A new writer’s journey…

One of the things that we love to do here at Murderati is showcase fellow writers whose work we admire, who are Good People. I have had the best fortune in meeting so many Good People over the last few years, people who reached a hand out to help me, who graciously gave me some of their time or space on their blog, and did so with a “Pay It Forward” attitude, and so it is with great joy that I get to introduce the Murderati group to a debut author who just impresses the hell out of me: Leanna Renee Hieber.

It’s fantastic when you meet a new author and you think, “Wow, this is such a fun person to hang out with,” and then you read her work and think, “Geez, and she’s so delightfully twisted, and talented!” This incredibly beautiful woman writes about everyone’s favorite serial killer, Jack the Ripper, in The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker. With a ghostly twist:

What fortune awaited sweet, timid Percy Parker at Athens Academy? Hidden in the dark heart of Victorian London, the Romanesque school was dreadfully imposing, a veritable fortress, and little could Percy guess what lay inside. She had never met its powerful and mysterious Professor Alexi Rychman, knew nothing of the growing shadows, of the Ripper and other supernatural terrors against which his coterie stood guard. She saw simply that she was different, haunted, with her snow white hair, pearlescent skin and uncanny gift. This arched stone doorway was a portal to a new life, to an education far from what could be had at a convent—and it was an invitation to an intimate yet dangerous dance at the threshold of life and death…

 

I met Leanna about a year-and-a-half ago at RT, when she was helping director Morgan Doremus create video interviews of various authors in attendance. They had me laughing within minutes, completely forgetting my phobia of being in front of the camera (I am used to being behind it), and they made the experience enormously fun. (If you were to see the videos, I look like I’m constantly about to laugh. I am so freaking thankful Morgan didn’t do a series of outtakes of all the faces I made at them, or the time we all doubled over in laughter and one of us who shall remain nameless fell off the stool.) (Also, I did not realize my bangs had completely consumed my face. That was pre-Lasik and I was, apparently, legally blind. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

I recently interviewed Leanna because I love her work, think she’s a fantastic new writer and thought her journey would inspire.

INTERVIEW:

So let’s just get an overview of your tastes as a writer… if you were to go to that Great Coffee Shop in the Sky, who do you want to meet most?

C.S. Lewis, Tolkein and the entire 19th century canon of Gothic writers. I can’t pick one, I’ve folded my adoration for each and every one of them into my muse. The whole Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood too—and their coterie – this means you, Christina Georgina Rosetti…

Writers always like peeking in on other writer’s writing rituals… we’re nosy creatures, after all. What’s yours? 

I don’t always have this luxury but this is my best-case writing scenario as I’m working on the Strangely Beautiful series: While showering I’ll shift my thoughts into longer sentences with British accents. Then I’ll put on music (piano music, Phillip Glass soundtracks or 19th century classical composers) and light at least one of my two stained-glass lamps. Preferably a candle is lit. Must prepare and sip a cup of clove tea: the precise scent of my Professor hero. Wow, I guess I’m like I’m the method actor of writing books…

Along the way from first words onto the page through to publication, writers face rejection. Tell us a little bit about your journey and what your favorite rejection story would be. 

I started my first novel somewhere around the age of 12. Ray Bradbury once said “Write 1,000 pages, bury it in the ground and you can become a writer.” I chose a fireplace instead. There are a few things about me that will make it obvious as to why Strangely Beautiful is my break out series. I can hardly remember not writing, not loving ghost stories, or not being weirdly obsessed with Europe in the 19th century.

Come September it will be about nine years from the moment young Miss Percy Parker waltzed through a wall much like a ghost, into my mind, and I couldn’t sleep or stop thinking about her. She couldn’t have had worse timing, I was working often 14 hour days with the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company. We’d be on the road touring Julius Caesar or Midsummer Night’s Dream to some sleepy high-school class and I’d be in the company van scribbling away like a madman. I was surrounded by wonderful ideas, artists, and so much great theatre that I couldn’t help but channel that energy into the first draft of the book, giving it some legs that none of my previous works had. It also gives it a bit of a dramatic flair and sparkle that those who know me quite recognize as a personal touch. But from those first scribbled notes, it was a long road ahead…

Percy, Alexi and The Guard were there all the while, waiting in my wings as I hopped around the professional theatre circuit, my favourite friends to come home to. I moved to New York with the hope that I’d figure out which passion should come first, theatre or books. I was at a Broadway callback and all I could think about was Percy. That was that. Thanks to dear writer friend Isabo Kelly I’d already joined the very-helpful RWA NYC chapter and threw myself into networking, got an Agent, met other helping hands like Marianne Mancusi and eventually one of the best in the business, editor Chris Keeslar, and Dorchester became the perfect house for a cross-genre work like mine.  

