Interview with Author Leanna Renee Hieber, Conclusion

Welcome back to the conclusion in our talk with with Leanna Renee Hieber, author of Strangely Beautiful, The Eterna Files, and the sequel, Eterna and Omega.

Part One can be read here.

Part Two can be read here.

Part Three can be read here.

Part Four can be read here.

Part Five can be read here.

 

Airship Ambassador: Most of the authors I’ve talked with have some type of day job and that writing is their other job. What has that situation been for you and how has it helped/hindered begin a published writer?

Leanna Renee Hieber: Publishing for me has been so up and down that while it might be nice to call it my only job, I’m a bit too restless and momentum-driven to solely write. I have about 5 rotating freelance jobs, this allows for the flexibility I need to put my book deadlines first and be able to travel at least once a month to a Steampunk, Sci-Fi/Fantasy and/or Book convention to promote my work and the genre. Due to my extensive work on stage, I came away with a lot of theatrical contacts and union memberships that helped me keep my hand in the entertainment industry in some capacity and that’s been really wonderful.

I’ve done background work in television and film, been featured on shows like Boardwalk Empire. I do some stage management / floor director work at a small Manhattan TV studio, I’m a ghost tour guide, I craft jewelry I sell at conventions and on Etsy, I am a guest lecturer, I travel tons for writers groups and institutions like NYU, and my schedule is never ever the same from one week to the next and I’d really never have it any other way.

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AA: Looking beyond steampunk, writing and working, what other interests fill your time?

LHR: I’m basically a work-a-holic who can’t sit still or not have at least 3 projects on burners, so I pretty much have found a way to make any of my interests part of one of my jobs. My favorite thing to do is to wander graveyards (I know, how Goth), historic sites and sacred spaces. But that always leads to new story ideas, so that’s a beautiful, cyclical thing.

 

AA: There’s only so much time in a day – what interests don’t you have time for?

LRH: I really love birds and there was a time in which I wanted to be an ornithologist, so I wish I had more time to take to wildernesses with a pair of binoculars and a field-guide and go birding.

 

AA: Are there people you consider an inspiration, role model, or other motivating influence?

LRH: Besides the critique partners and collaborators I’ve mentioned, I follow a ton of extremely talented writers on Twitter and every day they say things that inspire and motivate me. Just today I tweeted release-day excitement about my favorite novel of the year, Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal, who I’m honored to call a friend, someone who I always feel makes me a better writer and person by being in her orbit. The list is so long of those I love and admire. In particular for Steampunk audiences, if you don’t know Diana Pho, @writersyndrome and BeyondVictoriana.com, she is one of the most valuable and important people in the industry and I’m very glad to also call her a colleague and friend, as well as her wife and talented playwright Ashley Rodgers.

One of my best friends from youthful Ohio years is Kelley Hensing, a gifted dark fantasy artist whose work will truly appeal to Steampunk enthusiasts and she’s a vital font of inspiration and camaraderie, check out her work at http://wickiearts.com . If not for the incredible, generous, prolific Isabo Kelly http://isabokelly.com I’d not have found my way to my first resources or contract and she continues to help my career, same with my beloved Alethea Kontis. I’m so grateful the extraordinarily talented N. K. Jemisin is not only writing gorgeous, powerful books but helping Sci-Fi and Fantasy reach a wider audience via the NY Times.

The awesome, artistic and darkly fashion savvy folks of Wormwood and Gall https://m.etsy.com/shop/WormwoodandGall have created clothing and accessory lines for my books and that helps them live in a whole new light and tactile expression, and that’s a wonderful and fruitful business partnership. I am very blessed to know a seemingly endless list of wonderful, diverse, talented, incredible people out there making awesome work and striving for better.

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AA: What is the best advice you’ve been given?

LRH: Persevere, don’t compare your path to others, hold to good news and celebration, and never lose the love for the craft, do whatever you can to tend that light. Be good to yourselves and your community. Positive, supportive presences will always lead better and more fruitful artistic lives.

