Interview: Jayel Gibson

I have a wonderful treat for everyone today. I was lucky enough to get a copy of Jayel Gibson’s novel, Quondam, and I absolutely loved it. Now she’s here at Literary Escapism answering a few questions and giving us a chance to get to know her a little more.

Make sure you stay tuned because we do have a contest to go along with her interview and I can honestly say that I am jealous over one of the prizes.

Now, on with the questions…

Your latest novel, Quondam, was published earlier this spring. For those of my readers who haven’t come acrossed it yet, can you give us a brief look into your story and what people can look forward to reading?

Quondam is a tale of betrayal and redemption. Readers will meet three characters whose lives are inextricably entwined by fate.

Karid, a wood nymph, now bound in mortal flesh by an angry god, murders Quondam’s king, seizes the throne and outlaws all magic. Any who do not bow to her will are destroyed in the flames of her fiery assassins. But, it wouldn’t be a fantasy tale, if there were no hope of salvation for the downtrodden. There is the threat of a challenger to Queen Karid’s brutal reign, a legend’s promised savior, a condemned dragonspawn born of man and magick. The young dragonspawn is branded a demon and sentenced to a millennium of solitude. His only freedom now found in dreams, he searches among a universe of sleepers for a woman born beneath the sign of the dragon, a woman he believes to hold the key to his release.

The woman thrust between Karid and the dragonspawn is Cwen of Aaradan. Her family and homeland destroyed by Queen Karid’s assassin’s fire, Cwen, niece of the Dragon Queen, escapes with her aunt through a mysterious portal into Quondam. There, Cwen discovers her fate and the imprisoned dragonspawn’s are connected in ways that will drag her, heartbroken and vengeful, into the midst of Quondam’s war.

I understand Quondam is the fourth novel in your Ancient Mirrors Tales series. Can you give us a little more insight on the previous three novels – Dragon Queen, The Wrekening, and Damselflies?

Dragon Queen is the tale of Yávië, a young woman summoned from the slumber of death to serve as a guardian on world she doesn’t recall. During her search for the truth about her birthright, she uncovers a quest that will allow her to reunite the Seven Kingdoms. However, the rebirth of the realm of the Dragon Queen opens doorways that bring chaos and dark threat to the new world – an evil that may be far worse than the original destruction of the realm. It’s within this darkness that Yávië and her friends struggle to gain control of what they have unleashed upon the kingdoms.

In The Wrekening, an ancient army is discovered in a cavern below the enchanted isle of Rever, where it waits to be awakened by those possessing the Wreken wyrm shards. Yávië, now the Dragon Queen, and her guardians realize the shards must be recovered before they fall into the wrong hands, and they turn to Cwen of Aaradan, fierce warrior and niece of the queen. Cwen reluctantly agrees, and she and her band of renegades set off on a perilous quest to reclaim the lost shards. It’s in The Wrekening, that Cwen, one of my most popular characters, is introduced.

Damselflies tells the legend of the last damselfly. Fearful and powerful men consider Arcinaë, the last damselfly, a threat to their race. Hunted by those men, Arcinaë must set aside her docile nature to learn the skills of weaponry and war if she is to protect her unborn offspring and ensure the future of her race.

With the help of an embittered nobleman and his manservant, Arcinaë races against time to stop a vicious warlord set on cleansing the world of the damselflies’ potent magick.

Damselflies spans two generations, and sweeps the reader into a tangled web of twisted legends and broken promises, and the endless struggle to control the minds of humankind.

I haven’t had a chance to read the first three novels yet, however I never felt like I was left out of the loop of a bigger story arc. What is the connecting thread between these four stories and can they each be read independently?

The thread that connects the Ancient Mirrors series is a combination of the world of AEdracmorae and the ability for characters to travel through a series of ancient portals – the ancient mirrors. From Yávië’s summoning as a guardian in Dragon Queen, to Cwen’s involvement with the dragonspawn in Quondam, readers come full circle. Readers who have read the full series say they had some great ‘ah-ha’ moments in Quondam. That makes me smile.