Favourite rejection? After considering Strangely Beautiful, set in 1888, one editor rejected saying “It’s a little too Victorian.” That still makes me smile fondly.

I love that. Your book is very cross-genre. (I know the feeling.) What does that mean to you?

Allison Brennan wrote a great post on this topic here a little while ago. Branding is very important to an author, and to a reader. We want to make sure the right books go into the right hands. It can be very limiting to an author, however, when only one word is applied to a work of fiction. I hope that fantasy, historical, Gothic and romance fans (as well as those who enjoy blends of light horror, suspense and mystery) will find my book because I feel all will find a part of their respective favourite genre represented in the ways appropriate to the narrative. It’s hard to appeal to a whole fan base and yet I wouldn’t do without the genre label. The spine of my book says Historical Fantasy and I think that’s about right. The wonderful thing about the word “Fantasy” is that it is an open and over-arching word, and often Fantasy incorporates a romantic through line at the center of its questing adventures. A descriptive title and a cover that exactly fits the story really helps.

It took a long time for a marketing department to take a chance on this book. As I’d said, it was a 9 year journey from idea to bookshelf, and several of those years were spent with marketing departments and editors saying “this is really good, but it’s too much of this– or not enough this…”

Well, thank goodness someone took a chance, because this is a unique world which deals with crime fiction and fantasy and horror in a way I found wholly fascinating and original! Tell me, what sort of promotional things are you doing as a debut author? 

1. August 22nd I kick off my Haunted London Blog Tour at the Bradford Bunch. The tour hops various blogs until September. Each day I’ll tell a different ghost story. Many spirits “Ghost-star” in my book, each of them a documented London haunt. They don’t get their full due in the book, as they’re quite familiar to my Guard of spectral police, but their tales are too fun not to tell– like telling spooky stories around a roving campfire. Each day I’ll give away a signed book. Schedule can be found here: http://www.leannareneehieber.com/haunted-london-blog-tour-book-giveaway/

2. The morning of Release Day, August 25th I’ll kick off a Virtual release party at www.RomanceNovel.tv, my video interview will go live and we’ll do a bit of a chat/book giveaway.

3. NYC Reading/Signing on Release Day! At the Lincoln Center Barnes & Noble on August 25th at 7:30pm I’m thrilled to be doing a reading and signing with the inimitable Edgar winner Charles Ardai of Hard Case Crime, Stoker winner Jack Ketchum and thriller author Anna DeStefano

4. Running a contest on my website, a 3 question quiz about the Shakespeare references in my book, starting Release Day, 8/25 and running for the next three weeks. Winner has a choice of either a replica of the Phoenix pendant Percy wears in the book, or a gift certificate. The second name drawn receives the second item. Details: http://www.leannareneehieber.com/contest/

Thanks, Leanna, for letting me bug ya with questions. And now in the spirt of all writers who have had rejections, I’ll refer back to that previous question and share one of mine. Someone who read the first book in the Bobbie Faye series sent me an email that he thought it was funny as hell, extremely well written, and he absolutely “hated that woman” and “didn’t want to spend another minute with her. Ever.” That just completely cracked me up, and I loved it, because it was an honest response and a personal one. I respected that he just did not like tough female characters, but the books ended up selling the next week, which took the sting out of the rejection. I’m sure I’ve had worse, but I still think about that one and smile. No one is ever going to love everything (nor should they) and everyone isn’t going to love one single thing, all of us at the same time (nor should we), and as new writers, we need to remember that. And write with our passion.

So how about you, ‘Rati? What’s the best rejection you’ve ever gotten (and it can be something you realized in hindsight, something that ended up being a Good Thing.) Doesn’t have to be about writing… let’s hear it.

And as a bonus, all commenters are eligible for a free copy of Leanna’s book, THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL TALE OF MISS PERCY PARKER as well as a signed copy of my first in the Bobbie Faye series, CHARMED AND DANGEROUS. (Contest runs ’til midnight, Pacific Time, tonight — Sunday. Winner announced here on the blog after that.)

29 thoughts on “A new writer’s journey…

  1. RKCharron

    Hi πŸ™‚
    Thank you for having a great interview with Leanna Renee Hieber here and thanks Leanna for sharing. Cross-genre is my favorite kind of book, hard to pigeon-hole. πŸ™‚
    My best rejection was a short story submission to Sword & Sorceress edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley who sent me a handwritten note telling me I didn’t suit their needs but to keep writing as she liked my story.
    That meant & means a lot to me. πŸ™‚
    All the best,
    @RKCharron
    xoxo

    Reply
  2. Jan

    great interview! I love how Leanna sets the mood to write! I must consider what would suit my writing. I think it is leaping up whenever I’m stuck and going for a walk in the woods! Not today though as we have Hurricaine Bill buffetting our shoreline…
    My fave rejection was for a bunch of poems that I had sent to a small literary press – I got a square shaped note with their name and address on top and the word Sorry written on it. I used to sit and read it as many ways as possible out loud to try and discern what they meant. I had too much time.
    Jan

    Reply
  3. CJ Lyons

    Leanna, hi there! Loved the way you described yourself as being haunted by your characters for so long–I think all of us can relate to that feeling!

