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.
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.
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.
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.