Orc-Hunting, Toothless Cats and Cthulu – Interviewing Jaleta Clegg

I had the pleasure of meeting our guest in the Coyote Con chat rooms. We were discussing why Vampire’s shouldn’t sparkle. And then Jaleta came up with a very plausible reason why one should. (See question 4) I decided I must read her work. I’m easily won over. Please welcome Jaleta Clegg!

Kicking ass since 1994

1.  I am not yet half way through Nexus Point and really enjoying your style. It’s very to the point. Which adds to the rapid pacing. I’m still amazed at how much has already happened and I’m only on page 158 of 329. How long did the book take you to write and is the final product vastly larger or smaller than the first draft?

I get bored easily. Movies with no action put me to sleep. Books are the same. I’ve been accused of writing too much action and pushing the pace. But if I’m bored writing a scene, it’s a sure bet the reader is also going to be bored.

The original draft was written back in 1994. It only took about six weeks to write. Of course, I’ve edited and rewritten many times since then, as well as completing a lot of other manuscripts. At one point, I trashed the whole story, reworked the plot, and wrote it again from scratch. Writing is like that sometimes, especially when you’re new. The version I submitted to my publisher was 140,000 words. The final version, when my editor got through with it, was just under 100,000.

I haven’t gotten bored yet so I think you hit your mark!

2. What was your inspiration for Nexus Point?

I wrote the kind of book I liked to read. I’d just gone through a string of books that left me unsatisfied and frustrated. I decided I could write better than that. Ha! Can you say naíve? Writing is much harder than it looks. As far as Dace, I have no idea where she came from. She showed up, wanting me to tell her story. I had too much fun getting her into trouble and then watching her figure a way back out.

*g* I think a lot of writers start out with those fabled words …“I can do better.”

3. Are you strictly Science Fiction or do you genre hop?

I’m all over the place. I have a friend who writes romance who told me I should take out the spaceships and make the book a straight romance. I’ve had other people ask me why I consider Nexus Point science fiction, since most of it takes place on a medieval tech level. The short stories I’ve managed to sell are mostly comic horror. I’ve got a few fantasy stories in the works, too. I’m really tempted to finish the contemporary romance I started on a dare.

4. Were you serious about the vampire-zombie show girl who sparkles? Because I was kinda serious about wanting to read it. At least THAT would make sense.

It’s on my list. When I do write the story, you can bet she won’t be a sappy love interest. Sympathetic, maybe. I haven’t found a plot that fits yet. I’m working on a collection of comic horror that pays homage to the classic tropes but in a very tongue-in-cheek way. I find the new-age horror icons creepy and disturbing. Vampires should not be touchy-feely love interests. Dracula would hang his head in shame. Same with zombies, were-creatures, and the rest of the undead. Ghosts? Maybe, if you plot it right.

*barely-contained glee* Awesome!


5. You work at a Space Camp. That actually sounds like a lot of fun. I envy you your EDJ. *grin* How did you get involved in that? Does it help with your writing?

One small step for kids, one giant ‘Squee’ from me!

Our center is unique. Most space camps do realistic shuttle mission simulations. We do futuristic starship adventures. Think of your favorite sci-fi tv series (can I say names? Um, Star Trek?), now imagine yourself as one of the crew facing danger and death at every turn. That’s what we offer. It’s an incredible place with amazing people. I experienced the simulations a few times and loved it. Eight years ago, I’d just recovered from cancer treatment and felt I needed something more in my life. I walked in and asked to be a volunteer. The director had no idea what to do with me. Most of our staff are volunteers aged 12-16, not middle-aged housewives. Fortunately, one of the adult staff there knew me from way back in college and vouched for me. I spent that summer slinging Klingon food in the kitchen with him. I leveraged that and my education degree into a teaching position for our field trips. From there, I branched out so now I run one of the simulators, teach the classes occasionally, still sling hash as the Klingon lunchlady, make costumes for our actors (monsters and Klingons and pirates, oh my!), run the office, write and consult on our mission stories, and I’m in charge of the planetarium. We just got a new digital system. I’m in complete and utter geek heaven.

All of this happens in an ordinary little elementary school in suburban Utah, of all places. I love my day job. It eats up writing time, but makes up for it. Nothing compares with knowing you have just introduced a child to the wonders of the universe. http://www.spacecamputah.org if you want more info.

