Can you tell us a little about your most recent book?
A SANCTUARY OF SPIRITS is a Gothic, Gaslamp Fantasy that follows Eve Whitby, a talented psychic medium leading The Ghost Precinct; a group of young female mediums who, along with their favorite friendly ghosts, solve weird crime in 1899 Manhattan. It is the second in the Spectral City series, so you may wish to read THE SPECTRAL CITY first, however I’ve had many readers and reviewers jump right into the action of A SANCTUARY OF SPIRITS and take it from there. My characters, alive and dead, are quirky, endearing and full of heart. I write a lot about inclusivity and found family. In this book our psychic team is tested by the revelation of a new realm built by and for the dead and the disappearance of a suspect mortician means gruesome evidence tying him to the desecration of dead bodies is all the more dangerous to reveal.
Eve and the dashing Detective Horowitz grow ever-closer in this book, a carefully slow-burn romance that has been one of my favorite dynamics I’ve ever written, and I’m thirteen books into my career, so that’s saying something. I love these two more than I can say.
As a licensed New York City tour guide myself, and a ghost tour guide at that, I can assure you that New York is indeed a ‘Spectral city’ full of spirit and story. I love leading readers through the historic places and streets of this magical metropolis, a city that has always been fascinating, diverse, unique, a force of nature. I lead readers through spaces you can still visit today. I hope readers will love this adventure as much as I’ve loved writing it.
I was having a hard time when I sat down to write this series, I’d gone through a rather drastic rough patch creatively and I begged my characters to help pull me through the slump. I asked them to help me fall in love with them and they came through in shining colors. The greatest joy of this series so far is folks enjoying the characters as much as I do, feeling like they’re a part of everyone’s extended, found family.
What’s your writing process like?
I have multiple rotating freelance jobs so my writing process is to write whenever I can within and around all the rest of my obligations as a TV stage manager, an audio book narrator, a ghost tour guide, an artisan (I’ve an Etsy store: http://etsy.com/shop/torchandarrow), a guest lecturer, an actress touring a one-woman presentation about a 19thcentury designer, and of course most importantly, an author with at least one convention appearance a month and at least one new release per year. I try as best I can to make time for my writing above everything else, and all my freelance jobs know and support me as a novelist first and foremost
I’m a night owl so my best work is done at night. I put on atmospheric music, I adjust the lighting to something of a gaslit quality (I have several stained-glass lamps; my favorite visual touches) and always have a cup of tea or coffee at my side. I’m a pantser not a plotter but I’m trying to work out a better balance between the two. I find if I spend a lot of time thinking about the things the characters actively need to do, my characters always lead the way. I always have to watch that I keep them as continuously active and confronting obstacles as I can.
I tend to set my goals by word-count, aiming for between 500 to 2k words a day depending on the rest of my rotating work hours. No single week of mine looks like the next, so I have to remain adaptable and flexible with my process, while still making sure it’s at the forefront of my to-do list. I like the changeable nature.
Are you working on anything new?
Yes! In addition to copy edits for A SUMMONING OF SOULS(July 2020, Kensington) I’ve got several new projects in the works and I’m thrilled to be returning to my first ever publications via a new program and imprint! The Dark Nest Chroniclesare paranormal space opera novellas that Scrib’d will be reissuing alongside audio editions- with me narrating! It’s a dream come true. I’ll be continuing the Dark Nest saga in related novellas throughout 2020. Everything I do has a paranormal and/or psychic bent so this is a fun, full-circle return to the beginning of my career.
What piece of advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Persistence. Your desire to see your work out in the world has to be stronger than your fear of what will happen to it. Not everyone will like your work. My work has a very distinctive voice that is either a hit or a miss with readers. All I can do is be true to myself, my heart, my calling, my spirit. You figure out that guiding star for yourself and keep it in your sights. The industry is rough and full of ups and downs. It’s gotten more complicated through the years, but in many ways you have more options now. Study those options carefully and figure out what kind of career you’d like to have, then be tenacious about reaching for it. Tenacity is the key to staying in the business as there’s so much that’s out of our control as writers. I’ve faced so many setbacks but I’m still here. And I’ll be steadfast, writing the next book. Stay strong.
What are you currently reading?
I am currently near-finished with Heidi Heilig’s astounding AKingdom for a Stage, the sequel toher evocativeFor a Muse of Fire. I am a very, veryslow reader, a fact I don’t like to acknowledge. But considering so many of my friends are authors, I have to beg their understanding, patience and forgiveness as I want to get to everyone’s books but there are so many more on my TBR stack than I can manage quickly. But I love Heidi’s voice, I love this world, and I am so inspired by how she discusses passion, theatricality, depression, power dynamics, resistance, politics and deeply personal art- there’s just so much in this beautifully crafted saga. As someone who deals with depression myself, and a specific strain that is very relative to the series, her work is not only resonant, but healing. The way letters, music, script pages, playbills, headlines and gorgeous prose have entwined in this series- it is all my favorite things melding and merging in one clever, elegant story. She doesn’t just write a book here; she papers the walls of your mind with a mixed-media immersion. I can’t recommend her work enough.
Due to deadlines, I have to shift back and forth between fiction and non-fiction research so I’m also neck-deep in 1890s era research books for future projects involving more ghosts and feisty, quirky characters darting about Gilded Age New York streets!
Thanks for everyone’s time and I hope you’ll join me and my friendly ghosts for a spiritedadventure in 1899 Manhattan in the Spectral City series! I hope you’ll follow me on social media (I’m most active on Twitter @LeannaRenee) and let me know your thoughts!
Leanna Renee Hieber is an actress, playwright and the author of thirteen Gothic, Gaslamp Fantasy novels for adults and teens for Tor and Kensington Books such as the Strangely Beautifulsaga, the Magic Most Foultrilogy, the Eterna Filestrilogy andThe Spectral City series. Her fiction career began with her futuristic paranormal novella Dark Nest, which won the 2009 Prism Award for best novella, given by the Futuristic, Fantasy and Paranormal chapter of RWA. The Strangely Beautifulseries hit Barnes & Noble and Borders Bestseller lists and garnered numerous regional genre awards, including two more Prism Awards for best fantasy novels, with revised editions now available from Tor. Darker Still hit the American Bookseller's Association "Indie Next List", was a Scholastic Book Club "Highly Recommended" title and was a finalist for the Daphne du Maurier award. The Spectral City, Leanna’s new ghost-filled series set in 1899 NYC with Kensington Books, has been a bestseller across several genres and platforms. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous notable anthologies and her books have been translated into many languages. She has been a featured guest, guest of honor, panelist, performer and lecturer at countless conventions and writers’ organizations around the country. Leanna channels 19thcentury designer and visionary Clara Wolcott Driscoll in her performative lecture, By the Light of Tiffany. She is represented by Paul Stevens of the Donald Maass agency. A proud member of performer unions Actors Equity and SAG-AFTRA, she lives in New York City where she is a licensed ghost tour guide for Boroughs of the Dead and has been featured in film and television on shows like Boardwalk Empire and Mysteries at the Museum. For more information, as well as writers’ tips and resources, visit http://leannareneehieber.com