A short while back I read a review of The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker on Donna's Fantasy Dreamer's Ramblings blog. That review, along with a couple of others, really intrigued me about the book. To be honest, it was the title though. The title that I found to be an alluring invitation to my curiousity. The author, Leanna, just happened to be on Twitter (really loving the twitter-verse) so I struck up a conversation with her and that evolved into the interview or this strangely beautiful conversation with Leanna Renee Hieber. Her novel comes out today (so order it if you haven't) and while I've only just started reading it, I've already been seduced by the language.
Gothic Victorian fantasy. Just saying the genre gives me chills. What attracted you to this era and style?
I’ve been obsessed with all of the above since childhood. As a child I traipsed around in doubled skirts, makeshift corsets, speaking in a British accent. Not normal for a kid in rural Ohio. I fell in love with ghost stories (created and told them eagerly, spooking my local Girl Scouts troupe as often as I could), fantasy novels and Edgar Allan Poe and that formed the basis for the stories I began to write at a young age. The rich, complex language was intoxicating and alluring to me, romantic and strange. I could escape fully into it, and any supernatural aspects only heightened the draw. I honestly credit a past life to my literal life-long obsession with the 19th century. I can’t explain it otherwise. It just makes sense to me, feels like home, and calls to me like a siren, eerie and compelling.
What type of research did you do to create the right atmosphere for your novel?
The love of atmosphere came from simply reading 19th century literature, particularly the Gothics, and I believe that translated into my writing. In college I was a theatre major with a focus in the Victorian Era and went on scholarship to London, where I began to hone my thoughts and experiences. While there I became familiar with some London haunts and more familiar with Jack the Ripper. These keen interests led me to read more about both subject matters. Richard Jones’ tours and his Haunted London books (www.haunted-britain.com) were oft used resources. Once the idea for Percy Parker waltzed into my head, I surrounded myself with books, films and music set in that time, and continued to read my favourite 19th century authors. I adapted works of Victorian literature for the professional stage and that was a great help in getting me even more comfortable with the language. It was a combination of all of these things.
Can you describe your writing process? Do you have a writing schedule that you maintain?
I write whenever I can, wherever I can. I write best between 10pm and 3am, so I try and have my evenings free, a true creative night owl.
What was the toughest part of the publishing routine? Submitting? Editing?
The submission process for this book was long and torturous. The waiting to hear back from submission to submission is just so difficult when, like me, you don’t have patience and you yearn for your work to find a home. But this business taught me patience as a principle. It’s been about 9 years from the first moment of idea to publication, and that was plenty long enough for me. Because my book is cross-genre, I got a lot of favourable responses but houses wouldn’t take it because it wasn’t enough of one genre or the other. While this made the book harder to sell, I think it’s what makes it unique, and thankfully reviewers have thought so too, and it’s what compelled Dorchester to take a chance on it.
The editing process I really love actually, even though there will always be compromises involved, it’s like working with a director in a play. I think my enjoyment of it comes, though, from having a really great editor who I really enjoy working with.
Each book is a learning experience, what will you take from this book forward?
Pacing. My editor is really good about making sure I don’t lapse into a truly Victorian pacing. The narrative has to be more threaded with tension and more brisk in it’s pace. I’m trying to keep that in mind.
Where did the name come from? It's such an odd, yet curiously appealing name?
It came from my agent. He was really smart. He felt that the title could help navigate the cross-genre nature of the book.
The future novels (trilogy or series) -- are they already done? Are you in the progress of writing them?
The Strangely Beautiful series has four, perhaps five books maximum. I’m done with the draft of Book II, which picks up exactly where Book I leaves off, with Percy and Alexi still in the main focus but with more glimpses into the Guard. I’m currently working on a novella in the Strangely Beautiful world as well as Book III, a prequel.
What type of books do you yourself like to read?
19th century literature, mysteries, fantasy romances, paranormal, YA paranormal or fantasy, and graphic novels.
Author to author, what's the best part of writing for you? What's the worst?
The best is falling in love with ideas, creating a detailed world, setting and characters that you adore so much, characters that become your friends and family and then sharing them with the world so that an audience can come to know and love them too. This book is my love-letter to the world and I’m so grateful for the privilege to share it! The worst part of writing is not having enough time to write.
Leanna is currently doing a wonderful haunted London blog tour of various blogs where she shares several wonderful ghost stories. I highly recommend you follow along with her.