How long have you been writing?
For almost as long as I can remember! It started with the diaries that I kept, turned into an addiction to writing fan-fiction, and then one day I felt confident enough to start writing characters and stories of my own creation.
What inspired you to write your first book?
If we’re getting technical, my first book was an eight-page, illustrated masterpiece about a bunny that lost his sock. That was inspired mostly by my desire to do well on a first-grade English assignment.
As for my first published book… Well, that would be Revival. The inspiration for the Variant Series came from many different places, but the original spark arrived in the form of a phoenix drawn into the foam on my latte one morning. I spent the next half hour writing out a scene where a girl was being chased through a burning bookstore. That scene would eventually become the opening scene of Chapter Four.
When you first started writing Revival, did you plan for it to be a series?
Not initially. About halfway through, I realized that Alex’s story wasn’t one that could be told in a single novel. I’m having so much fun writing these characters, though, that I don’t mind! Alex’s world is a wonderful place to get lost in. I’m looking forward to writing about more of her adventures!
Which of your characters do you relate to most and why?
It’s a toss-up between Alex and Kenzie. Growing up, I was a lot like Alex is at the beginning of Revival. I was the quiet one on the sidelines—the one who had a hard time saying “no” to people… At least, that’s how I used to be. At this point in my life I think I’ve become a bit more like Kenzie. Not only have I developed a healthy appreciation for snarky comebacks over the years, I’m also much more inclined to stick up for myself. Also, I would probably die without my morning (and afternoon, and evening…) coffee.
What is a secret about you that nobody else knows?
I can swing dance like nobody’s business.
What book have you read too many times to count?
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. I fell in love with that book in less than ten pages and before I finished I had a new favorite author. That was ten years ago. Today, I’m still in awe of Gaiman’s writing style and enchanted by his story of Door and Richard Mayhew and their adventures in a world beneath the world. Whenever I want a fun read and a quick escape from reality, Gaiman’s Neverwhere is the book I usually reach for.
What is the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
The best advice I ever received was simply to live my life—to get out and experience the world. Writing often is crucial to improving your work, but it’s also important not to lose yourself in the written word and the lives of your characters to the point that you miss out on your own life. To quote J.K. Rowling’s Albus Dumbledore: “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” The most fabulous adventures could be out there, just waiting for you, and you never know what might inspire your next story!
If you could hop into the life of any fictional character, who would it be and why?
Speaking of J.K. Rowling… I’ve always wanted to wake up one day in Harry Potter’s world. Hogwarts, magic, butterbeer and excitement! Now that’s a world I’d love to live in! If I could be any character, it would probably be Hermione. I admire her quick wit, independence, her fierce loyalty toward friends and her strength. She’s wonderful!
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That anything is possible if you set your mind to it. Before last year, being an author was something I’d only ever dreamed of doing. It was a persistent dream, but one that I thought would always be far, far out of my reach… And then, one day, I just made up my mind to do it anyway.
I worked endless hours on the first Variant Series book, poured my heart and soul (and sanity) into getting it just right, queried agents, worked for ages on perfecting Revival’s cover, and then (after months of research) I self-published the work. Now, despite the odds, I’ve made that dream I thought would always be out of my reach come true. And I couldn’t be happier!
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I love to travel! Every chance I get, I head out on a road trip or hop on a plane to someplace new. I’m always happiest when I’m exploring some new city, convinced that the next fun, new experience could be waiting for me just around the corner…
Are any of the things in your books based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
It’s a mixture of the two. The real life experiences that influence my writing often do so in a roundabout way. None of it is entirely real. Everything has been twisted and remade to fit the story. Facts and places, my own memories and experiences—they’re all a combination of truth and fiction, reshaped to tell a bigger story.
Born and raised in Tampa, Florida, Jena Leigh spent ten years in the mountains of North Carolina before returning home to the lightning capital of North America. A shameless geek, she loves bad sci-fi movies, Skittles, writing cracktastic e-mails to friends and taking shenanigan-filled road trips to faraway concerts. She has a degree in English from Appalachian State University. REVIVAL is her first novel.
To learn more about Jena Leigh and her books, visit her website.You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.