Many years ago, when I was working at the Renaissance Faire as a woman of ill repute, the madam of our house asked me to help get a new girl dressed. She and her husband would be hanging out with us for a few hours as a part of a bit for their podcast. The girl, who’s name was Jewel E Leonard, and I would hit it off instantaneously and by the end of the season we were friends.
Unfortunately, we don’t get to see each other as much as we used to, but we still talk almost daily about everything under the sun. (Seriously, no subject is off limits.) And she is one of my best and closest friends.
She released her first book, Tales by Rails, almost two years ago, which was followed shortly by it’s sequel, Smiles by Trials, that fall. However, Alight, her baby, comes out on Thursday and I couldn’t be more excited for her. I have watched from afar as she has poured her blood, sweat, and tears into this novel, and it is truly a stunning work of art.
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.
To celebrate Alight finally being out there for all to enjoy, Jewel and I sat down and had a chat over the weekend where we discussed writing and everything else under the sun.
CLO: Okay, so the first couple of questions I have are ones I already know the answers to, but I figured they would help get the ball rolling. Personally I tend to bounce around between time periods and worlds a lot. For example, originally The Descendants took place in both roman times (around Pompeii), the dark ages, and the American Revolution as well as modern day (Gotta love time traveling where you can jump around a bit). But the dark ages and the medieval time period is my favorite era. What time period do you prefer to write in, and what drew you to that time period?
JEL: Well right now I’m a bit steeped in the Victorian time period. I say “right now” because before I started working on The Witches’ Rede, I was all about the Renaissance.
The time period I chose for The Witches’ Rede was basically the ideal setting for the things that I both wanted to and needed to do for this series of books.
And of course it wouldn’t have even dawned on me without the glorious suggestion of … you! 😀
CLO: It was a lot of fun nudging you in that direction and I’m so happy it’s turned out so well. Seriously, I think I’m just as excited for Alight as I was for Revenants.
JEL: You are so sweet!!! ♥ I am so grateful to you for the suggestion–I only wish I hadn’t been so reluctant to jump in at the time.
CLO: Have you ever visited one of the locations you write about?
JEL: You know, one of these days we’ve gotta allow our characters to have some cameos in each other’s work.
Once TWRSeries is done, I might take a trip to Pompeii, myself (literally, if I can, and figuratively as an author).
Speaking of visiting locations … Yes, I have–and it may be pretty obvious which, if you’ve read Alight. My descriptions became much more vivid in the scenes at the Tombstone jailhouse. It worked well to give Maeve some things to obsess over (useless random details of her surroundings), so I let myself go to town describing it.
My goal is to actually visit Redington/Tanque Verde soon, since both are about 2 hours from where I now live. YAY!
Later on, I get to write about places I’ve previously lived. I’m excited about that.
Have you gotten to see any of your locations?
CLO: That was going to be my next question – if seeing the locations in person helped the story in any way!
Um, I have been to Tahoe – which is where the first couple of chapters to The Descendant’s is set – and I have seen parts of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. We visited Alnwick in Northumberland, and Edinburgh and Stirling in Scotland while we were there. That really helped me picture how the castle from The Undying Ones would look – how the lower levels are dark and cramped, but things improve as you go further up, since the higher levels were generally newer. And visiting Mary King’s Close in Edinburgh gives you a good idea of how cramped cities could be and how fast the plague could spread through them.
JEL: Ohhhh see these are things that never occur to you unless you physically visit a location.
I wonder if I can do a tax write-off for visiting Europe for the last few books of my series?
CLO: That would be really fun if you could. I loved Scotland and Ireland and I can’t wait to go back because I know we missed so much while were there.
I know you and your husband are very thorough researchers (I had no idea combinations were a thing until Alight!) What does your research process look like?
JEL: Yeah, we sometimes get a bit crazy with the research. I spend quite a bit of time on etymonline and am pretty strict with my usage of language (avoiding anachronistic words and phrases as much as possible–with few exceptions, as you know).
I know it goes against all writing advice but my writing process stops when I need to research because more often than not, something comes up in the research that greatly impacts what I was about to write (and of course I can’t think of an example right just now).
