Interview with author Janet Lee Carey

Despite some recent posts about fic­tion pic­ture book New Shoes and its author, Susan Lynn Mey­ers, I typ­i­cal­ly try to stick to posts about non­fic­tion books and authors on this blog. I’m break­ing that self-imposed rule yet again, how­ev­er, because I’m thrilled to host my friend and agent-sis­ter, the amaz­ing author Janet Lee Carey, on her blog tour for her upcom­ing fan­ta­sy nov­el, In the Time of Drag­on Moon!

About the Book:
Beware the dark moon time when love and mur­der intertwine
            All Uma wants is to become a heal­er like her father and be accept­ed by her tribe. But when the mad queen abducts her and takes her north, Uma’s told she must use her heal­ing skills to cure the infer­tile queen by Drag­on Moon, or be burned at the stake. Uma soon learns the queen isn’t the only dan­ger she’s up against. A hid­den killer out for roy­al blood slays the roy­al heir. The mur­der is made to look like an acci­dent, but Uma, and the king’s nephew Jack­run, sense the dark­er truth. Togeth­er, they must use their com­bined pow­ers to out­wit a secret plot to over­throw the Pen­drag­on throne. But are they strong enough to over­come a mur­der­er aid­ed by prophe­cy and cloaked in magic?

From the first time I heard about this book, I’ve been intrigued, and Janet has kind­ly agreed to answer a few of my ques­tions. Wel­come, Janet!

Portrait Janet Lee Carey
pho­to cred­it Hei­di Pettit

LT: Where did you first get the idea for this par­tic­u­lar book, and how did it end up grow­ing and chang­ing as you brought it to life?

JLC: The pas­sion to tell the sto­ry of an indige­nous heal­er formed when I flew to Hawaii for a “Maui Immer­sion” with indige­nous heal­ers Lei’ohu and May­deen. I was pro­found­ly changed by these women’s heal­ing prac­tices as I learned of ancient tra­di­tions and the pow­er of the earth’s heal­ing. I knew I want­ed to cre­ate a sto­ry around a female heal­er, thus Uma was born.

JLC: Jackrun’s sto­ry took shape at the same time. I knew they would meet and become embroiled in dan­ger­ous cas­tle intrigue involv­ing prophe­cy, mag­ic, and mur­der. The nov­el went through many trans­for­ma­tions. I wrote the first draft in both Jackrun’s and Uma’s view­point. Lat­er, tak­ing advice from my edi­tor Kathy Daw­son, I changed it to a sin­gle view­point to reveal more of Uma’s per­son­al jour­ney and increase plot tension.

LT: Oh, I love hear­ing the ori­gins of the female heal­er sto­ry! And it’s so inter­est­ing to hear about the view­point change. 

LT: On a relat­ed note, here’s a ques­tion from my old­est child (whom you know hap­pens to be one of your biggest fans!): “Why dragons?”

Dragon banner by Jessica cropped final
(Art­work by Jes­si­ca L’Esperance)

JLC: Oh, I love this ques­tion. I didn’t start out wish­ing to write about drag­ons, only to write fan­ta­sy nov­els like the ones I’d grown to love only with my own spin. The first drag­on, Lord Faul, emerged from a win­ter of read­ing too many fairy­tales with per­fect princess­es and evil drag­ons. I want­ed to mix things up a bit, so I cre­at­ed a princess with a dragon’s claw, in Wilde Island book one, Dragon’s Keep, and a pow­er­ful frac­tious drag­on with his own par­tic­u­lar his­to­ry or rather, ‘hissssto­ry’. From there the drag­on char­ac­ters con­tin­ued to enter the books with their own majes­tic, intel­li­gent, wild, impe­ri­ous, stub­born, delight­ful, per­son­al­i­ties. Vazan flew into In the Time of Drag­on Moon with her own pithy opin­ions on the Eng­lish Queen who holds Uma’s tribe cap­tive on the south­ern­most tip of Wilde Island;

“This queen will leave the king’s sol­diers in Devil’s Boot. We’ll lose all our free­dom to these Eng­lish vermin!”

