Inkwell Guest: Leanna Renee Hieber
I have a wonderful treat for you readers today. I’m so pleased to have the wildly talented and fabulous Leanna Renee Hieber here! YAY! She writes gaslight fantasy (which I had mistaken for steampunk but Leanna explains below). Her third book, The Perilous Prophecy of Guard and Goddess, releases today! Also, she’s giving away a signed copy of The Strangley Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, so be sure to leave a comment and say hello!
As soon as I could hold a pen and finish a sentence. I began writing my first novel around the age of 12. But it was a private obsession, I didn’t think of pursuing it professionally until I got the idea for the Strangely Beautiful series, just after I graduated college. That changed everything. I published some short plays and theatrical articles thanks to my work in theatre, but Strangely Beautiful was always
Where do you find your inspiration?
I’m compelled by ghost stories, by the idea of paranormal, fantastical things happening to average people. And everything about the 19th century. Basically, I write what I’ve been obsessed with since I was a kid.
What is the one writer’s tool you can’t live without?
Tea! I drink a different type of tea for each series I write, it helps with putting me in the mood, the scent becomes like muscle memory. Clove tea for the Strangely Beautiful series, Earl Grey tea for Magic Most Foul series. (Each tea smells distinctly like the heroes of my novels, and I include that detail in the books. Delicious!)
How many words/pages do you do in a day/week/month? And how do you keep yourself motivated to do them?
If there’s one thing I’ve never had in my life, it’s a schedule. I’m such a freelancer by heart. No week is ever the same. My goal when I sit down is always 2,000 words, but an average day would be 4,000, but that’s when I’m in composition mode. That’s cyclical, because there are other times I’m in promo mode, editing mode, traveling mode, so what motivates me, of course, is the deadline. 🙂
Whose work has influenced you the most?
The entire 19th century literary canon, and then J. K. Rowling
The Perilous Prophecy of Guard and Goddess is a prequel, a behind-the-scenes look at the complex Prophecy that threads books one and two. Here secrets are now revealed with mythic choices and consequences, the hands of the gods are forced, and incredible sacrifices are fought for true love. All with a lot of ghost-busting and Whisper-world action. For those who have not read books one and two, you could begin with this prequel and continue into the first two.
The idea came from living with and loving this world for such a long time, I realized I was just as intrigued about how everyone got to book one as I was with books one and two themselves. I began to care for the Goddess and Iris Parker as much as I adore my Miss Percy, as their qualities echo into her.
I understand this is part of a series. Can you tell us a little about the other two books?
The Strangely Beautiful saga is atmospheric Gothic Victorian Fantasy filled with ghosts, mythology and a rich cast of characters and a central theme: light triumphing over darkness. That may sound like a general theme, but I’m quite literal about it – and the ways in which those battles are fought is very specific, in an eerie, gaslit Victorian London. I’ve been told my Strangely Beautiful books are like the Bronte Sisters, Harry Potter and Greek Mythology in a blender, and that’s about right. My upcoming Magic Most Foul series, set in 1880 New York City, sort of reads like Edgar Allan Poe writing romance. He’s my hero. (I should clarify that my books to have happy endings. I’m not that morbid.) I’m really big on homage to 19th century classics in all my books, but by reinventing themes and tropes to make something entirely new and original.
I understand the first book, THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL TALE OF MISS PERCY PARKER, was optioned for Broadway. How exciting! Tell us more about that.
My awesome and incredible agent, Nicholas Roman Lewis, it’s all his fault. Little did I know when he signed me that he was also scouting for a project with a composer collaborator, Kenny Seymour (Musical director of the Tony Award winning Memphis), in hopes of creating a musical. A fantastical, atmospheric musical at that, and Strangely Beautiful certainly fits that bill. Nicholas was a bit leery of all the elements involved but it was Kenny that really pushed to option the book. Because of my background in theatre and playwrighting, I have been given the opportunity to write the script (called “the book”) of the musical and we’ve together; myself, lyricist and composer, created a rough draft of the piece. I have heard some of the themes and musical pieces and they are incredible. Perfect. I can’t actually even believe it’s real because I just keep thinking I’m dreaming.
