Author Spotlight and Giveaway: Leisl Leighton…

Welcome to the Author Spotlight, Leisl Leighton, and congratulations on the release of ‘Dark Moon’!  Can you tell us a little bit about it, please?

Lately, Skye Collins has been unable to shake the feeling that she’s being watched. After a lifetime spent hiding her true nature, she knows that any unusual attention is something to be wary of.  And the only attention she’s been receiving lately is from the intense and attractive Jason McVale.

Jason claims to know things about Skye that can’t be true, and it’s obvious he’s hiding secrets of his own. Yet despite herself, Skye can’t resist the attraction between them, and her surrender will set in motion a chain of events that will have consequences for everyone she holds dear.

Gradually, Jason convinces Skye that she has to trust him if she is to solve the riddle of her past and learn the truth about her power.  But believing Jason means that her entire life has been based on a lie.

As her enemies gather strength and the danger increases, Skye is forced to accept who she really is. Will she risk everything and fight for those she loves? Or save herself and let them be destroyed by the forces of darkness?

DMoon

 

Your debut novel, Killing Me Softly, was a romantic suspense, while Dark Moon is a fantasy. Do you have a soft spot for either genre over the other?

I read a number of genres: fantasy, sci-fi, historical romance, paranormal romance, romantic suspense, YA, contemporary romance, chic lit and women’s fiction, but when it comes to writing, I do tend to stick to the urban fantasy romance, paranormal romance and romantic suspense. I have tried other genres, but they just don’t flow for me as well as these three. At the moment I am writing more paranormal romance and epic urban fantasy than romantic suspense, but that’s mostly because those are the stories coming to me, not because of a preference. If I had an idea for a romantic suspense right now, that’s what I’d be writing.  

Are there any other genres you would like to venture into in the future?

Maybe sci fi with a romantic bent. I have a story in my mind that’s tumbling around – nothing specific right now, but if it plays out a bit more, I might sit down and give it a try. 

Can you tell us about your world building in Dark Moon. Talk us through the process of  building a world filled with not entirely human creatures.

I used to be an actor, so when I write, I tend to ‘become’ my characters much as I did when I was on stage and they very much tell me who they are and how they became that – which tends to mean they inform me about their world, the ‘rules’ so to speak. It’s never really a conscious thought process for me of me sitting down and making copious notes before I write and making my characters fit to that. As I write the story it all evolves more in my mind. I make lots of notes as I go and on redrafts and edits make sure those ideas and traits are played through. 

You play a large role within the RWA as a volunteer. Can you tell us how you manage your time so that everything gets done? Are you a time managing supremo?

Other people tend to tell me I am, but I can tell you, at times it doesn’t feel that way. I try to do things as they come in so I don’t get a huge built up pile of stuff to do. There are times this doesn’t work though – things do have a habit of happening at once. I keep a list of things that must be done and tick it off as I go and I put deadlines into my email calendar so every time I open up my email, it reminds me what I need to do. I try to get up early in the morning to write and I have 1 day off per week that I spend mostly writing, which means I tend to get to everything else in the afternoon/night time or in spare moments on the weekends (like now – the boys are playing computer games after having their cousin over for a few hours, all the washing is done and the hubby is out doing the shopping – so I’m answering these questions.) In regards to housework, the essentials get done every week, but non essentials tend to get left to when people are coming over.

Killing Me Softly Cover2

 

I hear you’re a lover of all things Jane Austen. Which is your favourite:

a)      JA Novel,

b)     Movie / television adaptation,

c)      Mr Darcy.

Ooh, hard one. Can I say d) all of the above? I studied Jane Austen at university and have read all her books a number of times and watched many adaptations of her works. I do love the novels – I fell in love with them first. But a good adaptation of her works is pretty special too. And Colin Firth was pretty special as Darcy – both the historical one and the modern one. 

How do you think Jane Austen’s work has shaped contemporary romance? What can romance writers learn from Jane Austen?

I think she made writers and readers see that an ordinary life and existence is special and can be written about. I think she was an expert of ‘write what you know’ and she wrote about it with fondness and love. She was also excellent at putting her characters through the wringer in regards to the lessons they had to learn to end up with their HEA. She wrote simple stories, but they were full stories. I’ve heard lecturers go on about her use of irony, and how that makes her a special social commentator – which is important because she saw her world for all its faults, and much of this brought essential humour – but for me, what shines from these stories is the fact she loves her characters and their stories and that is why they still feel real for us all these centuries later. I think that’s the most important lesson – be real to yourself and love what you write. 

Can you tell us a little about your WIP?

I am currently working on the 2nd and 3rd in the Witch-Were Chronicles, Healer Moon and Blood Moon, and am making notes for the 4th one, Ghost Moon. Healer Moon takes place directly after the Dark Moon ends and picks up the romance between two of the other characters and keeps following the overall arc in regards to the nemesis in Dark Moon. Each novel adds to the history that backs up the mythology of the series, as well as giving other characters a HEA. 

What would we find on your book shelves/ereader?