Where my go-to site is etymonline, Scott’s is Chronicling America–you can guarantee if a word was in use in newspapers, it was in use in public discussion. And much as I hate to admit it, etymology online has said a word wasn’t in use when we came to find out it was … more than once.
It’s always good to check more than one source.
We’ve been picking up books mostly on mythology and lore … and I even have books on camping in the Victorian era, about the stagecoach line that ran north/south through Phoenix over a hundred years ago, and one of my favorites–a book on pregnancy and childbirth written by a doctor from the 1860s. As for that last one? Judging by its content, it’s a miracle we didn’t make ourselves go extinct.
What’s been your favorite thing to research so far in all your writings?
CLO: That’s a hard one. I think my favorite thing to research has been 1920s slang because there are so many good words. For example there’s Shiek for a good looking guy, Sheba for a good looking girl. Bearcat if you’re a woman with strong opinions. And they’re not as strange as other eras so they’re a little easier to understand. Also a couple of them are still in use today.
Other interesting things to research has been Roman era abortificants, electric shock therapy, ghost hunting – and I’m sure there’s more but I can’t remember them at the moment.
JEL: May I ask for one of the 1920’s slang words that’s still in use today? (If you can’t think of it off the top of your head, that’s cool. Just curious!)
Era abortificants was one of the more unhappy things I’ve had to look into.
CLO: Whoopee originated in the 20’s. Gigolo too.
JEL: Whoopee doesn’t surprise me but Gigolo kinda does.
Have you ever been surprised by an origin of a word (or how old a term really is)?
CLO: I actually just was! I thought for sure Spiffy originated in the 20’s – Nope it’s from the 1800s!
JEL: Yes! I knew that one! 😆
CLO: It never occurred to me that it was that old, since Victorians have always struck me of having this more formal way of speaking.
JEL: There are still words that shock me when I find out they’re actually much older than 1800s.
Just maybe they weren’t used in polite company. 😉
The jury’s still out on clit. (I’m sure it’s younger than Steampunk erotica writers want it to be… But there’s something to be said for the feelings words give you–even if one is period, if it FEELS newer, it’s likely going to throw your readers right out of your setting … and who wants that, amIright?)
Another concern is words being too archaic and possibly confusing readers or just flat out ruining the mood. Dog’s rig for example. Or Beast with two backs
JEL: Beast with two backs was Shakespeare wasn’t it?
That, I think, would certainly ruin a Mood… Unless you were going for a bit of humor…
JEL: I can kinda imagine the look on Maeve’s face if Raf suggested it…
CLO: I don’t think any girl in any time period would exactly swoon over that lol
JEL: Yeah no, probably not. LOL!
CLO: Is there any music that inspires you to write or reminds you of certain scenes in your novels?
JEL: OMG only ALL the music! LOL!!! I have playlists for each book, for TWRSeries as a whole, and a little one for Rhea and Surfer Boy. The songs are generally not so good for atmosphere but are often my characters “talking” to one another.
How about you?
CLO: I definitely have Spotify lists for each story. Maybe someday I’ll get around to sharing them 🙂
JEL: We should swap sometime. 😄
CLO: We should! I’ll warn you now, my tastes are very eclectic!
JEL: As are mine. LOL!
CLO: So last question that I have is: Having worn both Renaissance garb and Victorian costumes, which do you prefer?
JEL: Ohh, good question!
I think I’ve gotta go Victorian on this one. My Ren Faire skirts always wrap around my legs when I walk, the bottom edge of my bodice tends to cut into my stomach/upper hip area (which may just be a construction/sizing issue). Victorian corsets cut a much more flattering feminine silhouette, IMHO. The undergarments kind of push the skirts out away from my legs, making walking much less annoying.
That’s not to say I don’t enjoy my faire garb, because I do. Either era’s clothing has been, for me, far more comfortable than pop culture wants women to think it is.
Which is your favorite? (Also I’ve got a few questions for you! 😊)
CLO: Personally I enjoyed my renaissance garb the most. Especially when I was able to run around as a peasant. But I like the look of Victorian dresses.
JEL: Do you find your ren faire garb is more comfortable?