Cool! Thanks. I personally would love to have been in the DS9 Universe. Or BattleStar Galactica. Or StarGate.  But only for a day or two. *g* Except I wouldn’t want to go back to elementary school for it.

6. Are your cats really toothless? I’m guessing they won’t be asking for cheezburgers.

One of the two died this spring. The other one is still doing great. Yes, he is toothless. He’s 16 years old. He prefers blueberry muffins. He isn’t my cat, though. He belongs to my husband and kids. He just stole a spot in my author photo. Silly animal.

I’z in your photo, tiefing your glories.

My sympathies. I had a cat die a year ago. They do tend to worm their way into photos (and hearts) often and frequently. He looks very photogenic.

7. How’d you bag the Orc? Orc hunting sounds dangerous. And kinda kick-ass. I’d want more at my disposal than a battle axe though, just sayin’.

NOT for the Horde!

Orc hunting is very dangerous. That’s why I went as Thangor the Barbarian. It took three crits with my trusty sword to sever that head. I admit it, I’m a total geek. I played the original version of D&D with my sister way back when. I still play occasionally. I met the artist who sculpts the heads at a con and couldn’t resist. http://monsterhedz.com/ I love showing it off to my neighbors, who hunt and have animal heads on their walls. They think I’m weird?

Eh. I’m against “normalcy” on the grounds that it makes life kinda boring. I’m totally envious of your trophy head. *g*

8. Oh! Did the cat lose his teeth fighting an Orc? That sounds badass. Or did he eat a really stale blueberry muffin? That’s less badass but kinda interesting.

We think it was due to neglecting his dental hygiene. He rarely brushed his teeth. Most of them fell out the last year so it may have just been age. Nothing special. Maybe I’ll make up a story about it that’s more interesting. Hmm…

9. Do you have favorite word/s? I have to ask. It’s kinda of an obsession. Some of mine are Asphyxia and recalcitrant. But the former makes me sound kind of creepy. Which I’m not. And the other makes me sound rebellious. Which is debatable. How about you?

Pulchritudinous, just because it sounds so icky. Schist, really pretty rock, usually with garnets, but the name makes kids giggle. Coprolite, because it’s fossilized dung. I got my degree in geology and do a lot of rock-hounding. Is it showing? I love playing with words. I’m working on a short story where Lassie takes on mutant tumbleweeds. It’s told first-person by Lassie. I never knew dogs had such large, pompous vocabularies.

Schist, hehehe. (Hi, I’m 4) Maybe we should send Lassie to critique the LOLCats.

Lassie would rip their lack of grammar and spelling to shreds. She’s worse than my editor about that. I love how characters take over in my stories.

10. Which writers inspire you? Be they Authors, Directors, Musicians, etc.

Andre Norton is my heroine, in every sense. She wrote an astoundingly long list of books and shorts. She published for over 60 years. I stand in awe of what she accomplished. And I love her stories. I want to be just like her, at least in the writing sense.

11. What’s your “process”? Are you a panster, or a plotter? Do you start with Character or A Situation? Or a cool gadget thingie? I loved all the neat Worldbuilding you put into NP.

I start where I start and end where I finish. Sometimes I have to stop and plot out where I want to go, if the story begins to wander, but I’ve never written an outline that was more than three or four pages. Sometimes the spark for the story is a scene in my head or a character or a gadget or just a chance phrase.

Thanks. I’m not sure where the world came from, but I blame it on too much D&D and too many bad fantasy movies. Everything that happens in that book sort of just grew into place in my subconscious. I play scenes out in my head before I write them down. They are always so much better in my head, but I’m happy with what landed on paper.

12. Do you have any other creative endeavors besides writing?

I sew. Weird things. Like sick and twisted quilt blocks. Sunbonnet Cthulu is my pride and joy. I do normal stuff, too, like real quilts and dresses and costumes. Did I mention I make monsters and Klingons for my day job?

I also cook. Weird things. Or normal foods with weird names like Chilled Monkey Brains or Sauteed Beetles or Albino Gakh with Blood Sauce. I like to experiment with food. My kids are usually grateful for it, although occasionally I completely mess it up and no one will eat it except for the mold monster in the back of the fridge.

I’ve always wanted to learn to sew and make my own clothes.