    My strangest rejection came with my first book–it was a xeroxed form rejection, barely legible because it had been copied so many times, crooked on the page, my name misspelled and scrawled across the top…..and it came from the same publisher who had just bought the book three days earlier!

    I never told my editor about the mistake–too afraid she might instead tell me the offer to buy the book was the real mistake, lol!

    Good luck with Miss Percy, Leanna!!!
    CJ

    Reply
  4. Susanne

    Hi Leanna,

    Such a wonderfully uplifting interview.

    My best rejection came from a senior editor in New York. My book had no plot, but it read well! LOL. She went on to write about honing my craft and ended up with the belief that one day I’d be published. I had that letter framed and it proudly hangs on my wall.

    Leanna — best wishes for many, many sales!

    Susanne

    Reply
  5. Leanna Renee Hieber

    Thank you for being so very, very kind to me, Toni! You are the epitome of Good People.

    I immediately knew when I met you that you were going to be a part of my journey and was so thrilled that I enjoyed you as much as I enjoy Bobbie Faye (which is tons).

    Thanks for the kind words and interest, everyone, as well as taking a moment to share about your journeys.

    I’m loving and commiserating with your fellow rejection stories, friends, thanks for sharing, it’s interesting how rejection letters can also be motivators and inspirations (as well as frustrations).

    Reply
  6. Alli

    Great post, ladies. Leanna, the minute I read the premise of your book, I knew it would be a great read. Miss Percy sounds wonderful – and I do love the way you prepare yourself to write. Obviously method writing works well for you!

    I’ve had some lovely and interesting rejections (and a xeroxed, barely legible, named scrawled across top of the page rejection like CJ) but my most memorable was my first rejection. I was so excited to receive a "no, thanks" (of course I would have preferred a yes, but seriously, what are the chances of this with a first submission on a first book?). The reason I literarlly danced around the room and was on a high all week was because this rejection proved to me I had officially embarked on the road to being published. Even thinking about that day now gives me tingles and a big smile. Three manuscripts and years later I’m still on that road and have no intention of veering off.

    Leanna, I wish you all the success with your novel – you’ve waited a long time to get here, so enjoy the moment and revel in your achievement.

    Reply
  7. Lori

    The title alone makes this sound like a stand-out book.

    I’ve had too many rejections to choose a favorite *grin* but years ago I realized that many of my rejection letters were coming with brief explanations of what I was doing wrong, and they all seemed to agree: my endings had a habit of sucking. I started rewriting and recognizing and got my first poetry acceptances.

    Rejections can be wonderful things if you’re willing to learn from them.

    Reply
  8. PK the Bookeemonster

    Not a writer, but rejection unfortunately is a part of life. Been out of a job since October and I’ve been applying and applying. Yes, the typical "you’re overqualified" stings a bit but the one that gets me the most is when they’ve interviewed you (and others) and then re-list the job search. "They’re looking for someone else." WHO? Ugh.
    Look forward to this book — love love love historical mysteries and it’s always something to celebrate when someone new joins the club. πŸ™‚

    Reply
  9. billie

    My favorite "rejection letter" came not from an agent but from my son, who at age 5 or so, had watched me checking the mail many times a day after sending out the very first batch of query letters and then a few partials.

    One day after a particularly dejected week in which I think I got 3 rejections and a thanks but no thanks on a partial, I went out to the mailbox and found it stuffed to the gills with envelopes, all of which had "Mom" and a heart written/drawn on the fronts. Inside each envelope was a note from my son, saying "I love you" with a picture drawn beside it.

    When I went in, arms filled with the notes, he was waiting at the door about to burst with excitement. I guess he had been working on those notes for days and then had managed to sneak out and put them in the box that morning so I would find them.

    Since then, no rejection letter has had much effect on me – they all make me think of that post box filed with love notes from a very observant and sweetheart of a son. πŸ™‚

    Reply
  10. pari noskin taichert

    Toni,
    Thanks for this fun interview.

    Leanna,
    Welcome to Murderati. It’s wonderful to have you here and to read about you and your debut novel. I hope you have a fantastic ride and that your series soars.

    Reply
  11. Louise Ure

    Thank you, Toni and Leanna. And Billie’s mailbox story is the best yet.

    I’ll borrow my favorite rejection from my friend Charles, who was diligently sending out query letters when he received this reply from an agent: β€œThe willing suspension of disbelief does not mean that you have to grab it by the throat, suspend it in mid-air and then shake it until it is dead.”

