Let’s congratulate Malayna Evans on the tremendous achievement of publishing JAGGER JONES & THE MUMMY’S ANKH, the first book in a three-book series. Wowza! That is truly something to be recognized and celebrated. All the members of On the Scene in ’19 are excited to read this Middle Grade novel coming to bookstores near you on April 30th. As writers, the inspiration to write our stories comes from many different sources. Read on to find out what inspired Malayna to write this Egyptian tale...and for a juicy little secret.
Where were you when inspiration struck for your story?
The idea for this story wasn’t mine. It was my son’s. At nine-years-old, he asked me what ancient Egyptians looked like. When I told my beautiful, biracial son he’d fit in well, he spontaneously whipped up a story about a kid who looked like him lost in ancient Egypt. We went home and wrote a chapter that afternoon.
While that original chapter has been edited out of existence, Lil’ Man’s starter idea is still in the book. He wanted the South Side Chicago kid to get to the past via mummy. In my son’s story idea, the boy stared into a mummy’s eyes and was magically transported back in time. In JAGGER JONES & THE MUMMY’S ANKH, Jagger and his little sister Aria touch an ankh amulet, which shoots them three thousand years into the past. But, the amuletison a mummy, and the mummy is a big part of the story, so my son’s inspiration is still in there. Of course, Lil’ Man is now sixteen and 6’2”, so he’s proud of himself for inspiring me, but not terribly interested in actually reading the book. (Good thing for his little sister, aka my best beta reader, who, predictably, inspired Jagger’s little sister character, Aria.)
What other jobs or careers have you worked in prior to becoming an author?
I’m an Egyptologist by training so I spent a fair number of years (and dollars!) studying at the University of Chicago, where I also did a bit of teaching. I spent the decade prior to that in media and I’ve spent the decade since grad school running a small marketing business, which I still run. I find I’m happier and more productive when I’m working in a creative environment, and the older I get, the more aligned my daily life seems to be with my creative goals. So hurray for growing older (and wiser?).
What does your writing schedule look like on a daily/weekly basis?
As a single mom and small business owner, my schedule is pretty hectic. But writing is a priority so I’ve found some creative ways to work writing hours into every week, if not each day. I’ve trained my kids to stay away on weekend mornings. (This gets easier the older they get—they sleep while I write.) I tuck extra weekday hours in during kid activities, primarily my daughter’s many hours at the gym for gymnastics. I’ve become a master at writing in small bursts at coffee shops and, um, sometimes the car. It’s wrong, I know, but a gal’s got to do what she’s got to do!
At what point in your life did you know you wanted to write?
I was raised in a small town, but I’m a big city girl at heart. As a kid, I spent hours on end pouring over books, usually science fiction. I loved Piers Anthony and Anne McCaffrey. Those books took me out of my small town, into world full of magic and adventure. I think I wanted to grow up and be like Piers and Anne even at a young age. But I wanted to be a writer in the same way some kids want to catch a unicorn—I meant it, but I didn’t really imagine I’d accomplish it.
After college, I started writing for fun. I wrote my first (really terrible) novel when I was about twenty-five, and a few other (equally bad) novels since. When I wrote my first version of Jagger’s story, I felt, for the first time, that I had a germ of something worth pursuing in those messy pages. By the time I finished my first full rewrite, I believed I could launch Jagger into the world if I could commit, do the hard work, and rustle up resources. Bless my fabulous agent, Liza Fleissig, and Month9Books, my publisher, for helping me get it into tip top shape. Now I can’t wait for readers to share Jagger’s adventure. Fingers crossed it resonates.
Are you working on something new at the moment?
JAGGER JONES & THE MUMMY’S ANKH is book one in a three book series. So I’m busy working on book two, and thinking about book three.
The other thing I’m really excited about right now is school visits. My passion for ancient Egypt has been a driver in writing and launching this series. I’m looking forward to sharing that passion with kids and can’t wait to get into classrooms and engage.
What would you like readers to know about you?
Well, I’m not sure I’m terribly interesting, but I will share an unexpected, book-related tidbit from my life. I’ve always wanted a tattoo. When I was trying to find my book a home, I decided I’d get a tattoo—an ankh, of course—to celebrate my first book deal. But then it took a minute (okay, a lot of minutes). So because I’m an optimist, I dove in and got the tattoo first, convinced a book deal would follow. Like magic, it panned out perfectly. Nothing like the power of positive thinking.
WATCH OUT FOR MALAYNA'S COVER REVEAL COMING SOON!