Thursday, April 15, 2021

JP McLean Interview - Secret Sky

Photo Content from Chelsea Sedoti

JP (Jo-Anne) McLean is an urban fantasy and supernatural thriller author best known for The Gift Legacy series. The first book of the series received Honourable Mention at the Whistler Independent Book Awards. Her short story, Boone Park, won Honourable mention from the Victoria Writers’ Society. Reviewers call her writing addictive, smart and fun. Her books include endorsements from Ethel Wilson award winning author Jennifer Manuel and bestselling author, Elinor Florence. The series has been described as fantasy light and is a good introduction to the genre for the uninitiated. 

JP’s body of work was included in the centennial anthology of the Comox Valley Writers Society, Writers & Books: Comox Valley 1865–2015. She is a member of the Federation of BC Writers and the Alliance of Independent Authors. Her articles have appeared in WordWorks Magazine, Wellness and Writing hosted by Colleen M Story, Mystery Mondays blog hosted by Kristina Stanley, and others.

Jo-Anne holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree from the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business, is a certified scuba diver, an avid gardener, and a voracious reader. She had a successful career in Human Resources before turning her attention to writing. 

JP lives on Denman Island, nestled between the coast of British Columbia and Vancouver Island. Raised in Toronto, Ontario, JP has lived in various parts of North America from Mexico and Arizona to Alberta and Ontario before settling on Canada’s west coast

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
The reaction of readers was, and still is, the most rewarding experience since being published. Having someone tell me they missed their bus stop, or stayed up all night, warms my heart.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Stories entertain us, but more importantly, they open our minds by taking us to places and into situations that we may not otherwise experience. And they do this through someone else’s lens, a different viewpoint. The potential of stories is that they add to our understanding of the world.

Tell us your latest news.
The final book in The Gift Legacy has been published! Wings of Prey wraps up the story of Emelynn Taylor and the secret society of people who can fly. The series has been an absolute joy to write. And though I often think about those characters, a new project now has my attention. It’s a new book titled Blood Mark which tells the story of a young woman who bears a chain of scarlet birthmarks. The birthmarks are disfiguring, so she’s thrilled when, one by one, the marks begin to disappear—until she learns that the hated marks protect her from a mysterious and homicidal enemy. Now, she’s in a race against time to find this dangerous enemy before her last mark vanishes.

Can you tell us when you started SECRET SKY, how that came about?
The idea for Secret Sky, the first book in The Gift Legacy, germinated in 2010. I’d been travelling for a few years in warmer and drier climates, and it was the first winter I’d been back on the rainy west coast of Canada. Initially I wrote to distract myself from the dreary weather, but when the story started to take shape, I fell in love with writing and I’ve never looked back.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I suppose I hope they suspend their disbelief and enjoy the ride, imagining they too can fly.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I’d introduce Emelynn Taylor to Jack Reacher from the Lee Child books. Not for any romantic reason (she’s got that area covered) but because she has a way of working with strong-willed people that brings out the best in both of them. And though Jack Reacher is highly competent, paired with Emelynn’s flying and other skills, they could break open the toughest cases.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
When the warm weather arrived, I was tempted outside to play in the garden and to take long lunches with girlfriends. It’s difficult to concentrate on writing on those gorgeous summer days.

What part of Emelynn did you enjoy writing the most?
I love it when she gets into an argument with someone. One of the joys of writing is having the time to think up the perfect retort.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
Volunteer in their community in a significant way, like joining a non-profit board, or committing to a year of serving seniors’ lunches. It’s a rewarding way to engage with people in your community and give a little back.

Best date you've ever had?
A dinner at the Chili Club in Vancouver. It’s the night my husband asked me to marry him. The restaurant is long gone, but the husband has hung in there. Best date ever!

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
I’d go back to a time before I lost my grandparents and quiz them more about our family’s history. There are many faces in the old family photos who I don’t know, and a few mysteries I’d like to solve, but probably never will.

What are 4 things you never leave home without?
Driver’s license. Keys. Phone. $20.

What is the weirdest thing you have seen in someone else’s home?
A composting toilet.

First Heartbreak?
When I was very young, I remember reading Heidi by Johanna Spyri. I think it was the first non-picture book I’d ever read. The ending tore my heart out. I cried for days. (Pretty sure I swore off books too.)