You would find all of Raymond E. Feist’s series as well as Katherine Kerr, Anne McCaffrey and some Jany Wurtz. There is also Anne Gracie, Georgette Heyer, Joanna Lindsey, LaVyrle Spencer, Austen, Bronte and Shakespeare. And for something more current, lots of Nalini Singh, M.J Scott, Rachelle Meade, Stephanie Myers, JK Rowling, Sherilyn Kenyon and a bunch of other paranormal and YA paranormal authors. Also, there is a lot of Nora Roberts and JD Robb. And all the Anne of Green Gables series – I relate strongly to that red-headed girl with the large imagination.

Leisl Headshot tweet

 

You’ve entered into a lot of writing competitions, and have done very well. How important do you think it is for writers to participate in competitions? Any tips you’d like to share?

I think it is essential to a writer’s journey – just like having a critique partner or belonging to a writing group is. You NEED to get your work written by people who are not family and friends. They will give you their honest opinion and often a much needed dose of truth (no matter how painful that may be to swallow at first). Those first few comps really helped me to leap forward with my writing and brought to my attention the mistakes I was making.

In regards to tips – enter the ones that are appropriate to what you are writing and when you begin to do better in them, enter those ones with final editor/agent judges who deal with the kind of work you are writing. Also, read the scoresheets and comments, then put them away and don’t action them right away. Knee jerk fixing is sometimes more destructive to your work than helpful. Allow your ‘hurt’ to settle down to something manageable and after a few weeks/month, try to remember what was said on those scoresheets – the things that stick are most often the things you need to work on first. 

Could you give us a sneaky peek at one of your favourite parts of Dark Moon, please?

People keep asking this, but I don’t have a favourite part. All of it is there because it is my favourite. But I will share with you part of the opening scene, because it is the first scene that ever came to me and it wouldn’t leave me alone, demanding to be written even though I was working on something else. Skye is skiing when a snowboarder crashes into her:

Despite the pain sparking through her body – damn, she was going to have some impressive bruises for show and tell on Monday – she became uncomfortably aware of the way their hips pressed together, legs tangled. She hadn’t been this close to a man in way too long. This wasn’t the way she’d imagined it happening again, though.

She tried to move. The action made his board – amazingly still attached to his feet – cut into her leg. She winced. ‘Well, this is a very charming way to meet and all, but can you get off, please? You’re crushing my legs.’

‘Sorry.’ He scrambled back.

‘Oh, fudgy-duck!’ She gasped as his board scraped over the bruise.

‘Are you hurt?’ He ran his hand ran over her leg, checking for injury.

Shivers chased across her skin that had nothing to do with the snow melting inside her jacket. Skye pulled away. ‘No. I’m fine. Just let me stretch it out.’

He shifted back. But instead of getting up and skiing off like most other people would, he stayed, kneeling beside her as she stretched out her leg.

‘I’m so sorry. I usually ski, but my brother talked me into trying out a snowboard this year.’

Rubbing her aching leg, her temper spiked at his words. Glaring at him, she snapped, ‘Are you kidding me? What the hell are you doing on Federation? It’s a black run – or didn’t you notice all the signs up the top, you irresponsible arse?’

His eyebrows rose above his sunglasses. ‘Wow. That thing about redheads and tempers is true.’

She bristled. ‘You could have killed yourself, or someone else. Namely me!’

He brushed snow from his hair. ‘For your information, I was doing okay until I hit that goddamned icy patch. I don’t know why I agreed to try a board,’ he grumbled.

He sounded so much like her twin, River, when he was pouting, that her flare of anger disappeared and she had to hide her grin.

‘So why did you go over to the dark side?’

‘My trickster of a brother said it would be a rush, but I think he just wanted to see me fall on my arse.’

Her lips twitched. ‘That would be okay, except for the fact you fell on mine.’

‘It looked softer than mine.’

She choked on a laugh. ‘Are you saying I have a fat arse?’

Rather than trying to back-pedal, his mouth curled into a lopsided smile – such a lovely mouth. ‘No. In fact, I was thinking how nice it looked before I smacked into you.’

Skye dragged her eyes from his mouth. ‘Is that why you took me for a toboggan ride, with me as the toboggan? To meet me and my nice arse?’

‘That, and the fact you stopped so suddenly.’

She snorted. ‘I thought you said there was an icy patch.’

‘Yeah.’ He laughed. ‘I did. Didn’t I?’ He pushed his sunglasses off his face to look down at her.

She gaped.

He had the most startling eyes. They were deeply blue on the edge, almost black, but lightened to an icy blue at their centre. Lightning bolt striations crazed through the iris, making it seem like his eyes glowed. They reminded her of a picture of a wolf River had put on his bedroom wall when they were young. She’d asked him to take it down. He’d thought it was because she was frightened of big dogs, but it hadn’t just been that. The wolf’s eyes had haunted her in a way that had confused her ten-year-old soul.

This man’s eyes were even more dangerous to her equilibrium. They pulled her in. Her chest ached like she’d been winded.

He broke eye contact and pushed to his feet, allowing her to catch her breath.

‘Here, let me help you up.’ He put out his hand.

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Leisl is kindly gifting one Kindle copy of Dark Moon. Just answer the following question in the comments and you will go into the draw: 

‘If you were a shape shifter, what would you most like to turn into?’

This competition is open world wide and will be drawn on the 28th of March,  2014.

 

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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