LT: Ha! I love that the drag­ons are enter­ing of their own accord. But speak­ing of Eng­lish queens… It seems like a bunch of research went into this book. Can you tell us about that? Was it dif­fer­ent from pre­vi­ous books? Were there any sur­pris­es or stum­bling blocks? Do you think you’ll reuse any of that research in future stories?

JLC: All the research I’d done on medieval life for the first two books helped this book enor­mous­ly. That said, In The Time of Drag­on Moon offered a brand new set of chal­lenges. This time trib­al med­i­cine had to play a vital role. I cre­at­ed the Adan’s med­i­c­i­nal approach from many sources start­ing with books about medieval med­i­cine, and expand­ing to books and arti­cles on trib­al med­i­cine, prefer­ably writ­ten by indige­nous heal­ers them­selves. I was also priv­i­leged to lis­ten to first­hand accounts of tra­di­tion­al heal­ing prac­tices. All these influ­ences quick­ened my imag­i­na­tion and helped me cre­ate the Adan’s close rela­tion­ship with plants, and his heal­ing phi­los­o­phy. The research also com­pelled me to help save the rain­forests, where plants vital to heal­ing are even now being destroyed. Help out here.

JLC: Final­ly, you asked if there were many sur­pris­es and stum­bling blocks. Yes! The good news is every stum­bling block is a cre­ative oppor­tu­ni­ty. Much as I hate stum­bling blocks, I’ve grown to love the sur­pris­ing results.

LT: Janet, you’re one of the most cre­ative peo­ple I’ve ever met, and that’s say­ing some­thing giv­en how many authors and artists I know! Can you give us a tiny peek into how your cre­ative process works?

JLC: Wow. Thanks for that, Lau­rie. We’ve talked a lot about cre­ative process in my nov­el writ­ing cours­es and the rule is always ‘Do what works for you,’ so know­ing my process may not be the same as yours or any­one else’s, I’ll share a bit about what’s worked for me over the years. I start each day as tab­u­la rasa as pos­si­ble, begin­ning with yoga, med­i­ta­tion, and prayer then mov­ing into short spir­i­tu­al read­ings from a few books, and jour­nal­ing — morn­ing pages right out of Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way. All of this read­ies me for cre­ative flow.

JLC: When the kids were school age I broke the morn­ing up, doing the yoga and med­i­ta­tion before get­ting them off to school, and the rest of the things after. Medi­a­tion clears my mind and read­ies me for jour­nal­ing which is “active lis­ten­ing” on paper. The jour­nal pages usu­al­ly drift toward what’s hap­pen­ing in the book so I move to the office and begin writ­ing. The process sounds time con­sum­ing but it works for me. Also, aside from my love­ly cri­tique group the Divin­ers, I belong to an artist’s group with fel­low authors, painters, musi­cians and sculp­tors called Artemis.

Artemis photo
Left to right, author Janet Lee Carey, visu­al artist Hei­di Pet­tit, artist/sculptor Jill Sahlstrom, author Kather­ine Grace Bond, not pic­tured; sculp­tor Lisa Sheets, author Dawn Knight, author/musician Mar­garet Kellermann.

JLC: When Artemis gets togeth­er, we take turns shar­ing about our cre­ative process. I learn as much from the visu­al artists and sculp­tors as I do from fel­low authors. These ses­sions siz­zle with cre­ativ­i­ty. Pho­to below of our year­ly Riv­er Rock Cer­e­mo­ny. We throw stones in the riv­er with our wish­es, plans and dreams. Hours of ker­plunk­ing fun!
Artemis river photo
LT: Ah, wish­es, plans, and dreams… the per­fect segue to my next ques­tion: When­ev­er I’m not writ­ing, I feel like I should be; but when­ev­er I am writ­ing, I feel­ing like I’m neglect­ing oth­er impor­tant things in my life. What tricks have you learned for bal­anc­ing your writ­ing with the demands of keep­ing up with the indus­try, pro­mot­ing exist­ing work, tak­ing care of your home and fam­i­ly, per­son­al recre­ation and self-care, etc.?

