Friday, November 13, 2009

"These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things..."

My guest is Victorian Gothic author, Leanna Renee Hieber. I had the opportunity to meet the irrepressible Leanna at a RWA writers' conference in September.

Leanna is a sassy redhead and a lot of fun and she also knows the value of *presence* She did a fun and informative workshop on Direct Your Book--Using Theatrical Techniques. The gist of the workshop was to remember that while you're an author, you also are a Cinematographer, Director, Actor, and Marketing Director. Each plays a vital role in our writing. The workshop was great for visualizing your work and your characters.

Leanna has a unique way of looking at things in life and how they play into the writing process.

  • Leanna, tell us a little about you:

Hello friends! I'm an award winning author, actress, playwright and author of the Strangely Beautiful series of Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels, beginning with The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker.

  • I'm glad you were able to visit with us a bit today.
I'm so thrilled to be here Over Coffee with all of you!

  • Gothics used to be quite popular and then segued into mostly paranormals (with ghosts, other worldly creatures etc) and true atmospheric Gothics fell by the wayside. What drew you to Gothics and the Victorian period in particular?
I've just loved Ghost stories as long as I can remember, and the Gothic style just calls to me like a siren, it's just like a second skin. I think it's the drama of them (being an actress and playwright, it's fitting).

As for why the Victorian era, another childhood obsession that I can only chalk up to a past life.The conflict and the strained romance of the time just adds so much delicious tension!

  • You've given your Gothics a modern twist with fantasy/para, but would you still classify them with the old Gothics? How are they similar? Different?

Absolutely, I'd say I'm in the 'old school' Gothic style, but inspired healthily by Fantasy novels.

  • I know of several who love and write dark Gothics but aren't seeing a lot of results. Your books seem to fit a niche and I'm seeing a resurgence of interest in Dark Gothics again.

I do think there's great timing for [Gothic] series right now, however I couldn't have known that when I started the book nine years ago.

  • A case of writing what you love to read. I'm glad you persevered! It's a good book. What are some of your favorite things and do you use them in your writing?

I thought I'd make a list of all my favourite things because these are all things that have come up in interviews and when I look at this list, I realize it's a very important list to understanding me as a writer. I feel like singing a little Sound of Music here...

Except we don't have sound, Leanna, but I admit the song has been running through my head.

A (nearly comprehensive) list of Leanna's favourite things:

  • British Accents
  • British Actors-
  • Greek Mythology (and Mythologies in general)
  • Ghost Stories
  • Writing (since I could hold a pen and finish a sentence, it’s my favourite thing to do with my time)
  • Helpless romanticism
  • Brooding, brilliant, magical men who seemed wicked but weren’t (Just like Anne of Green Gables says, she wants someone who isn’t wicked but has the possibility of being wicked. I’m so Anne... )
  • Fantasy novels (Especially Harry Potter)
  • Gothic novels/literature
  • Jane Austen
  • Theatre (everything about it)
  • Gothic things (like architecture, music, clothes and all things under said title)
  • Dr. Who
  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • Alan Rickman (the best actor in the known world)
  • London- The Victorian Era and everything therein – (I have no idea why as a child I was flouncing around in doubled skirts and makeshift corsets, speaking in a British Accent in rural Ohio. I credit a past life because I don’t know how else to explain my long time love affair with the 19th century, or why London felt uncannily home when I went there.)
  • Birds
  • Pine forests (moonlit, please)
  • Red wine or a dirty martini
  • String music
  • cheese
  • Soulful singer/songwriters- Making things up that were utterly impossible and/or utterly non-traditional.
  • Ghostbusters
  • The Muppets (Particularly The Muppet Christmas Carol)
  • A Garden-style graveyard
  • Stained Glass (Particularly Louis Comfort Tiffany)
  • Central Park
  • Fine Art (particularly the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood)
  • The BBC (Yes. I am an anglophile)
  • My beloved pet rabbit rescued from a testing facility, named Persebunny
Save for the anachronistic things, many of this said list make their way into the Strangely Beautiful series in one way or another.

