This author is a warrior

January 15, 2008|By EVA NIESSNER and DARCY SHULL Pulse Correspondents

Fantasy author Jayel Gibson speaks with such authority on all subjects magical and fantastic, it's believable that she liked fairy tales immensely as a child.

Growing up with an Irish grandmother, Gibson says she enjoyed hearing stories of the ancient Celts, and she loved how everything seemed so mystical. However, she didn't actually start writing stories of her own until she was a junior in high school.

In 11th grade, her English class read J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit," and she was so entranced with the book that she continued on with reading Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" series, and, later, his "The Silmarillion." In fact, one of the title characters in her book, "The Dragon Queen" is named Yavie, which, in Tolkien's Elvish language, means "late autumn."

On the topic of her high school days, Gibson describes herself as between cliques. She says she acted cool to fit in with the popular crowd, but her real friends were geeks.


"I was geeky before it was a word." she jokes. Growing serious, she adds, "People should like us how we are. We shouldn't have to pretend just to get people to like us."

Gibson is now in her 50s, but the interest stirred up by her junior-year hobbit reading stayed with her throughout her life. She admits that she had orginally never intended to write novels. Before she published her first book, "The Dragon Queen," in 2003, she was writing background stories for a role-playing Web site. Her friend needed a character and story without any specifications or objectives, and Gibson got to work. But things changed.

"By the time I got to 90 pages or so, I had to tell him he couldn't use it," she says.

Her characters are rarely based on real people. Often, Gibson says, her characters are pieces of autobiographical aspects of herself - her angry side, her funny side, her deep side. Only one is based on a specific person she knows: a cook in a restaurant in the town in which she lives. Gibson says she added the cook as a tavern owner in her novel "Quandam" and liked the character so much, the cook's character ends up accompanying the main character on her quest.

As for inside jokes, the stories are loaded with them. "Not only (for) people I know and (for) friends," she says, "but (for) people who live in the area I do. If the wind is going 120 miles an hour, we call it a blustery day; everyone else calls it a hurricane. That's incorporated in there."

Although being an author is definitely rewarding - Jayel can write, take breaks, even stop to play video games whenever she feels like it - it is also very challenging.

"I've given up before," she says, laughing a little, "and it's always very disappointing to find that you've written 90 pages over all this time and realize your story's got nowhere else to go."

Then again, she does get to play video games.

"I absolutely love World Of Warcraft," she says. "You know, I used to play for eight to 10 hours at a time. My adult son and I are always playing. It's really great to be a gaming mom, because you're always in touch with your kids."

Gibson also participates in the occasional game of Dungeons and Dragons, a medieval-themed, role-playing game which she says gives inspiration for her fiction.

Gibson advises teens who want to write to get going.

"Don't wait like I did," she says with a laugh. "Do it now!"

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