13. What’s your thoughts on The Muse? Do you have one personified or otherwise?

Muse? I call it self-therapy that pays me because I can’t afford real therapy. I’m happy in my delusional worlds. My kids are convinced I’m at least partly insane, but they enjoy the ride.

14. What would be your Ultimate Writing Environment? Mine would include but not limited to, cat-hair-free furniture, a laptop that never lags, EVER, with a view of the ocean, a bottle of Mystic, and maybe a chocolate fountain or two. Just sayin’.

I like your beach, chocolate fountain, and laptop. I’d add a massive, self-massaging Laz-E-Boy and a harem of stormtroopers to bring me iced lemonade. I’d also include a giant surround sound system. I love music to set the mood and drown out the screaming children in the background. And more stormtroopers with giant palm fans to keep me cool. But in reality, I’ll write just about anywhere that I have at least a little privacy. I make faces when I write. I’d hate for someone with a camera to take embarrassing pictures of me writing. I’m in love with my laptop. I’ve taken it camping, so I could write. I think I got all the pine needles out of the keyboard.

15. How many books do you have planned for the Fall of the Altairan Empire Books?

There are eleven books. They are all written and under contract, just need edited. That was a surprise for me. I never expected to sell the entire series. I may write more in that universe, but they won’t be about Dace. I think her story wraps up in book eleven. Once you save the universe, the rest is just fluff. Is that too much of a spoiler?

*g* Maybe. Me? I like to see how the universe gets saved, so I’m not fussed. And wow! Eleven books already under contract?  Congratulations! I’m really enjoying book one so I’m hoping it does well and happy there will be tenquels.

16. Do you have any works in progress outside of that series?

I always have something calling my name. I’ve got short stories galore to write and at least fifteen novels I’m working on. One of them is a Beowulf retelling, sort of. I’ve also got a series set in a different universe where magic and science are both at work. That one is going to be loads of fun to write. I have a high-fantasy trilogy that may or may not ever see the light of day again. I’m rethinking the whole thing. Again. I’ve also got a whole series of YA science fiction aimed at girls that I’m working on. I have plans for at least two short story collections, one focused on comic horror and another featuring Tharg the Insipid. Once I get some of them finished, I’ll start querying. I have to have a rough draft before I feel confident about committing to publishing.

I also have plans for wall hangings featuring walrii impersonating famous women in history and fiction. And a whole line of Cthulu quilt patterns.

Awesome!

17. I like that you don’t pull punches in your fiction, from what I’ve seen so far. Nexus Point has a fairly high level of violence mostly against women. Do you prefer to write edgy or did it just evolve from the world building of a medieval tech driven world?

It fit with the world. I usually stay far away from the edge. I tried really hard to make it not attractive in any way. Only the villains beat up women. And they do fight back. I had to rewrite my villains a few times. They were even worse in the original draft.

18. Care to share about the dared Contemporary Romance?

It’s LDS romance and definitely very far into left field compared with everything else I write. It was more for the challenge of trying it to see if I could. Staying inside the reality box was very difficult for me. I stalled out when the plot fizzled on me. I like the characters and the idea, though, so I might just finish it. Then publish it under a different name. Not that I’m embarrassed or anything. Nope, not at all. *slinking away*

19.  What’s the second book in the Fall of the Altarian Empire and do you know when it’s scheduled to be out?

Tentative title: Priestess of the Eggstone. Hopefully it will be out very early next year. I’m still waiting for my editor to finish bleeding all over the manuscript. Really, she’s great. It hurts, but in a good way. I love that she pushes me to be better than I thought I could be. I’m working on teasers and blurbs for it but I don’t have any polished yet. How about: Dace gets into big trouble when she takes a job flying a courier ship for Belliff Inc, which is really a front for a crime syndicate, and hires Jerimon as her copilot before she finds out he’s being hunted by the Sessimoniss, 7-foot lizards, for stealing their god, the Eggstone. Um, definitely needs work. Mayhem and destruction and lots of fun scenes coming in book two.

20. And to send us off, any pictures of the infamous Sunbonnet Cthulu? Or any of your other quilts you’d like to show off? *g*

Oh, yes. Fun pictures of fun projects. I need to take more.

Cthulu wears a Bonnet!
I will eat your soul, or make you incredibly stylish. Probably Both.
** Cross-posted at the review blog (which got a name change and a new look, the latter being a work in progress)
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