Meet Middle Grade/YA fantasy author Elle Jacklee, and read an excerpt from her new book, The Tree of Mindala:
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
I live in Wisconsin with my husband and two young sons. In the past, I've been a software programmer, inside sales representative and a bilingual customer service representative. I'm thrilled to have added "author" to that list. Besides reading and of course writing, I enjoy cooking, baking, biking, playing tennis and downhill skiing. I believe in karma and the power of positive thinking!
2. When did you start writing, and why?
I wrote my first story when I was seven years old. I had already discovered how much fun reading could be. I remember that when I discovered that the books I read were written by people (as opposed to just falling from heaven :) I immediately was determined to write stories that I hoped would bring as much enjoyment to other people as other people's stories brought to me. That's still my goal today.
3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
I write middle grade/YA fantasy. I decided to write for that age group because it was the books that I read at that age that had the biggest impact on me. Books aimed at that age group take on a bit more complexity and hopefully evoke an excitement in readers that they may be experiencing for the first time in a book. If they haven't fallen in love with reading already, it may be these books that hook them for life. I'm passionate about the importance of reading so if my writing can ignite that spark in someone, then I call that success.
4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
The Tree of Mindala is the first book in my Wunderwood series. I'm currently in the midst of writing the next one, The Triad of the Tree. And characters, new and old, still are clamoring to tell more of their stories, so I do have plans for subsequent books after that...
5. "Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
Wunderwood has long been enchanted as a result of the sacrifice made by Mindala, a character who readers will learn more about as the series progresses. For now, suffice it to say that it is because of Mindala that the inhabitants of this realm enjoy a mostly contented life, with magic at their disposal. Wunderwood is a place that has a way of maintaining a delicate balance. Of course, its inhabitants have free will, and when their choices upset the natural balance of this world, things have a way of being put right, one way or another. In that way, I guess you could say Wunderwood is an example of art imitating life.
6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
Miranda Moon, the main character, is just days away from her twelfth birthday at the beginning of The Tree of Mindala. She has an overactive imagination, to say the least, and it's that personality trait that often gets her into trouble at school. It's also the thing her younger brother, Marcus, who runs with the popular crowd, holds against her. But it's the thing Miranda likes most about herself. I like that she is true to herself, even though some people even think of her as a bit "crazy". Of course, when she and Marcus find themselves in Wunderwood, a place where they meet people and creatures that even Miranda never imagined, she feels even better about it!
One of the creatures they meet in this magical place is Skye, a Morphiad who has the power to transform into any living creature or person that he has ever touched, giving him a unique perspective, even in this land. He is fiercely loyal and protective of his human companion, Raina, who just happens to be related to Miranda and Marcus. Then, of course, there is Thornton Crow. Once banished for his evil deeds, he is now at large and more determined than ever to seize control of the source of Wunderwood's magic, the Tree of Mindala. Along with his followers, the HOPs (or Hoarders of Power), he believes that Mindala would never have wanted her gift of magic to be squandered away on what he considers the mediocre existence most of Wunderwood is living. He wishes to unleash the full potential of the powerful magic, and regards any and all consequences worth it. He is the kind of evil I hope readers love to hate!
7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
The idea for the world of Wunderwood and Miranda Moon came to me one fall day around Halloween when I was home from work with a migraine headache. I was looking out the window at the leaves on my patio that were swirling in the wind that just happened to be howling that day. It was a little spooky, but I thought it was beautiful at the same time. I've always loved Halloween, and by the end of that day (after a few doses of headache medicine), Wunderwood and Miranda Moon were born, and I had a rough outline of the story fleshed out. Until that day, I never thought I'd be thankful for a headache!
8. Blog/site link, and where your book is available.
The Tree of Mindala is available for purchase at: Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Official book trailer: http://youtu.be/-e2MwDserCc
Facebook Fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/elle.jacklee
The Tree of Mindala:
"Miranda Moon's vivid imagination has gotten her into trouble more times than she can count. This time, she's been suspended from school. So her straight-laced younger brother, Marcus, blames her when they're relegated to their late grandparents' old cabin over Halloween weekend. But when Miranda finds a curious trinket, they're mysteriously whisked away to Wunderwood, where magic flows through the trees and everyone already knows their family name. A place even Miranda never imagined.
Just as they arrive, a sinister warlock, Thornton Crow, is freed from a long banishment. He resumes his deadly agenda to find The Tree of Mindala, the source of all the realm's magic. As Miranda and Marcus discover branches of their own family tree that they hadn't even known existed, they learn that Thornton has a score to settle with anyone in their bloodline. Especially them... Though justice has always had a way of being naturally restored in Wunderwood, Thornton's latest evil deed just may be the tipping point.
