j. leigh bailey on Writing, Research, and her latest novel Chasing Thunderbird (Shifter U #2) (author interview and giveaway)


Chasing Thunderbird (Shifter U #2) by j. leigh bailey
Dreamspinner Press
Dreamspun Beyond
Cover Art: Aaron Anderson

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have j.leigh bailey here today on her tour for Chasing Thunderbird. Welcome!



Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with j.leigh bailey

I’d like to start with a big “Thank you!” to Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for having me here today to celebrate the upcoming release of Chasing Thunderbird, the second book in my Shifter U paranormal series.

  • With so much going on in the world today, do you write to explain? To get away? To move past? To widen our knowledge? Why do you write?

I write for the same reason I read: ESCAPE. Honestly, sometimes the real world sucks—you just have to turn on the news or review your Twitter feed to see this—but books, especially romance novels, provide an escape like no other. As a reader, I love knowing that no matter what happens to my characters, no matter what challenges they face, or how bad the bad guy is, there will be a Happy Ever After. As a writer, it’s very much the same. One of the frustrating parts of watching the news or seeing people be hateful to and about each other, is how helpless it can make you feel. There’s only so much a person can do, and sometimes it feels like it’s not enough. As a writer, I take back some of that control. Sure. I can make the world my characters live in tough, but then, with a few strokes of my fingers, I can make it all right again. I add a little heart ache and a dash of angst, but then I turn around and create love. There’s nothing more rewarding than creating a world of love and hope, even if it’s fiction. Sometimes, especially because it’s fiction. As a writer, I can create that same escape mechanism that I’ve relied on as a reader. Now, hopefully other can escape reality for a while in a world of my choosing, in a world where love and hope really can conquer all.

  • Have you ever had an issue in real life and worked through it by writing it out in a story?

I’ve been struggling with depression since I was a teenager. For years, I used romance novels to avoid dealing with the negative thoughts and emotions in my head. Novels were an escape, for sure, but they also became a crutch—and not necessarily a healthy one—for me. Eventually I learned better coping mechanisms (counseling, antidepressants, exercise, etc). One of the things that works really well for me is writing. I’m a huge believer in using writing—whether it’s journaling, poetry, short stories, novels, etc.—as a way to help cope with depression and anxiety. What it does for me—and others—is allow us to process different situations, thoughts, and scenarios with some emotional distance. I can take some of the negative emotions inside myself, give them to another character, and let them deal with it for a while. This distances enables me to stop internalizing things and to apply logic to an emotional situation. I discovered one of my emotional triggers almost by accident when writing one of my books. And as soon as I realized what I’d written, and what my characters were doing, I had a better understanding of myself. And with that distance, I learned to recognize my own triggers before I had too much time to get sucked into the downward spiral. It’s not a cure-all by any means, but writing has given me the means to process things in a healthier way.

  • Does research play a role in choosing which genre you write? Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures?

Writing paranormal creatures (like shapeshifters) in a contemporary is the best of both worlds. It allows me to get sucked into research and to get lost in my imagination. The best part of paranormal romance is getting to make stuff up. If you want a man to transform into a buffalo, it can totally happen. If you want to make up crazy snake-worshipping cults seeking immortality? Why not.  On the other hand, writing shapeshifters can start to get a little tricky, depending on how realistic (natural) you want your characters to be in their animal form. Which means research. I sometimes giggle at the random animal-related factoids I’ve had to research. For example, which is faster? A buffalo or a coyote? Answer: they both top out at about 40 miles an hour. Or, how many crows would you need to roughly equal the weight of an average sized man? Answer: the average crow weighs between .7 and 1.4 pounds. So if we average that to say 1 pound per bird, and if we figure the average human male is about 175 pounds, then it would take 175 (give or take) crows to equal the weight of an average-sized man. THIS is the kind of research I enjoy. In CHASING THUNDERBIRD I was also able to dig into many of the different Native American stories of thunderbirds and the great horned serpents to help create the origin story of Ford’s thunderbird and the bad guys. So, yeah, I love that my series gives me to best of both.

  • What’s the wildest scene you’ve imagined and did it make it into a story?

The wildest scene I ever pictured did, in fact, end up in one of my books. In fact, it ended up in STALKING BUFFALO BILL. At the end of the book there’s a scene where a number of members of the local shifter populations (coyotes, eagles, wolves, bob cats, bears, and a ticked-off thunderbird) band together to defeat the bad guys. Though it’s not quite as zany, I got the idea for some of the shenanigans from a memory of the Dr. Doolittle 2 movie with Eddie Murphy. When I first imagined the scene, I snorted because I thought it just might be a little over the top. In the end, it turned out to be one of my favorite scenes I’ve ever written.

