Winner of the National Readers Choice Award, Leanna Ellis writes women’s fiction. Known for her quirky characters and wacky plots, Ellis probes the heart and plucks at the heartstrings. She lives deep in the heart of Texas with her husband and children and an assortment of dogs and cats, including her crazy labradoodle, aka Hilo Monster, and a new kitten, Sawyer.
Lee is a chapter mate of mine and was the first author I ever told I wanted to be a writer (way back in the 90’s). A local independent book seller and very dear friend of mine knew about my passion to be a romance author and recommended Lee’s books. She knew that Lee was a local author and convinced me to email and ask about the local chapter of Romance Writers of America.
Lee admits (see below) that she doesn’t remember the email. (LOL) But she did give me the advice that changed my life and was the first step to following my dream: I joined RWA and my local chapter. I’m going to switch things up a bit and present my GOTTA ASK segment first. It’s always a pleasure to talk with Lee and her work continues to surprise me.
ANGI’S GOTTA ASK: I read your series books back in the 90’s and read your inspirational books today. Your style has definitely grown over the years, Lee, but the book trailer for PLAIN FEAR: FORSAKEN (available on Lee’s website) looks much darker than ELVIS TAKES A BACK SEAT or RUBY’S SLIPPERS. Where did the idea come from?
LEANNA’S GOTTA ANSWER: Hey, Angi, I don’t remember that at all! I hope I was helpful. There are a lot of years from the 90s I don’t remember much about because I had newborns and not much sleep.
To answer your question on where did the dark side come from…well, I guess it’s been there for a while since I wrote that Poe-esque short story in 6th grade. When I left category romance, one of my goals was to grow my writing, so that is nice to hear you say that. To this day, I am still growing my writing and learning about myself and exploring. I loved writing ELVIS TAKES A BACK SEAT and the books through my last, FACELIFT, which were in the inspirational market, and I hope to write more of those.
I loved the humor and the first person point of view as well as the irony and the angst, and I still love all of that. But then when an idea hits, such as FORSAKEN, welll…sometimes you just have to explore that darker side. In fact, I was at a writers’ conference signing and another writer and I joked we should write an Amish/vampire story because those were the books that were selling. It was a joke. But something about that idea dug into my psyche and wouldn’t let go. Or maybe I just like a challenge. Eventually I realized for me the heart of the story was good versus evil and was very much like The Phantom of the Opera, which is one of my favorites (book and musical form). But really? Could I seriously write this? I thought and prayed about it for a long, long time, maybe 2 years. The desire to write it became stronger and stronger and I knew I had to do so.
I played around with the first chapter but still hadn’t devoted much time to it and had not ever mentioned it to my agent, although I’d told a couple of writer friends who loved the idea. I was at another writers’ conference when I heard a YA editor say, “The perfect submission right now for me would be an Amish/vampire story.” Really? I had one! Sort of. So I wrangled an appointment with that editor and pitched the idea. Then I raced to my agent and told her. She laughed! But in a good way. Thankfully, she gets my out-of-the-box ideas. So when I got home, I sent her that first chapter to see what she thought. My agent loved it. And we had several discussions about whether it should be YA or adult, and whether it should be in the inspirational market or in the secular market.
Ultimately, we decided even though my heroine was fairly young she was dealing with issues beyond the scope of YA novels. We doubted any CBA (inspirational) publisher would consider publishing it. So that’s how it started. It still has a little of my humor in it but it-s darker. And it was oh-so-much-fun to write. I’m beginning to get some feedback on it, and that is even more fun! Sorry, didn’t mean to go on so long about that but making a departure like this needs a bit of an explanation. Anyway, thanks y’all so much for having me here today!
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PLAIN FEAR: FORSAKEN
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ANGI: How often to you get lost in a story?
LEANNA: Hi, Angi! Thanks for having me here! I love the name of this blog because I can so easily get lost in a story. Whether that’s at night, curled up in a chair with a book or my iPad or sitting in a local coffee shop with my laptop open and my fingers poised over the keypad, I love stories. I love to read and write and even watch stories unfold on the big screen.
ANGI: What’s the first book you remember reading?
LEANNA: I remember a little kitten book, a Golden book, with kittens named Bitsy and Betsy as being one of the first books I remember. When I was older, I remember loving Mr. Popper’s Penguins, which was one of the first chapter books I read to my kids. I also remember Charlotte’s Web along with all of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. When I was sick one time, my mom read Little Women to me. I’ve loved sharing all those wonderful stories with my children and discovering even more wonderful stories with them.
ANGI: What’s your favorite “love” word?
