A Few of My Favorite Things…
by Ellie James
A lot of people ask me how the Midnight Dragonfly series came to be. Truth be told, it was an accident. I never sat down one day and decided, “Hey, I’m going to write a series of Young Adult Thrillers.” Quite the opposite. I had a dream one night, an intense, vivid dream, one of those dreams you wake up and would swear you’d really been somewhere else, doing something else. One of those dreams that, with time, feels so much like a memory that sometimes you forget it wasn’t real.
Being the OCD person that I am, I became a little obsessed with what happened in the shadows of my sleep, when I was with a group of teens breaking into a beautiful mansion in the Garden District of New Orleans, long abandoned to the cruelties of time and neglect. What were they doing? What if one of the girls was psychic? What if she saw something really bad? What if no one believed her…
Soon, the bones of a story came together, that of a teenage psychic in New Orleans, on a dark journey to explore not only the scope of her abilities, but a past that has been hidden from her, a future foretold in prophecy, and two very different guys. For me, it was the beginning of the most exciting writing experience of my life.
Here are just a few of my favorite things…
1. Exploring the Unexplained/Psychic Phenomenon
From premonitions to dream interpretation, communicating with the dead, hypnosis, mind control, even Ouija boards, laying of the hands and reincarnation, the Midnight Dragonfly series enabled me to play around with two of my favorite topics: the frontiers of the human mind, and the ties that bind us all. The possibilities are endless, and the more research I did, the more I wanted to know, and the more intense Trinity’s journey became…
2. The City of New Orleans
The French Quarter. The Garden District. Cities of the dead. Haunting above ground crypts. Voodoo. Mysticism. Centuries-old oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. Abandoned buildings. Music. Secrets Laissez faire… The Crescent City quickly emerged, not as a setting, but as a central character in Trinity’s story, providing endless opportunity, and mystery. Sitting down to write was a like a daily mini vacation…where anything goes.
3. The Dragonfly Amulet
During the first book, I was writing a scene where Trinity is learning more about her mother, who died when she was a little girl. As part of this scene, I suddenly had Trinity receiving a necklace that belonged to her mother. This wasn’t something I plotted in advance, but the words just flowed, so I went with it. I needed to describe the amulet, and without really thinking, found myself talking about a dragonfly. From there, I began researching dragonfly necklaces, and quickly found this:
It was so amazing, and so perfect and, ultimately, led to the name for the series! However, that was just the beginning. I’d always loved dragonflies, but didn’t know much about them. However, as I began researching them, I was blown away by just how perfectly they fit the series. Legends about dragonflies abound. Like Trinity, they exist in two worlds, two realms. They represent dreams, the afterlife. One particular Native American legend maintains that dragonflies are actually the souls of the departed…
4. Messing around with dreams
Dreams have always fascinated me. What are they and why do we have them? What do they mean? Where do they come from? Are they random entertainment generated from the subconscious mind? Symbolic representations of challenges and stresses faced during the waking hours? Or are they something else, something far more compelling?
Movies like the Matrix or Inception or Shutter Island make my brain hurt, even as they thrill that curious place inside me—and fed the Midnight Dragonfly series. Is there more to our dreams than we realize? Can we harness them, access them later? Explore them? What if…our dream life is every bit as real as our waking life? What if it’s more real?
5. Watching Trinity Grow
Trinity arrives in New Orleans having spent the past fourteen years living alone in the mountains of Colorado with a rigid (but loving) grandmother who refused to talk of the past. She knows she’s different, that she sees things most people don’t, but she has no idea of the dark legacy awaiting her…or the future about to unfold. The first book is all about Trinity coming to terms with who she is. She’s curious, but unsure. She feels compelled to help, but doesn’t know how. By the time she second book opens, however, she’s much more comfortable with her abilities, and more than a little eager to see where they can take her! I was more than happy to show her.
6. Hands-on research trips
Remember that whole New Orleans thing? Yeah. If a city serves as a character in a story, you kinda gotta go there, right? So I did. Over, and over, and over. I walked every street Trinity walks, explored the cemeteries, ran the same route she runs through the Quarter. I stood outside the big abandoned hospital—and, um, maybe sorta slipped into some place that features prominently in Book 2, where, um, maybe I wasn’t supposed to go. …
7. An excuse to eat beignets
Nothing else needs to be said.
8. Meeting My Editor
Sometimes the planets just align. They do. And that’s exactly what happened when Destiny brought me to My Editor. The first time we actually sat down together, we were blown away by all the “me, too’s.” I’m an Aries…Me, too! My significant other is a Libra…Me, too! His name is Charles…Me, too! I love LOST…Me, too! I adore JJ Abrams…Me, too! I love things that can’t be explained…Me, too! I adore Haunted Houses….Me, too!
Serendipity. There’s nothing else like it!
9. Trinity’s relationship with her aunt
Trinity comes to New Orleans to live with her aunt, a hip, stylish thirty-something who she’s only met a handful of times. It’s a huge shock for both of them, thrown together by shared blood and yet essentially strangers. And yet, as Trinity’s life begins to unravel, it’s Sara who steps in with love and understanding, treating her with respect rather than like a child, and in doing so quickly becomes the one person Trinity can count on…
10. The way the characters took over
I had the story planned. I had the story plotted. I knew what was going to happen. I knew, that is, until I started to write. That’s when the characters took over, shoving aside my carefully detailed outline and revealing the REAL story…a story richer and more intricate than I ever imagined, especially….
Yeah, Dylan. Sigh…
12. Stepping out on a ledge
In taking over, the characters took me to places I never imagined going, including ledges I tried to protect them from. But Trinity and Chase and Dylan didn’t want to be protected. They wanted to step out on the ledge, and drag me right along with them. But they didn’t just want to be on the ledge. They wanted to go over it—and take me right along with them.
I jumped off a cliff once. It was in Colorado, along the Colorado River. We were white water rafting. Halfway through the trip, the guides stopped by these sheer cliffs. 33 feet they said…and invited anyone who wanted to jump, to jump. I said no. Those around me began to nudge me. Peer pressure took over, and I found myself standing on the edge of a cliff, shaking like a leaf. Just walk off, the guide told me. Don’t jump. Don’t leap. Just walk off. Um…yeah, okay. Just walk off a cliff. It’s not like that goes against ever instinct one has for survival or anything. But I did it. I walked off the cliff…and so does Trinity.
It was a lot more fun with Trinity.
13. All the Amazing People I’ve met along the way
Seriously. This has been so fantastic and unreal. The Midnight Dragonfly series has brought me in contact with fabulous readers and bloggers and publishing professionals, at conferences and book signings and talks, through my Facebook page and Twitter and email. We’ve talked Trinity and Chase and Dylan. We’ve talked dreams and premonitions and clairvoyance. We’ve talked about strong YA heroines and swoon-worthy heroes. We’ve talked writing and reading. Life. And it’s such a gift to make these connections and see all those awesome ties that bind in action.
14. Oh…did I mention eating beignets?
The Midnight Dragonfly Series: