YA Guy is excited to introduce debut author, friend, and agency sibling Malayna Evans, whose middle grade novel JAGGER JONES AND THE MUMMY'S ANKH comes out on May 28! To me, this historical fantasy-adventure, first in a series set in ancient Egypt, sounds like it rivals the Kane Chronicles series by Rick Riordan, so I can't wait to read it. I asked Malayna to talk about her path to publication, and she responded with a story that's both bittersweet and empowering for aspiring authors everywhere!
I always wanted to be a writer … in the same way my eleven-year-old daughter wants to be a mermaid. It’s not that I didn’t mean it. I did. I even went back to school to earn grad degrees in ancient history, in part because I thought a few fancy pieces of paper might magically transform me into the next Margaret George or Madeline Miller.
Then life happened. And believe it or not, my mermaid job never magically materialized.
And then, life happened some more. In the midst of a family crisis, I took my son, then nine, to lunch one day for a heart-to-heart. I don’t know how we ended up talking about ancient Egypt. At the time, we both adored the topic. (Sadly, one of us--now sixteen--has outgrown it). After a depressing debrief, perhaps we just wanted to lighten the mood. It’s the following moments that are still clear in my mind. He asked me what ancient Egyptians looked like. I told my beautiful, biracial son he’d fit in well. And he said someone should write a book about a kid who looked like him in ancient Egypt.
When my son and I drafted chapter one, it was a parenting exercise, something for us to work on together during a rough spot.
When I kept writing, it was a hobby to spend time on as I found myself with a lot more free time on my hands than I was accustomed to.
When I finished a full draft, tracked down real feedback, tossed the first manuscript in the trash, and started again, I began to wonder: could I really land a job as a mermaid?
I didn’t know at the time how hard it is for unpublished authors to get an agent, or find a publisher, or actually launch a book into the world. In retrospect, my naivete might have been a blessing.
I did know I wanted to write a book that featured bright, creative kids--kids like my two little people--on a memorable adventure in ancient Egypt. And I wanted to share my passion for history with middle school kids, and make it fun enough that they’d enjoy learning, or, better, not even realize there was learning involved.
When I landed an agent, I thought my big mermaid-break was just around the corner. Turns out, as hard as that was, it was only the start. Fortunately, my fabulous agent, Liza Fleissig, has the patience of a mollusk. She stuck with me, helping me improve the work until it was good enough to send out. It took a minute (okay, a few billion minutes), but eventually she found my series a home.
Book one, Jagger Jones and the Mummy’s Ankh, is scheduled to be released on May 28th from Month9Books. And no, it doesn’t mean I’m a professional mermaid now. Turns out, most authors need regular-old-human day jobs. But it’s a start. And the goals that animated my pursuit are in sight. If kids read this book and see themselves in Jagger and Aria, or discover an interest in the ancient world, I’ll coin myself a successful mermaid … and quite possibly track down a seashell-drenched tiara to don. Because mermaids may not be real, but celebrating life’s accomplishments should be!
About the Book: 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. Mummies, pyramids, and cool hieroglyphics make awesome movie props, but 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.
You can learn more about Malayna on her website: http://malaynaevans.com
Or you can follow her on social media:
To preorder JAGGER JONES, go here: