Tell us about your latest book, Wish.
The word is out…on December 12, 2012 at exactly twelve minutes after noon, any wish made at the Believe-Meter at Macy’s in New York City will come true. At the appointed time, we find our heroine ready to make her wish: to see her father once more. There’s just one problem. Her dad’s been dead for two years.
My newest novel is a romantic suspense entitled, Wish. It’s a week-long race against time starring Maddie McGuire. When she discovers a list of names and dates, she finds out her mother died of something more than cancer and her father’s “suicide” seems highly suspicious as well. It’s up to Maddie to figure out what happened.
Wish is available Amazon and Kindle.
· When you’re writing, who’s in control? You or the characters?
I like to think I’m in control, but more often than not, I’m just kidding myself. Seriously…I LOVE it when the characters decide they don’t want to take orders from me anymore, heading off down a path I never even considered. That’s when magic happens, and it’s a heady feeling. I just hang on for the ride.
· Who are your favorite authors, the ones you read when you should be doing something else? Why do they appeal to you?
I like books with a little bit of “magic” in them, as well as ones that make me laugh out loud. The main character needs to be a little “snarky,” or at least end up that way. And the guy needs to love the girl so much he’d be willing to take a bullet for her. That said, I love anything written by Sarah Addison Allen, Mary Kay Andrews, Jude Deveraux, and Janet Evanovich. Throw in some Diana Gabaldon and selected Nicholas Sparks (only the ones that end happily-ever-after, and there are only a FEW of them), and I’m a happy girl.
· How do you classify yourself as a writer?
I’m what I consider a GRITS-Lit author. My books are usually set in the South, with a strong Southern female protagonist. My latest novel, Wish, is an exception to that rule. Wish is set in New York City, a place I’ve never been, except via books and the internet. Writing believably about a place I’ve never been was one of the hardest things I’ve done, but I believe that I pulled it off. I DO plan to visit NYC, though. I’ve got to experience the place I researched so thoroughly. Subsequent books will return to my beloved South.
· Besides “writer,” what else are you? What is your “day job”?
My husband and I have a small organic farm in the mountains of western North Carolina. We have a small herd of dairy goats and about 20 hens, so we have plenty of fresh milk and eggs to go along with the veggies and fruit. I make delicious mozzarella and ricotta cheese from the milk, too. We also own a high-end, custom Amish furniture store. Occasionally, I have to tend the store or help with deliveries. I’m also a free-lance portraits artist. My specialty is pastels, but I also work with acrylics, as well as ink and pencil drawings. I recently returned from a trip to Kirov, Russia, where I worked with a friend on a 10’x30’ mural in the orphanage my church sponsors. What an amazing experience! You can see some photos of the mural on my Facebook page: Leanna Hewitt Sain.
· Where do you get your ideas?
I call them “story seeds,” and they’re EVERYWHERE! I can be driving down the road and see a sign or a place or a thing and it takes root and starts growing immediately; an article in the newspaper or a picture in a magazine… same thing. Though I’ve written children’s story books and poems ever since I was a little girl, I never dreamed I had a novel in me until I saw my first story seed…the gate.
We were at a friend’s house for a Halloween party. After we had supper, we grabbed flashlights and headed out to a nearby graveyard. There was a big full moon, nice and spooky… the perfect Halloween setting. On the way back, my flashlight glanced over to the right and landed right on an old wooden gate, sitting all by itself at the edge of a big field. Since it was just the gate—no no fence attached—it struck me as “odd,” and I asked my friend why in the world she had a gate with no fence.
“I have no idea. It was here when we bought the place,” she answered.
Hmmm. I quickly hummed out a short burst of radio-drama music, then using my scariest voice, I growled, “The gate to nowhere! Bwahahaha. Sounds like the name of a book, doesn’t it?”
She laughed. “Why don’t you write it?”
“Maybe I will.”
That’s all it took. The story seed rooted, my mind started going, and before I knew it, Gate to Nowhere, my first novel, was complete.
The sequel added a second story seed: Cherokee Indian ‘green medicine.’ The final book of the trilogy used the Poinsett Bridge down in Greenville County, South Carolina and Matthew Brady’s method of photography during the Civil War.
