Leanna and I met a little more than a year ago at the first UtopYACon in Nashville, TN. Leanna was there with the creators and actors from An Auror’s Tale to debut the series, which–of course–we all geeked out about (well I did anyway). Since then, we have crossed paths several times, most recently at DragonCon in Atlanta this September. Every time we meet, Leanna is H2T a gothic, Victorian dame and that’s reason enough to want to interview her. An even better reason are the Victorian, gothic-steeped novels that she writes like second nature. I’m so glad to have a chance to finally ask her a few questions.
1. First, tell us a little about yourself and your books.
I’m an actress, playwright and the award-winning, nationally bestselling author of Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels for adults and teens, such as the Strangely Beautiful saga, the Magic Most Foul saga and the upcoming Eterna Files saga for Tor/Macmillan. I love writing about when paranormal things happen to normal people; how they cope, the ingenuity and curiosity of the human spirit, living or dead. I add fantastical aspects to what I try to create as a “realistic” Victorian setting, as best I know how. I’ve been obsessed with the 19th Century since childhood, it’s what I feel my authorial voice is best suited to and the era continues to hold endless fascination for me. I love nothing more than dressing in full Victorian regalia at conventions, it’s something I’ve become infamous for. I live in New York City with my husband and our beloved rescued lab rabbit, I am active in the Harry Potter fandom as a passionate Narcissa Malfoy cosplayer alongside my best friends/family, and I own more corsets than is reasonable. A member of Actors Equity and SAG-AFTRA performer unions, I work often in film and television on shows like Boardwalk Empire.
2. Your writing style blends Victorian conventions and settings with modern storytelling sensibilities. How to you stay true to the era while creating stories that are engaging for modern readers?
The aspects of the “paranormal” that fascinate us today held the Victorians in the same thrall. The 19th Century birthed Spiritualism and many esoteric and occult sects that sought answers to life, death and the fate of and scientific evidence of the soul and spirit. It’s the psychic and spiritual aspects I choose to highlight and focus on in several different capacities and facets in my books. I think the great, divine mystery of life is resonant no matter what era one lives in. I focus on human relationships in all their various forms and try to create people who are appealing and interesting, active and unique, with an eye for inserting powerful women into Gothic tropes, as the traditional Gothic novel posits women in positions of victimization. I want to present women as the knights in shining armor of my series, affecting change by comprehensive choices not just reacting as props and plot devices. By placing these powerful women in conflict with their time period it not only showcases their strength but highlights the world-building of a time period that didn’t allow women the rights and voice we deserve.
You recently serialized your novel, The Double Life of Incorporate Things on your blog–which is so perfect by the way. Why did you choose the serialization route? How did your readers respond?
It’s been a fascinating process, not sure its one I’d ever repeat as the novel was not complete when I embarked upon serialization. It forced me to write in a linear manner to keep up with my audience. (I prefer writing out of order and then weaving it all together in later drafts). But I wanted to walk in the shoes of some of my Victorian inspirations, writers who also serialized their fiction in magazines like Charles Dickens’ “Household Words”. It was a challenge and an experiment. I wanted to provide fresh consistent new content to my existing readers and entice new audiences. Also I wanted to piece by piece lay the groundwork for my upcoming summer 2014 series with Tor / Macmillan, THE ETERNA FILES. Characters from that series appear in this Magic Most Foul finale and I carry Magic Most Foul characters into Eterna.
So many YA authors are itching for a movie deal, but I read that The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker is on it’s way to Broadway. How did this come about?
My agent, when looking for manuscripts, unbeknownst to me, was also searching for material to transform into a musical. It was a case of right place at the right time, and Nicholas Lewis and Kenny Seymour, Broadway and regional theatre veterans, thankfully loved and was inspired by the material! It’s been so exciting! We’ve a script and music, we’re in the revision process and searching out where we’ll workshop the production before a move to Broadway could ever be considered. It takes years and lots of money to mount a show like this, its a long but engaging process. Read more- and listen to the concept album-! At http://strangelybeautifulthemusical.com
Any advice for would-be writers?
Persistence. Be willing to edit and to revise but don’t rush to take every critique. If several people point out the same issue, fix it. Be flexible. Look for opportunities. Keep writing at all costs. Be kind to yourself and others. The industry can be rough. You have to want your work to be out in the world more than you fear its failure.
Any last words?
Join me on all my social networks!
– Cheers and thanks!