I met Leanna at the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference in Denver this past September. She was all smiles and lots of fun so I knew I’d have to have her as a guest on my blog someday. At last, I finally got my act together and here she is.
‘Leanna Ellis takes a back seat to no one,’ says Debbie Macomber. But Leanna hopes she allows God in the driver’s seat as she taxies her two children to and from all their activities, lets her menagerie of pets in and out … in and out …, figures out what to cook for dinner (or where to order takeout), and at the same time keeps those quirky characters in her head from bothering others. Winner of the National Readers Choice Award, Leanna writes quirky women’s fiction with a splash of romance. From a long line of southerners and patriots, she lives with her family in Texas.
Hi, Sharon! Great to be here today! Thanks for having me. Candace Calvert introduced us at the ACFW Conference. Isn’t she lovely? It was great to meet you that day. Wasn’t that an awesome workshop by Donald Maass?
I was on the B&H Fiction website a few days ago and I noticed that you have a new book coming out titled Once in a Blue Moon. Tell us about this upcoming release.
Oh, yes! I’m very excited about this book. I loved writing Bryn’s story. She was a very interesting and surprising character. What started the idea for Once in a Blue Moon was thinking about huge milestones in our nation’s history, things that stand out and people always ask, “Where were you when…?” I was just a little girl when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, but I remember that event very clearly. And most Americans have very fond memories of that event. But what if someone had the opposite reaction? What if someone’s life changed that day? The day Armstrong stepped on the moon was such a day for Bryn Seymour. It’s the day her mother died. Despite death defying feats, guilt has always pulled Bryn down time and again. But a perfect love shows her taking a leap of faith is the first step to soaring. But it only happens … once in a blue moon.
I loved the cover of your book, Ruby Slippers, and I wondered if you’ve ever had an instance when you had to ask for changes to the cover art before the book was printed.
I totally loved the cover for Ruby’s Slippers! What a magnificent job B&H did. I’ve really loved all the covers that they have done, but one I wanted tweaked was Lookin’ Back, Texas. The cover seemed too brown to me. So I suggested they make the dance hall in the picture red, and they did that. When I wrote for Harlequin/Silhouette many years ago, I usually received my cover flats about the time the book came out so I didn’t have any say then. Cover art is not my gift. I’m blessed to have such a great publishing house, and I trust them and their judgment.
If you had to describe your writing by using three descriptive words, what words would you use?
Quirky, funny, deep.
How important is reader feedback and how do the comments you receive impact your story ideas or writing style?
I love reader feedback. I love getting emails and letters from readers. Sometimes I have wept over their stories that they share with me. I received many like that after Elvis Takes a Back Seat came out. Young widows who had lost their husbands wrote me. It was heartbreaking reading what they’d gone through, and yet God had brought them to a place where they were beginning to move on or heard the message in my book and were beginning to take new steps. What an honor to minister to those women. I felt very humbled to get letters from them and prayed for each of them. Usually the letters I receive motivate me so I keep my readers in mind each day when I’m writing and pray for them long before my story goes to the publisher.
Finish this sentence if you will. The best thing about being a writer is…..
Touching other’s lives. There are a lot of benefits to being a writer, such as staying home with my children and working in my pjs, but reaching out to others has been such a blessing to me.
As a yet-to-be-published writer, I frequently read encouraging emails and stories from established authors who talk about persevering. What do you do to keep writing and to keep growing as a writer?
I could write pages and pages about persevering. So often we get discouraged and just want to quit. Writing isn’t an easy profession. There is a lot of rejection involved and that rejection can be very painful. We feel pressure to produce, to sell, to make money, to have some visible showing that we’re doing God’s will.
If you feel called by God to write, then write. Don’t give up. His word doesn’t tell us that it will be easy or that success (if it comes) will be quick. I like to think about the heroes of the bible who waited for years, often in dire circumstances or situations much worse than my own, like Joseph in prison.
I remember when I was trying to sell again (I had been published but took a hiatus with young children and time to take a new direction with my writing) and it was a struggle breaking back into the business. I was praying and asking God if He wanted me to continue my writing. God brought me a message from a book lying on the coffee table in a friend’s home. I thumbed through it and saw a chapter titled “If you’re called to your profession.” I had felt the call to write, so I was curious and read further. The book talked about ‘many are called, few are chosen.’ I wasn’t sure I wanted to read further at that point but I did. The author said that there was usually a long time period between a calling and being chosen. During that time, there was a testing and growth period. This was a time of preparation. Many fall by the wayside during this time, just give up. God was telling me not to give up.
If God has told you to do something, then do it. Don’t stop. Don’t give up. Persevere. God is doing a work in you. He has the road map. Give Him the wheel. Let Him drive you over the hills and valleys, through the detours and roadblocks. Many days, I reach out and grab the wheel again and then have to turn it back over to Him. But then when I climb in the back seat, giving Him the driver’s seat, I realize His way is the best. Remember, you want your book to sell at the right time – God’s time.
Thanks so much, Sharon, for having me here!