Jaleta Clegg loves telling stories ranging from aliens and spaceships to magic and unicorns to elves and airships to monsters and mayhem. Her published works include space opera with the Fall of the Altairan Empire series, steampunk fairies in Dark Dancer, and silly horror short stories. When not writing, she enjoys watching good bad movies, crocheting stuff out of yarn, and messing in the kitchen inventing new dishes.
She lives in Washington state with a diminishing horde of children, too many pets, and a very patient husband.
First, tell us a little about yourself and what originally inspired you to write your first book.
I’ve always loved storytelling, but hated writing things out by hand and all the mistakes I made with typewriters led to typing anxiety. It wasn’t until we bought our first computer, a used Commodore128 at a garage sale, that I felt free enough to really start writing. On the computer, mistakes were temporary. Rewriting was effortless. Words could just flow! Except, I had four little kids at the time. We had just moved to a new neighborhood. I needed to escape. So I escaped into my own head. I started writing. Within six months, I’d finished a fantasy trilogy rough draft, edited it, rewritten it, and was ready to move on to other things. I started a science fiction novel. Life happened. I was interrupted. But I kept pecking away at my novels, here and there, sometimes setting them aside for months, until I had eleven finished books in a series. That was when I decided to pursue publishing. So in a nutshell, my stories are my self-therapy and escape.
What is the project you are working on now and where did the idea come from?
I’m currently in the middle of a story tentatively titled Desert Lighthouse. I had this image in my head of a lighthouse in the middle of a desert. What kind of story could I tell about that? Who would build it there? And why? The questions bothered me enough that I started pulling together a story. It’s a strange one, with several different storylines that all weave together. Eventually.
I’m also working on the sequel to Dark Dancer. I loved the idea of steampunk elves and magic from the first book and wanted to go back to that world. I also realized I left a lot of the story untold and unfinished. Hopefully Winterqueen’s War will fill in a lot of the holes.
I’m also working on a series of stories set in the fictional kingdom of Merkady where the humans have died out leaving behind Humankin, animals that look almost human, and Altereds, animals that can talk and think like people but still look like the original animals. I have a few characters that want me to tell their stories – a rattlesnake fighting for equal rights for Altereds and a bunny Humankin superspy. And don’t let me forget my version of Sinbad in that world, a leopard with a walrus first mate. I can’t wait to get to his story.
I think I have a problem with too many projects going on at the same time.
What authors have inspired you, and why?
I blame Andre Norton. I discovered her books when I was young and impressionable. It amazed me that people wrote stories about aliens and space travel and magic and monsters that weren’t aimed at kids. Her books led me to others by Asimov, Zelazny, Heinlein, Jack Chalker, and others. I haunted the small science fiction section of our library until I’d read all the books they had. But I wanted more.
I found Julie Czerneda and Elizabeth Moon. These women wrote the kinds of books I wanted to write. They told stories that I loved reading. I found Terry Pratchett, Robert Asprin, Douglas Adams, and Piers Anthony and realized humor could be part of science fiction and fantasy. I found other new authors who inspired me to keep writing and pursuing publication, namely Francis Pauli and Paul Genesse. I met Brandon Sanderson and Larry Correia, who never looked down on me, a newbie author, but instead gave me kind words and friendship. I could keep going with the list of authors I love, the ones who keep me reading and keep me dreaming, but the list would just keep going.
What was your hardest scene to write?
Can a whole book count? I really struggled with Chain of Secrets, the eighth book in my series. It’s a dark point in the overall story. Dace, the main character, is struggling with everything, nothing seems to be going right. The whole book was pretty dark, but when I go back and read it again, I love it. It’s about struggling to overcome, about doing what’s right even when it might cost you your life, about dealing with loss and betrayal. It’s about becoming a better person, about being true to your innermost self. It’s also about family and the ties we choose to bind ourselves with. The emotions were powerful and very hard to deal with when I was writing. I’m a very private person, so writing those raw emotions was a lot like walking outside naked. I have a tendency to shy away from the emotions, to put distance between my character and their feelings, so in editing I have to be brutal about closing that distance. Because I know the end result will be that much stronger.
When it’s time to create something new, what is your process?
I start with a scene or a character or sometimes just a line. Then I just write until I start to see a shape to the story. At that point, I usually need to set it aside for a while to let the story ferment and develop. Once I can feel the general shape of the outline, I can write it. With some short stories, the process takes only a day or less. With some novels, I’m still waiting for the story to gel together. I have found if I try to force it, I end up with a boring mess of a story.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
I finally mastered fudge! At least the marshmallow creme/chocolate chip version. It’s been my unicorn for a long time. I’d try to make fudge and end up with chocolate frosting. Or I’d make frosting and somehow end up with a layer of fudge on my cake. I recently found a recipe that works for me. Now I can turn out consistently delicious creamy fudge.
I’m also very proud of the anthologies some of my stories have landed in. I have a comedy in the Baen anthology Mission: Tomorrow about a futuristic game show, The Ultimate Space Race, which is also the name of the story. It’s told by an older couple watching the finale together on the couch. Everything is branded, sponsored, trademarked, and commercialized. Kind of a snarky look at the future, but that’s where I see it headed.
I’m also the proud author of the obligatory fart joke cthulhu story, A Brown and Dismal Horror, in the Redneck Eldritch collection. Yes, my reign as Queen of the Fart Joke is far from over.
And I recently finished an afghan that I love. Crocheting those things take hours and hours, about four seasons of the X-files worth of hours.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Yes, I really want to be Han Solo when I grow up. I want my own beat-up spaceship and my own Wookie best friend. I want to explore new worlds and have adventures. If I can’t have the Millenial Falcon, I’ll settle for Wolf’s ship, and his company, from Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, one of my all-time favorite movies. Or maybe I’ll go off adventuring with Captain Jack Sparrow on the Black Pearl. Or maybe I’ll just make up more stories of adventure and pretend they’re real. That’s really why I write.
New Release from Jaleta Clegg!
Fairies, fair folk, imps, trolls, and pixies—they haunt our myths from Ireland to Iceland and everywhere else. Join in the fairy fun, or fairy fear, as good, bad, and mischievous they show themselves. Dare you take the trip to Fairyland? No one who returns is ever quite the same.
On sale for a limited time!
Dark Dancer –
The Seligh crushed,
The captives found,
The barrier broken,
The balmorae freed.
A strange prophecy haunts the Seligh lords, rulers of the Fey and controllers of all magic in the Summerlands, a prophecy that foretells their fall.
A banished Seligh lord rules the Winterlands with an iron fist and his pets, the balmorae, patrol the borders against all intruders, guarding the secrets hidden beneath his icy lair.
A young woman rediscovers her heritage, a gift of magic and dancing that opens portals between worlds. She holds their fate in her hands. All who live within the lands of the Fey must choose where they stand—beside the Dancer or opposed to her.
And trust that she won’t destroy their world.
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