Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Malayna Evans' Debut Author Spotlight #NewBook #20Questions at Operation Awesome

Debut Author Spotlight from @JLenniDorner on @OpAwesome6

Jagger Jones and the Mummy's Ankh by Malayna Evans link

1- Could you tell us more about your visits to schools to teach children about ancient Egyptian culture?

There have been so many great things about debut year, but talking ancient Egypt in schools has been my favorite part. So many kids are already interested in the culture, on account of the mummies and animal-headed gods. ☺ But they’re often surprised to learn about the many ways our social scaffolding—our calendar, writing system, and some medical practices for example—were shaped and influenced by the ancient Egyptians. I’m having so much fun visiting schools and classes, in person and via Skype.

2- Would you please, in 160 characters or less, give a #WriteTip ?

My #WriteTip is: find good critique partners, invite feedback, and try not to be defensive when it comes. You don’t have to take it all. But your writing will get better if you take a lot of it.

3- What ignited your passion for writing?

I was a bookworm in middle school. I’m from a small town and books helped expand my world, introducing me to people and places beyond my small town. Because I loved reading, I learned to love writing. I also think it was my early interested in reading that led me on a topsy-turvy path from reading about fantasy worlds to studying ancient history to earning a Ph.D. in ancient Egyptian history. But it wasn’t until my son, then nine (now 16 and 6’2”), suggested I write a book about a kid who looked like him lost in ancient Egypt that I got serious about writing. So I guess you could say my son inspired my passion for this particular book.

4- Rumor is that NaNoWriMo has the "time" theme this year. Any tips for wrimo's planning to write a historical or time travel book?

One thing that helped me, as a trained historian trying my hand at writing for kids, was to focus on big picture issues and not get too lost in the pedantic historical details. I’ll admit, my first effort went up in flames! Very little of my original manuscript survives in the book’s current form. There’s still a lot of history there. The magic spells are based on real spells, most of the people are historically attested, the place and setting is real, and the artifacts, which are the heart of my story, can be found in museums across the globe. Even the plot was influenced by real upheavals of the time, as well as a specific tomb I’m partial to.

But rather than focus on the small historical details, on my second attempt, I concentrated on the story and on the spirit of ancient Egypt. Once I made that adjustment, the story started to flow.

5- What's your Twitter handle, and do you have two or three writer friends on there to shout-out to for #WriterWednesday ?

I love writer Twitter. I’m @Malayna if you want to be friends there. ☺ There are so writers I admire on the platform, it’s hard to pick just a few, but I’ll suggest three newer authors I enjoy following: @marilock, @naomimilliner, and @AmalieJahn

6- Would you share a picture with us of what your book did on summer vacation?

My summer vacation this year was me, my eleven-year-old daughter, and Jagger Jones, stopping at bookstores and connecting with writers and teachers. It wasn’t Paris, but it was a ton of fun. And my daughter got paid in hedgehog (truly), so in the end, my summer book vaca even expanded the family!

7- Do you have any back-to-school tips for middle graders?

You don’t have to be perfect. You get to be yourself and it’s okay to have fun. But also, lots of things found in books and classes are actually fascinating so stay open minded—you might discover passions that will last a lifetime.

8- What most motivates you to read a new book?

At the moment I’m trying to read as many of the debut middle grade books as I can get my hands on. There are so many good books hitting the shelves this year. In general, I’m drawn to fantasy and historical fiction. I love YA and MG. And I’m one of those people who thinks the world needs more dystopian. And maybe I shouldn’t admit I’m draw to great covers but the truth is, I’m a sucker for great cover art.

9- What is your favorite book by someone else, what's the author's Twitter handle, and what do you love most about that book? #FridayReads book recommendation time!

Author name: Madeline Miller @MillerMadeline
Title: Circe
Love because: My favorite (non debut) book this year was Madeline Miller’s Circe. I adore how she makes this modern mythology so relevant and powerful. I’m crazy about ancient meets fantasy and she’s a master.

10- Who is currently your biggest fan? What does that person love most (or "ship") about your debut novel?

My kids are my biggest fans and they also inspired the brother-sister characters. My daughter has a lot in common with Aria. My son isn’t much like Jagger, but they do share a strong sense of responsibility for their younger sis (perhaps a little too strong). And their banter is on point, if I do say so myself. I’m pretty sure the thing they love most about the book is that they inspired it.

11- What emotions do you hope your book will evoke for the reader, and is there a particular scene you hope will resonate with readers?

