Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Jaleigh Johnson Author Interview

Photo Credit: Mark Jones

Jaleigh Johnson is a fantasy novelist living and writing in the wilds of the Midwest. Her middle grade debut novel The Mark of the Dragonfly is a New York Times bestseller, was chosen for the ABA 2014 Spring Indie Next list, and was named one of Amazon’s Top 20 Children’s Books of 2014. Her other books in the Solace series from Delacorte Press include The Secrets of Solace and The Quest to the Uncharted Lands. She has also written several novels and short stories for the Dungeons and Dragons Forgotten Realms fiction line published by Wizards of the Coast. Johnson is an avid gamer and lifelong geek, and in her spare time she also enjoys traveling, reading, baking, and going to movies with her husband. Visit her online at


What was your first introduction to YA literature, the one that made you choose that genre to write?
It’s funny, in the beginning, when I was writing MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY, I wasn’t setting out to write YA or MG, though it ended up being the latter, or upper MG anyway. I wish I could say I thought that far ahead in the planning of my novels, but all I knew going in was that my characters were young, they were survivors, and they found strength and family in each other. That trend has continued throughout all three Solace books. It was later that I delved into all the richness and complexity that YA has to offer. The books I’m reading now--I find myself wishing I would have had them in my life when I was a teenager, but I’m so happy they exist now, and that we have authors like Anna-Marie McLemore, Laini Taylor, and Maggie Stiefvater, just to name a few.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
Way back when I was just starting out, I didn’t fully understand the power of editors. It was only when I got my first novel contract that I truly comprehended how they serve as mentor and champion for the author and their book. I had two editors early on in my career, Susan Morris and Erin Evans, who were mentors/sisters-in-writing to me. They helped give me confidence in my work, at a time when I was young enough and scared enough that I might have stopped forever if I’d had a bad experience. But they guided me, gave me amazing advice, and I will probably never be able to properly express how much that meant to me.

Did you learn anything from writing THE QUEST TO THE UNCHARTED LANDS and what was it?
I’ll tell you a secret, QUEST is the book where I actually thought at one point, welp, if this one doesn’t make me quit writing, then nothing will. I was on a tight deadline, writing over the holidays, and editing another project at the same time, when I found out I needed to scrap most of the third act and rewrite tens of thousands of words. I imagine every writer hits a moment like this with a book at some point in their careers. But I dug in, did the rewrites, and actually learned to be comfortable with the idea of dismantling and reconstructing a novel in a way I never had before. The realization that I could break a book down and make it come out better on the other side (and survive the process!) was freeing.

What part of Stella did you enjoy writing the most?
Besides her bantering with Cyrus (I could write chapter after chapter of that), I loved exploring Stella’s relationship with her parents. They felt like a three-person team, and I loved the idea that Stella feels as protective of them as they do of her.

Which character have you enjoyed getting to know while writing WORLD OF SOLACE Series?
I will forever hold my science loving, mechanically minded, explorer girls close to my heart. Piper, Anna, Lina, and Stella are pieces of me and reflections of all the different things girls can be and love.

What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?

Most readers are surprised to find out that I have a day job, and they’re even more surprised to learn that it’s in accounting and tax preparation. I think it’s because they see the numbers and words as a clash of careers, but in a lot of ways the balance helps keep me grounded.

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?

Oh geez, writing advice? Life advice? Maybe something that works for both? Don’t be afraid to learn new things or be proven wrong. Some of the most rewarding experiences in my life and writing have resulted from having my assumptions and certainties challenged.

Who was your first boyfriend? Tell me about your first kiss.
I put these together to talk about the same boy. Not going to give names for privacy reasons, but he was very special, and we were each other’s first kiss. We were in a park, and there were baby bunnies and birds all around us, so I joked that it was the Disney movie kiss. We stayed in touch for a long time after we dated. He gave me a music box that I still have and was thinking of when I gave Micah a music box in MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY. He passed away before he could read the book or see the tribute, and I miss him.

When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone on paper?
When students write letters to me on paper, I answer back the same way. Sometimes it takes a long time for the letters to reach me, but I still love the idea of getting them, and I keep them all.

Where did you go on your first airplane ride?
It was Florida, and I was maybe nine years old. I remember the flight was so bumpy I swore I’d never fly again! Luckily, I changed my mind, because I love to travel.

What are you most passionate about today?
Making the most of every day. The older I get, the more I realize how time is precious. You don’t know how much of it you’re going to get.

When you looked in the mirror first thing this morning, what was the first thing you thought?
How does hair even do that???

From the acclaimed author of the New York Times bestseller The Mark of the Dragonfly comes another magical and thrilling story that takes readers on an exciting new adventure.

Stella Glass dreams of exploring worlds beyond her home of Solace, but when her famous parents are sent on a historic mission to the Uncharted Lands, it's simply too dangerous for her to join them. By order of the king, she is left behind.

Missing out on the excitement is one thing, but Stella is devastated at the thought of her parents flying into the unknown. So she takes matters into her own hands. Instead of staying with family as planned, she steals away and--right before takeoff--sneaks aboard the airship.

But Stella isn't the only stowaway. In the cargo bay is a boy who is also desperate to get to the Uncharted Lands. And someone else who's determined to keep the ship from making it there at all. . .


★ “The author's endearing STEAM-loving heroine and magical hero hit all the right buttons for middle grade readers....Funny and heartbreaking...a must-have choice for all middle grade shelves.” —SLJ, Starred

"A full-throttle fanfare for those with a predilection for alchemy, adventure, and a little anarchy."—Kirkus Reviews

A New York Times Bestseller

★ “This magnetic middle-grade debut…[is] a page-turner that defies easy categorization and ought to have broad appeal.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

★ “Heart, brains, and courage find a home in a steampunk fantasy worthy of a nod from Baum.”Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

★ “A fantastic and original tale of adventure and magic...Piper is a heroine to fall in love with: smart, brave, kind, and mechanically inclined to boot.”—SLJ, Starred Review

“A complex and impeccably developed plot—there is plenty to recommend in this novel.”—The Bulletin

“Appealing characters and lots of action make it a good choice for young adventure readers.”—Booklist


★ “Highly recommended for those who have finished with Harry and are too young for Katniss.”—SLJ, Starred Review

“An engaging world rich in detail, mayhem, and adventure . . . All aboard for fantasy lovers with a dual penchant for girl power and keeping up with the Indiana Joneses.” —Kirkus Reviews

“With imaginative details . . . readers will be rewarded by exciting action scenes and a deeper knowledge of Solace.”—Booklist

“The book nicely balances the firm structure of the archivists’ orderly lives with the wild abandon of the protagonist.”—The Bulletin 
You can purchase The Quest to the Uncharted Lands at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE for making this giveaway possible.
Winner will receive a Copy of The Quest to the Uncharted Lands 
(World of Solace) by Jaleigh Johnson..


  1. "Name 5 of the most important things in your life?" 1. Cat. 2. Food. 3. Catfood. 4. Sleep. 5. Enjoying fine perfumes.

  2. Five most important things: 1. My daughter 2. My husband 3. My family. 4. Cats. 5. Food