They say we are what we eat and I think we are also what we love. I'm so interested in the way that creativity meets our great loves in life, and to discuss that with writers and readers.

  • Writers: What are your favourite things and does your list make it into what you're writing?

  • Readers: Do you look for aspects of your list in what you read?

I hope you'll check out The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker. I've just announced the title and cover of the Strangely Beautiful sequel, The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker, which will release April 27th, 2010.

Come find me on Facebook:

Blessings to you!

Award-Winning author, actress and playwright Leanna Renee Hieber grew up in rural Ohio where her childhood memories are full of inventing elaborate ghost stories. Graduating with a BFA in Theatre from Miami University, a focus study in the Victorian Era and a scholarship to study in London helped set the course for her books. The dramatic, historic, spiritual and paranormal are the primary forces in her lyrical, eerie, atmospheric fiction.

While performing in the regional theatre circuit, her one-act plays such as Favorite Lady, were published, produced, won awards and continue to be produced in colleges and festivals around the country. She has adapted works of 19th Century literature for the professional stage.

She hit the fantasy fiction scene with her novella Dark Nest which won the 2009 Prism Award for excellence in Futuristic, Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker is the first in her Strangely Beautiful series of ghostly, Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels published by Dorchester Publishing.


~Sia McKye~ said...

Leanna, welcome to Over Coffee and I'm so glad you could make it. I have plenty of Coffee, tea, homemade scones (yes I do have Devonshire cream if you so desire), and pastries.

Btw, I love Alan Rickman's voice! Like warm chocolate. sigh...

Elle J Rossi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elle J Rossi said...

Good morning Sia and Leanna!


I will actually have the pleasure of meeting you very soon. I've heard you will be our guest at the WisRWA meeting next Saturday. I'm really looking forward to it.

To answer your question, I feel I incorporate a lot of what I like into my stories. One of my favorite things in life is coffee. I've found that I always have a lot of coffee drinking going on in my books. That's okay by me. Coffee is universal...everyone can relate. I also LOVE country music and try as I might to keep it out, my heroine always ends up singing a few country tunes in her head. I think it's because country music is about real life and no matter what situation you're in, you can always come up with a country song that will fit.

See you soon,

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

Hi Sia,

THANK YOU for hosting me! I feel right at home, you're such a great hostess!

And yes, Alan Rickman's voice is heaven. He's who I modeled Alexi after :)


I can't wait to meet you! I hope you can come to the Waldenbooks signing after as well! I've heard from Edie what a lovely group you are and I always love connecting with other writers, I'm so excited!

Coffee IS universal! What a wonderful detail to have present in your work. I couldn't agree more about country music, it's so based on storytelling and that's what I love about it so very much. Nothing makes me cry like a good country ballad. I was just listening to "Travelin' Soldier" by the Dixie Chicks the other day and I just can't ever hear that song without weeping.

Oh, just want to fix one link, I've created a new "Strangely Beautiful" Facebook page rather than the one just for the first book so I gave the wrong link, should be

Blessings and thanks!

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Wonderful interview. I have had the pleasure of knowing Leanna for the last few years and reading her book. And I can say that she is just as delightful in person as she is on the web.

Leanna Renee Hieber said...


I should pay you to say the nice things you say! :) Thank you. Everyone make sure to track Elizabeth's incredible blog, SCANDALOUS WOMEN (For which there shall be a 2011 nonfiction BOOK! Huzzah!)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Elizabeth, What wonderful news for you! I'll have to check out your blog.

Kat Sheridan said...

Hi, Leanna! I was lucky enough to attend your workshop at the COFW conference, and enjoyed it more than I can tell you! I also very much enjoyed reading your book. I loved the mix of Gothic and mythology.

