Friday, January 20, 2012

Feature Friday: Leanna Renee Hieber

To kick of my very first Feature Friday post, I have the marvelously talented Leanna Renee Hieber!  Leanna is an author, an actress and a playwrite who grew up in Ohio and has her BFA in Theater.  Besides being super talented, she's a snappy dresser, a diehard Slytherin, she's one of the kindest New Yorkers you'll ever meet, and her Goth shuffle is to die for.

INTERVIEW: 

A.L.: 
Where did you get the inspiration for Darker Still? 

Leanna:
Ever since I was a kid I wanted to write a haunted painting story. Probably all that time spent with my art-teacher father in art museums. There was a Sesame Street movie called "Don't Eat The Pictures" where the Sesame Street gang are locked inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art overnight. I know some inspiration came from that! :) When I read The Picture of Dorian Gray and fell so in love with the story, it would forever become an influential work. 

A.L.: 
 Most of Darker Still is written through journal entries.  Did you find writing in that format difficult? 

Leanna:  
I loved it. I don't usually like writing in first person, so approaching Natalie and her story though the diary entries made it more palatable when I started writing. 

A.L.: 
What made you decide to make Natalie mute?  How difficult was it writing a mute character?  

Leanna:  
I wanted her experience in the 'real' world and the world inside the painting to be profoundly different, and for the shift between those two worlds to be a struggle. I think a girl fighting to find her voice in the world both literally and figuratively is something we can all relate to. A girl who struggles with a disability and can be as brave as Natalie proves to be is someone we can all rally around. A girl who saves the guy for a change? Yes, please. 

A.L.: 
I think that my favorite character in Darker Still is Mrs. Northe, so I have to ask, is there someone or something that inspired her character?  

Leanna:  
I was always a "teacher's pet" in school. Mrs. Northe is in some part a combination of all my favourite teachers, mentors and elder friends in my life and a healthy dose of my Lutheran pastor, she has profoundly influenced the spirituality of my work. 

A.L.: 
Who is your favorite character in Darker Still?  Why?  

Leanna:  
One cannot pick a favorite character, it's like choosing a favorite child. But I will say I'm most invested in Natalie. She came at me like a ton of bricks as I began writing her tale and I adore getting to know her better as I continue her series. I'm a bit in love with Lord Denbury (an author has to love her hero) and I'd want Mrs. Northe on my side in ANY crisis situation.

A.L.:
Are you a character or plot driven writer?  

Leanna:  
Depends on the story, but usually characters take the lead and plot is secondary. However I have a high-concept project in development that's more plot driven and I'm just now discovering the characters, so each story has it's own unique circumstances and process. But I think due to my many years as a professional actress, I'll always lean on the side of character-driven stories. 

A.L.: 
Plotter or Pantser?  

Leanna:  
CERTIFIED PANTSER FOR LIFE. There may come a time when I'm going to have to be a plotter for a specific project (Probably this high-concept one I'm working on as we speak) but until then I go blissfully and blindly into the creative void and see what comes out. 

A.L.: 
If Percy Parker from your Strangely Beautiful series were to meet Natalie Stewart from your Magic Most Foul series what would she say to her?  Alternately, if these two Victorian ladies were to be guest fighters on American Gladiator: Victorian Edition, who would pwn the other?  Why?  

Leanna:  
They would be best friends, have a lot in common and teach each other a lot. Miss Percy would tell Natalie to believe in herself, to not be afraid of her nightmares and would encourage her to speak. Natalie would tell Percy to take her shrouds off and stop hiding, and she would agree that there's a very important purpose for her. They would commiserate about paranormal goings on and problem-solve together. If they were fighting? Natalie would at first utterly pwn Percy until Percy got exasperated and exploded with Goddess power and then it would be over, Percy victorious, but then she'd apologize for any offense. 

A.L.: 
Are you planning another series?  If so, what?  

Leanna:  
Why yes I am! It's another paranormal historical, set in 1880s NYC as well, but it might have a modern parallel story running through it. I'm not sure yet. It's very early on. What you can do is check out my short story set in the same world, called "Charged" which will be featured in QUEEN VICTORIA'S BOOK OF SPELLS: A Gaslight Fantasy Anthology published by TOR Books (release date TBA). 

A.L.:  
As you may know, this blog is mostly followed by readers and authors.  To satisfy both parties:  If you could impart your own piece of wisdom to aspiring authors, what would it be?   

Leanna:  
The most important word is persistence. Persistence and an unrelenting desire to continue to hone your craft. Never rest on laurels. Just keep chugging away. Always seek to better your craft, and steel your heart. This business can be brutal in every way. You have to let your love of writing trump your fear of rejection.

Thanks for the opportunity to be here!!
 Leanna Renee Hieber
Web: http://leannareneehieber.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/leannarenee
FB: http://facebook.com/lrhieber


THE GIVEAWAY!
Leanna has graciously sent me TWO of her works to give away.  They are AUTOGRAPHED, mind you.  The contest will be featured in the YA giveaway hop running from January 27 to January 31, so please make sure you stop back here and enter yourself in a chance to win something dark and beautiful.

What I'm giving away:

Her debut novel, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, first in her Strangely Beautiful series, landed on Barnes & Noble's bestseller lists, was named a favorite of 2009 by 14 genre  blogs, won two 2010 Prism Awards (Best Fantasy, Best First Book), the 2010 Orange County Book Buyer's Best Award (Young Adult category) and is currently in development as a musical theater production with a team that includes Broadway talent. The Strangely Beautiful series has been translated into several languages.
Read reviews on Goodreads.  Can't wait to buy it?  Go get it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

DARKER STILL: A Novel of Magic Most Foul, first in Leanna's Gothic Historical Paranormal trilogy for teens (Sourcebooks Fire), hit the Kid's/YA INDIE NEXT LIST as a recommended title by the American Booksellers Association. Seventeen Magazine said of DARKER STILL: "This chilling tale will draw you in and keep you guessing until the very last page!" The book has been praised by Shelf Awareness, The Chicago Tribune, Pixie Magazine and more. DARKER STILL will also be translated into several languages.
Read reviews on Goodreads.  Can't wait to buy it?  Go get it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.