 

AA: Any final thoughts to share with our readers

LRH: I’m so blessed by the opportunity to share my work and story with you, I’m very active on social media so please follow me, I am most active on Twitter @leannarenee, but I’m also on FB facebook.com/lrhieber and please join my mailing list at http://leannareneehieber.com in addition, please check out my Free Reads page there for links to several free reads and audio excerpts, the Eterna Files prequel novella “The Spark” is a great free way to get hooked on my series, and I hope you’ll join me as the action continues presently in Eterna & Omega, now available from Tor Books. Please keep up the beautiful work of being an imaginative and supportive community! I hope to see you all at a convention or event!

 

Thanks, Leanna, for joining us for this interview and for sharing all of your thoughts.  We look forward to hearing about your next projects!

 

LRH: Thanks again, so very much!

 

Keep up to date with Leanna’s latest news on her website and Twitter.

You can support Leanna and our community by getting your copies of Strangely Beautiful, The Eterna Files, and Eterna and Omega today.

Published in: on September 23, 2016 at 8:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Interview with Author Leanna Renee Hieber, Part 5

Welcome back to part five in our talk with with Leanna Renee Hieber, author of Strangely Beautiful, The Eterna Files, and the sequel, Eterna and Omega.

Part One can be read here.

Part Two can be read here.

Part Three can be read here.

Part Four can be read here.

 

Airship Ambassador: In your experience as a writer, what have been the hardest and most useful skills to learn?

Leanna Renee Hieber: To be resilient and adaptive. To want my books out in the world far more than I am ever afraid of what will happen to them. My first publisher, Dorchester, went bankrupt, owing me thousands, money I’ll never see. It was a devastating setback I am still financially trying to recover from. I had to stay strong, write the next books, work to sell them, keep going, all despite the rage and the frustration of my first edition Strangely Beautiful books going out of print when I’d just gotten started and the books had been doing very well. I had to learn some things were out of my control but they couldn’t keep me from writing. That experience was traumatic but it also steeled me, and I’m also all the more appreciative now when contracts go smoothly.

If I hadn’t have stayed working in the business, remained networking and attending conferences as a public presence, I would never have made the necessary connections and been able to put forth the effort it took to get to the next level and contract. I’m very much enjoying my time at Tor Books, with a wonderful editor and crew and I’m very grateful for that. Resilience, graciousness, hard work, passion and appreciation and gratitude when things go well and right, these things are vital to a healthy artistic backbone.

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AA: Ouch, that’s a rough start, especially one to still recover from. What story would you like to write but haven’t, yet?

LRH: I want to write a story where one of my most beloved characters, Mrs. Evelyn Northe-Stewart, a gifted psychic and the woman I admire most in my fiction, is at the very center of the story. She is an elegant widow nearing fifty years old, a kind, brilliant mentor, surrogate mother, ridiculously gifted psychic and consummate badass.

 

AA: Perhaps, soon? Writing can be a challenge some days. What are some of your methods to stay motivated and creative?

LRH: I won’t lie, a deadline with money attached happens to be a great motivator. grin Other than that, wanting my stories to have as much time as I can give them brings me to the keyboard every day or if not to word count, spending healthy amounts of daydreaming time. I adore my characters. Loving the people in your head goes a long way to maintaining inspiration, communing with them becomes vital, problem solving and literally writing out their lives becomes a mission and calling. Really giving over to the story is vital, that creates its own momentum as you yearn to see it really come alive.

Also, caffeinate heavily.

Externalize your deadlines if you don’t have them given to you, not setting an externalized deadline attached to accountability and process leads to procrastination. Writing is hard. I love it but it isn’t easy. Like with any skill set, diligence is the greatest asset, and writing is really a muscle that needs a regular workout.

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AA: Writing can definitely be hard, and some days I look at things I’ve written and think, “Well, that’s just boring.” How is New York City for writing? Does location matter for resources, access, publicity, etc

LRH:  This is a madcap city where everything is a mile a minute. I like that, as it helps me stay focused and alert, the pace of the city keeps my pace up. I carve out recovery time when I hit a wall, but the amount of writing resources, communities, events, launches, mixers, reading series and genre chapters here, it’s a hub of networking and being able to have lunch with my agent, editor and publicist regularly helps me feel connected to the industry.

