Bonnie Leon is the author of eighteen novels, including the popular Touching the Clouds, Wings of Promise, the Sydney Cove series and the bestselling Journey of Eleven Moons. She also stays busy speaking for women’s groups and teaching at writing seminars and conventions. Bonnie and her husband, Greg, live in Southern Oregon. They have three grown children and five grandchildren.
Did you see yourself becoming a writer as a child? If not, what did you dream of being?
I always loved to read, but never thought I’d write books. After all, only very special people do that. ☺
Actually as a child I wanted to be Annie Oakley when I grew up. She was my hero. And she got to ride horses all the time, which is something I loved to do.
When I was a bit older I considered going into the counseling field, but by the time I was nineteen I was married and decided to major in homemaking instead. I’ve never regretted it.
How long did you write before you sold your first book?
I played with writing off and on for about ten years, occasionally writing a true life experience or vignette or a poem. Then in 1989 a compulsion to write consumed me. I filled writing tablets with stories and poetry. In 1992 I attended my first writer’s conference. One of the authors encouraged me to take an idea I had for a story and turn it into a book. I left the conference ready to write. It took me ten months to muddle my way through that book, The Journey of Eleven Moons. I took the manuscript to the conference the following summer and with great fear and trepidation I presented it to the requisitions editor for Thomas Nelson – a couple of months later I had a contract.
Many of the people who follow our blog are aspiring writers themselves. Can you share your favorite writing tip with them?
I can’t keep track of how often I’ve heard, “I want to write, but I just don’t have time.”
There will never be enough time—Americans live busy lives. If you want to write you have to find time. It’s available, but you might need to search real hard. I often tell writers in my workshops that if they can cut out enough time to write one page a day, at the end of a year they will have written 365 pages. That’s a book. You can do it!
Now for the readers…many times, it’s easy for them to connect with the characters in a book, but not so much the authors themselves. Share something about your day-to-day life that might help a reader to feel as though they know you a little better.
I’m an ordinary gal. I live in the country and although a back injury doesn’t allow me to do all the things I’d like I still enjoy country living. My husband and I have a small family farm, but he has to do most of the work.
I exercise to keep my muscles from stiffening up too much and I walk on my treadmill every day to keep my blood moving. I could work a little harder at it, though.
I’m a night owl (always have been) so a lot of my work is done after midnight. And even though I sometimes don’t climb into bed until the wee hours of the morning I rarely sleep late—a habit instilled in me as a child. I’ve always wished I was a morning person—I think it’s truly the best part of the day. Because of my internal clock I miss out. It takes me a couple of hours to get moving in the morning.
Now that you are published, do you still experience rejections? If so, how are these rejections different or similar to the ones you received before becoming published?
Some of my story ideas don’t make it into print. If my publisher rejects a proposal, I send them a different one. I always have more than one story in my head. Right now I have five that I want to write, but I’ve decided on one to send in for consideration. I hope they like it. If the publisher passes on my idea, I don’t discard it because I hope I’ll have an opportunity to write the story . . . some day.
I see the rejections differently than I used to. I don’t worry about them so much. I understand the reason behind a rejection is not personal. And it probably isn’t because it’s a “bad” story. Usually the reason for a rejection is the timing, or the type of book. There are numerous reasons a publisher will pass and they don’t necessarily reflect on the author’s writing.
Tell us a little about your latest release:
Kate Evans is a lone woman in a man’s world. Her spunk and determination drives her to fulfill her dream. She’s made a place for herself in the Alaskan territory as a bush pilot. But life as a bush pilot isn’t easy and a question goads her—does she have what it takes to go the distance? Every trip tests her ability as a pilot and it tests the quality of her plane. Every run can be the last.
Her personal life is complicated. She wrestles to make peace with her past, while in the present, she is torn between her affection for fellow pilot Mike Conlin and doctor Paul Anderson.
When a terrible tragedy occurs, Kate’s mind may be made up for her. (To order Wings of Promise, click on the bookcover)
If you could only share one line from Wings of Promise, which one would you choose and why?