What were you doing the last time you really had a good laugh?
Talking to my older sister on the phone while enjoying a glass of wine.

What is your most memorable travel experience?
Visiting Indonesia. I accompanied my husband on a work trip to Jakarta and had the great privilege of staying with a couple who’d made their home there. The wife was a museum docent and took me on an extensive tour of the museum and the city markets. It was a fascinating experience.

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
The nineties because I still don’t know how to use my phone. If I grew up in the 90s, I’m pretty sure I’d be able to figure it out.

  • 1. I kept the fact I was writing it a secret for close to a year.
  • 2. The first scene I wrote for the book didn’t make it into the finished novel.
  • 3. When I was writing it, I had no idea how it would end.
  • 4. The idea for the book comes from a recurring dream I have in which I can fly.
  • 5. The cover for Secret Sky won best fantasy cover of the year from Kobo. (The designers were JD&J.)
  • 6. My mother insisted on beta-reading the book and I only let her after she promised not to mark-up the sex scenes. (I think I was worried she’d improve them.)
  • 7. It earned Honourable Mention at the Whistler Independent Book Awards.
  • 8. It was originally titled Awakening.
  • 9. I changed Emery Coulter’s name to Avery when I re-titled the book. “Emery” had been too close to the look and spelling of “Emelynn,” and I hadn’t picked up on it earlier. His role as Emelynn’s doctor and his interactions with her had grown much more than I originally anticipated.
  • 10. The L&S in the dedication is for love and support.
Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from SECRET SKY
The Gift Legacy is about a secret society of people who can fly, and Secret Sky is where it all begins. One of the unique aspects of this story is that the protagonist, Emelynn Taylor, doesn’t arrive with her supernatural abilities fully formed. She doesn’t even know what’s happening to her, but she knows it’s not natural. She thinks her problem is that she keeps losing gravity and floating off, unchecked.

As a writer, it was a lot of fun to imagine how a person might react to this unusual phenomenon. The following excerpts stitch together Emelynn’s problem with gravity.

I was on my bed, absorbed in a book, and reached for my bedside water glass. I extended my arm on autopilot and fumbled around, finding nothing. Confused, I glanced over. The glass should have been right there at my fingertips, but I had to look down to find it. My hand hovered two feet above my water glass—I hovered two feet above my water glass. I gasped then fell straight down onto my bed. My head knocked the bedpost along the way, and my arm smacked the edge of the bedside table, upsetting the glass. I remember thinking I’d have a bruise. I lay still for a long time.

That was Emelynn’s first waking experience. And gravity kept wreaking havoc. This excerpt is also from Chapter 2.
While I was in university, the frequency of the episodes increased steadily. When the floating occurred within the confines of the condo, it wasn’t too bad. I could drift only so far and rarely gained the full height of the ceilings. If I didn’t panic when I became aware of the float, I could manoeuvre myself down without injury. But sometimes, it caught me unawares—panic would set in and I’d drop like a stone. The drops hurt like hell. If I didn’t hit something on the way down then the floor did the damage. The only saving grace was that my mother was rarely home, and when she was, we were often in different rooms.

Outside the condo, the fear of discovery became nerve-racking. It wasn’t a matter of if, but when. It happened on a cold October day. I was seated at the front window of a Starbucks, mug in my hand, admiring the cherry reds of the maple leaves that overhung the sidewalk. When I realized that I’d lifted off, I instantly sacrificed the mug in favour of grasping the table edge. The coffee burned my leg, but fortunately, no one looked until they heard the mug hit the floor. After that, I was terrified of it happening outdoors.

Emelynn knows she can’t live like this, so she devises a “Grand Plan” that involves moving back to her family’s secluded seaside cottage. Here she is determined to either get control of this phenomenon, or die trying. This excerpt is from Chapter 3.
I’d put my grand plan into action the day after I arrived in BC, purchasing a fifty-foot length of yellow nylon rope from the local hardware store. That night, as soon as darkness fell, I donned dark clothing, put my hair into a ponytail and walked south to the sandy cove I’d chosen.