ANGI: Can you tell us about a real-life hero you’ve met?
LEANNA: My mom has always been one of my heroes, and I’ve had the blessing of knowing many folks who have amazed me with their ability to handle difficult situations and rise above them. My friend Alan who struggled and fought a brain tumor was one. Another is a friend who is a recent widow with two kids, and she amazes me at how she is handling things with honesty and grace. Heroes, I’ve learned, are all around us. All we have to do is get to know one another and learn each other’s stories.
ANGI: What’s your favorite fairy tale?
LEANNA: It’s always hard for me to name one that is my favorite fairy tale, because just as soon as I name one, say Cinderella (and all the out-of-the-box renderings) then I think of Sleeping Beauty and what I like about that story and then another (Hansel and Gretel), and another (The Ugly Duckling) and another (Beauty and the Beast! How could I forget that one?) comes to mind. Too many to choose from!
ANGI: What’s your favorite cartoon character?
LEANNA: I’m not a big cartoon fan. Does Tramp from Lady and the Tramp count? What is it about bad boys?
ANGI: What turns you off like nothing else?
LEANNA: Folks being mean. Really. Is that called for?
ANGI: Is there a playlist you’d recommend for reading your latest release?
LEANNA: Try Bleeding Love by Leona Lewis. ;)
ANGI: Where do you read and how often?
LEANNA: Not often enough. There’s a point in my writing of a book that I can’t read other authors’ books or it affects my writing. But I love to read. In fact, when I go on vacation, that’s pretty much all I want to do: lay in a hammock with a gorgeous view of the ocean and read, read, read. When home, I love to curl up in our ‘library’, aptly named because of all the books stuffing the shelves, and read.
ANGI: What sound or noise do you love?
LEANNA: My daughter singing.
ANGI: Fairy Tale or Action Adventure?
LEANNA: Can we combine them? *grin*
ANGI: What was the first story you remember writing?
LEANNA: It’s funny that you ask this. Recently, my mom gave me a huge box that held some of my schoolwork. My kids loved looking through all of my tests and papers, deciding that their math is much harder than what I did at their age. And they’re right. They also compared what they’re learning in Latin to what I learned in high school, and I think they knew more. The best part was that I found the horrible poem I wrote in the third grade and had to read aloud to the class, which kept me from writing or attempting to write poetry for years and years and years. But I also found a short story I wrote in 6th grade and have remembered all these years (and believe me that’s a LONG time) because it was based on a study we were doing about Poe. It was a lot of fun to reread that story. My kids said, “Mom! You had a dark side!” Yep. Still do apparently.
ANGI: What’s your favorite movie of all time?
LEANNA: Oh that is a really tough question. Too many to choose from, and I probably change depending on what mood I’m in. I love the quirky humor of When Harry Met Sally. Yes! Yes! YES! I love the sweeping beauty of Dances with Wolves. I love The Sixth Sense, although no one will watch it with me at my house. I love Witness, Casino Royale, The Fugitive, and A Few Good Men, which is brilliantly written. Obviously, I’m eclectic in my tastes and barely scratching the surface of some of my favorites. Oh! And I love musicals: Singing in the Rain, Chicago, Chorus Line, Phantom of the Opera, etc… I’m like this with books too! And I’m a huge LOST fan.
ANGI: Who’s your favorite villain?
LEANNA: Oooh, great question. I like villains who are complex and surprising and garner my sympathy. One of all time favorite villains is the Phantom from The Phantom of the Opera.
ANGI: Be honest, when reading...do you put yourself in the heroine’s role?
LEANNA: Sometimes, but she’s usually so much smarter than I am. But then she gets editing as she goes along. I have to wing it.
ANGI: Is writing or story-telling easier for you?
LEANNA: Story-telling, because you have the immediate reaction from your audience to know if you’re going on too long, if they’re hanging on the edge of their seats, and if you get a laugh. Writing is rewriting, or so said someone smarter than me, and it’s very true. Putting those first words on the blank page is difficult for me. I much prefer the editing.
LEANNA will give away a copy of Forsaken to a commenter.
Note: Offer void where prohibited. Prizes will be mailed to North America addresses only. If an electronic Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) is available, the author may utilize that option for International participants. Odds of winning vary due to the number of entrants.
Question for today: Do you read authors who write for multiple genres?
YOU CAN FIND LEANNA on her Website; contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org; on Facebook; or follow her on Twitter.
DON’T FORGET to LIKE us on Facebook and FOLLOW us on Twitter for daily updates on who’s “Getting Lost.” Come back tomorrow when Donnell interviews Barbara Monajem. ~Angi