 

AA: In your experience, does it seem like readers prefer a print or electronic format? Do you have a preference?

LRH: It’s such a mix, I haven’t come away with a clear winner in terms of format, so I say make everything available to a reader in whatever way they wish to consume it. I get the most requests for audio versions of my work, so that’s a project for my next couple of years as I’d like to do all my audio books. (Thanks to my theatre training and 10 years on the professional stage). But first… I have to write the next book.

 

AA: Have you been affected by electronic piracy of your work? Aside from the loss of a sale, how does this affect you/make you feel?

LRH: Yes, I have, a lot. It is hurtful and infuriating. It makes me despair that people are so divorced from content creators, thinking that entertainment should just be free, or that there isn’t a ripple effect of harm done. Writing is my job. I wish those who pirate without any sense of the damage it does to creators would have part of their paycheck stolen one day to prove the point. It’s stealing. There’s a system in play to compensate every level of person it takes to make a book, hundreds of people work for my publishing house, it isn’t just hurting one person it’s hurting an ecosystem.

I understand some people pirate because they don’t have access to the entertainment in the manner in which they prefer, but if there are options, I beg people exhaust all options that support the artist first. Art is as valid a way to make a living as any other profession. It isn’t just the loss of the sale in terms of portion of royalties, it’s the loss of that book sale number, and publishing looks at sales numbers, to determine whether or not we get another contract. Art is as much an ecosystem as any business is, it is not just something we do for fun or luxury, and I hope that the world will continue to value and monetize art, or we’ll end up losing it, and that would be the greatest blow to civilization.

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AA: If you weren’t an author, what else would you be doing now?

LRH: I’d go back to the stage. I miss the stage but there’s not time to go through the whole audition circuit, do shows 6 nights a week, and then still have time or energy to write. I also miss singing, which I do in the occasional church choir but that too takes time I don’t have at present.

 

Let’s pause here in our talk with Leanna. Join us next time when she talks about interests and life.

Keep up to date with Leanna’s latest news on her website and Twitter.

You can support Leanna and our community by getting your copies of Strangely Beautiful, The Eterna Files, and Eterna and Omega today.

Published in: on September 22, 2016 at 7:10 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Interview with Author Leanna Renee Hieber, Part 4

Welcome back to part four in our talk with with Leanna Renee Hieber, author of Strangely Beautiful, The Eterna Files, and the sequel, Eterna and Omega.

Part One can be read here.

Part Two can be read here.

Part Three can be read here.

 

Airship Ambassador: For the aspiring writer, what lessons did you learn about having an agent and editor, their feedback, and your writing?

Leanna Renee Hieber: Since I came from a professional theatre background, I look at an editor like a director and that’s a very helpful dynamic. They are there as an outside eye to help the story be told in the best way possible. Melissa Singer is so in-depth and talented as an editor, she has pushed and challenged me very hard and I’m always infinitely better for it as a writer and the books are always better. She asks the right questions to evoke better narrative answers out of me.

As for an agent, I’d have been lost if not for supportive, helpful agents. They are as vital as editors in helping navigate contracts and the industry. Their feedback is also an additonal eye onto the art, which is so valid and helpful.

You have to engage with constructive criticism. If you can’t take editorial direction and cannot follow cues to make a story better for comprehensive feedback then you’re not actually a writer. No writer is perfect, every writer needs an editor, no exceptions. If the idea of making work better via critique and consideration makes a prospective writer bristle, seek a different line of work, please.

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AA: What do you do to keep a balance between writing  and the rest of your life?

LRH: With all aspects of my art being very tied to all aspects of my life, there’s not much disconnect. Because I seek to make art that engages and supports me holistically, that is the balance in and of itself. The most important aspect of having such an entwined sense of art, purpose, mission and drive is to make sure there’s a lot of positive reinforcement in your mind, heart and with those you surround yourself with. There’s a lot of stress this industry wields. I have to be very careful not to take on too many of the stressors while still keeping sharply motivated across my every artistic front.

