Part One can be read here.
Part Two can be read here.
Airship Ambassador: How did elements of your own life and experiences play into these two series?
Leanna Renee Hieber: My interests and preoccupations certainly do. I’m on the same kinds of spiritual quests my characters are, we’re all taking this journey together. My stories are written with a theatrical flair, and I know that comes from my theatrical training and work as a playwright and actress.
AA: What was one memorable story while writing this story? Any laugh out loud or cry in the corner moments?
LRH: There’s a death in the second book within the Strangely Beautiful volume that was inevitable but so visceral for me to write. I wrote the actual deadly blow without breaking down, but it was when the rest of the characters turn to see their comrade fall, it was seeing their reactions, in a terrible time-slowing, heart-wrenching detail, that did me in and I cried for a few hours in the kitchen.
But, as in all my stories, death is never the end…
AA: So there will be sequels or spinoffs?
LRH: I’ll be keeping all of these characters with me, one way or another, and there are two more Strangely Beautiful series books yet to come, a prequel and the fourth and final book at long last; Miss Violet and the Great War. I recently turned in the draft of the third and final Eterna Files book, which will likely release in the fall of 2017. I hope to take the character of “The Visitor”, Lizzie Marlowe, into her own novel and I have specific plans for the characters Rebecca Thompson and Evelyn Northe-Stewart.
AA: If someone likes “X”, then they’ll like Strangely Beautiful and The Eterna Files. What is “X”?
LRH: Well, “X” being The X-files for one, provided you don’t mind frock coats and bustles, which I think I’m in the right company here. I mentioned a blend of Harry Potter and Jane Eyre being the flavors behind Strangely Beautiful, and I think people who really understood how clever and fun Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak was, they’ll love what I do. While there are similar themes in all my work, Eterna Files is grittier and more complicated, Strangely Beautiful more lush and sweepingly romantic. Both series have lyrical prose and high Gothic drama, qualities I’ve become somewhat known for.
AA: I loved Crimson Peak. It had some great story and visual elements. What do you think puts this story on someone’s must read/have list?
LRH: If the themes and genre clues I’ve listed here pique your interest, you’re my kind of person and reader. If you love the wild abandon and dizzying ride of a good Gothic tale with quirky and unexpected characters with winks and nods to Victorian classics, I’m your new favorite author.
AA: If these books were made into a movie, who would you cast as the main characters?
LRH: Strangely Beautiful: The role of Professor Rychman (and indeed nearly close to his name) was originally cast very specifically for Alan Rickman, may he rest in peace. Once he had aged out of the role a bit I had recast Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wachowski long before Crimson Peak came out so I call dibs! Eterna Files would prove to be a startlingly long list of actors including Jennifer Lawrence, Richard Armitage, Ben Barnes, Ruth Wilson, Gina Torres, Jesse Williams, Martin Freeman, Tom Mison, Lara Pulver, Haley Atwell, Jason Isaacs, Imelda Staunton, Cate Blanchet, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Idris Elba.
AA: If they had a soundtrack, what would it be like?
AA: What are some memorable fan reactions to each book which you’ve heard about?
LRH: The fan art I’ve received has been the greatest honor and gift through the years. I have so many beautiful expressions of Percy and Alexi, of Lord Denbury and Natalie, of Clara Templeton.
I particularly love meeting the Gothlings, the young Goths who look up to me (now in my wizened ElderGoth years) and they, and their families, see my unequivocally Gothic Victorian look and that I am a working professional, it isn’t ‘a phase’, and when Gothlings see this, there’s this wondrous sense of hope and freedom that comes across their faces, as if I’m a living example of not having to dress or act a certain way but to live into individual expression. The fangirling is pretty fun, I will admit. I know that I’m not a household name, that what I do is very niche, so when people do know me and love my work and get excited about it, it’s such a delight and honor.
AA: What kind of attention have they generated?
LRH: It’s been very interesting, my books are surprisingly contentious in that people either love or hate them. Part of that is the Gothic style, you either love or hate the high drama and intensity of Gothic themes and prose. Part of it is the bold narrative choices I often take, and some of it is the characters themselves, they are unique, specific, and while I try to make them relatable they are their own person and the characters control the books once I fully establish them.
My first books landed on Barnes & Noble and Borders (while that existed) bestseller lists, my books have won or been nominated for numerous genre awards, I have several foreign translations of my books into languages such as Polish, Complex Chinese and German.
I have passionate dialogues about my books with my readers and that’s such an honor as I know my characters have really come to life in their hearts.
AA: Foreign translations seem to be a good indication of success. How are new readers finding you – conventions, website, word of mouth, etc?
LRH: I definitely receive the bulk of my most passionate and committed readers at conventions, that’s my favorite way to grow readership. If you meet me in person or see me on a panel, you get a very good read on who I am and what I do. I’m never seen outside of Gothic Victorian regalia, even in my every day I’m dressed in some form of what others might see as a costume, always flamboyant, so that becomes a conversation piece at events. “If you like my clothes, you’ll like my books, I dress like I write” has become a useful catch phrase.
Social media is another way I’ve found new readers, particularly on Twitter where I’m most active and responsive ( @ leannarenee)
Let’s pause here in our talk with Leanna. Join us next time when she talks about writing, growth, and change.