WG: Welcome and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us about yourself.
LH: I was born in Colorado. I grew up in Denver, but when I was a teenager, the family moved to Houston. I've been in Texas ever since. I married a native Texan and my kids are 5th generation Texans. I am a certified Teacher of the Deaf. I taught high school math and science.
WG: Let's talk about your own personal road to publication:
Is there some individual, group or event that you can point to as the catalyst/impetus that set you on the road to becoming a writer? Explain.
LH: My writing career took the right path when I joined the local RWA group. They taught me about writing, synopsis, market and most of all, I found others who were in the same boat as I was.
WG: Tell us about your journey.
LH: When my youngest child went to kindergarten, I didn't want to go back to teaching, so that's when I started writing. I wrote about a deaf girl in Colorado in 1886. Colorado is called the Centennial State since it joined the union 100 years after the US was established.
WG: How many books did you complete before you sold your first? Have all/any of them sold since?
LH: It took 9 years and 8 books, 5 historicals, a futuristic, and 2 contemporaries.
I sold that second contemporary manuscript.
WG: Can you tell us something about your experience in getting 'the call'?
LH: My agent called me in the middle of the afternoon. It sent me over the moon and I called all my writing friends. I think I told my husband that night. He wasn't as excited as my writing friends. For the kids, it wasn't a big deal.
WG: How has being a published author impacted your life?
LH: I sometimes pinch myself to make sure it's so, and aside from getting to go to published author classes at RWA, it really hasn't changed anything too much. I still have to do washing, cooking and cleaning (please, someone take those things away). I guess the change is I can stay at home and enjoy my life.
WG: What aspect of life as a 'published author' surprised you the most - either in a good or bad way?
LH: Being publish is just exchanging one set of problems for another. It's like when you were engaged. You concentrate on that wedding. Everything you do is centered on that. Then the day afterward, you have to work on the marriage. It's the same with being published. You work to that big event, then when it happens, you have to face another set of problems. Oh, don't get me wrong, I love being published, but you still have to work at it.
WG: What about your writing process:
Do you maintain a set schedule? Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?
LH: When I'm writing a book, I set up a page goal. It's usually 7 or 8 pages. I break those pages into 2 writing times, one session in the morning (10am-1pm) and the other at night (9-10:30pm). It really doesn't matter when I do those pages, it only matters that I do. And when my cursor goes over to the last page (I figure what page number I have to achieve), I save and get out of the program. In the next few minutes, the next line occurs to me and I write it down, put it in front of my monitor and I have what I'm going to type the next day.
WG: Do you set writing goals for yourself?
LH: Absolutely. I do daily goals.
WG: Do you have a 'mood setter', something (music, ritual, environment, etc) you use to get you going when you sit down to write?
LH: I try to get a movie sound track for each new book I do. When I put that music on my brain knows it's time to write. It short-circuits all that what should I write.
WG: Do you do a lot of up front plotting before you start or do you just dive in?
LH: I do a synopsis and then follow it. I don't get too specific. It's like if I want to drive from Houston to Santa Fe, I'll take out a map and decide what roads I need to drive, then start. That map doesn't tell me what I'm going to see on the trip, but I know where I'll end up.
WG: Do you normally start with storyline or with character or with some combination of the two?
LH: Depends. My last book, Second Chance Ranch, was inspired from a newspaper article I saw in the local paper. It was about an Iraqi veteran taking equine therapy to get back his balance after losing his leg. That was my hero and I developed a story around him. My hero, Zach McClure had a brother and sister. I got to do both their stories.
WG: Do you find certain themes or character archetypes making recurring appearances in your stories?
LH: I do. Forgiveness and how to deal with your life after things takes a terrible turn.
WG: What do you see as your own personal strengths as a writer?
LH: I am a disciplined writer. I also am an emotional wrier. My stories tend to be tearjerkers. I'd like to write humor, but they keep coming out as 2-tissue cries. At least, I'm bawling when write it.
WG: Are there any obstacles/conflicts, specific to your particular lifestyle, that get in the way of your writing? If so, how do you try and overcome them?
WG: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your process?
LH: When I quit killing people (romantic suspense) and went to straight romance, I had to learn how to plot differently. The plot no long depends on solving the mystery. In a straight romance, what could I do? I found the book Heroes & Heroines, Sixteen Masters Archetypes, by Tami Cowden, Carol Lafever and Sue Viders. I used that book to develop my plots.