 

AA: Do you get to talk much with other writers and artists to compare notes, have constructive critique reviews, and brainstorm new ideas?

LRH: Yes, thankfully, I am positively brimming with talented friends in this great city of New York. I’m regularly involved with readings and cocktail-hours, I co-founded Lady Jane’s Salon reading series in Manhattan, I am a member of Science Fiction Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers, all of which have great industry relations and ways to meet. I’ve a long-time, treasured critique partners and sounding-boards in C. Johnstone and Alethea Kontis, and everyone who is close to me is an artist of some kind. I have a few collaborations in the works, one of which is with fellow Steampunk artist and writer Thom Truelove, who has also stepped in as a business partner in convention ventures, and we’re hopeful that one of the works we’re co-authoring will be in the contract process soon.

Artistic collaborations are very tricky as it has to be the right kind of dynamic, it can’t be forced, much like the partnership of an agent and with an editor has to be the right kind of balance and understanding and chemistry. The benefit of these relationships is that the art, the writing, the work is always richer and more effective for having multiple sets of eyes trying to make it the best it can be. I love being around successful artists and authors as it challenges me to stay on my game and helps renew the commitment of being a working artist, which can be, frankly, discouraging at times and downright exhausting. Being around those who are committed to their respective causes is a refresher of the creative well.

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AA: Sounds like a fantastic support network. Some people might say that writers need to be readers, too. What do you think about that and what would you say your ratio of reading to writing is/was?

LRH: I agree and I admit, woefully, that I don’t have time to read as much as I would like to. I end up reading books that I’ve agreed to blurb via my publisher or agent, and the rest are friends’ works I try to keep aware of, and beyond that it’s research material. I write more than I read but I hope that will change as I’d like it to be half and half.

 

AA: As a reader, what has made you stop reading something before finishing it? How do you try to avoid that issue in your own writing?

LRH: If violence against women or anyone who is systematically facing oppression isn’t dealt with in a manner of extreme caution and for the specific, earned sake of the plot, not as shock value, side note or for the exploitative sake of some other character’s journey- I stop reading right there. I don’t deal with any extreme violence against women in my stories because I don’t think it should be an inevitable part of fiction in which there is danger. I try to deal with power dynamics with extreme caution and care. The characters within my stories are all well aware of the restrictive 19th century society in which they live and I champion the ways in which those characters can break free from limitations and oppressions.

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AA: What do you consider your first real writing experience? Was it the back-to-school exercise of “What I did this Summer” or something you just did on your own?

LRH: I was writing short stories ever since I could hold a pencil and finish a sentence. I don’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t writing. I was born to it. I started writing my first novel around the age of 11, a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera because I felt there should be more to the story. It was a sprawling, ridiculous tale, but what I will say for starting a full-length novel endeavor at an early age, the idea of writing a book hasn’t really daunted me at any point in my life. What has been important is creating the discipline of writing regularly, it is a habit, a need, a drive, and my mission in life.

 

AA: I thoroughly enjoyed reading Phantom during lunch breaks one year. Like you, it was part of a larger story idea and I wanted to read the original stories for him, Dracula, Frankenstein, and other nineteenth century monsters. How have you and your work grown and changed over time?

LRH: laugh I should hope I’m a bit more grounded than the kid who wrote overwrought, flailing Phantom fan fic and then burned it all in a fit of pique in a bonfire ten years, and a thousand pages, later. However many of the themes I’m interested in haven’t changed. My heart still belongs to the writers who shaped me, like Edgar Allan Poe, Charlotte Bronte and innumerable fantasy authors. I’m still the Gothic enthusiast in search of a good ghost story. I’ve just spent every day of my life since age 11 writing and honing craft, and I hope I never stop sharpening skills and exuding the same passion for my genres I exhibited at an early age.

 

Let’s pause here in our talk with Leanna. Join us next time when she talks about writing and writing skills.

Keep up to date with Leanna’s latest news on her website and Twitter.

You can support Leanna and our community by getting your copies of Strangely Beautiful, The Eterna Files, and Eterna and Omega today.

Published in: on September 21, 2016 at 6:29 pm  Leave a Comment  
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