Author Spotlight: Leisl Leighton…

Hello Leisl and welcome to the Author Spotlight.

KillingMeSoftly_cover

 

Can you tell us about your journey from hobby writer to published author?

I worked in theatre and cabaret for many years and wrote/co-wrote scripts throughout those years as well as owning my own theatre restaurant for 6 years. But after 12 years of working in that industry, I’d had enough and wanted to start a family, so closed my business down. I still needed to be creative though, so I began to write the stories I dreamed every night. My first effort was a massive fantasy tomb that when finished was 250,000 words long! I realise now that I wrote everything into that novel – character backgrounds, story backgrounds, the history of the cultures…everything – because I’m a pantser. Because I can’t stick to one thing, I wrote a bunch of other styles of novel, both single title and category, and began submitting some of them, without understanding anything about that process because I was working in the dark, alone.

A lucky meeting with Anne Gracie changed everything for me. She kindly interpreted half a dozen page long rejection letters I got and then told me in no uncertain terms that I had to join RWA and avail myself of its critique partner network and competitions to work on the technical aspects of writing I was failing at and not give up, because those rejection letters were actually telling me I had something, I just had to work at it.

I did as she suggested and was rewarded with amazing help, some wonderful friendships and a network of support you just don’t get anywhere else. I have worked on a number of manuscripts, pitched at conferences, sent to contests here and in the US (I won and placed in quite a few) and had the privilege of attending the first 5DI week. I kept submitting and got some really great encouragement from agents and editors who liked my writing but just didn’t have a place for the stories I sent them. That all changed when I met with Carol George from Destiny Romance about a manuscript I’d submitted to her. That manuscript was wrong for them, but they loved my writing and she asked to see other things I’d written as long as they had a stronger romance thread than the one I’d submitted. I submitted a romantic suspense I’d written a few years ago and the rest, as they say, is history.

Now that you are a published author, how has life changed for you?

I have been treating writing like it is my job ever since I came back from the 5DI. I spend time on my writing every day, even if it’s only for 15 minutes. I have also given myself deadlines to work towards in regards to entering competitions and have pitched at every RWA conference I’ve gone to, researched pitching, query letter and synopsis writing and have generally made it my business to know as much as I could about this industry I wanted to be a part of. So in essence, things haven’t changed on the outside. I still fit my writing in around my family and my part time work, but I find it’s the attitudes of others that have changed. People are suddenly taking my writing more seriously – without that contract, people do tend to give you indulgent looks as if to say they think you are dreaming when you say you are a writer.

Leisl Headshot tweet

How important have writing competitions been in regards to your development as a writer?

I think they have been essential. They gave me my first taste of criticism from people I don’t know and helped me see not only where I was going wrong and what I could improve, but what I was getting right. The contest dates made me work to deadlines and made me research how to write queries and synopsis, which in turn helped me to figure out elemental problems of my manuscripts – like where a plot falls into the mire of its own cleverness or where character GMC’s aren’t strong enough. They also got my work in front of agents and editors who gave me some wonderful advice and allowed me to make some good contacts. I was asked, through entering the Emerald, to become a contest manager, which has taught me even more about what good writing is, reader and judge expectations and helped me connect with some of the other wonderful volunteers in RWA who have been massively supportive of my work. But most of all, entering the competitions has taught me the most important lesson of all – You can’t please everyone.

Do you have a Critique Partner?

I belong to two different critique/writing groups, one an RWA group, the other I started with someone I met in a local writing group. There is someone in each group that I can send things to in between meetings if I need and I do the same for them. I also have had critique partners through the critique partner network, who helped me a lot, but in the end with each, life got in the way for one or other of us and we just stopped swapping work.

You write across a variety of genres: paranormal, suspense and fantasy, which is your favourite?

That’s like asking me to choose a favourite child!

I love reading those genres, so that’s why I write them. In regards to choosing what genre I’m going to write in at any one time, I write what strikes me at the time and when writing it, it evolves into one of those three genres. My characters seem to know best where they belong.

What are the essential elements in all of the above genres?

