Talent Spotlight (Part 2): Jena Leigh

How did you come up with the idea for the Variant Series?
The inspiration for the Variant Series as a whole came from many different places, but the original spark for Revival came in the form of my morning coffee. One day at the coffee shop, the barista had drawn the shape of a phoenix into the foam on my latte. The image set my mind to wandering and I spent the next half hour writing out a scene where a young girl was being chased by a wall of flames through a burning bookstore. That piece would eventually become the opening scene of Chapter Four in Revival.
Can you give us a hint to what we should be expecting in your second book?
 In Resistance, book two in the Variant series, the stakes are raised even higher for Alex and the gang. As Alex struggles to get a grip on her newfound powers, she’s faced with a far more daunting assignment—survive the last few months of her junior year without accidentally losing control and leveling Bay View High.
 But the risk of outing herself and the Variant population at large would be a lot easier to handle if the Agency wasn’t still breathing down her neck… and if Declan weren’t quite so distracting in his newfound role as Alex’s bodyguard.  As sparks of all kinds start flying, Alex is left struggling to keep her head above water and her heart in one piece. And when her freedom lands itself in the Agency’s crosshairs, Alex will be faced with the fight of her life.
Where do you like to write?
 Anywhere and everywhere. I seem to do my best work in unfamiliar places. I’ve written on planes, at the mall, in doctor’s office waiting rooms… If I have my computer or a journal with me, I’ll usually try to get a few words on the page. There’s something about traveling that helps me to tune out distractions and focus, while at the same time inspiring my writing.
Do you decide character traits before you sit down to write the book, or as you go along?
Character traits are usually decided on as I write. I very rarely have an entire character in mind when I sit down at the keyboard. I usually start with a few random traits—a name here, a face there, a quirk or two to distinguish them, an important bit of backstory that forever changed their life or altered their personality—and then the personalities of my characters become clearer to me as I make it further into the story.
 Who is your favorite character in the series, and why?
 Oh, that’s a tough one! It seems to change from day to day. Right now I’d probably have to say that Declan’s sister Kenzie is my favorite. She’s sassy, sarcastic and I can always count on her for a witty rejoinder. Kenzie’s scenes are always enjoyable to write.
Tell us about the biggest challenges you face in your writing process.
 I think the biggest challenge I have is in plotting out a story. When it comes to my writing, I’m a total pantser and I despise outlining. Writing only feels natural to me when my characters are the ones telling the story. I love being just as surprised as my readers are when something unexpected happens in the narrative. When you’re working on a series, however, that doesn’t always work. You need to have some idea of where the story is headed before you begin, otherwise it’s very easy to write yourself into a corner.
 If you could give a young writer any tip, what would it be?
Write constantly and read everything you can get your hands on. It seems like such an obvious piece of advice, but it’s quite possibly the most important things you can do to improve your writing.
If you weren’t writing, what would you want to be doing for a living? What are some of your other passions in life?
Rock star! I mean, really. Who hasn’t wanted to be one at some point? Aside from writing, I’m incredibly passionate about music. I love it, but I haven’t got a lick of talent (although that doesn’t stop me from singing at the top of my lungs in the shower every morning). If there’s not a song playing in the background somewhere, I usually don’t know what to do with myself.
*What fun answers! Love it.