Today I’m delighted to interview the author of “Ahe’ey”, Jamie Le Fay. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for my author spotlight!
Leigh: Tell us a little about yourself.
By night, I write epic fantasy fiction seasoned with a pinch of romance and a handful of feminism. Maybe more than a handful . . . It’s probably more like two trucks and several IKEA bags of feminism. There, that’s better.
By day, I turn into a high-flying executive and I spend the day helping large organisations respond to digital disruption. Sometimes in the morning I find it quite difficult to shake off the dragons and the warriors from my mind. I walk to work listening to podcasts about technology and innovation; it’s my passage in-between realms. Slowly the winged lizards fly away and are replaced with less exciting C-suite types that live with their nose glued to excel spreadsheets. They believe that they’ll grow their businesses faster if they stare at the numbers for the rest of the day. I do my best to explain that business is about human interaction and impact. Sometimes they listen, other times I just go back home and am delighted to return to the company of the dragons.
I am Portuguese by birth, but I have lived in sunny Sydney for the past ten years. I hold dual citizenship—Australian and Portuguese—but I’m really a citizen of planet Earth.
Leigh: The main character, Morgan, is a feisty but compassionate fighter for human rights. Do you identify with Morgan? If so, in what ways?
I remember the day I discovered feminism. I was reading a book called The Curse of the Good Girl by Rachel Simmons. I had the same adrenaline rush I got when I first discovered brain plasticity, or the first time I read Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.
It was like that moment when you learn something so important that you want to share it with the entire universe; that time when you just can’t help yourself, you go around spreading your new-found wisdom using the largest possible megaphone, because you want others to benefit from it. You completely ignore that some people may not be ready to discover the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Worse, some know about the gold and only want to hide it.
Still, you persevere; you open the book and quote from the passages underlined in fluorescent yellow. The books and the studies are your shield against limiting beliefs, they protect you from the ghost that lurks in some dark corners of your mind—the impostor syndrome. You can’t stop researching, and reading, and watching YouTube videos about the topic. Soon you forget about the girl that wanted to fit in amongst the boys, just another software engineer. The more you learn, the more resolute you become—the media, the marketing, the biases, the privilege, it’s so unfair, all of it.
You talk to others about it at work, you organize groups, and you speak at conferences. You lead, you mentor, you connect, and you learn from others more experienced than you, others kind enough to take you under their wings. And then suddenly you understand your own privilege, and it’s devastating—the white corporate feminism, self-centered, navel gazing, and exclusive.
And eventually you look around, really look, and you see it—the systems of privilege; the structures of power. For the first time you see the girl in Congo, the mother in South Sudan, and the boy from Syria.
You see it, you are open and you are raw, and you must do something about it. You lean in for them in a way you’d never be able to lean in for yourself. You must, there is no alternative, they live under the same sky, the only border you recognize, at least until someone finds life in other planets, and then, even that last border will be dismissed.
This is me, and some part of me is Morgan, but like all of my other main characters, she has become her own distinct entity, she has taught me more than I ever imagined. Her journey is impacting my life as much as my journey defined hers. We are both passionate, idealistic, slightly preachy, and very flawed. She’s much braver and open than I’ll ever be. We’ll keep learning from each other, we’ll keep growing and hopefully we’ll keep spreading what we learn with the rest of the world, whether they like it or not. Now, where did I leave my megaphone? It was just here a moment ago . . .
Leigh: What were you like in school? Were you always good at writing?
I was very lucky. My working-class parents spent all that they had to send me to a private school in my country of birth, Portugal. I learned English, music, dancing, and piano from the age of three. I used to write stories and poems, and I even won a literary award at school. I was already nerdy, and completely naive regarding the social tribes that form at school. I often wonder at what age I started rejecting biases, it looks like I’ve been doing it all my life. I was bullied a lot in primary school; the rich kids could spot a misfit a mile away. I used to read a lot, my dad brought science magazines home every week and both my parents loved art. We didn’t have a lot of money, but I was surrounded by books, science, music, crafts, and creativity.
Leigh: What are you working on currently, both as far as initiatives for female rights and your writing?
Over the last few years I have founded several social impact initiatives focused on the empowerment of girls. Under my real name, I speak about topics related to girlhood, feminism, gender equality, and the misrepresentation of minorities in media and marketing. A few years back we raised enough funding to rent the biggest digital billboard in Times Square for an entire week. We displayed thousands of messages from girls all over the world. They asked for better representation of girls in the media and marketing. That week we were invited to Comic Con and to the UN’s Girls Speak out event. It was a lot of fun.
These days I am focusing most of my attention on book 2 of the series. The stakes are going to be raised a thousand times, and Morgan’s feminist values are going to be tested in ways she has never imagined.
