Having spent her entire life living on Prince Edward Island, author Jaime Lee Mann has salt water in her veins. Some of her earliest memories include spending time in outdoor settings that have come to influence many of her works, including
Ancient Fall (Blue Moon Publishers), the story of a vengeful Mother Earth fighting back against a dark curse. We chat with Jaime for more about the origins of the series, born out of a nightly bedtime routine.
All Lit Up: Tell us about your Middle Grade Legend of Rhyme series and how it came to be.
Jaime Lee Mann: When my kids were very young, I would read to them or tell them a story as part of our bedtime routine. One evening, I made up a story about a little girl named Margaret who was walking through the woods (most of my stories involve people walking through forests) to visit her friend. She tripped on a root and leaned in to a tree to catch herself, but the tree was not firm. The tree sucked her in. When Margaret opened her eyes, she was looking up at a purple sky and could hear the sound of chimes. The chimes drew closer and she saw the source of the sound was a tiny blue fairy….
The girls would ask me every night to tell them more of the story, so I continued to build on to it. Eventually, I wrote the story down and gave it a proper ending. I called it, “Margaret and the Secret Soft Tree.” Fast forward to a couple of years later, when I had a publisher considering a picture book that I’d written. They asked if I had any books for middle grade readers, in the fantasy genre. I thought for a minute and remembered that bedtime story. The publisher loved it and asked if I could expand it for older readers, and turn it into a series. The rest is history. There is a little nod to the “secret soft tree” in Book 3 (Teagan of Tomorrow), but the story really did take on a life of its own.
ALU: It's been argued that physical geography shapes our identity, that there's a connection between our physical place in the world and who we are. As a writer, in what ways does your natural environment inform your writing?
JLM: Considering that I’ve lived in the same little corner of the world for my entire life (give or a take a few dozen kilometres), it’s hard to know what sort of a writer I would be if I grew up elsewhere. I absolutely do believe that there is magic in the salty sea air of Prince Edward Island. As a child, I spent my days on the beach below my home, and exploring the flora and fauna of the nearby woods. Whether it was hot and sunny, a snowy winter day, or a wind storm in the fall, I was outside with my sister, playing make believe. As I got older, I would sit on the big red sandstone rocks by our house and write angsty poetry. And as an adult, my favourite way to give myself a time out is to hit a nature trail or the beach.
I have always done my best writing in the outdoors and the settings I use appear in much of my writing. Anyone who is familiar with Prince Edward Island will be able to see bits and pieces of it throughout the land of Rhyme. In fact, most of the books were outlined when I was sitting on the grass under a tree in my yard, at my parents’ property, or at our favourite cottage in Cavendish, the famous home of Lucy Maud Montgomery and her fictional Anne.
I truly adore Prince Edward Island. There is salt water in my veins.
ALU: Who are some of your favourite PEI-based writers?
JLM: My favourite PEI writer is my mentor, Hugh MacDonald. He was the perfect creative writing teacher way back when I was in high school, and now I am glad to call him a friend. He has published works of poetry, children’s picture books, and his dystopian YA novel, The Last Wild Boy is a must read.
I’m also a fan of Dave Atkinson. He’s written a fun “thrillogy” of YA novels, starting with Wereduck.
And what sort of Islander would I be if I didn’t mention Lucy Maud Montgomery?
A bolt of lightning blasts the border, and a loud clap of thunder roars throughout the land. The fairies and elves protecting Cymbria brace themselves as electricity buzzes along the ground.
Teagan reaches into her purse for her mirror. “Maybe this can help!” she offers.
“Good thinking,” Blue states.
When Teagan opens the case, it catches the light of a moonbeam and begins to glow brightly.
Elizabeth commands, “Stay right there! You’re trapping the moons’ magic!”
“I am?” Teagan asks. “Cool!”
The waves crash harder on the shore as the second moon grows fuller. The wind starts to pick up, tossing everyone’s hair around.
“Naleah and Blue, will you join Teagan here?” Elizabeth asks. “Mermaid magic is strong. You should stand together. Asher and Ariana, you stand there, close to Naleah. Hope will join you. Marigold, Frederick, you come here with Seth and me. Now, everyone, join arms and place your hands out like this.” She lifts her palms towards the moons.
They all do as she instructs.
Still watching the sky, Ariana exclaims, “Oh! I see it! I see my star.” “Good girl. Make your wish!” Elizabeth demands. “The second
moon is almost full.”
“I wish,” Ariana starts, but she stumbles, as do all of the others when the earth groans and shakes beneath their feet. Teagan screams as the mirror falls from her hands. She reaches for it, but the movement within the ground pushes it far out of her reach.
“Keep going, Ariana!” Hope urges.
“Oh no! I lost sight of the star!” Ariana cries. The earth continues to groan, tossing them all about. A huge tidal wave barrels towards
them, blocking out the light of the moons.
“Run!” Blue cries. “All of you, run to land!”
The giant wave crashes against the shore as everyone hurries to higher ground. The spray is enough to soak them head to toe.
Ariana screams, “I can’t find it!”
“Hurry!” Hope yells. “The moons are full!”
A funnel cloud breaks through the magical dome and comes rushing straight for them.
The goblin, Grimblerod, meets them yelling, “Fire!”
Elizabeth puts out her hands and shoots a beam of magic at the cloud while Seth does the same with the wall of fire.
A woman appears to step out of the fire. Her long dark hair sweeps the grass. Though the earth shakes, she seems to tiptoe above it. She wears no clothes; her body is covered with vines, flowers, snowflakes, and butterflies. She stands almost twice as tall as Elizabeth. As she walks, a path of roses sprouts up behind her.
“Are you the ones who have come to save it all?” she asks. “Who is that?” Ariana asks Sibley.
“I think it’s...” Sibley starts, but before she can answer, Blue addresses the woman.
“How could you do this, Mother Earth?” Blue cries.
“I am not the villain in this story, child; you are.”
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Bestselling author Jaime Lee Mann has read stories from her Legend of Rhyme series to thousands of children during the last few years. Based on bedtime stories she told her children, this magical fantasy series has caught the attention of readers young and old, including award-winning author Paulette Bourgeois who calls it a "wondrous world populated with fairies and ogres, good witches and bad, and delightful protagonists.” Jaime's series is now part of the Squiggle Park educational game and is drawing attention of producers. JL (as her family calls her) lives in a pretty house in Prince Edward Island with her husband and two daughters. She writes every day and plans to do so for as long as people love to read her words.
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