Chimmeken Crossing the Delaware River on Christmas, 1776

D. Lee Jortner, when did you first know you wanted to be an author?


I have always had stories running through my head, but it wasn’t until a year ago, when I realized I had only months before I would be an empty nester, that I figured I may as well start writing before it was too late. So I just sat down one Saturday morning and cranked out twenty pages of a young adult mystery novel.

Awesome. What makes you passionate about writing?

From the day I started writing, I found that I was just happy. I can’t explain it more than that I just felt at home. I wake up wanting to write, and I go to sleep with characters, scenes, story ideas, and motivations in my head. I am never bored.

Amen to that. What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?

My first novel Corpse in Kitchen has yet to find a home, but even if I self-publish, it will get out there soon. But what is getting me going is working with Xchyler Publishing and submitting short stories to their contests. This fall I entered a contest with other Xchyler writers and wrote a Steampunk version of the O. Henry classic “The Ransom of Red Chief.” So now the Payoff of Air-Pirate Pete will be appearing in Mechanized Masterpieces II.

Congratulations.  Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?

My biggest discouragement was also my funniest moment. I have a master’s degree in English. I have been teaching English composition to freshmen college students for over fifteen years. I am constantly drilling into their brains that academic writers don’t use contractions. After I had written my novel, convinced a couple of friends (including one other Comp teacher) beta read, I mailed it off to a young editor. Her first comment on my 250 page YA story: Why didn’t you use any contractions ? I couldn’t believe how naïve I had been, and how much I needed to learn! So I just started reading as many YA books and blogs for fiction writers as I could, and tried again.

I think we all are. Please tell us about your book, Chimmeken Crossing the Delaware: An American Historical Fantasy.

Cover Chimmeken

This book started as a short story contest entry, for the fantasy Anthology for Xchyler Publishing. But to be honest, it is a lot more history and appeals to a younger audience that most of the other stories in the anthology.

I tells the story of Washington Crossing the Delaware River on Christmas Day in 1776, though the eyes of Chimmeken, a German Kobold (house sprite) who is concerned for the well-being of his family as well as the Hessian soldiers on the other side. He gathers an unseen army of fey characters to help influence the outcome of the battle. I draw from the most recent historical documents, including personal letters of some Hessians, who have been conscripted to fight, as well as young Quaker men who have left their religion and families to join Washington. Since Kobolds are tricksters, the story involves a lot of fun tomfoolery mixed into the history. Running only 40 pages, it is a quick fun read. I know my grandson, (in grade four) is studying this battle right now, so it would be a perfect read for middle grades and up.

Your main character has a strange name. How did you come up with that?

I picked Chimmeken’s name when I read that the most famous German Kobold stories often involve a Kobold named Chimmeken. And I love how it sounds!

How interesting. Who has made the most difference to you as a writer?  

I will be honest. The biggest contributor to me as a writer is my husband, and not in the way some might think. I have to beg him to beta read. He rarely reads fiction, as he is a biography kind of guy. But he gives me all the space/time I need to pursue whatever I am doing. If there is no dinner, or no clean clothes, or no nights out, as I am in the middle of a re-write, no problem. Having the freedom to work hours and hours a day and into the night is the best gift ever.

Besides writing what other talents or hobbies do you have?

I can’t sing, I can’t dance, and I am not organized, but I can teach and cook (when I want to) and am not afraid to talk to anyone.

Good for you… What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?

I am still working on this question. I find I need to dig deep into the motivations of why my character is in the place he or she is at the moment he or she is there to help the reader see the real character in my story. If I know how they got there, then perhaps I can make them real.

What is the biggest compliment you could revive from a reader.

The best compliment is one a beta reader gave me on Corpse in Kitchen 3, even before the last two re-writes. “I read right through dinner.”

LOL. Where can readers go to find your books?

This week, (December 21-25) to mark the anniversary of Washington’s famous battle, my middle grade book Chimmeken Crossing the Delaware is available free on Amazon Kindle.

In addition, readers might enjoy my fun Christmas story: Peter Elf which I have posted on my Blog for the season.

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