  • What’s next for you as a writer?

The third book in my Shifter U series will be coming out from Dreamspun Beyond this summer. It’s called THE NIGHT OWL AND THE INSOMNIAC. One of the characters, Owen, is briefly introduced in CHASING THUNDERBIRD. Here’s the blurb:

Long nights lead to intrigue… and infatuation.

Chronically ill with a mysterious condition, Yusuf “Joey” Franke escapes his smothering family and doctors by moving halfway across the country to enroll in Cody College. Not long after arriving on campus, some of his symptoms disappear, only to be replaced by debilitating insomnia. Joey spends his nights wandering the halls of his dormitory and hanging out with gregarious and affable Owen, who works the night shift.

When he suddenly shifts from a sick college kid to a massive Asiatic lion, Joey discovers another side to Cody College—it’s a haven for shifters like himself… and like Owen, a part-time great horned owl. And being a shifter is hereditary, which means his parents have some explaining to do.

When Joey and Owen investigate, they discover more than they bargained for—a family deception, a dangerous enemy with international connections, and a love that might be too new to survive the backlash.


So, something I’ve been asking people, just for fun, if you were a shifter, what would you shift into?


**GIVEAWAY** I’ll be giving away a digital copy of Stalking Buffalo Bill to a random commenter who shares with me, if you could be a shapeshifter, what kind would you be (and why!). Giveaway will close on 2/17.


A Shifter U Tale

A legendary love.

Ornithology professor Simon Coleman’s reputation is at risk, and the only way to save his name is to prove thunderbirds are more than creatures of Native American myth. Grad student and part-time barista Ford Whitney has a lot on his plate, but it’s also his duty to make sure the resident bird nerd doesn’t discover shape-shifters—like himself—live on campus.

When a series of incidents related to Simon’s search put him in harm’s way, Ford’s instincts kick in, and they become closer than is strictly proper for student and teacher. Ford is forced to reveal his secrets to Simon, and their relationship is put to the test—Simon must choose between salvaging his reputation and protecting the man who protected him….


Things were not all they seemed at Cody College. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what didn’t fit, but it took less than a week into the new semester before I reached that inescapable conclusion. Maybe it was the scraps of torn clothing I found next to a tree in the green space between the parking lot and the sciences building on Monday. Or the discarded jeans I found on Wednesday.

Or maybe it was the fox chilling on a boulder by the dining hall, casually watching people go in and out on Thursday. Students streamed past me, clearly oblivious to the wildlife hanging out on campus. The fox wasn’t very concerned about my attention. An ear twitched as it met my eyes. A couple of kids holding hands crossed the space between the wild animal and me, not taken aback in the least about the fox on a rock.

Was it tame? Maybe someone’s pet? A mascot? But, no, the college’s mascot was a buffalo. I inched closer, checking to see if there was a collar amid the orange fur.

The fox’s tongue lolled out in a canine grin. Okay, seriously? The fox was laughing at me?

A guy in a Cody College hoodie stopped and shook his head at the fox. Thank goodness I wasn’t the only one to see it. Hoodie guy laughed. “Dude, you’ve got balls, man. If Dean Thomas finds out, you’ll be screwed.”

I turned to demand an explanation since the comment was completely out of left field, but he wasn’t looking at me. Was he talking to the fox?

“I should probably call animal control,” I said, deciding to ignore the guy who spoke to foxes.

Hoodie Guy burst into laughter. The fox rolled its eyes—it rolled its fricking eyes—and hopped off his perch and sauntered—sauntered!—away from the dining hall.

I thought Hoodie Guy was going to hyperventilate, he laughed so hard.

Nope. Things were definitely a little odd at Cody College.

About the Author

  1. leigh bailey is an office drone by day and the author of Young Adult and New Adult LGBT Romance by night. She can usually be found with her nose in a book or pressed up against her computer monitor. A book-a-day reading habit sometimes gets in the way of… well, everything…but some habits aren’t worth breaking. She’s been reading romance novels since she was ten years old. The last twenty years or so have not changed her voracious appetite for stories of romance, relationships and achieving that vitally important Happy Ever After. She’s a firm believer that everyone, no matter their gender, age, sexual orientation or paranormal affiliation deserves a happy ending. For upcoming releases and appearances information, sign up for her newsletter athttps://t.co/FfL9gFVJLQ.



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