The next step is for the three of us very, very busy people to adjust the script so that our three distinct voices blend into a sort of hive-mind of storytelling, as we each have to balance our distinct styles with the other. It’s very exciting, and it’s been such fun to make changes to the story and address the different needs of a new medium. Certain things have to change to suit the stage and I like the challenge. From here we’ll do another draft, likely do a staged reading here in NYC for potential producers and investors, gain feedback, submit to either New Work festivals or workshop it in a regional theatre outside of NYC, we have some leads on that. Hopefully in the next few years we can bring our show to the Great White Way! It’s beyond a dream come true to even consider it.
You write steampunk, which is growing in popularity for readers and authors. For those of us who are just learning the term, can you tell us (briefly) what steampunk is?
Steampunk is the merging of a Victorian, 19th century aesthetic and setting with elements of science fiction. If you’d like a 3 minute explanation of Steampunk, please check out this link: http://vimeo.com/21044069 This piece aired on BBC America and features a lot of my friends. :)You’ll see me in a few frames, I’m the animated blonde all in black talking with another animated blonde (writer Mary Rodgers) with my first Strangely Beautiful book in hand, filmed before I went onstage do a reading for a special event that night at The Way Station in New York City.
To be very clear, Steampunk by definition requires elements of technology and science fiction, and I do not write those elements. Thus, my work is not technically Steampunk but rather a sub-genre within the umbrella of Historical fiction and Alternate History. I write Gothic, Gaslight Fantasy, because I use Fantasy elements rather than Science Fiction elements. For example, my ghost-busters use Holy Fire as their weaponry rather than any gadgets.
Still, I participate in the Steampunk community and conventions because Neo-Victorian and Gaslight Fantasy authors like myself are very welcome there. I just want to be sure I’m always quite clear about the details, for the sake of reader and genre expectations.
As for the paranormal elements in my book, the Victorians were obsessed with ghosts, the supernatural, with spirituality and also were ardent neo-classicists. So the spiritual and mythological aspects I bring into my work were already present naturally in the Victorian psyche.
I’m glad you explained the difference, because I was lumping them all together! 🙂 I find the whole steampunk/gaslight genre fascinating but I know I don’t have the writing chops to write it, so I admire any of you who do. You are all amazing writers!
What makes a really great steampunk story and how do you get inspiration for it?
As to why I write Gaslight, Gothic Fantasy, I’ve been inspired by the Victorian era since I was young, so I don’t even know how to explain why it is my fire, only that it is. What makes a good story anywhere in this sub-genre is really stellar world-building and settings, technologies and fantastical elements that are woven inextricably into the characters rather than tacked on for show. This genre fails when either character or the world-building isn’t fully realized or fully integrated together. Every single element has to become a part of a well-oiled machine that informs every cog in the wheel.
What other things are you working on?
A new series! I am very excited to be launching a new series with Sourcebooks Fire in November. The Magic Most Foul series (Book 1 title TBA) is a Gothic Paranormal set in 1880 New York City. Spirited, passionate 17 year-old Natalie Stewart, who suffers from Selective Mutism and vivid nightmares, is drawn into the world of a haunted painting where she becomes bound to the soul of the trapped young English Lord therein. She must overcome dreams and challenges, for she’s the only hope to reverse the horrific black magic threatening her and the compelling man she’s fallen for. (So as you can see, I won’t be leaving my Gothic, Gaslit, Paranormal Victoriana anytime soon, :))
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
I’d go back to being a full-time actress. That’s what I was professionally for many years and still dabble in periodically. I’m such a drama queen. 🙂
Thanks for coming by today, Leanna! Please feel free to add where we can find you in the cyber-universe and anything else you want to add.
Thanks so much for your time and for the opportunity to be here, Michelle! I can be found at these haunts:
I’ll also be doing my third annual Haunted London Blog Tour beginning May 3rd, release day, so stay tuned for ghost stories and giveaways! Cheers and blessings!