CLO: Yes. The bodices are fit to my shape thanks to duct tape patterns. I just have to be careful not to add too much boning. I think I had one with ten pieces, and between the thick fabric I chose and the boning I got really overheated.
JEL: Well I’m sure Southern California’s weather doesn’t help that any.
Let me tell you, moving back to AZ has made wearing middle eastern style outfits a lot more appealing to me …
CLO: Oh man! Yes! I find myself dressing in middle eastern stuff more and more.
JEL: Sure wish they’d schedule these events during the wintertime. Not like our cities get much in the way of snow. 😜
So I’ve got a handful of questions for you! Ready?
CLO: Shoot 🙂
My hubby and writing partner insists all my books are linked via a shared world. Do your books share a world?
CLO: I haven’t decided if The Undying Ones will be a part of the same world as The Descendants- but it’s entirely possible. However, I do know characters and ideas from The Descendants will show up in other books. You can blame Stephen King and his Dark Tower for that!
JEL: Haha, remember how I answered a question before you got to ask it? You just did the same to me! 😂
OK, well then, next topic. 😆
CLO: LOL! Ooops 🙂
JEL: No worries! Have you ever started a book in an era you’re unfamiliar with?
CLO: Several times. I didn’t know much about the Roman Era or Pompeii when I started The Descendants. I learned a lot from Wikipedia and other websites, and I now have several books on it. Since I didn’t know much, I wanted to learn everything so I didn’t screw it up.
JEL: I get that! That was me when I jumped into Alight.
What’s the very first thing about a time period you like to investigate?
CLO: Names. I feel like I can’t go anywhere unless I have a character with a name.
JEL: Lol! I can relate to this so much. I was hung up on a couple names for probably too long. 😇
CLO: I have one character who has changed names at least five times. I wanted her name to relate to her abilities and I could never find the right one. I still can’t, but I found one that I’m finally happy with that seems to fit her personality perfectly.
JEL: May I ask who that was?
CLO: It’s a character in Descendants. I don’t remember what it was originally (the notebook is out in the shed somewhere) but at one point her name was Lucina and now she’s Elise.
JEL: Oh, I like Elise!
Lucina is an interesting one. Maybe keep that around for use some other time? 😊
CLO: Of course!
JEL: So kinda along those lines…
Some authors create character biographies. Others make character interviews. How do you like to explore a new/unfamiliar character’s personality?
CLO: Honestly? I wing it. I tried to do biographies and interviews, but most of the questions on the stock ones just never seemed to fit my stories. And I’m not that good at thinking up questions on my own – I mean, look at how long it took me to think up the questions for your part of the interview. So I just go with the flow and let the characters reveal themselves along the way.
JEL: So you consider yourself a pantser?
CLO: Not really. I used to be, but I find that having an outline helps with writers block so I at least do that. I guess you can call me a hybrid?
I wing it and then go back with an outline to fill in what I miss.
It’s not ideal…
CLO: If it works for you then that’s all that matters
JEL: OK so let me ask: what question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview?
CLO: Oh that’s a tough one.
JEL: Give it some thought if you need to.
CLO: It’s especially hard because I’ve discussed so much on my blog, and with BoWriChat that I’m pretty sure I’ve already been asked everything, y’know?
Maybe what’s my favorite part of writing and self publishing. To which I would have to say, watching the story unfold. But Id have to say that formatting a paperback is a close second. I wasn’t expecting that to be as satisfying as it is. I thought it would be a lot more stressful.
What’s a question you’d like someone to ask you?
JEL: Omg I didn’t expect to enjoy formatting a paperback would be so enjoyable (except page numbering–that can go right to hell).
I suppose I’d like to be asked what’s the best way to get to know a new character…
And you know I’d say through a sex scene, which is generally one of the first things I write with a character I don’t know well. You can learn so much about a person in the throes of passion when their defenses are down.
CLO: Really? I never thought of that. I tend to put them in a high stakes scene – which can be just as emotional
JEL: Sex can be high stakes, too. 😉
CLO: Definitely 😊
JEL: How shall we wrap this up? 😊
CLO: GIF PARTY TIME!
CLO: I think that’s a good spot to sign off
JEL: Thank you so much for doing this with me. We should do it again soon.
CLO: Thank you! This was so much fun!