeweleleonard (dot) com.
- Anything else you’d like to tell us?
I really enjoyed your questions, and am honored you took this time with me. Thank you so much for having me! I hope to be able to return the favor sometime soon!
Thanks for sharing a little about you! If I’m ever in Arizona I’ll have to look you up so we can go hiking and knitting together (though I haven’t done either in a while too). Maeve is so much fun and I can’t wait to finish this first book!
Does Jewel sound like your kind of author? You can find all her books on Amazon.