J. Leigh, author of Way Walkers: Tangled Paths, chats about her book and background.
Hi, thanks for stopping by! Can you tell us a bit about your background as a writer? What got you into writing?
Honestly, I can't recall, exactly. I know I started writing heavily at the age of 11, day and night penning away in one of those old composition notebooks the starting tales of Way Walkers. I even drew a map of the continent, which I still use to this day. But even before that I was always writing, mostly short stories and a few poems, or lyrics to songs my cousin (a year older than me) had composed. Since I learned to read, to learned to write. It was for me, and I knew that even then.
What does the lovely symbol on your cover represent?
That would be the Ways' star or Spirit star. Twelve points to represent the Twelve Children of Spirit and their Ways, the crux of spirituality in the Way Walkers universe. You see each Child has a Way, and method they believe is the 'best' way to evolve to once more become 'one with Spirit' when the souls die. Each color stone on the star represents a Child and a Way, and are as follows clockwise from top: Montage, gold, Way of all Ways; Rosin, amethyst, Way of Magic; Ulic, silver, Way of Truth; Beleskie, rose quartz, Way of Relationships; Bree, amber, Way of Creativity; Rhean, obsidian, Way of Protection; The Red, garnet, Way of Evil (this is the divergent Way, the only one not interested in evolving, only gaining for oneself); Desmoulein, emerald, Way of Hearth and Healing; Kubesh, citrine, Way of the Warrior; Turin, sapphire, Way of Death; Feator, bronze, Way of History; Angani, pearl, Way of Purity. Each trained follower of a way is referred to as a Way Walker.
Tangled Paths takes place in a world that started with a game, Way Walkers University. Could you tell us about the game, and how it relates to Tangled Paths?
In all honesty, the books came years and years before the game, the game just got published first. [light laughter] All told, the “game” is more an interactive novel, similar to the old “choose your own adventure” books. It got started because I stumbled across the company Choice of Games, who were looking for authors to write in their new, app-based format making these text-based games. The project called to me, as the Way Walkers universe already had a strong emphasis on the concept of choice being sacred, and the idea of a choice-heavy game based on this world was a really good fit. The setting for Way Walkers University is Tar'citadel, the city of ice and light and the seat of Walker training. Aside from that though, it has little to do with Tangled Paths, as the two storylines take place thousands of years apart in the timeline. Though anyone who does read Way Walkers University will find I few references here and there in Tangled Paths to events in the game.
What was the most challenging part of writing Tangled Paths? Plotting? Characterizations? World-building?
Editing and action scenes. While I do have the occasional issue of characters going rogue and creating difficult story arcs I have to somehow make work, by far and away my biggest weakness is in the editing. This is mostly due to being dyslexic, which on top of making it very hard for me tell if I've made a spelling or grammar mistake, it also makes it difficult for me to tell if I'm repeating myself too often. This becomes especially sticky in action scenes, where being short and to the point is preferable, but I tend to linger too long describing shoelaces.
Thankfully, I've got some really talented editors on my side at Red Adept, and such craziness is not passed on to the readers.
Your world contains a multitude of different cultures in a fantastical world. Where did you draw inspiration from to create them?
Everything. Every local legend I've heard, every TV show I've watched, every painting I've ever admired, every song I've listened to, and every person I've ever talked to. The key to creating a believable culture in another world is to remember that anything that exists in our world can conceivably exist in some form in another world. It requires a lot of time and effort though, as all aspects of the culture must interlock and relate to each other, and then in turn each culture you create has to interact and mingle with each other as well.
If you lived in the Way Walkers universe, what would you be?
Probably far more well-adjusted. [laughter] No, in reality, I'm not sure. I throw myself into a lot of skins as an author, and flow through a lot of characters and personalities, so it's hard to nail down a race or country. I think ultimately though I'd be a Montage Walker, following the Way that combines all Ways, simply because of my inability to choose just one. From there I'd probably wind-up in Tar'citadel as a scholar or author, doing much the same there as I do here—writing.
Has your experience as an artist played a role in your writing?
Goodness yes. I'm extremely visual, and that feeds directly into how I describe everything. I'm also a junkie when it comes to colors, making certain to explain the exact color of things, which sometimes is wonderful and sometimes leaves my editor clicking her tongue at me. (And she's right of course, most people don’t know nor care about the difference between viridian and terre verte.)
Epic fantasies have a reputation for being long, long, long. What's your opinion on that?
I think, for the most part, it's necessary just because of the world building. While a lot of other genres (even sci-fi) can lean on more modern analogies and terms, fantasy requires a level of from the ground up crafting that, well, takes a lot of words to convey if you're doing it right. That being said, I do also believe a lot of fantasy authors can get a bit side-tracked in the world to the point of becoming too long, but this as always, subjective. In the end, if the story is interesting, and the reader still wants to read it, then it makes sense. If the pace is just slow for slowness sake, and the reader is bored, then there's a problem. Like I said though, it really is subjective to the reader--for example, I won't even pick up a fantasy novel unless it's over 300 pages, sometime 400.
What's your book's soundtrack? Pick 10 songs that you'd put on a playlist to accompany Tangled Paths.
These are mostly "Jathen" songs, but there's a few other characters thrown in too. ;)
Tonight is what it means to be young-- Streets of Fire soundtrack
King Nothing-- Metallica
Firework-- Katy Perry
All that I Am-- Rob Thomas
Duel-- The Bond Girls
Roses from my Friends-- Ben Harper
Time Takes its Toll on Us-- Bebo Norman
Higher Window-- Josh Groban
Lessons Learned-- Carrie Underwood
Beautiful Disaster-- Kelly Clarkson
What's next? Working on anything new?
Welp, the Tangled Paths sequel, for one. The third and final part to Way Walkers: University for another. And after that, I have at least one more book for Jathen and the Tazu Saga before I bring forth what had been my original Way Walkers series, this one set in the Clan Lands. (that’s going to be the “long” one lol) All in all, I'm going to be around for a while, spinning out books as fast as I can.