When Miranda discovers her own role in Thornton's release, she knows it's up to her to stop him from stealing not just magic, but also hope. With travel companions that could as easily be foes as friends, and only the cryptic words of a prophecy to guide her, Miranda must decide if she can carry out the task that will either save Wunderwood... or doom it forever. "
Excerpt from The Tree of Mindala:
Miranda knocked twice, and the door, already ajar, opened a little further. But there was no reply. She knocked again, harder, and this time the door swung all the way in with a long creak. A terrible odor accosted them. If Miranda had to describe it, she would say it was a mixture of rotting garbage, hot metal, and Marcus’ dirty sweat socks... only worse.
“What are you doing?” Marcus demanded, pinching his nose.
“I only knocked!” Miranda retorted. “Then the door opened. It must have been the wind!”
She poked her head inside and called, “Hello?” No reply. “Anyone home?” Nothing. She couldn’t resist looking around.
“That’s strange,” she mumbled, pointing to a window that she hadn’t seen from outside but through which the outside was clearly visible. As she continued her tour of the room, Miranda inadvertently tapped a big rock that slightly resembled a chair. In front of it was a stone table upon which stood a small lantern whose lit candle they had seen from outside, as well as a variety of jars and beakers in different shapes and sizes. Some were empty, some contained plant leaves, twigs, and various animal and insect body parts. There were also several loose pieces of paper on the table, and a few on the rough cobblestone floor that must have blown off the table when the door opened.
Someone shuffled out from the shadows in the corner of the room toward the table. Miranda and Marcus held their breath while they stared at the little person. He was about as tall as a five-year-old, but he appeared much, much older. He had a silky white beard that fell to his knees, and long white eyebrows that drooped over milky-blue eyes. His head was bald at the top. But the hair on the sides and in back was thick, long, and the same frosty white as his beard. He wore a drab, beige tunic that looked scratchy, like burlap. As he bent down to pick up the papers, his back was to Miranda and Marcus, and they could see that his tunic was worn quite thin at the elbows and at the rump. He didn’t seem to notice them standing there.
As he stretched up on the tips of his toes to place the papers back on the slab of a table, he bumped one of the beakers, which teetered from side to side, threatening to fall off the uneven surface. The curious little man threw his arms up to catch it, but it stopped teetering and eventually became completely still. “Whew,” he sighed.
“Hello?” Miranda said again, a little quieter this time.
“Oh, Alvore’s Mane!” the little man swore under his breath, slumping his shoulders in exasperation. He abruptly turned to face them. “Can’t ya take a hint?” he demanded, his eyebrows forming a V.
“Beg your pardon, sir,” Marcus apologized quickly. “Sorry to have disturbed you.” He tugged on Miranda’s elbow, but she snatched it away, flashing an irritated face at him. Then, smiling her sweetest smile, she addressed the gruff little man.
“Sir,” she began, “May we speak to you for just a moment? I think we may be... um... lost. “ She blinked her eyes a few times, hoping to appeal to his softer side, if he had one. This usually worked with her father.
“Lost? That’s for certain. Ya’d have to be looking fer trouble if ya were meanin’ to come here. Now, what ya wanna do is t’get yarselves as far away from here as possible.” Then he whispered, “Thornton may return at any time.”
“Perfect! Maybe we should wait for him!” Miranda clasped her hands together happily.
“Wait for him?! Miss, have ya been sniffin’ on loreberry leaves? Why would anyone hang around waiting fer Thornton?” Then he paused, squinting his eyes and pointing a thick, bulbous finger at them. “Unless... ya’re a couple o’those HOPs!” he accused, backing slowly away from them.
“What? No!” Miranda assured him. “Wait... what’s a HOP?”
“What’s a HOP? Are ya tryin’ to be funny? ‘Cause this is no time fer jokin’, miss.”
“Funny? No, sir. All we know is one minute we were in our grandparents’ cabin where I found this,” she held out the glass globe which he gingerly took from her, “and the next minute we were here, wherever here is, and we were just wondering—”
“On Truman’s teeth, I’ve never seen the likes of it...” the little man uttered, staring wide-eyed at the globe.
“Truman?” Miranda and Marcus repeated. “Truman was our grandfather’s name.”
The odd little man regarded them thoughtfully for a few seconds. Then realization swept over his face. “Well, that explains that, dunn’n it?” The little man came closer, getting a better look at them. “I’m Agapanthus Rush, of the original Rush Gardeners. Pleased ta meet ya.” He bowed deeply, his round nose nearly touching the floor.
“Pleased to meet you, Mr Rush. I’m Miranda Moon—”
“Yes, yes. O’course y’are. Call me Aggie.”
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