JLC: I once made the mis­take of con­fid­ing this very thing to a soc­cer mom and she looked at me like I was off my rock­er! Here’s the thing. I think writ­ers feel com­pelled deep down to write. When we neglect it for a while, we get the nig­gling feel­ing that some­thing is wrong. When we neglect it for too long, we feel depressed or angry. Once we give in to the urge and actu­al­ly sit down and write, we feel a great deal bet­ter. But then as we write, the laun­dry piles up and the dust bun­nies gath­er foment­ing war under the beds, and our chil­dren want a real­ly decent din­ner and we feel guilty for hav­ing tak­en so much time away to write, so we go back to our dai­ly duties (the ones oth­er peo­ple under­stand). Then we begin to neglect our writ­ing and start get­ting that nig­gling feel­ing that something’s wrong all over again. There is No solu­tion Lau­rie T. and I’m not even going to go into tak­ing nec­es­sary time to stay in shape or keep up with the indus­try and launch your books once they’ve been writ­ten. The only thing you can do is to be kind to your­self and your fam­i­ly and to accept that things will rarely feel in bal­ance. Bot­tom line your chil­dren will sur­vive and you will get some writ­ing done before you die.

LT: “Bot­tom line your chil­dren will sur­vive and you will get some writ­ing done before you die.” Words to live by. Thank you, Janet! 
LT: One more ques­tion for you: I think every book teach­es us some­thing new, about the world, about our­selves, or about the craft of writ­ing. What have you learned as a result of writ­ing this book?

JLC: So well said, Lau­rie! Craft wise I chal­lenged myself to leap and loop. To leap into new scenes and briefly loop back and catch the read­er up to any­thing impor­tant that hap­pened between scenes that affect­ed the char­ac­ter emo­tion­al­ly. I’m still try­ing to per­fect this fab­u­lous tech­nique. As to what I learned from the book, I think Uma’s per­son­al strength as she’s try­ing to heal Queen Adela’s mad­ness taught me some­thing vital about love, accep­tance and the kind of deep heal­ing that women often do which is over­looked or tak­en for grant­ed. As Uma’s med­i­cines fail, she sim­ply bathes the queen, combs her hair, and sings to her. Uma sim­ply stays by the woman’s side, for as Uma says, “Joy and sor­row are songs women have long known.”

LT: Breath­tak­ing­ly beau­ti­ful, Janet.  Thank you so much for answer­ing all of my questions! 
Are you hooked yet? Here’s some more infor­ma­tion about Janet and the book…

Book trail­er:


  • In the Time of Drag­on Moon is a sto­ry of courage and romance that read­ers will not soon for­get.” ~VOYA
  • “The author’s world-build­ing is detailed and fas­ci­nat­ing … This is a must-pur­chase for libraries own­ing the ear­li­er install­ments and a great choice for where teen fan­ta­sy is pop­u­lar.—School Library Journal


About the Author:
Janet Lee Carey grew up in the bay area under tow­er­ing red­woods that whis­pered secrets in the wind. When she was a child she dreamed of becom­ing a mer­maid (this nev­er happened).She also dreamed of becom­ing a pub­lished writer (this did hap­pen after many years of rejec­tion). She is now an award-win­ning author of nine nov­els for chil­dren and teens. Her Wilde Island Chron­i­cles are ALA Best Books for Young Adults. She won the 2005 Mark Twain Award and was final­ist for the Wash­ing­ton State Book Award. Janet links each new book with a char­i­ta­ble orga­ni­za­tion empow­er­ing youth to read and reach out. She tours the U.S. and abroad pre­sent­ing at schools, book fes­ti­vals and con­fer­ences for writ­ers, teach­ers, and librar­i­ans. Janet and her fam­i­ly live near Seat­tle by a lake where ris­ing morn­ing mist forms into the shape of drag­ons. She writes dai­ly with her impe­ri­ous cat, Uke, seat­ed on her lap. Uke is jeal­ous of the key­board. If Janet tru­ly under­stood her place in the world, she would reserve her fin­gers for the sole pur­pose of scratch­ing behind Uke’s ear, but humans are very hard to train. Vis­it her web­site here.

Thanks again to Janet Lee Carey for appearing!