Both Angha and Zanus continue to unleash chaos into the world of humans and Ahe’ey, but Angha’s two-hundred Dragons are the least of our concerns. A destructive darkness emerges from the purest of beings. The ties and the love between the four Royal descendants are tested to their limit. Death lurks around the corner waiting to harvest its prize. The heroes will rise, but some will fall. It’s inevitable and definitive. Rage can and will kill. The Ahe’ey will come across an unlikely ally, one they’d prefer to destroy, but things are . . . complicated.
Leigh: American females today look in the mirror and think they’re not beautiful. They buy make-up and clothing to try to meet an impossible standard. Many were also despondent after the loss of the presidency by our first viable female presidential candidate. What message do you have for these young women?
I rather let Morgan take this question. She’s the expert on this subject. Here’s an excerpt from Ahe’ey where she’s speaking to a group of girls and women about this topic.
“For many years, I’ve been reminding the women in the community that they are role models. That they should model self-esteem; that they should stop commenting on other women’s appearances and throw the beauty mags in the trash. As I do, I must admit that I sometimes feel like a fraud, because on occasions I’m paralysed by a tremendous lack of physical self-worth. So today, I want to acknowledge that we are all works in progress. I want you to know that sometimes it’s important to share, to look the monster in the face, to acknowledge its existence. Hiding what we are and projecting what we should be doesn’t always keep the monster at bay.
“Together, we are stronger. We work to overcome our upbringings; to outgrow the damaging fairy tales of our youth; to ignore the pressure from entire industries whose profits rely on our self-hate.
“And when you see the monster, remember to look it in the eyes and tell it that every second you lose worrying about your looks is a second you are not learning; it is a second you are not experiencing the world; it is a second you are not contributing to your communities in a positive way.
“When you don’t go to the park or to the beach because you are ashamed of how you look, remember the girls and boys that live in war-torn countries that are not allowed the joys of outdoors fun.
“In moments where you focus on your appearance, remember the girls that are kidnapped from their schools in countries where women are denied an education.
“Every moment you are unhappy with your shape or size, remember those who are paralysed, unable to walk, jump, or dance.
“When you starve yourself to reach unattainable standards of beauty artificially constructed by businesses, you are weakening your body and your mind. You are wasting away the precious moments you have and you are giving up your power.
“The obsession with beauty is death by a thousand cuts. Every micro decision is guided by meaningless worry that limits your future, your opportunities and your ability to experience the joys of pleasure.
“Because when you kiss your first boy or girl, you don’t want to be so caught up in your lack of self-worth that you forget to enjoy the kiss, that you forget that you deserve the pleasure of that moment. You don’t want to be so caught up in your lack of self-worth that you become an object of his or her desire, a grateful unworthy slave to his or her attention.
“Who you are has little to do with how you look. You are what you know, what you can do, the impact you have delivered, and the collection of experiences in your meaningful life.
“More than ever, this world needs your intellect, your cleverness, your resourcefulness, and your passion for making the world a better place for those who are less privileged than you.
“More than ever, this planet needs your kindness and your generosity. It needs those who reject the ‘I’ and celebrate the ‘we’. Those who reject hate, violence, and destruction for the sake of power and financial gain.
“You are the most powerful army in the world; you are the future of this planet. You cannot, you will not spend one more minute of your time looking in a mirror wishing you looked different. And if and when you do, you will have compassion and love for the monster; the victim in the mirror, the helpless slave to upbringing, culture and media. You will be kind to her, and then you will be brave, you will reject the victim, and become the fearless hero this world deserves. And you will reject it again and again and again until the voice inside your head that stands between you and your bright future can no longer be heard.
“Sometimes I need to remind myself that I’m not my reflection in someone’s eyes. That what is important; what is truly essential; what really matters about me is invisible to the eye.
“In those days I have to remind myself to live, to love, to laugh, to learn, and to lead.
“In those days remind yourself to live, to love, to laugh, to learn, and to lead.”
Leigh: Which authors had the most effect on your writing growing up?
When I was young, I was empowered and inspired by the stories and characters of a much-beloved author. Recently, I have discovered that although her books brought light to many, her life was filled with terrible hate and unbearable darkness. My heart shattered into a thousand pieces, and this book is my attempt to mend my wounds.
I honour Zimmer Bradley’s words as much as I firmly reject and object to her actions. The world is not black and white, and we rely on stories to try to make sense of the messiness. Stories matter but, in the end, history will judge us based on how we treat the most vulnerable people in the world, the ones who have nothing to give us in return. It’s my hope that my words find a way to contribute to my readers’ actions; Ahe’ey has certainly helped guide mine.
Leigh: What is your favorite motivational saying?
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” – The Little Prince
Leigh: Where can readers learn more about you and your work?
Blog: Blog for Angeel Series
Pinterest: Jamie Le Fay on Pinterest
Amazon Author Page: Author Profile at Amazon
Book Links: (* American, UK, etc.) https://www.books2read.com/aheey/
Thank you very much, Jamie, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.