This author interview with Leanna Ellis is conducted by Sharon S.
Sharon: How much of a departure from your normal writing was Forsaken?
Leanna Ellis: Hi, Sharon! Thanks for having me here today!
In some ways Forsaken is quite a departure for me, and in other ways it isn’t at all. I have never written about the Amish before and so that was very different. Once I got past all the research, I got down to the heart of the matter: people are people. You can dress them up in different clothes, stick them in a buggy rather than a car, and you still have people who struggle the same way we struggle, who laugh and live and love like we do.
I also haven’t written about vampires before. The good part about that aspect of my story is that I could make them any way I wanted. No research required. But honestly, what is the same about this book is that I write about things deep in the heart. I also like to add a bit of humor here and there. And I love having a bit of mystery. I really enjoyed writing this book and I’m enjoying writing Book 2, which I’m in the middle of now.
Sharon: Forsaken is part of a series. What can you tell us about the next book and the series as a whole?
LE: Yes, you’re right. Forsaken is part of the “Plain Fear” series. Book 2 is called Forbidden. It’s really Roc’s story—the detective from Forsaken. I really fell in love with Roc during the writing of Book 1, and I’m glad the focus can be on him a bit more. But Hannah and Levi are also in this book, as well as Hannah’s sister, Rachel. And of course, Akiva, is causing all sorts of problems.
Sharon: When did the idea for Forsaken start rattling around in your head and what put it there?
LE: Forsaken actually began as a joke. I’m not kidding! I was at a multi-author book signing and another author and I made a joke about we should write an Amish/vampire story because those were the two genres that were selling so well. Well, it really was a joke. I didn’t rush home and start writing the book. But I suppose some seed was planted in my warped little brain and took root. Soon a character was speaking to me about her story and wanting me to write it.
I resisted. Really, I didn’t want to merge two genres. But there was a very intriguing element that I couldn’t seem to ignore. To me, this was a Phantom of the Opera type story, with a love triangle, and a clear dividing line between good and evil. So I eventually wrote the prologue and first chapter. Then I set it aside because I was busy meeting other deadlines. Besides what was I to do with an Amish/vampire story?
I mentioned it eventually to a couple of writer friends. They laughed but in a good way and encouraged me to write it. Well, I wasn’t so sure although I was becoming obsessed with the story. I spent a lot of time in prayer over this book, because I don’t want to write something that God doesn’t want me to write. Also, I knew I’d have to leave the Christian market and sell it in the secular market. I wasn’t about to make that move without God’s clear direction. And he began to show me in more ways than one that this was the book He wanted me to write.
More than a year passed, and I was at a writer’s conference minding my own business and not pursuing this story at all when an editor said the perfect submission would be…you guessed it! An Amish/vampire story. So I made an appointment to meet that editor and just talk about the idea. It almost felt like when an addict first admits she has a problem. I felt like I was teetering on the edge when I said, “I’m a writer and I’ve written an Amish/vampire story.” Well, she requested it!
What I love about this story is that it shows the battle of good and evil. Evil doesn’t always appear with pitchfork and horns. Quite often, evil is appealing and attractive and hooks us in before we realize what has happened. Such is the case with my heroine Hannah. She simply loved a boy. But she opens her heart and her mind too easily and the consequences could be devastating.
Sharon: There are so many aspiring authors out there, what would you say is the hardest part of being an author and what is the best part?
LE: For me, marketing is the hardest part of being an author because that requires me stepping out of my comfort zone. But the best part is when I get reader mail, and a reader tells me how much a book meant to her (or him!) and how it impacted his or her life. That is an amazing experience to be able to reach out and touch others when I otherwise might never have met them.
Sharon: Tell us about your writing space/environment. (Where you write, time you like to write, quiet or music, etc...)
LE: I’m a mom, and I have two very active tweeners. So I don’t have a writing space or time anymore. Those days are over for the time being. So I write when I can: car, Starbucks, kitchen table, sofa, bed, theater, fencing club, dance studio, etc… Have laptop will write.
I’ve even written in the wee hours of the morning while on vacation. While the family slept and the sun had not yet poked its head over the horizon, I sat on the lanai, listening to the surf burbling on the beach or waves crashing against the rocks, and tapped away on the keyboard.
I like the quiet, but I rarely get quiet. In fact, right now, my son is practicing the piano and my daughter is upstairs practicing a song for an audition. Not the same songs. And my daughter can belt, so I can hear both songs clearly. But this time of their lives (and mine) is precious and fleeting.