In hindsight, it seemed foolish, but I’d thought that with enough momentum behind me, I’d be able to force the float. I tied one end of the rope to my ankle; the other I secured around a large rock. That gave me fifty feet of sprinting room before I got to the rock and another fifty feet beyond it. I hoped it would be enough distance to give me the momentum I needed to lift off. The rope was my tether, my safety line. If successful, I’d need the rope to pull myself back down to the beach.

Emelynn returns to this sandy cove over the course of several nights, repeating her attempts to recreate the float. This next excerpt is also from Chapter 3:
Over and over again, I sprinted down the beach and leapt into the air just before the rope ran out. My ankles protested. Each time I fell, I charged again. I repeated the exercise until my lungs couldn’t suck in air fast enough. I doubled over. Despite my efforts, gravity remained stubbornly, persistently and absolutely intact.

I’d failed. Despair reared its ugly head and choked me. I reached down, frantically fighting to loosen the knot around my ankle. The moment I was free of the rope, I straightened and screamed my frustration into the night at the top of my lungs. I stamped my feet and screamed again. This was never going to happen for me. It was hopeless. I would be a freak for the rest of my life.

When the tears finally came, I dropped to the sand and gave myself over to the thickening misery. I curled into a ball. The tears kept coming. I was so tired of the effort it took to keep up a positive attitude. It had sucked what little life I had left right out of me.
. . .
Utterly exhausted, I closed my eyes and concentrated on what was comforting and familiar: the ocean’s steady, melodic lap, its briny scent. A soothing numbness crept over me, blotting out the pain of my failure and the ache in my heart before claiming the noise in my head. I welcomed the complete lack of sensation.

How much time passed, I’ll never know. Gusting winds roused me. I remember being angry at the howling intrusion. I didn’t want the perfect numbness to end. I opened my eyes to the storm clouds and reality sank in. I had to go home, regroup, see if I could salvage anything from the ruins of the night. I rolled over.

Then all rational thought scattered as I realized the beach was five storeys below me.

My effort to turn over had sent me into a roll that I wasn’t able to control. The roll gained momentum. I didn’t even have time to be afraid of the gut-wrenching height before the raging wind pushed me up and over the trees at the top of the cliff. The beach disappeared behind me as the wind twisted and turned me over, blowing me farther into the park.

Panic flared. I looked frantically about for salvation. I’d never been this high before. I flapped my arms, but that just changed my sideways roll into a head-over-heels tumble. I had less control than a leaf caught in a whirlwind and no manner of flailing about seemed to help—it only made my flight more erratic.

Between the gusts, my flight slowed. When I could focus again, I saw that my trajectory was roughly parallel to the treetops. I tried to find something, anything, to grab. I extended my arms and finally managed to snag the tip of an arbutus tree. The motion spun me around, sending me sailing into branches lower in the tree canopy. The sharp, aromatic scent of fresh cedar hit me as I tumbled, snapping limbs on my descent.

I watched the ground closing in and the gravel path rushing up, but I was powerless to slow the inevitable. Thankfully, I didn’t remember the impact.

That fall from the sky puts Emelynn in the hospital, where a doctor recognizes the second lens in her eyes that marks her as one of them, a Flier with a mutated gene. She’ll meet others like her, learn how to fly, and discover that they have enemies who are picking them off, one at a time. Only one Flier has ever escaped, and he came back missing an eye and his will to live.

An intrepid young woman. An incredible gift. A terrible price to pay.

Emelynn Taylor's gift didn't come wrapped in pretty paper and tied with a bow, nor can it ever be returned. Now, it’s taken over her life. It strikes without warning, strips her of gravity and sends her airborne, unchecked.

Haunted by terrifying flights she can’t control, Emelynn vows to take command of her dangerous gift. She returns to the seaside cottage where it all began. Here, she discovers an underground society whose members share her hidden ability, and a man who sends her heart soaring.

But the deeper Emelynn gets pulled into this secret society, the more she questions their motives. Are they using the gift for good or for evil? Unravelling the truth will plunge Emelynn into a fight for her freedom—and her life.

The first book in The Gift Legacy series, Secret Sky is a thriller that skirts the edges of reality in a world within our own. Buckle up and escape the ordinary: take flight with Emelynn Taylor.

(Secret Sky was previously published as The Gift: Awakening)

You can purchase Secret Sky at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you JP MCLEAN for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a $10 Dollar Amazon Gift Card.