Ellie: Hi, Angela…thank you so much for your interest in the Midnight Dragonfly series, and for these terrific interview questions!
Angela: First off; when did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Ellie: I think I’ve always known. I’ve been concocting stories as long as I can remember….I still have several of my earliest creations, such as Monster Falls In Love, and Jacquie and the Swamp. In middle school and high school I was always writing little poems (and even songs!) for my friends, usually about something romantic, and something dangerous! Growing up in Louisiana, my stories always took on a mystical feel, featuring ghosts and danger and all sorts of things that couldn’t be explained, and always, always a healthy dose of star-crossed lovers.
Angela: Where did you get the idea for the Midnight Dragonfly series?
It was one of those bizarre, unplanned things. A few years ago I wasn’t getting much sleep and woke up one early one morning from one of the most incredibly detailed, vivid dreams I’d ever had. I’d more than just seen a group of teens sneak into an old abandoned mansion–I’d been with them. I’d gazed into the darkness, and smelled the decay. I’d felt the fear, and the crazy blast of excitement at the prospect of a game of truth or dare. My heart was still racing when I woke up. The images lingered. I kept thinking about what I’d seen, and from the questions came: What happened next? What if one of the teens was a psychic? What if she saw something…something bad? What if she had a premonition? What if what she saw actually happened? What if no one believed her, or at least, no one but the last guy she should let herself begin to fall for?
As I answered those questions, the Midnight Dragonfly books were born!
Angela: What kind of research did you have to do for this series?
Ellie: Tons! There was research on my characters, with which my nieces (to whom the first book is dedicated) helped me out enormously. I laugh when I think about the random texts they received at all times of the day and night, and graciously responded to, all the way from “what would you say/do if XX happened, to kind (what?) of graffiti is on the bathroom walls at the clubs you go to, to what do you find most romantic in the whole world?
I also did a good bit of research into psychic phenomenon and New Orléans, post Katrina. It was incredibly important to me to paint a portrait of how badly Katrina hurt New Orléans, but also the resilient spirit of the city and the people, and how rebirth and rebuilding is everywhere. As it turned out, resiliency, rebirth, and rebuilding became powerful themes throughout the series.
Angela: What does the dragonfly amulet symbolize & why did you choose a dragonfly?
Ellie: It’s one of those serendipity things, actually. I didn’t sit down to write a series with dragonflies playing a key role. But during the first book, Shattered Dreams, I needed Trinity to receive a talisman that belonged to her mother, and the image of a dragonfly popped into my mind. I began researching dragonflies and was blown away at how mystical they are, in particular, how they represented existing in two realms at the same time–and dreaming. For my teenage psychic, who communicates with The Universe through her dreams, this was PERFECT. A lot of this is explored in the third book, Fragile Darkness, particularly a Native American legend about what dragonflies really are. 🙂
Angela: Are any of the characters in the MD series based on real life people?
Ellie: I think there’s little bits and pieces of real people in almost every character I write. It’s not a deliberate thing; it’s just the way characters evolve. I did give Trinity my birthday and made her an Aries, and I do have a lot in common with her, but at her core, Trinity is based on my amazing niece, who I call my daughter from another mother. It is she who insists that Aunt Sara is one-hundred percent me. I didn’t necessarily intend that, but now that my niece has pointed out the similarities, I can see them. As for the guys…aspects of Chase come from guys my niece has dated. And Dylan, well, Dylan is drawn from the qualities I love about a very special guy in my life. 🙂 And then there’s the villains. I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying: Warning: Not only can I put you in my book, but I can kill you, too. 🙂
Angela: I know you have written under the name Jenna Mills. Why did you decide to change your name for these books?
Ellie: Its kind of like Bath and Body Works versus Victoria’s Secret: Did you know they’re the same company? There’s some overlap between the two, but the Parent Company wanted each brand to have its own unique identity. This is the same philosophy at the root of Jenna Mills versus Ellie James. My Jenna Mills identity was a well-established romantic suspense brand. My YA novels, while incorporating many of the same elements—mystery, suspense, romance—are targeted to a different audience, so we decided it would be a good idea to create a separate brand and completely delineate the two offerings.
Angela: What authors are your idols and/or mentors?
Ellie: Soooo, so many. Early on it was Judy Blume. Later, Stephen King slipped in to dominate the mix. I love the way he does freaky. And I love the way Nora Roberts does relationships. I’m a big fan of thriller author Linda Castillo, and YA author Suzanne Collins. And then there’s JJ Abrams; he’s not a novelist, but he writes TV shows and movies, and wow, do I love the way he tells a story.
Angela: Where does you inspiration come from for writing?