I'm one of those Sia mentioned that writes gothic romance. Old fashioned, brooding castle on the cliffs, scarred master of the mansion kind of romance. No ghosts and nothing paranormal, just a crazy woman in the tower. No takers on it yet, but I wrote it because gothics are squarely at the top of my list of favorite things! I've never sat down and made a list of my own, but I found myself nodding as I read through yours, agreeing with any number of them!

Best of luck to you, and I'll be looking forward to your next book!

VA said...

Dr. Who, Poe, and mythology fan over here.

Sia, I would love a scone with some clotted cream and jam. A cup of tea would suit me just fine this afternoon.

Leanna I have just delved into the world of paranormal, I so glad you here at Sia's cause I had no idea there were real Gothics being pubbed anymore. How intriguing. I will scamper off to visit your link.

Did you ever wonder if you would find a home for your stories? And what started you down the path of writing Gothics?

Scampering while I await a response.


Hi, it's "groupie". how much fun to see you pop up again. every interview teaches me more about you. i love the cover for the next book!

Judi Fennell said...

And Leanna's too modest to mention it, so let me be the one to crow her news to the blogosphere:

Strangely Beautiful is #7 on PW's BHB Best Book of the Year for 2009


Leanna Renee Hieber said...

Eek! I responded last night but I guess my comment didn't post. Silly computer.

Hi there! I'm so thrilled you enjoyed the book and the workshop, I had such a great time at the conference and though I'm in NYC I'm so thrilled to be a COFW member and hope to continue to be involved any time I come home to Ohio! Hope to see you at RT? Keep me posted on your Gothic, too, and best of luck!

Hello! I absolutely wondered if the Strangely Beautiful series would find a home, it kept getting rejected for being too cross-genre. But thankfully many jet-setters ahead of me have really been making cross-genre not a dirty word any more so that helped pave the way. Plus Dorchester is known for taking risks, taking on new authors, and doing trend-setting things. I lucked out, it's a great house with a great editor for this series. I think that's the key, trusting your work will eventually end up in the house it's meant to be in. It just took a long time for me to find that right fit, and I had to keep tightening the book and making it sharper and sharper to keep people interested- it went through a lot of drafts, but always kept it's spirit and style. What started me writing Gothics was that it was just what I longed to write and read, the dark, brooding and atmospheric quality was like a drug to me. I started my first novel when I was 12, it was a Gothic romance that shall never see the light of day but it was also set in 1888 and set my course for the discipline of writing a long work of fiction. So I guess it's just 'what I've always done' - what makes sense to my muse, heart and desires. There's a tingle of magic up my spine when I think of all the things that signify a Gothic, and that tingle is what drives me to write.

I love my groupie! Great to see you Sandra, thank you so much for your support, you make my day. Glad you like the cover as much as I do!

Hello beautiful!
I'm SO thrilled to be there on that list with you! In Over Her Head gaining such high marks on that list speaks to your ability to not only write a lovely book but inspire people to support it, you've got something to be very proud of there. Thanks for mentioning the list, and congratulations to you on your awesome placement, it's so nice to see a fellow debut author doing so beautifully. I hope to see you soon at a future event! RT?

Judith Mercado said...

Thank you, Sia, for your wonderful comment on my blog, Pilgrim Soul. I want you to know that you inspired me to post one of my short stories next. It is, you'll find, related to The Family Business post.

Now, turning to your post and how many roles a writer must assume, I have probably learned as much about writing from watching Bravo's Inside the Actor's Studio with Jim Lipton as I have from any writing class. Listening to the actors describe how they develop character has been very useful.

~Sia McKye~ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
~Sia McKye~ said...

Judith, you have a lovely, though provoking Blog. I'll be watching for the short story.

Bravo's Inside Studio? Huh? I'll have to check that out.

Leanna did a great workshop on that subject too. She culled her many years of experience in the theatre. It really hit home.

Her Workshop taught how actors have to be able to see the character, motivations, goals, conflict, to play that character. If those things aren't clear, they can't do the job. To keep in mind distance and placement of each actor in the scene we're crafting. I admit I had a lightbulb moment.