Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bonnie Leon dabbled in writing for many years but never set it in a place of priority until an accident in 1991 left her unable to work at her job. She is now the author of several historical fiction series, including the Sydney Cove series, Queensland Chronicles, the Matanuska series, the Sowers Trilogy, and the Northern Lights series. She also stays busy teaching women’s Bible studies, speaking, and teaching at writing seminars and women’s gatherings. Bonnie and her husband, Greg, live in Southern Oregon. They have three grown children and four grandchildren.

When did you decide to be a writer?

Actually, writing found me. Late in 1989 I was overcome by a compulsion to get my thoughts down on paper. I filled legal pads with short stories, personal experiences and poems. I had no idea where it all came from, but it was great fun.

I attended a writing seminar in the spring of 1991 and one of the visiting authors was impressed with my writing. She told me I had a unique writing voice and that I was gifted and encouraged me to keep writing. I drove home that afternoon with my head full of ideas for my writing career.

At what point did you stop juggling suggestions and critiques and trust yourself (as a writer)?

That day hasn’t arrived yet. I rely on other writers to see what I don’t see. I’m part of an online critique group and I take their input seriously. Sometimes I disagree with their opinions and go with my own ideas, but often they are right on and are a great help.

Are you a disciplined writer or do you just write when you feel like it?

I’m not as disciplined as I’d like to be, but after a writer signs a contract they have a deadline to meet and that won’t happen without self discipline. A publishing house has taken a risk on our book so we have an obligation to fulfill our promise to produce a book they can publish. We represent Christ in all we do, including our writing business.

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

I enjoy reading fiction, but often I have to force myself to stop mentally editing as I read. To step away completely I enjoy watching a movie or taking my dog for a walk or I get out with friends. I love to travel and hope to do more of that in the next year after my husband retires.

What is your favorite novel and what made it special?

I love lots of different novels, but one stands out—Hawaii written by James Michener. The book was rich in history and real life drama, which is my favorite type of book. It’s been many years since I read it, and I keep promising myself that I’m going to reread it—soon I hope.

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

It’s always helpful to experience the creativity and richness of other writers. Sometimes I’ll read a portion of a scene and stop to marvel at an original expression or a particularly good choice of words. And when I read inspired writing it motivates me to try harder to create something spectacular.

Tell us a little about your latest release:

Here is the back cover copy. I think Revell did an excellent job of capturing the overall feel of the story.

She went looking for adventure . . . and found more than she bargained for.

Kate Evans is an adventurous and independent young woman with a pioneering spirit. When she leaves her home in Washington State to follow her dream of being an Alaskan bush pilot, she knows it will be an uphill battle. But she never expected it to be quite like this. As the lone woman in a man’s world, she finds that contending with people’s expectations is almost as treacherous as navigating the wild arctic storms.

When she crosses paths with a mysterious man living alone in the forbidding wilderness, she faces a new challenge. Can Kate break through the walls he has put up around his heart? And will fear keep her from realizing her dreams?

Touching the Clouds will draw you in with raw emotion and suspense, all against the stunning backdrop of the Alaskan wilds.

Where did you get your inspiration for Touching the Clouds?

My mother grew up on a homestead in Alaska. There were no roads in and out of their place so her family relied upon bush pilots to deliver their mail and sometimes they traveled by air. She had great respect and affection for the pilots and spoke of them often. Whenever she came across a book about Alaskan bush pilots, she’d buy it. They ended up in my personal library.

One day while reading about these courageous people a glimmer of a story flickered to life. Soon I was jotting down notes and before I knew it, I had my story.

Which character is most like you?

I don’t think any one character is most like me, although I’d like to think some of Kate is in me. What I most admire about her is her determination to chase after a dream, even if there’s a cost to be paid. And I love that she’s willing to stand up to the norms of her day and be who she is rather than who she’s expected to be.

Who is your favorite character and why?

I have a couple of favorites. Kate, for the reasons I stated above, including her penchant for adventure. I’d love to be more adventurous.

I really like Nena, an Alaskan native who lives in Kotzebue. She is a genuine, transparent woman who takes life as it is, without complaint. She finds goodness in people and in life. I admire those qualities.

Did you know how Touching the Clouds would turn out? Were you surprised by any of the plot twists or characters?

I had the ending in my mind when I began, but by the time I wrote “the end” I wasn’t happy with it. So, with some encouragement from my editor I made a major change to the ending. I’m much happier with it.

When I begin a book I have an outline that works as a guide. It’s a help, but I always wander into unexpected terrain. And there are characters who pop up that I don’t expect or a character who is supposed to have a minor role grows into someone who plays a more important part.

I think in this series the one character that is surprising me most is a pilot named Jack. He’s not a very nice guy, and he’s continuing to transform into someone I hadn’t expected. I don’t want to give anything away, but watch to see what happens to Jack. I think you’ll be surprised.

What is the main thing you hope readers remember from this story?

Listen to and follow God-given dreams. Believe in Him and in the abilities and desires He’s planted inside of you. Shut out the voices that say, “You can’t”, and listen to the only one that matters—God’s. Never give up, but believe in the One who makes all things possible.

What kinds of things have you done to market this book? Have you found anything that works particularly well?

When it comes to marketing I’m still a babe. It’s something I’ve only just started doing in the last couple of years.

I thoroughly enjoy the interaction on facebook. I’m not sure how that relates in numbers of sales, but it’s fun to touch base in a personal way with readers and other writers.

For my new book I’m very excited about my Take Flight contest. I wanted to offer a hands’ on flying lesson to readers but didn’t know how to make it happen. My web guru, Kelli Standish, knew how to make it happen. If readers go to my website at a box will pop up and they can enter. The winner will receive:

A 40 minute flight lesson with a FAA Certified Instructor
A 25 page eBook covering all the details of your flight
A training video to prepare you for your flight experience
2 Ground School lessons credited toward your pilot's license
A pilot's log book to keep record of your flight time
A certificate of accomplishment for flight completion
A 6 month subscription to a leading flight training magazine
A CD copy of The Airplane Flying Handbook
A CD copy of The Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge

We will draw for a winner on July 25th and make an announcement on the 26th.

Tell us what new projects you’re working on.

I’m working on book three in the Alaskan Skies series. I’m loving the story. It has a really terrific ending!

Do you have any parting words of advice?

I live with chronic pain and disability from an auto accident back in 1991. I sometimes find myself wishing I’d done more while I could. None of us knows what tomorrow holds so we need to live full out today—it may be the only day we have.
Want more? Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Thursday for an excerpt from Touching the Clouds by Bonnie Leon!


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