For those who enjoy the world building aspect of fantasy, I would recommend reading Dragon Queen first; otherwise, I’ve been told it really doesn’t matter. For readers who just want to read a single book of the series, I recommend Quondam. It’s powerful on its own, and the ending will leave them with a feeling of satisfaction without feeling that they’ve missed anything..

When you were writing, what inspirations did you use to create the world of Quondam?

For me, the writing process is like a movie playing in my mind. It comes complete with surround sound and Technicolor images. I once told an editor that I was just a typist for the cast of characters in each story. She assured me I was far more than that, but it doesn’t feel that way to me.

I grew up listening to Celtic legends and folklore. I live in the woods adjacent to the sea. I think the combination of those two things creates the inspirational magic that fills my head with images and character voices.

Both D’raekn and Cwen have some very complex personalities. They both go through so many different emotions that it’s hard not to feel for each of them. Were their characters hard to write especially during some of the more turbulent times? Are either of them based on people you know or how did you develop them in your head?

Cwen and D’raekn are the two most contrary characters I have written. About the time I would think they were headed in one direction, they’d be off doing something totally unexpected. Their relationship made me cry. Not out frustration, though they are a frustrating and frustrated couple, but from the sheer intensity of it.

I use a character audition process. Characters are forever popping into my head, and each time that happens I take notes on the physical appearance, their mannerisms, speech patterns, attitude and so forth. Sometimes that’s all there is to it. The character never prods me again and just dies a quiet death in a single journal entry. But, persistent characters that refuse to be ignored end up with their own journals.

Each of these persistent characters has a journal documenting his or her history. It’s written from an ‘in character’ perspective and includes race, gender, age, skills, weaknesses, relationships, unresolved issues, and special goals or desires. As the story moves forward from book to book, returning characters continue their journeys, updating their journals as they interact with new characters, resolve issues and achieve goals.

These character diaries allow me to watch each character evolve, and I can keep track from a more objective perspective. For example: Readers will discover, just as I did, that Cwen is not the same woman in Quondam that she was in The Wrekening or Damselflies. Her life experiences changed her, just as ours have changed us.

As the characters move through the world, I create documentation on a rough map which is later refined and illustrated by an artist. The same is true of the glossary. Words that I’m not familiar with are logged along with a phonetic pronunciation and context definition; these later become the formal glossary.

Do you have plans to continue this series? Do you have any other projects in the works that you can tease us with?

Quondam completes the Ancient Mirrors Tales, at least for the moment. My editor swears there will be a ‘lost chapters’ story somewhere down the line. Guess we’ll have to wait and see if she’s right.

I’m currently working on the second manuscript of a new series called Ever’neath. The new stories take place in the sky cities of the Empyrean Sidhe (pronounced ‘shee’) and the world below called Ever’neath. The common thread throughout the series is the search for the Haelo-Qua (HALO kwa)—a being capable of voicing the images in the legendary Book of Silence.

The Ever’neath series is filled with winged races and dragons and the stories are great fun to write. I hope they’ll be as much fun to read.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I actually write for very selfish reasons. I’m a storyteller, always have been. It would be impossible for me not to write a story when it gets inside my head, even if no one ever read my work. It’s as much a part of me as breathing. I began writing full time in 2003. Before that I taught elementary school, fifth and middle grades. I love writing and reading, café brevés and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. You know – simple stuff. I’m a critter lover too. So, my husband and I share our home with a collection of feathered and furred companions, and spend a lot of time wandering the trails with the wildlife in the nearby state park.

I’m an avid PC gamer, and an advocate for the use of video games in education, and I teach workshops on how parents and teachers can use game technology to enhance children’s learning. I also teach a series of writing for publication classes at Southwestern Oregon Community College.

My favorite author activities are book events that allow me to interact with readers on a personal level, so book festivals and sci-fi & fantasy conventions are often on my schedule, along with the more traditional book signings.

When you’re not writing, what else do you enjoy doing? Is there any part of your other activities that influence your novels?

I’m a gamer. I’ve been playing role-play games (RPGs) since Dungeons & Dragons was a pencil and paper game. Now I play several online RPGs, as well as a whole slew of single player PC games in a variety of genres. I also beta test games on a regular basis for several game developers.

