Sunday, August 17, 2014

I HEART YA: Interview: Author Jena Leigh (The Variant Series/YA Fantasy)

Resistance (Variant Series, #2)

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Synopsis: Alexandra Parker might be the most powerful Variant the world has ever seen—but even that won’t get her out of finishing her junior year of high school. 

The challenge of keeping her abilities under wraps during class is daunting enough, but throw one surly, sandy-haired Jumper into the mix, and things can get downright complicated. 

Declan’s new job? Watch over Alex while she’s at school and do everything in his power to keep her from losing control. But as sparks of every kind begin flying between Alex and her new bodyguard, she's left feeling more unstable than ever. 

When avoiding her abilities results in a surprise visit from her parents’ killer, Alex’s worlds collide with a bang that nearly levels Bay View High. 

With her freedom now squarely in the Agency’s crosshairs, Alex will be faced with the fight of her life… and a decision that could forever alter the course of her destiny.


TeamNerd Reviews: What were you like when you were in high school? Did you suffer from being a social pariah like Alexandra Parker from The Variant Series?
Jena Leigh: Poor Alex! There was definitely a time in high school where I felt like a social pariah. Navigating the social waters of a new school when you have zero friends and a social anxiety disorder can be next to impossible. Early on, my classmates mistook my shy silence for pretension and proceeded to shun me accordingly. It was, without a doubt, the most miserable point of my adolescence by far. I’m lucky in that it only lasted for a single semester during my sophomore year.
During the second semester of that year, I transferred back to the (kind of wonderful) high school I’d attended as a freshman. When that happened, I shifted from being a total outcast to just being… sort of invisible. Something I was mostly okay with. The few friends I had were—and still are—everything to me. They helped me survive those four uncertain years with… Well, okay. Maybe not with grace, exactly, but at least we survived with our most of our dignity intact. ;-)
TeamNerd Reviews: What is one of your best memories from high school? What is one of your more embarrassing moments (you’re willing to admit publicly to *wink*)?
Jena Leigh: Hmmm. Best memory… I’m going to have to go with any one of the Lake Days I spent with a group of friends toward the end of my high school years. Hanging out on (and jumping off of) that sun-bleached wooden dock, hiding out in our vehicles during those short-lived afternoon thunderstorms, grilling some absolutely mouthwatering cheeseburgers, and then rounding out our nights with picture-perfect sunsets, bonfires, starry skies, the smell of wood smoke, the sound of cicadas, and some truly amazing times with some truly wonderful friends… Yeah. I’d say those are probably my favorite memories, by far!
As for the most embarrassing—I have way too many of those to choose from. (But doesn’t everyone, by the time his or her high school experience ends?) One particularly cringe-worthy moment that springs immediately to mind happened in an acting class that I took during my junior year.
The teacher had split us into pairs (forcing us to partner with the person in the desk beside us) and then handed out our scenes at random. Which would have been fine, except for the fact that she’d paired me with my long-time crush (a popular senior whom I often had trouble forming complete sentences around) and then gave us a mildly romantic scene to act out. We were given the rest of the period to practice together and then the next day we had to act it out in front of the class.
It went… pretty much how you’re thinking it went. Despite my best efforts to control the color of my stupid cheeks, they blazed scarlet the entire time; I accidentally called him by his real name instead of his character’s while confessing my own character’s undying affection; my faux British accent made me sound like a strangled cat with a speech impediment; and then—in a truly mortifying moment that will forever haunt me—our carefully choreographed kiss on the cheek went horribly awry and I accidentally kissed him on the lips.
The scene was supposed to be comedic, but I’m 99% sure that the roaring laughter coming from the rest of the class had very little to do with the script, and a whole lot more to do with the car crash taking place on stage. *sighs*  
TeamNerdReviews: What are the top five reasons you love to write? What does writing give you that nothing else can?
Jena Leigh:
5. Writing always helps me to organize and clarify my thoughts. You know how some people say, “I rarely know what I think until I’ve written it?” I’m definitely one of those writers.
4. The writing high…. I’m not sure how to describe this one, other than to call it a rush. When I’m really lost in what I’m writing, I feel a happy sort of buzz. I love it!
3. It’s a fun way of living out my dreams. Experiencing these adventures vicariously through my characters is the next best thing to living those moments, myself.
2.  The surprises! All too often, the twists and turns in the stories I write aren’t planned. I like to let my stories evolve more organically, allowing the characters and their reaction to certain situations tell the story… A method that usually results in a handful of surprising story revelations that will come as just as much of a shock to me, as they will to my readers. It keeps things interesting!