This is a challenge, but I think I have one. Kate’s father is speaking to her when he says, “That was a terrible day.” He gazed at the blue sky. “But today’s not.”
I like this. It says a lot in few words. Many of us gauge what we expect today by the troubles we’ve had in the past. Instead we need to enjoy the gift of today.
Great line! Writers often put things in their books that are very personal—like a funny story that happened to them, a spiritual truth they learned through difficulty, or even just a character trait that is uniquely theirs. Is there something in Wings of Promise that only people close to you know is about you or someone you know?
Kate is the person I wish I could be. She’s adventurous and spunky, but I suppose some of my friends see bits of me in Kate. I’ve been forced, because of circumstances, to be strong and to push on when I’d rather give up. But sometimes I’m scared and know I can make it only because God has my hand in His.
Readers often talk a lot about the hero and heroine of a story, but today I’d like to know something about your villain. Does he or she have a redeeming quality? Why or why not?
Jack is a rascal. And when he takes over the airport, he becomes even more cantankerous. But, Jack’s not all bad, as readers will begin to see in this second book. No one is all good or all bad. And as a writer it’s important to me to present characters that are real people.
Jack is pompous and he has bush pilot syndrome real bad. The more scrapes he gets out of the more invincible he feels. But like all people, he’s capable of growth. And he just might surprise some readers.
What kind of research did you have to do for this book? Can you share some articles or website links you found particularly helpful?
I’ve written several books based in Alaska and have a veritable library on the state, which includes books, pictorials, magazines and dvd’s. Throughout the writing process I read a lot of non-fiction books about Alaska. The one I love most has never been published. It is a diary written by a man who lived in the Alaskan bush. It’s a record of several years of his life. He was a neighbor and friend of my mother’s family so when he died the diary ended up with my mother. She donated it to a museum. He’d written it in German, but someone at the museum translated it into English and gave my mother a copy. His day-to-day life provided extensive and important information about what it was like to live on a homestead in Alaska during the 1930’s.
The flying sequences were a special challenge. Over the years my mother purchased books about Alaskan pilots and gave them to me. She has a special love for the pilots because as a girl growing up in Alaska her family depended on them for their mail and supplies. Some of my favorite books are Alaska Bush Pilots in the Float Country, Sourdough Sky, The Heroes of the Horizon and The Don Sheldon Story—Wager the Wind.
I also called upon family members who live in Alaska to help me when I had questions. My oldest brother has lived there a good number of years and could almost always answer my questions. Also, he flies a lot and has a large number of photographs taken from the air that he shared with me.
My biggest help with the flying scenes came from Gayle Ranney, a woman bush pilot. She’s been flying in Alaska for nearly fifty years. And still loves it. She answered every question and went through the flight scenes to make sure I got them right. I couldn’t have written the books without her help.
I have a sister-in-law who lives in Alaska! I'll have to recommend your book.
Tell us what new projects you’re working on.
I have several ideas percolating through my mind right now, but what’s up front at the moment is a series proposal I’m putting together for Revell. I think it’s one they’ll like. It takes place in the 1920’s on the Southern California coast. The working titles are A Square Peg, Susie Sunshine, and A Rose by Any Other Name. It is a three book series with a different heroine for each book. I love the way the stories are falling together, interconnected but each its own tale. As I get to know the characters I’m becoming more and more excited to actually begin the process of writing the stories.
The most common thing I hear when people learned I’ve published a book is, “I’ve always wanted to do that.” Faced with this statement, what advice would you give to someone just starting out in this business?
Don’t write for the money—it probably won’t be there. Write because you love to write. And make sure you’re wearing a tough skin because you’ll need it.
What is the one question you were afraid I would ask…and how would you answer?
I thought this through and I honestly can’t think of one. I’m very much an open book and believe in living as transparently as possible. So I’m up for most any question.
Connect with this author:
Website & blog -- www.bonnieleon.com
Facebook Author Page -- www.facebook.com/BonnieLeonAuthor
Bonnie is giving away a copy of her book, Wings of Promise. Stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!