Wednesday, March 3, 2010

‘Leanna Ellis takes a back seat to no one,’ says Debbie Macomber. But Leanna hopes she allows God in the driver’s seat as she taxies her two children to and from all their activities, lets her menagerie of pets in and out … in and out ..., figures out what to cook for dinner (or where to order takeout), and at the same time keeps those quirky characters in her head from bothering others. Winner of the National Readers Choice Award, Leanna writes quirky women’s fiction with a splash of romance. From a long line of southerners and patriots, she lives with her family in Texas.

When did you decide to be a writer?
Way back in 1991, I decided to quit teaching and start writing. But I was naïve and had no idea what I was getting myself into. From the beginning though, I loved writing and I devoted most of my time to learning the craft and business. At first it was hard for me to call myself a writer when I wasn’t published. My first writing teacher said, “Are you writing every day?” “Yes, ma’am.” “Then you’re a writer.”

At what point did you stop juggling suggestions and critiques and trust yourself (as a writer)?
I think it’s always a struggle to decide what voices you are going to listen to. I don’t ever want to think I know everything. I don’t. And many times with our writing we are wearing blinders over our eyes and can’t see the faults. So I suppose I’m still balancing this aspect of writing. I do have trusted folks who push me to be a better writer and don’t let me be lazy. But that doesn’t mean I follow everything. You have to be true to the story and true to your vision. I have discovered that often new writers don’t want to hear how to make the story better and aren’t willing to listen. So it is definitely a fine balancing act. You don’t want to teeter too far one way or the other.

Are you a disciplined writer or do you just write when you feel like it?
I go through stages when I’m more disciplined or less disciplined than I should be. But when you’re under deadline, you can’t wait until you feel like it to sit down and write. Being a professional writer is showing up and doing your work no matter your feelings. If you were a doctor, you wouldn’t show up when you felt like it. If you were any other profession, you’d have to show up to work or you wouldn’t keep your job very long. I think the difference is when you switch from thinking of your writing as a hobby or as a profession. From the beginning, for me, it was a profession.

What kind of activities do you like to do that help you relax and step away from your deadlines for a bit?

Spending time with my children always gets my mind off the day-to-day business of writing. I love to travel, but often have to take writing along on my trips. But sometimes those travels lead me to a wonderful story idea or way to enhance a story I’m working on. Running any kind of a business yourself requires more hours and time than a regular nine-to-five job. There’s always something to do or catch up on, blogging or twittering or facebooking. It’s all part of it. But I also like to take long walks with my crazy labradoodle and my children. I love to read and watch movies. But then those have to do with storytelling. So it’s hard to ever completely get away from it. Going to a spa is fun too, but then when I finally get quiet and close my eyes…then a new plot invades my thoughts. I think I might have a problem. 

What is your favorite novel and what made it special?

Not sure if you mean the favorite novel I’ve written or read. Choosing my favorite novel would be like choosing my favorite child. Even if I had one, I couldn’t ever admit it. Like children, each book is in a different season of its life. Some are just babies and need protecting and rocking and loving as they grow and develop. Others are now teens and need to go to time out or get grounded. Some are now grown so the fondness has returned.
But choosing a favorite novel that someone else has written is also a sticky wicket. I wouldn’t want to hurt another author’s feelings. But honestly, my favorite book changes depending on where I am in my life. My favorite book at age seven, is not necessarily my favorite book of all time. Life changes what appeals to me and has meaning for me. But honestly, two of my favorite books are Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Dickens’ The Christmas Carol. What made them special? Seeing the character grow and change and experience redemption.

How do you think reading the work of others helps you as a writer?

Reading other books fills my well that empties as I write. I gain new ideas, new insights, new vocabulary. I study other writers to see how they do things, to strengthen my weaknesses. If you’re a writer, I think you have to love books first and foremost and love to read before you can ever begin to write.

Tell us a little about your latest release. Where did you get your inspiration for Once in a Blue Moon?
Bryn Seymour first came to me a couple of years ago. She told me she was an obituary writer and the first obituary she ever wrote was for her mother when she was eight years old. That intrigued me, so I began to ask her more questions and I learned her mother died the night Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon. That intrigued me even more. So many of us who were alive then have happy memories of that historical event. Bryn just fascinated me, and I had to know more about her.

Which character is most like you?

If I say Howard, you might have me locked away. Actually I think he’s way smarter than me. I could relate to Bryn’s cynicsm as I have felt that during parts of my life. But the hope that Sam carries within him is probably a bit closer to me. However, maybe I’m the most like Goliath…just watching what’s happening and taking it all in.

Who is your favorite character and why?
As I said, Bryn intrigued me for many reasons. She had an interesting and dark sense of humor that made me laugh. Sam was fun to write because the sexual tension was definitely hot. And then Howard…well, I just never knew what he’d do.

Did you know how Once in a Blue Moon would turn out? Were you surprised by any of the plot twists or characters?
I usually know a part of the end but how I get there is usually a surprise. But with this story, I think even the end surprised me. But I can’t say more without giving something away…and you just have to read it. :-)

What is the main thing you hope readers remember from this story?
Well, I hope they love the characters and enjoy their story, but I also hope they learn that faith is a leap, but it’s just the beginning to soaring.

What kinds of things have you done to market this book? Have you found anything that works particularly well?
Thankfully, B&H Publishing has been doing an outstanding job marketing Once in a Blue Moon. They’re running several contests, as I will be around the first of March (check my blog and facebook fan page for more info!). Right now, a lot of groundwork has been laid for when the book actually releases…so we’ll see how it all works out! Ultimately, it’s in God’s hands.

Tell us what new projects you’re working on.
My next book will be out in September 2010 and it’s called Facelift. I turned it in just before Thanksgiving. It was a ton of fun to write.

Do you have any parting words of advice?

If you’re a writer, then put thyself in a chair and write. If you’re a reader, buy more books! :-) But either way, seek God with all your heart in all that you do.

Thanks for having me here, Lisa! Blessings, Leanna
Leanna is giving away a copy of her book Once in a Blue Moon. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!


  1. I enjoyed getting to know Leanna. I was so impressed when I got a letter the other day (in the snail mail) after signing up for her e-newsletter with a couple bookmarks and name plates. Thank you Leanna! I hope I win her book! I would love to read it. :)

  2. Thanks for such a wonderful interview, Leanna. Your book sounds wonderful!


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