1. Escape. My favorite thing about writing will always be the escape it offers me. Life can get pretty rough, especially when you’re stuck dealing with a chronic illness. When I’m sick and miserable and wishing for an escape, my current WIP is always there to distract me. And I couldn’t be more grateful for that!
TeamNerd Reviews: Why do you think the Young Adult genre is so important to the literary world? As a fan, what you like to see more represented in the YA genre? As a writer, are there other elements or genres you aim to explore in the feature in your own writing?
Jena Leigh: Why is YA important? Because (when it’s done well) it speaks to young adults rather than at them. It doesn’t talk down to them. Instead, it attempts to give them a voice. And yes, of course YA is for everyone and not just for teenagers—but it’s important to realize that teens benefit from having a wide variety of stories and worlds to choose from. Ones that are populated with characters that they can relate to. Stories in the Young Adult genre show them that the things they’re experiencing are real and important. And I think that’s awesome.
As a fan, I love originality in YA. It’s easy to get tired of the latest fad (even though, personally, I will never tire of vampires and werewolves) and it’s always nice to find something new that hasn’t been explored much yet! Sometimes that’s hard to do and as a writer myself, I often struggle with coming up with fresh material.
TeamNerd Reviews: What was the biggest struggles you faced when you were writing RESISTANCE (VARIANT SERIES, #2)? What did you learn as a writer and/or about yourself through overcoming it?
Jean Leigh: I think the biggest struggle I faced when working on Resistance was the fear that I wouldn’t be able to make it work. That the first book was just a fluke, and that I wouldn’t be able to recapture the spirit of my characters well enough to tell a second story—one that would be as interesting as (or, with any luck more interesting than) the first. After half a dozen rewrites, I was nearly ready to give up. Instead, I stuck with it and eventually found myself with a completed second novel. Persistence pays off!
TeamNerd Reviews: What qualities do you feel you share with Alexandra’s (Variant Series) character? What qualities does she possess do you wish you had?
Jena Leigh: At the beginning of Revival, Alex was very withdrawn. She was shy and quiet, preferring to fly under the radar rather than find herself at the center of attention. Back when I was in high school, I was much the same way. As the series progresses, so does Alex, and we start to see her grow into herself. We watch her evolve into a strong, confident young woman with a big heart, that would do absolutely anything for her friends and family. In a lot of ways, that’s the sort of person I hope to be… The sort of person I think a lot of us would aspire to become.  
TeamNerd Reviews: If you got to go on a real life date with Declan (Variant Series), where would you want to go and what would you two do?
Jena Leigh: A date with Declan would have to include a quick jump to some amazing, faraway place I’d never in a million years be able to visit otherwise! (Definitely one of the many perks of dating a teleporter!)
TeamNerd Reviews: Give us an inside glimpse into the third book in the Variant Series! Is there a title yet? Can fans expect more action and secrets? Will Declan and Alexandra be able to mend their relationship?
Jena Leigh: No title just yet—I tend to pick those after the first draft is complete and I have a better feel for the mood of the story as a whole. And of course there will be plenty of action! Also, you’ll see a few secrets revealed and a whole host of new questions raised! And as for our favorite twosome… I think you’ll just have to wait and see! *evil laugh*
TeamNerd Reviews: Would you ever be up for tag teaming with an author to write a book? If you could pick from your favorite list of authors to team up with, who would you choose and why?
Jena Leigh: Haven’t tried it yet, but it would definitely be a fun experiment! And the list of authors I’d love to write with is so long, I couldn’t begin to pick just one! :)
TeamNerd Reviews: Let’s wrap this up with some fun questions!
Jena Leigh:
Favorite Book When You Were a Teen: Any of the books in the Mediator series by Meg Cabot.
Favorite Male Lead In a Book At the Moment: Reyes Farrow from the Charley Davidson series. Love him!
Finish the sentence: “If I could kiss any celebrity, I would choose . . .”  Colin O'Donoghue. I mean, have you seen him as Hook on Once Upon A Time? Yowza.
M&M’s or Snickers: M&M’s
Cake or Donuts: Both. I’m totally going with both.


Jena Leigh is the author of the Variant Series novels REVIVAL and RESISTANCE. Born and raised in Tampa, Florida, she spent ten years in the mountains of North Carolina before returning home to the lightning capital of North America. A shameless geek, she loves coffee, loud music, bad sci-fi movies, Skittles, and shenanigan-filled road trips to faraway concerts.

Where to Stalk Jena!

Enter to win a copy of RESISTANCE over on the I HEART YA 2014 Giveaways page!

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