    Reply
  12. Leanna Renee Hieber

    Alli,
    Amen, my dear, that’s exactly what that rejection represented and that’s the perfect way to look at it! Thanks for sharing! And yes, I’m definately enjoying every minute, all the sweeter for the wait – thank you so much!

    Lori,
    Glad you like the title! Yes, you are SO right, I had some awesome rejection letters because they gave me solid feedback that made a critical turn for me in my manuscript and made me become a better writer, absolutely.

    PK,
    Blessings to you, yes, it’s true, there’s rejection in every business! I’m very glad you joined us today and I hope you’ll enjoy my blend of genres.

    Billie,
    BEST STORY EVER!!!!!!

    Pari, thanks for the welcome.

    Louise,
    LOL! Yeah, that’s a favourite all right.

    Reply
  13. Fran

    No rejection letters that deal with writing, but it sounds like Ms. Hieber’s written a fabulous book! "Too Victorian"! Heh.

    And the rest of the rejection stories are just too great, although I think Billie wins for Best Ever! But that’s just me.

    Reply
  14. toni mcgee causey

    Billie, that completely choked me up. Thank you.

    I am travelling but checking in, along with Leanna. These are wonderful stories. PK, fingers crossed someone sees very soon how fantastic we know you are.

    Reply
  15. Tom

    Leanna, knock ’em dead and sell a gazillion!

    Toni, thank for bringing Leanna to the party.

    billie, what a guy you have there!

    pk, having been on the pavement for months at a time more than once, I can honestly tell you I believe the best is yet to come for you. Keep the faith, and spread it, too.

    Reply
  16. Emma Lee

    Great title: intriguing and evocative too.

    One magazine editor sent me a rejection letter telling me I "should stop writing for a year and only take up writing if I was absolutely determined to write". Having been absolutely determined to write since I could actually write (I resorted to telling stories, building Lego villages and creating my own soap operas before I could actually write) I promptly ignored her advice, got all the poems she rejected published and they’ve since been included in my collection "Yellow Torchlight and the Blues". I felt I’d hit rock bottom when I first read the rejection but then anger took over and I determined to prove the magazine editor wrong.

    Reply
  17. toni mcgee causey

    Emma Lee, I love that. I think if someone can be discouraged and kept from writing, then they weren’t meant to write. It takes a certain amount of obstinacy and ferocity to stay in this business.

    Reply
  18. Becky LeJeune

    Fantastic interview! I just read The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Percy Parker and I can’t wait until I can read more! It’s a fantastic book that I would highly recommend to fellow readers.

    Reply
  19. Leanna Renee Hieber

    Oooh, thanks my new friends for all the great support and interest.

    Emma,
    That’s what I’m talkin’ about! You are awesome!

    Becky,
    *blush* THANK YOU! Thanks for reading and thanks for encouraging others to do the same! I’m thrilled! This book absolutely means the world to me so you’ve really made my day.

    Reply
  20. toni mcgee causey

    Winners of the contest…

    Announcing 2 winners instead of one. PK the bookeemonster and Emma Lee. [Because I literally pulled two names instead of one, so that’s only fair.]

    Please send me your addresses and I’ll get the prizes out to you right away. Send address to my email:

    toni[dot]causey[at]gmail[dot]com

    Addresses will never be shared, sold, mutilated, abused, traded for bubblegum or cause you to wake up one night in a bathtub in Brazil without a kidney. Get ’em on in.

    Thanks again to Leanna and to everyone who made her feel so welcome. We have a great group here.

    Reply
  21. Leanna Renee Hieber

    Congrats, PK and Emma!

    And thanks to everyone who commented!

    If anyone wants a signed bookmark and pin, contact me via my website with your address and I’ll be happy to put one in the mail!

    Thanks Murderati for the welcome, Toni, thank you SO much for your kind words and for making this possible. You’re one of the best in the biz and I’m very grateful to have met you.

    Reply
  22. Allison Brennan

    I got my copy of Leanna’s book through Amazon already, and even though I don’t read historicals (much) I put it at the top of my list because when I met her earlier this year I knew I’d love her book.

    Billie, great story. Little boys really know what’s important. Wish big boys did . . .

    Reply
  23. Emma Lee

    Thank you!

    I was a true story. An actress (I think Joan Plowright but am not 100% certain) once said "be like a rubber ball, when they knock you down, bounce back twice as high." The kind advice a writer needs.

    Reply
  24. HODGEPODGESPV

    leanna knows how excited i am about getting this book. if i don’t win an autographed copy, i have just have to send her my copy and have her autograph it. this posting was interesting with the difference on the direction of the questions. after reading every one the interviews i can find, i don’t think i would have one original question left.

    Reply

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