Some day it will be way too quiet in my house. Sometimes, I go to Starbucks and plug my earbuds into my ears and listen to songs, usually those that help me focus on my book, because each of my books has a song or two or three that help me think about the characters or theme.
Sharon: Finish this sentence “People think I am weird because I…” (Give us something good <G>)
LE: Because I’m a writer. Come on, writers are weird. And that’s okay. My kids think I’m weird, because I’m their mom and I do weird things.
For example: one of my kids was taking geography in school and studying the African countries. So we were discussing them, and one was Djibouti. It’s pronounced (with my Texas twang): dj-bootie! So I was standing on the sidewalk of our vet’s office in front of our car and wiggling my backside and singing “Dj-bootie! Dj-bootie! Shake your Dj-bootie!” And my kids were laughing…until they saw a car pull into the lot next to our car. The elderly couple did not look amused at my antics. And of course, my kids were mortified. But now that a little time has passed, they laugh about it.
But hey, they will never forget that particular African country!
Sharon: Who was your favorite character in Forsaken? I think Levi was mine. He was so strong and loyal!
LE: That’s like choosing favorite children! And I love all my children equally! But I love Levi too! He was one of those ‘still waters run deep’ kind of characters. I hurt for Hannah. I still hurt for Jacob/Akiva. And I love Roc. I’ve had a lot of fun torturing him in Book 2, which of course if a writer’s job to torture their characters.
Sharon: I read on your website that you love musicals. I love Andrew Lloyd Webber too. Do you like Hollywood taking our favorite musicals and turning them into movies?
LE: I do! I remember going with my mom to the movie theater to see a special presentation of Singing in the Rain. I loved Gene Kelly. In fact, I just read a book because it was dedicated to Gene Kelly. So I grew up watching the MGM musicals. But that doesn’t negate my love for the theater. There is nothing like a live performance. When Hollywood takes an amazing theater production and turns it into film, it makes it accessible to the masses. And that’s a good thing.
Stage and film are very different mediums and so require different ways of presenting a story. Do they always do things the way I would? No, but I still love them. I thought Chicago was amazing! I would have chosen a different actor for one part, but I still love that musical. I didn’t think anyone could play the Phantom as well as Michael Crawford, but Gerard Butler played it his own way. It’s different and I can enjoy it. I’ve seen many productions of Phantom of the Opera, from London to New York to Dallas to even a high school production (which was the first high school ever given permission to do Phantom of the Opera), and it’s amazing to see the creativity and diversity among the productions and casts.
Sharon: You have done some traveling. Is there some place special you want to go to for inspiration and research?
LE: I love to travel. For inspiration, I love to go to the ocean or the mountains. We haven’t been to the mountains in a long time and with the heat wave we’ve been having this summer I think the mountains sound pretty cool at the moment. We visited Kauai last August and it was an amazing time, so I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to another trip to my beloved Hawaiian Islands. For research, I am hoping a trip to New Orleans and Ohio is in my near future. Thanks so much, Sharon, for having me here today!
PLAIN FEAR: FORSAKEN BY LEANNA ELLIS – IN STORES AUGUST 2011
Not Death, But Love…
Pain choked off anymore words. She grabbed the cold stone marker for support, splayed her hands across its front as a sob wrenched free from her chest.
Although she knows that the Amish way is to move on from grief, on to a new season, Hannah cannot move on from Jacob, who was taken too soon.
Jacob’s brother Levi also cannot move on—his love for Hannah burns just as strong as ever. But he knows how much Hannah loved his brother, and the event that took Jacob from them.
And it’s a secret he must take to his grave…
So when a mysterious stranger comes to their community, he too carries a secret; one that will force Hannah to choose between light and dark, between the one she wants to love and a new yearning she fears to embrace.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Leanna Ellis is the winner of the National Readers’ Choice Award and Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart Award. She has written numerous books for Harlequin/Silhouette and has published four books with B&H Publishing. With her husband, two children, and wide assortment of pets, she lives in Texas. Plain Fear: Forbidden, the next book in the Plain Fear Series, will be in stores in Spring 2012. For more information, please visit www.leannaellis.com
GIVEAWAY: I have 2 copies of Plain Fear: Forsaken today. Two lucky winners from the US or Canada will be chosen to get the books. To enter: Leave a comment on Amish vampires, or a question for Leanna! Last Day to Enter: September 18, 2011.