Another book came from seeing a kudzu covered school bus up in the Nantahalla Valley of North Carolina while on a furniture delivery. Wish came from my cousin’s description of the Believe-Meter at Macy’s in New York City. Yet another book came from seeing a homeless person wearing a court jester hat down in Savannah, Georgia. I never know where the story seeds will pop up, but I’ve learned to take notice and lots of notes.
· Were books an important part of your household when you were growing up?
I don’t remember a lot of books in our home when I was a child, but I can remember trips to the library. We went there a lot. I loved all the Boxcar Children books and when I got older, I read all of Walter Farley’s books. In middle school, the librarian introduced me to Janet Lambert’s books and I devoured them all.
It was very important to me to encourage reading to my sons. I firmly believe that if you have a love for reading, school will be much easier for you. Not only did we buy enormous amounts of books, we visited the library every week and checked out stacks and stacks. When I started homeschooling my boys, we’d check out the maximum our library allowed. I was VERY dependent on the library. I saved boatloads of money on books I didn’t have to buy in order to round out our curriculum and gave my sons a fuller educational experience.
· Any teachers who influenced you…encouraged or discouraged?
My 9th and 10th grade English teacher, Mr. Collins, was probably the biggest positive influence in my writing. He also headed the newspaper staff and encouraged me to try out for that too. It was at that point in my life that I became more serious about writing. Though I was a commercial art major in college, I chose English as my minor and took every literature and writing class I could fit into my class schedule.
Another influential person is my friend and “writing coach,” Gerald Mills. I first met Gerry when I took a writing class at our community college. He was teaching one of those “how to write the great American novel” classes and I signed up for it. Under his teaching, I’ve grown tremendously as a writer and will be forever grateful for his patience and determination to teach me something. Thanks, Gerry.
· Have you bought an e-reader? What is your overall impression of electronic publishing?
Yes, I have a Kindle. I like it, but I have to admit, I still prefer holding an actual BOOK in my hands. I like the feel of paper, to stop and look again at the cover. I even like the smell of a book. I know that e-readers are the future, and I’ll always make sure my books are available that way, but I guess, I’m old-fashioned enough that I’ll always choose a “hard copy” over digital.
· Are you in a critique or writing group? If so, how does it work and specifically how do the members help your writing?
I meet bi-monthly with a group of four other women writers. We call our group Weavers of Words (aka. WOW). I guess we’re an odd combination (both fiction and non-fiction; from very quirky to very serious).We all have such different writing styles, but I think that’s one of the things that binds us. Plus, we’re all very good friends. Each one has strengths and weaknesses, but together, they all sort of overlap so that there are no gaps. Sounds corny, but I consider our group “complete” because of all that overlapping.
Each time we meet, we bring something we’ve written and read it for a group critique. Writers, as you know, can get tunnel-vision when it comes to their own work, and it’s very important to get other viewpoints. Sometimes you discover that something you may have thought was the greatest scene of all times—perfect in every way—just won’t work the way you’ve written it; something very obvious to everyone else, but you’ve missed it because of that aforementioned tunnel-vision.
· Any good suggestions for overcoming writer’s block?
I’ve been very fortunate to have only had the dreaded writer’s block one time, so I don’t have a lot of ammunition gathered through experience. Here’s the way I handled it:
Every year I take a week off in February; get away from all distractions at some quiet location and write like a mad woman. Seven days of uninterrupted writing time—totally alone—is something I look forward to and guard with a zealous determination. This year, when I got settled in, I faced that dreaded writer’s block. It seemed a mile thick and just as high and wide. What I did first was re-read what I’d written, editing as I went. It took a whole day to do that. The next day, I MADE myself move forward. It felt like I was trying to make a pathway through Mt. Everest with nothing but an ice pick and a toy hammer, but I kept at it. That took another whole day. The next day I blasted my way through the block and the story came at me so fast, I couldn’t keep up. My fingers just couldn’t type quickly enough. By the end of the day, I was exhausted, but elated. I hope I never have writer’s block again, but at least I know what works for me.
· Why do you write?
Because I can’t stop. I’ve always loved to write…poetry, short stories and such. When my sons were little, I wrote and illustrated story books for them, but I never dreamed I had a novel in me. That was before I saw “the gate.” After that, it was like a veritable wine bottle of stories had been uncorked and the stories keep glugging out. I can’t stop them.
There’s no end in sight, so stay tuned. My website is http://www.leannasain.com/
Purchase at Amazon