WG: Do you have a favorite sub-genre as a writer? as a reader?
LH: I love romantic suspense as both a reader and writer.
WG: Is there a genre you haven't been published in yet that you'd like to try your hand at someday?
LH: Romantic Comedy. I have developed some funny stories. One was about a live-stock photographer who wanted to get out of the business, but found herself helping her family. It was a cozy series.
WG: Do you have any advice to offer writers still striving toward publication?
LH: Don't stop. If this is your calling, keep writing and attending your local RWA or ACFW or Mystery Writers chapter. You need to surround yourself with other writers. They will keep you going and understand your struggles in a way your family can't.
WG: Is there a specific 'ah-ha' moment you've had as a writer that you would like to share with us?
LH: There are lots, but recently finding the 16 Archetypes book was a life saver for me.
WG: Rejections, notes from unhappy readers and less than stellar reviews are all part of this business. What is your own method for dealing with these and moving on?
LH: Rejections are a bummer. You keep those stories in the background to use them later. I love each story I do. As for praise or criticism, you can't pay attention to either. Also, since I write inspirational, I give those disappoints to God.
WG: Is there some piece of advice you received or bit of 'conventional wisdom' that you wish you had ignored?
LH: No. I had good friends all around who helped direct me.
WG: What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about being a writer? What aspect do you struggle with the most?
LH: The most rewarding is having readers tell you the book touched them. With Second Chance Ranch, I had a woman who'd been a medic in the Army tell me I did a good job with my heroine, who was an Army medic. That made my week.
WG: When you're not writing, what do you do for fun or what is your favorite self-indulgence?
LH: I love to garden. On the new website if you'll type garden/leannharris.com my garden photos will show up. Also, I have a blog called Critter Chronicles http://barbaraharrison75.blogspot.com/ which has a daily garden photo. I also talk about my granddogs. I have a white lab and a Great Dane. What adventures.
WG: When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
LH: I didn't know what I wanted to be until college. I saw an interpreter at church and he gave a talk afterward. He said the only place you could get a deaf ed degree was at the University of Texas or Texas Tech. I was going to UT at the time.
WG: What would your readers be most surprised to learn about you?
LH: Uh, I don't know. I guess if you wanted to know any signs for Algebra 1 or 2, I'm your gal.
WG: What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?
LH: I'm going to date myself, but I loved 'JAG'. I also love 'Person of Interest'. That show is great. I also liked 'Lie to Me'.
WG: I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share.
'If you don't write it...
It won't get read... '
That's the quote I give my students at the community college where I teach in the continuing ed classes.
LH: Redemption Ranch is Beth McClure's story. She's the sister of the hero of Second Chance Ranch. Beth is an unstoppable force who knows how to fix everyone's life but her own. The hero, Tyler Lynch is an Iraqi veteran who is so closed down that he's only comfortable talking to his dog. He found the dog in Iraq. The dog introduces the hero and heroine.
WG: Please tell us about your current project.
WG: What inspired you to write this particular story?
LH: I saw a special on the Military Chanel called the "Dogs of War". It talked about the dogs Americans volunteered during WWII. That program was followed by another special about soldiers in Iraq and their experiences. I knew I had my hero for Beth.
WG: What sort of research, if any, did you have to do? Did you stumble across any unexpected interesting/fun tidbits along the way?
LH: I think I answered that in the question before, but I'll say, I just saw my local news about a man who just got a dog from a group that supplies dogs to veterans (Pets2vets), helping them deal with their anxiety.
WG: Tell us about your upcoming plans.
LH: Zach's final sibling and older brother, Ethan has his story told. He was a nice guy, Salt of the earth. Telling his story was a challenge. Ethan held on to his secrets for a long time, but I wrestled them out of him.
WG: And before we close, tell us how your readers can get in touch with you.
LH: Please check out my website, www.leannharris.com. You can email from there or comment on Character Corners where the characters out of Redemption Ranch tell you tidbits of the behind the scenes action. If you have questions you want to ask them, comment and the characters will answer your questions.
WG: Thanks so much for spending time with me and my readers this month. It was fun 'chatting' with you, as always!