Interview with Jaleta Clegg

Published 2013-09-12.
Do you remember the first science fiction book you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I discovered an old copy of "The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet" when I was eight. I wanted to build my own spaceship, just like the boys in the story. The idea of traveling to another planet and meeting aliens intrigued me to the point I went looking for more stories like it.
That led to "A Wrinkle in Time" and Andre Norton's space adventure stories which led to a magical section of the library known as science fiction/fantasy. I've never looked back.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
That's like asking me to name my favorite children. The answer would be the same - ALL of them! I have shelves and shelves of science fiction and fantasy books and I love them all. They invoke a sense of wonder, sometimes fear and trepidation, sometimes hope, but always something new.
A better question would be to name my five favorite authors. I can list the ones I currently read and enjoy - Terry Pratchett, Andre Norton, Julie Czerneda, Frances Pauli, and Patricia McKillip. There are others, like Elizabeth Moon and Patricia C. Wrede and Robin McKinley and Jack L. Chalker and Isaac Asimove and... I could go on all day. Which book and which author are my favorite depend on my mood, the phase of the moon, whether it's raining or not, and which cover looked most appealing. I'm always open to new favorites, too.
What do you read for pleasure?
Pretty much anything. Seriously. I read shampoo bottles and lotion labels and cereal boxes and whatever I can get my hands on. I do prefer science fiction and adventure, but I'm open to almost any genre. I love a good mystery story or a non-fiction book about cacti or a graphic novel. I love reading and I always have. It's a great way to learn new things, explore new thoughts, or just escape for a while.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love getting to know my characters. And then I love tormenting them by tossing problems at them. But my biggest joy comes when someone contacts me to tell me my story touched them, made them smile, made them cry, made them laugh, or just entertained them for a day or two.
What do your fans mean to you?
I love my fans. They're people like me who enjoyed the story I told. I'm a fan, too. I understand. I'm tickled that people have taken my stories and made them part of their experience. It's flattering, but also humbling.
It's the same reason I love teaching, which is my day job. I can touch lives, but they touch me in return.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I was hesitant to try an ereader. I'm old-fashioned. I prefer paper books. Or so I thought.
I was headed out of town and decided to try an ebook app on my iPod. I downloaded a bunch of free books to try out, thinking I'd never enjoy it. The screen was too small. It couldn't possibly work for me. Boy, was I wrong. I was hooked. The size of the screen wasn't a problem. In fact, the small size and portability were a bonus. Plus I could load hundreds of books in the little device without adding an ounce to my luggage.
I now own a Kindle, a Nook, and my trusty iPod, which has seven different reading apps on it.
How do you approach cover design?
I want something that speaks to the spirit of the book. It's a visceral reaction. It needs to be clean and readable, too, but it's the image that has to capture me. I've done graphic design for years so designing my own covers wasn't much of a stretch. Some of them, like "Vicar's Revenge", were way too much fun and let me explore my silly side, much like the story.
What is your writing process?
I start at the beginning and end at the end. I usually have an idea of where I want to start and where I want to end and who the main players are, but the rest I make up as I go. Editing was invented to fix the problems that inevitably happen when you write. My middles tend to wander in the rough drafts. Sometimes my ending isn't what I envisioned when I started, it's even better. And my characters gain depth and personalities as I go.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Bacon.
Some days it's hard. Real life is not easy. But real life also gets me up and moving. Kids need carpooled to school. Dishes need done. Food needs cooked. I need to get myself to work. But the knowledge that somewhere in the middle of all that real life, I can escape to faraway worlds with spaceships and aliens or magic and fascinating characters, that keeps me smiling. Telling stories is my reward for dealing with the mundane. Sometimes the mundane transforms into the fantastical. All it takes is imagination.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Living the glamorous life of an author, of course. It's all tropical beaches and fruity drinks with umbrellas and luxurious yachts.
I'm such a liar. I spend most of my time dealing with the mundane things. Dog barf on the carpet. Kids spilling dinner on the floor (but we have a dog! He can clean that up!). Cooking the dinner the kids are spilling. Making sure the twenty loads of laundry are done for the week (yeah, I have that many kids). Paying the bills. Buying the groceries. Corralling kids into homework and chores. Spending a few minutes with my husband. Removing the cat from the clean laundry before it isn't clean anymore. Digging the dandelions out of the lawn then realizing the lawn *is* dandelions.
I also enjoy quilting and crocheting. I find it soothing to play with yarn and fabric and end up with something unique when I'm done. Plus, it isn't like housework. When you sew a quilt block, it stays sewed. It's a visual outlet for creativity for those days when words just won't come.
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