Role play gaming encourages creativity through game character (avatar) creation and involves a lot of world exploration. I have no doubt that role play games have strongly influenced the direction of my writing.

Who do you like to read and why? Have you noticed your reading preferences changing as you’ve developed as an author?

I love to read! Growing up in a family that lived overseas and moved frequently didn’t encourage lasting friendships. As a kid books and reading became my ‘comfort foods’. I read everyone, from John Grisham to Louis L’Amour.

The change is more in my reading habit, than in my preferences. I don’t read fantasy when I am actively writing a story, because I don’t want to be influenced by outside sources. I still prefer science fiction and fantasy over other genres. Some of my favorite sci-fi and fantasy authors are Ursula K. LeGuin, Terry Pratchett, H.G. Wells, and Tolkien.

I also enjoy reading for research, and read a lot of books on cultural mythologies.

Why were you drawn to the fantasy genre? Have you thought of venturing into other genres or are you strictly a fantasy writer?

I think I was just born to the epic legend that lends itself so well to fantasy. My grandmother was a wonderful storyteller in the oral tradition of the Celt Irish, and she filled my head with legends of heroes and mythological beasties from the time I was very young. I enjoy other genres, but I’ve never felt compelled to write them. The mythos of fantasy is a passion for me. The stories creep into my mind and I must write them down.

While you’re writing, is there any music that you like listening to? Does your music selection change based on the novel you are writing? For each of your novels, are there any songs that you associated with them?

I know so many writers who listen to music while they write, but I’m not one of them. Since the story unfolding in my mind is audible as well as visual, I write with external silence. I tried playing music and found it distracted from my ‘internal’ soundtrack.

I do have a bit of music that is associated with the Ancient Mirrors series. It is called En la Aldea de la Puerta by composer Angel Rafael Corpa and is featured on both of my websites.

If you were to write yourself into any of your novels, what kind of character would you be?

What a wonderful question! I would write myself as my real life opposite. It is part of what delights me about writing. Reaching in and pulling out actions and emotions that I would never exhibit in real life, but revel in when I write. It keeps my husband guessing just who is in the kitchen making morning coffee.

Thank you Jayel for taking the time to visit with us at Literary Escapism.

Now it’s time for a little contest. One of the best things about fantasy novels are the characters. It doesn’t matter what world the character exists in, because there are no rules when it comes to the characters. Their race, beliefs, even their own personalities are completely up to the writer. I always wonder if an author puts a little of their alter ego in their characters. So now I ask you, if you could be a character in a fantasy novel, what kind of character would you be? For me, I’ve always loved the idea of being a sorceress who can throw fireballs.  Does anyone remember the game Diablo?  Do you remember the sorceress from that?  That’s what I want to be.  Plus any other kind of spell I can think up.

To enter today’s contest, that’s all you have to do. Leave a comment answering the question. You have to answer the question otherwise your comment won’t count.

If you want another chance to win, post about today’s contest on your blog, social network, or anywhere you can. Digg it, stumble it, share it with the world. Wherever you share it, make sure you add a link to it along with your answer.

Now, here’s the best part, the prize. Jayel has graciously put up some fabulous prizes and they include a print of the Quondam cover art, a Quondam laminated bookmark and an autographed copy of Quondam. I will tell you, I am jealous of whoever gets to win the cover art print because I love the artist, Michele-lee Phelan.

I’ll determine the winner with help from the Research Randomizer and the contest will run until midnight on Sept. 24th.

About Jackie 3274 Articles
I am a 30-something SAHM with two adorable boys and a supportive husband who is very tolerant of my reading addiction. I love to read and easily go through about a dozen books a month – well I did before I had kids. Now, not so much. After my first son was born, I began to take my hobby of reviewing a little more serious and started Literary Escapism to help with my sanity. I love to discuss the fabulous novels I’ve read and meeting all the wonderful people in the book blogging community has been amazing.


  1. I have always wanted to be a sorceress myself, with bell sleeves flowing while lightning shot out of my fingers. Another interesting character would be a thief—they aren’t much fun in real life, but a lot of my favorite characters belong to this profession!

  2. If I could be a character in a fantasy novel I would be a fire breathing dragon. I think that would be so cool.

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