A mysterious accident in the dead of winter and the entrance into a desolate land commences J.S. Bailey’s new novel, The Land Beyond the Portal.
J.S. Bailey; born Jennifer Schmid, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and until her marriage to her husband Nathan, lived in Clermont County in a small town named Owensville; the inspiration for the main character, Laura's, last name. Now her and her husband live in Amelia, Ohio.
The Land Beyond the Portal, examines the possible consequences of the dependency people have on technology and the importance of faith. The world Bailey has created is full of illusions, deceit, and secrets. The twists and turns will keep you on your toes and just when you think you've uncovered all there is, Bailey throws another whirlwind at you.
Sixteen-year old Laura's story begins after she awakens to find that she has no recollection of who she is. As if this weren't enough of a predicament, she enters a hidden basement where she is instantly transported to another unknown land. Destiny brings her to live with the towns royal family where she is welcomed with open arms; however, she quickly learns that there are rumors surrounding the royal family. Rumors that seem to contradict their behaviors and Laura's perception of them. As Laura uncovers the secrets of the town of Sparkling Falls you are introduced to an array of characters both witty and endearing. Laura's own character is captivating and well-rounded allowing for an instant connection.
The most enticing parts of Bailey's first novel are those that deal with Laura's determination for truth and good above evil. In her quest, Laura convinces other townspeople to take a stand and together they journey into a forest of discoveries. It is through these discoveries that we see the true power of God and Laura's fortitude. The Land Beyond the Portal is a refreshing story which I would recommend to anyone.
- When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Apparently I have been a “writer” of sorts from a very young age. My mother has a box of drawings and school projects I made when I was a kid, and some of the little books I made date from when I was five and six years old. The stories didn’t make much sense, and I provided my own illustrations. They’re actually kind of cute.
I decided that I wanted to be a serious writer in recent years, when I realized that I have no desire to get a “real” job. My dream is to be able to support my family from the sale of my books.
- How did you choose your genre?
I did not choose the genre for my novel. It chose me! There was a story I wanted to write; so I did. I would consider The Land Beyond the Portal to be a cross-genre novel that is a blend of mystery, suspense, and science fiction; with obvious Christian messages interwoven in its pages.
- You started writing The Land Beyond the Portal in 2003. How long did it take before the final version was complete?
I finished the final, not-edited-by-a-publishing-company version in January 2010. However, it would be misleading for me to say that it took me nearly seven years to write. While I was in high school, I set my manuscript aside for two years while I wrote a 109,000-word novel about shape-shifting aliens. It has not been published and does not deserve to be. At some point in high school I got out my old manuscript for The Land Beyond the Portal, sat down with my mother, and discussed ways that the plot could be improved upon. It took me the better part of three years to finish rewriting it.
- Can you share your challenges in getting your book published and how long it took?
I didn’t really have any challenges. I sent submissions to four publishers and was rejected by three of them. Tate Publishing accepted me in June 2010, and my book was officially released on July 12, 2011. Tate does require new authors to pay about $4,000 to get published, so I guess the biggest challenge was weighing the pros and cons of paying that amount of money.
- You’ve mentioned that you were reading 3 novels which helped inspire the book; can you tell us what the 3 novels were?
On my website, I mentioned that I read three novels that inspired me to write The Land Beyond the Portal. Two of them were The Merchant of Death by D. J. MacHale and Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry. I cannot for the life of me remember the name or the author of the third. It was something I picked up one day in my school library, and it had something to do with aliens taking over the Earth. You may note that there are no aliens in The Land Beyond the Portal. It still helped spawn an idea that grew and grew in my mind; as did the other books.
- Are there any similar traits between you and the protagonist, Laura, or do they stem from other experiences?
Laura’s character is just a product of my imagination, though we are both typically quiet, inquisitive, and determined people. (My husband would question the “quiet” part of this statement.) Laura has a lot more guts than I do, though. My idea of bravery is standing up and talking in front of a group of people. I would never be able to do the courageous things that Laura does.
- Is anything in the book based on real experiences or is it purely imagination?
Nothing in this book is based on true experiences. I did name the Owens family after my home town of Owensville, and that’s about it.
- What was your favorite scene or chapter to write and why?
Ooh, this is hard to answer! I think that some of Laura’s revelations were very fun to write because I was letting her finally realize what was going on around her.
- What was the most surprising thing you learned in writing your first book and getting it published?
I’d say that the most surprising thing about getting published is discovering all the work I have to do to promote myself. It’s tough trying to make yourself known and heard in the reading community.
- If you had the opportunity to do it all over again, is there any aspect of the book or getting published that you would change?
I think that if I had to do it again, I would do more research into embryology and in vitro fertilization. I knew the basics, but I think I simplified things too much for the book.
- Do you have a daytime job?
My parents own a “mom and pop” gas station and I work there several days a week. On slow days I have plenty of time to read and write. I think I wrote a large portion of The Land Beyond the Portal while at work.
- Did you do any outlining for the book or did it come to you as you wrote?
I jotted down a bunch of points I wanted to meet in the book, but I never made a formal outline. Some parts of the plot change as an author writes, so nothing in an outline should be set in stone.
- Did you design the cover?
A designer working for Tate made three cover designs, and I got to pick the one that would appeal the most to my target audience. I do not regret my decision, for I think that the figure of the falling girl on the cover catches people’s attention fairly quickly.
- Do you have to do a lot of traveling for your book?
I haven’t done much traveling. I’ve had two book signings and gone to talk at a local book club meeting, and all of them have been in the Greater Cincinnati area.
- Can you share with us any projects you're currently working on?
I’ve been trying to write a horror novel from a Christian perspective. It will involve revenge, forgiveness, and redemption. I am currently nowhere near completing it.
- Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
My advice for aspiring writers is this: Read a lot, write a lot, and edit, edit, edit! Another tip I would recommend is to read books on writing techniques. I have found them to be quite helpful.
- Is there anything you'd like to say to your readers and fans?
I would have to say Thank You for your support! An author without fans is like a car without wheels: I wouldn’t be going anywhere without you being there for me!
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**THIS BOOK WAS ORIGINALLY REVIEWED IN SEPTEMBER 2011**