The scenes that bring the past and the present together are my favorite bits. For example, when Jagger and Aria are on the Nile, under attack by giant crocodiles, the magician travelling with them can’t repel the danger because her magician’s bag has been stolen so she doesn’t have wax on hand. Aria pulls gum out of her purse and voila, crocs conquered. I wanted to mash up past and present, push readers to think both about how strange things we take for granted would seem to people who lived thousands of years ago, and also about the beliefs and objects that animated people then.

12- Do you have a favorite #bookstagram image or account/ profile?

My favorite page on Instragram is more Egyptology than books honestly. I love a lot of bookstagram pages, but every time I happen upon pictures of the pyramids or a scribal kit or a dung beetle rolling a ball of dung (yeah, that’s a thing) it makes me smile. If you’re into history, egyptologlessons is a fun follow.

13- How do you hope your book will help readers in their life?

I hope kids see themselves in this adventure. Our families come in so many shapes and sizes and colors but no matter your situation, you can be the hero of your own story. And if readers gain an interest in history that’d be a huge win—I’ve snuck a fair number of facts in between giant crocodiles and killer scorpions.

14- What is the most memorable trait or visual oddity of one of your characters?

Aria’s hair is pretty fabulous. She has big curls—curls she’s so fond of she refuses to let her ancient Egyptian friends cut it, even though they insist kids in ancient Egypt were bald but for the side ponytails that marked childhood. Turns out, Aria’s willpower is as big as her hair and even magicians and princesses can’t get her to lose the curls.

15- In what ways are the main characters in your book diverse? #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Jagger and Aria, like my own kids, are mixed race. That’s handy when they get to ancient Egypt—they fit right in.

16- Who is your favorite book review blogger?

I’ve had a lot of fun working with bloggers as I launched the first book in this series. Again, it’s so hard to choose a favorite but Karlita of Tale Out Loud is a true sweetheart and I admire the work she does.

17- What was the deciding factor in your publication route?

Launching your first book into the world is a heavy lift. Fortunately, I have a fabulous agent, Liza Fleissig, who guided me down a path that worked well for me. Working with my terrific small publisher, Month9Books, has been a pleasure. I feel fortunate to have such great talent helping me, and Jagger, find our way.

18- Why do you think readers should write book reviews?

Book reviews are incredibly helpful to authors. Most of us are on our own for marketing and honestly the best support we get is reviews from readers. If you appreciate an author’s work, leaving a review is a great way to support them. And, of course, it helps other readers figure out if the book is a fit as well. Gotta love a win win!

19- Do you have one question or discussion topic which you would like the readers of this interview to answer or remark on in the comments?

I’m open to anything. If you’re a teacher or librarian and have questions about ancient Egypt, I’m happy to share my two cents. But honestly any topic is welcome—I’m a bit of an open book.

20- Anything else you would care to share about your book and yourself?

Just my appreciation. It’s so great to share a bit of Jagger’s adventures with you and your audience. As I said, launching a series is a challenge so I’m learning as I go. Fortunately, people are incredibly nice and supportive and blogs like this provide enormous value, so thank you for hosting me!


Jagger Jones is a whiz kid from Chicago’s South Side. Ask him anything about Ancient Egypt, and Jagger can fill hours describing all that he knows. But when he and his precocious little sister Aria fall more than three thousand years back in time to the court of Amarna, Egypt, Jagger discovers a truth that rocks his world: books don’t teach you everything there is to know. The ancient court of Amarna is full of over-sized scorpions, magical amulets, and evil deities determined to scare unwanted visitors away. If Jagger and Aria are to return safely home, they must find nine soul-infested gemstones, defeat an evil general, save the royal family, and figure out how to rescue themselves! Armed only with Jagger’s knowledge of history and a few modern objects mined from his pockets and Aria’s sparkly purse, the siblings have exactly one week to solve supernatural riddles and rescue the royal family. If they can pull it off, Jagger Jones just might return to Chicago a hero


Malayna Evans was raised in the mountains of Utah and spent her childhood climbing, skiing, reading Sci-Fi, and finding trouble. Many years later, she earned her Ph.D. in ancient Egyptian history from the University of Chicago. She’s used her education to craft a time-travel series set in ancient Egypt. Book one, Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh, is on the shelves now (book two is scheduled for March of 2020). Malayna lives in Oak Park, Il, with her two kids, a rescue dog, and a hedgehog.



Plus buy links if handy…


Jagger Jones and the Mummy's Ankh by Malayna Evans link

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