This post contains affiliate links and clicking on them and making a purchase may result in us earning compensation without costing you anything. Money gained through affiliates helps keep this website up and running. All thoughts and reviews on these books are my own honest opinions. For more information about my affiliates and disclosures check out the Policies and Disclosures page.
Creative Spotlight on Fantasy Author DJ LeJeune
Tell our readers briefly about yourself.
Hi. Well, I'm a science fiction writer. Sci-Fi has always attracted me from Star Wars to Trek to Asimov to Arthur C Clarke and lots more. So naturally, that's what I love to write. I'm a father, a gamer, and a geek. I also love travel but don't get to do it as much anymore as I'd like.
Can you tell us about your most recent release? Album? Song? Art piece? Etc.?
I recently released a novel, Path of Relics: Aether Shard. It's a, you guessed it, science fiction novel. It's about the down-on-his-luck guy in a job-starved future who loves gaming. He gets offered the chance to play the game of his dreams and win money doing it. And this game, Path of Relics, is a virtual reality fantasy RPG that's real-as-life when you're playing. But as he's fighting in dungeons and traveling the countryside, he starts to see that events in the game are causing glitches in real-world Manhattan and that it's starting to kill people. It's like a mix of Ready Player One, Lord of the Rings, and Indiana Jones.
What inspires you?
Possible future experiences inspire my creativity. I love asking the question, what might this or that future experience be like? What things might we be able to do years from now that we currently can not because the technology isn't there yet? In Path of Relics, that question took the form of, what would it be like to play a real-as-life VR experience? One that basically transported you to a fantasy world of myth and magic. And what plausible technology might allow that?
What is your creative work routine like? Do you balance it with another job?
I write mostly in the mornings, but still have to balance it with a "day job." I do twenty-five-minute writing sprints, followed by a five to ten-minute break. Then I'll do another sprint. My work puts me on the road a good bit, however. So sometimes I have to do speech-to-text to hit my word count goals. But overall, I average about 10,000 words a week this way.
Do you plan out your creations? What is your creative process like?
I'm a hybrid author. I do a fair amount of thinking about the story beforehand, trying to land on the logical situations and motivations of characters based on my world-building. Then I'll outline the overall story and even write rough summaries of chapters. But once I get to writing the first draft, there's a lot of discovery in there. I often have a rough idea of the ending of the story in my outlining phase, but that changes and clarifies as I write.
Do you have a self-care routine or want to have one? What do you do or wish that you did to take care of your mental health?
It's a combination of things for me. Working out is part of it, but I don't do anything hardcore. It's mostly body-weight exercises I do at home during breaks. I also try to cycle on a stationary for at least 15 minutes each morning. And I walk around my neighborhood a few times during the week. Just being active and keeping that feeling of being healthy does wonders for my mental health.
I also use a "to-do" app, and I set recurring tasks for emotional well-being. For example, I do a quick "appreciation audit" where I take a few minutes to be grateful about good things in my life. I also have a task to remind myself to connect with family and friends. And another to review my goals and my "reasons why" I'm pursuing them.
I'm doing well with keeping to these routines lately, but sometimes in the past I've laxed on them, and I find that's when I start to feel a bit depressed. But it always tends to get to a point where I'm fed up with my lack of productivity or general "bleh" attitude, and I'll tighten things up again.
What is your favorite creation thus far?
It would have to be my novel, Path of Relics. It's my first, and the only thing I've done of that length. I used to think I just couldn't be an author, but finally, I just went for it. I've got a long way to go to reach the goals I've set for myself, mainly becoming a full-time author, but I'm committed for the long-term.
Do you have a character that is your favorite over others you've written into creation?
Terry, the main character of Path of Relics, was a lot of fun to explore. He's very different from me in ways, but his flaws are issues I've suffered from in life. He has a low sense of self-esteem, and it affects what he goes after in life. It was great to "guide him through that" based on the lessons I've learned.
Are there any recurring themes in your work?
The idea of "us vs them" pops up a lot in my stories. When it comes down to it, a lot of the strife we suffer in the real world comes from humanity's tribalism. So I explore that in my works. But also, my stories tend to focus on exploration and mystery. I love the trope of re-discovering something lost, whether that be the ruins of an ancient civilization, a powerful relic, or some forgotten knowledge.
What does success look like to you considering your creative passion?
Success for me is two-tiered. In a way, I'm already a success. I never thought I'd actually publish a novel and have any kind of success. But I have, and that's still hard to believe. But ultimately, success for me looks like supporting myself and my family solely from my fiction writing efforts. To be a full-time "work from anywhere" fiction author.
What advice would you share with new or aspiring authors/singers/artists/etc?
Things will probably take much longer than you anticipate, but that's okay. I think creators tend to focus on the stories of these people who write a novel or a song and they're instantly successful. Partially it's hope this will happen for us, and I mean, that's only human to want that. But it's easy to get discouraged and slack off or quit when that doesn't happen (and for most of us, it won't).
I say, that's the time to keep plugging away. Keep writing and getting it in front of people. Keep singing for people or getting your artwork in front of more people. It can take a critical mass of work under your belt and people who have heard of you before you really start to see any lasting momentum. That's the taleI've heard over and over again from other authors.
Where do you get your ideas for world-building?
Lots of places. Path of Relics was influenced a lot from Jim Henson's The Labyrinth. But there's also this tree I used to see at a place I worked. It had this crazy root system, so I took a picture of it. That tree inspired a major scene in my novel. Other inspirations come as I'm writing and a quirky but cool idea will pop into my head, so I go with it.
What genre do you prefer to read?
What hobbies do you have?
I enjoy gaming, but I'm more of a casual gamer. I love side-scrollers and mystery/puzzle games. I have a Quest too, so I'll play VR games. Also, my fiancée and I enjoy listening to live music around town.
Where can our viewers/readers/listeners find you and your work?
My novel, Path of Relics, is on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited. And you can find out more about me and my upcoming projects on my website at https://djlejeune.com