There must be mystery, high tension, and a strong, twisting plot that keeps me guessing but that doesn’t make me go ‘Huh? How did that happen?’ at the end; strong, engaging characters who are challenged by the situation they find themselves in, but also have a personal journey to make and are fully drawn so they feel like friends I can believe in even while I’m thinking, ‘how can they find their way through this?’

Other characters and little subplots can add to the mystery and tension, but aren’t always essential, although they very often help the leads find their inner strength and face their own personal demons, so I do like them to be there and real. The worlds need to be fully drawn so that I can see them and breathe them in, allowing me to feel a part of them every time I open the page and draws me right in. The world also needs to make me feel that the characters truly live there and haven’t just been dropped in for the duration of the book, that I could revisit this world to follow other characters and it would be just as alive and fulfilling as the first time because there is even more to explore. And on top of this, for paranormal and fantasy series especially, an overarching plot that will unfold a little more in each novel.

What are your top 5 all time favourite books?

Wow, that’s a really hard question to answer. I think more in terms of favourite authors, of which there are many, but I suppose my favourite books, the ones I have read over and over are: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, (and the rest of the series), Magician by Raymond E. Feist (and the subsequent series), Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts (and the subsequent series), Hummingbird by Lavyrle Spencer, Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singhe (and the subsequent series).

I have to say I also love Nora Roberts, Anne Gracie, Katherine Kerr, Anne McCaffrey, JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyers, Charlaine Harris, Sherylyn Kenyon, Richelle Meade, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Georgette Heyer… the list goes on and on.

Can you tell us a little about your next novel?

I am currently working on a few things. The first is a romantic suspense I’m rewriting that I wrote many years ago about a woman on the run for her life after witness protection failed her. The second is a paranormal romance series about Witches and Weres and a curse that threatens to tear apart the pact they created 500 years ago to save Witches from the wildness of their powers and Weres from the violence of their animals. I have written the first book for this series and am currently writing the second in the series as well as mapping out ideas for the third. And then there’s an epic paranormal fantasy about a blind witch and her vampire lover and the prophecy that threatens to tear their world apart. I’ve written the first two novels of this series and am working on ideas for redrafting them before moving further into the series (although I have the third and fourth books basically mapped out).

What does the future hold for Leisl Leighton?

Hopefully lots of time to write, lots of people loving my books and wanting more, affording me the ability to make writing what I do for my career. Although, if this weren’t to happen, writing would still be essential to my life, because I love it, I need it and it helps keep me sane in this insanely busy world. Other than that, health and happiness, friendship and love for myself, my family and friends is everything I would ask for. 

Congratulations on your debut release, ‘Killing me Softly’. Can you give us an extract?

His eyes were vibrant blue in the semi-dark room. She could feel his gaze like a touch as it skimmed over her face, came back to her eyes, remained there. How could it feel as if he were drinking her in? She cleared her throat, shifted, tore her gaze away. ‘I like to come down here at this time of the night. I like the quiet. I can work without being disturbed.’
He laughed at her gentle barb, the sound sliding up and down her spine. She stood up abruptly. ‘How come you’re up at this hour?’ She sounded defiant, almost annoyed, but she couldn’t help it. He’d thrown her with his presence.

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7 Comments

  1. Gorgeous cover, Leisl, and lovely to learn more about you.

    Reply
  2. Fantastic interview Liesl! Our paths have crossed from time to time and I’m thrilled to see you doing so well. Loved the extract!

    Reply
  3. suzannebrandyn

     /  June 15, 2013

    Congratulations Leisl,
    Great to see you here. I wish you all the best. I’m still waiting for the, well, the other one. lol. 🙂 🙂

    Reply
  4. Congratulations, Leisl! Sorry I must have missed your announcement on the loops. Your cover is gorgeous and I love the sound of your blurb (hopped over to Destiny site to read it). All the best & may this be the first of many more books to come.

    Reply
  5. kerriepaterson

     /  June 16, 2013

    Congratulations Leisl! Lovely to learn more about you.

    Reply
  6. Congratulations Leisl – I’m very happy for you. Your cover is lovely and I enjoyed your interview. I’m with you, Magician is one of my all-time favourite reads. All the best.

    Reply
  7. It was lovely to read of your adventures so far. Congratulations, Leisl on your achievement and I look forward to reading your book.

    Reply

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