Dr. Jennifer Yen Clark, or J.L. Clark, began her writing career in the fourth grade, when her teacher took the detective story she wrote and turned it into a short printed book as a gift to her. The encouragement of her teacher, as well as her love for reading and telling stories, kept her writing about the worlds that existed in her imagination. In her young adult years, J.L. began writing short stories, poetry, and fan-fiction starring strong and intelligent girls and women. J.L. was recently inspired to write The Avalon Relics after being introduced to several young adult series that depicted weak heroines and unhealthy relationships. Recalling her own young adult reading experience and the dearth of relatable heroines, she set out to create a series of books that would not only engage and entertain, but offer a refreshing and empowering take on fictional heroines.
J.L. Clark resides in Houston, Texas with her family. She splits her time between academia and private practice, specializing in child and adolescent psychiatry. She is an assistant professor of psychiatry at UT Health Medical School, and a clinical assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine. Outside of work, she is continually contributing to her body of work, posting short stories and fan-fiction on social media outlets for enjoyment.
Her latest book is the YA fantasy, The Avalon Relics: Lilith Links.
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Where did you grow up?
I moved a lot as a child. I was born in Taipei, Taiwan, and lived there with my family and extended relatives until I was just shy of eight. I then immigrated to the United States with my parents, and lived briefly in Chicago, Richardson, and finally, Plano, Texas.
When did you begin writing?
I started writing in the fourth grade, after a wonderful teacher of mine began encouraging me to express my imagination through words. After I had gifted her a short mystery story to show my appreciation, she came back with a printed copy for me to keep, and read it to the class.
Do you write during the day, at night or whenever you can sneak a few moments?
I have a full time job as a doctor, so I do pretty much write at night, or on the weekends when I have downtime. Sometimes if the story is begging to be told, I will sneak in some sentences between patients!
What is this book about?
This book follows the life of Sophia Bennett, a young woman who discovers on her eighteenth birthday that there is a hidden world inhabited by half-fairy, half-human beings called faeids. She is quickly drawn into an ancient battle between good and evil through a series of shocking events, and ends up joining forces with a group of faeids trying to save their realm from the Dark Ones. Along the way, Sophia discovers that everything she thought she knew about her life was wrong, and must come to terms with who she really is.
What inspired you to write it?
I love to read, and when the surge in YA books began several years ago, I read them just like everyone else. Although the stories were very entertaining, it bothered me that there were so many lead female characters that were one-dimensional, flat, and helpless. For those that started out the story with a perfect life, they make poor decisions that jeopardize themselves. For those who start out struggling, they found their happy ending only after getting involved with someone. Very few of these characters were realistic, like the teenagers that I see every day at work, and rarely did any of them grow without the help of someone else. I really wanted to write a story that resonated with my readers, with characters that were fundamentally flawed but real, and take them on a journey that would allow them to come into their own and become empowered and confident. I especially wanted to make sure that I had strong female leads who are not afraid to stand up for what they believe in, but at the same time fall on their face and have to pick themselves back up. Strength comes from being able to recognize what you’ve done wrong and learning from it, and I want my readers to know that it’s okay to make a mistake without being a bad person.
Who is your favorite character from the book?
I would have to say Sophia, because she is the girl I would have loved to have been when I was a teenager. She might not start out as the person she wants to be, but she overcomes challenges and learns from her mistakes as she grows into her own.
Was the road to publication smooth sailing or a bumpy ride?
I self-published these two books, but I am now working with an agent to get them into the hands of traditional publishers. It’s definitely been quite a learning experience, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. If nothing else, I can say that I scratched off a bucket list item and have books to show for it!
If you knew then, what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently?
I think the only thing I would consider changing is to possibly split Lailan Crown into two books. It is already quite long as is, but I feel like I left out so much rich backstory behind the characters that you meet along the way. Maybe one day in the future, I’ll rework it and give my readers a peek into their lives.
Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?
The first two books in The Avalon Relics series, Lilith Links and Lailan Crown, are available in print or eBook on Amazon and Barnes and Noble (online store only). You can also get the eBooks from Google Play.
Do you have a video trailer to promote your book? If yes, where can readers find it?
We will be working on that soon! If you want to know about it first, make sure you connect with me via a social media outlet!
What is the best investment you have made in promoting your book?
I have to say that investing in my agent has been the best decision in promoting my book. It is a tough situation to be a self-published author, and having someone who knows the ropes and can make the connections really helps. Having an agent who genuinely believes in you and your work gives you a powerful ally who will advocate for you.
What is one piece of advice you would like to share with aspiring authors everywhere?
I get asked a lot about how to start writing your own book. I find that it’s really helpful to start with a character. Imagine what you want that character to be like: their appearance, their personality, and their quirks. Once you have that character in mind, think about where they came from, what their family is like, who are their friends, and what is going on in their lives. Once you start thinking about those things, a story may unfold in front of your eyes and take you to down the path to your book!
What is up next for you?
I have a lot going on! I am about to start work on book three, entitled Amulet of Morgana, which will pick up where Lailan Crown left off. I am so excited for my readers to see the final product, which I promise will be just as exciting, if not more, than the last two books. I also am collaborating with a local gaming company here in Houston to author a series of origin storybooks for their newest tabletop game, Fairytale Games: Battle Royale. I will be providing all the backstories for their characters, as well as providing the dialogue and storyboarding for the mobile RPG they will be developing from the same game. As a sneak peek, I am also toying with a dystopian science fiction YA series idea that has been banging around in my head recently. So much to do, so little time, and I can’t wait for all of you to be part of it!