Ellie: Everywhere. There’s barely a day I go through when a situation or scenario doesn’t cause my mind to wander, and my imagination to soar. I have an ongoing Note on my phone where I’m constantly jotting story ideas and question, character profiles, even dialog snippets. I’m a huge What Iff-er, and a huge believer in following your dreams,—my dream has always been to tell the stories that play through my mind. I have a plaque in my office that reads: You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. That totally resonates with me. You have to try. If you don’t, you’ll never reach your full potential, and you’ll never know what could have been. Each of us is capable of extraordinary feats. I had no idea what, exactly, to expect when I began exploring the stories in my head (and my heart), but I knew the only thing worse than failure was never trying.
Angela: What is your favorite book?
Ellie: The Stand by Stephen King. I love the scenario. I love the drama. I love the characters. The human struggle. The story of good versus evil. Of survival…
Angela: In the MD series, Trinity has visions. Do you believe that there are people who have the same ability in real life?
Ellie: I don’t simply believe that—I know it. I have so many firsthand examples, it’s impossible not to believe. When I was fifteen weeks pregnant, a friend “who knows things” told me I needed to prepare myself because my baby would be born early, very early. She told me he was a boy and had an amazing sense of humor and a will of iron, and that he would be okay. Smiling, she tongue-in-cheek warned me about how his bigger-than-life personality would simultaneously turn my life upside down and light up my world.
Two weeks later, at a routine sonogram, the doctor pulled back and informed us of a problem with my pregnancy, gravely warning us that in all likelihood the pregnancy would terminate. I was oddly calm, and refused to believe any of his grim assessments. My son was born early (30 weeks at less than 2 pounds) but he stunned all the doctors and thrived, and he’s now an amazing, rambunctious four-year old, whose bigger-than-life personality has simultaneously turned my life upside down, and lit up my world.
I could give so many other examples–dreams of family members passing away, and of planes flying into skyscrapers,—I’m absolutely convinced there is far more to the human mind and existence, to our abilities and the invisible bonds that connect us, than Modern Science is able to explain.
Angela: Just for fun, what is your most quirky habit?
Ellie: Ummmmm, you really want to know? I think it’s a tie: I don’t mix my food. Ever. I, um, pretty much eat all of one item before moving onto the next. Even with salads. I’ll eat all the cucumbers, then the tomatoes, then the olives, before finally eating the lettuce. I crack my husband up. 🙂 The other is…my closet. I color code my clothes, and arrange the colors from light to dark, starting with the whites and ending with the blacks. I, um, basically thought everyone did this, but in college I learned that wasn’t the case. It still baffles me that people don’t. I mean, it’s so much easier to find what you want when everything is organize. 🙂 🙂 🙂 Yeah, I know. OCD, a little?
Lol! Well, there you have it folks!! Thank you so much for doing this interview Ellie!! You have given us, especially me, a real in-depth look into who Ellie is and what the Midnight Dragonfly series is all about!! I especially love this series and it has been really awesome to be able to jump into your brain and learn how it all came together!! Below is some more info about Ellie James, such as where you can follow her on Facebook, and info on the second book, Broken Illusions. Be sure to check it out!! 🙂
~Angela, Mystical World of Books
About Ellie James:
Most people who know Ellie think she’s your nice, ordinary wife and mom of two young kids. They see someone who does all that normal stuff, like grocery shopping, walking the dogs, going to baseball games, and somehow always forgetting to get the house cleaned and laundry done.
What they don’t know is that more often than not, this LSU J-School alum is somewhere far, far away, in an extraordinary world, testing the limits of possibility, exploring the unexplained, and holding her breath while two people fall in love.
Regardless of which world Ellie’s in, she loves rain and wind and thunder and lightning; the first warm kiss of spring and the first cool whisper of fall; family, friends, and animals; dreams and happy endings; Lost and Fringe; Arcade Fire and Dave Matthews, and last but not least…warm gooey chocolate chip cookies.
You can follow Ellie on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Midnight-Dragonfly-Books-by-Ellie-James/154988421236309
Her current book, the second in the Midnight Dragonfly Series, BROKEN ILLUSIONS, is available from Griffin Teen May 8, 2012.
About the Midnight Dragonfly Series:
Glimpses. That’s all they are. Shadowy premonitions flickering through sixteen year old psychic Trinity Monsour’s dreams. Some terrify: A girl screaming, a knife lifting, a body in the grass. But others–the dark, tortured eyes and the shattering kiss, the promise of forever–whisper to her soul.
They come without warning. They come without detail.
But they always mean the same thing: The clock is ticking, and only Trinity can stop it.
Find out how in Broken Illusions!