I am so excited to have Leona Pence on Author Interview Friday. Leona and I both started our novels about the same time and worked on them together with line-by line feedback through Writers Village University in 2011. Wow, Leo, has it really been that long ago? For both of us, this has been a long haul and I am tickled pink that her novel, Hemphill Towers is now out with MuseItUp Publishing.
Leona started reading romance novels as a teen. She graduated from Nancy Drew stories to Harlequin Romance, and then to her favorite author, Barbara Cartland and her vast Regency romance collection. Happy endings were a must. Leona began writing late in life after the death of her husband of forty-four years. They married on her 19th birthday after a three month courtship – and yes – love at first sight really did happen. She enjoys reading, writing, online pool, and especially being a Mentor in F2K, a free online writing course.
Leona: Thank you for having me on your blog today, Joanne. It’s been awhile since we critiqued each other’s work in the WVU novel group. I know at least five of us from the group are now published. We must have done something right, I’d say.
Joanne: It was a great experience. I know I never would have made it without all the help from that wonderful group. Tell the readers when you first knew you wanted to be a writer and the inspiration to get you started.
Leona: My novel started as a joke between me and two online friends. I was only planning to write a short spoof with no idea that I had any writing talent. I’d say I knew I wanted to be a writer by the time I’d sent out ten of my fifteen installments to family and friends. My inspiration was the camaraderie from many online friends.
Joanne: Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?
Leona: Not until after I’d written my manuscript. Then I discovered F2K (fiction for 2000) and WVU (Writers Village University) They provided critique groups and writers from all over the world to lend support. We had fun in the Novel Group, didn’t we, Joanne?
Joanne: Yes we did, Leo. What a great bunch of girls, and from all over the world. How long did it take you to publish your first manuscript?
Leona: It took three months to write a first, very rough, draft. It sat on the shelf for a long time, so approximately five years before publication became a reality.
Joanne: Do you always write in the same genre?
Leona: Most things I write involves romance. It’s the easiest to write a happily-ever-after ending
Joanne: Many of us cross over genres and it is difficult to pinpoint one to fit our books. For the book we are promoting today, what shelf would we find it on if it were in a bricks and mortar bookstore?
Leona: I’d say Contemporary Romance, but maybe Romantic Suspense.
Joanne: Are you published through a traditional publishing house? If yes, how did you find your agent and publisher?
Leona: I’m published through MuseItUp Publishing, a Canadian house. A mutual friend introduced me to the publisher, Lea Shizas. I sent her my manuscript and she offered me a contract.
Joanne: Do you always write in the same POV or narrative or do you switch it up in different stories?
Leona: I’m more comfortable using third person POV. I haven’t switched yet.
Joanne: Author, Jennie Nash was quoted on Writer Unboxed that she reads other novels to study structure. Do you follow a structure pattern such as staying in chronological order, or alternating points in time or different POV’s
Leona: In Hemphill Towers, I alternated between my three heroines. Birdie Orrwell’s story took place in Italy, and it was a little difficult to keep the three stories intertwined without messing up the timeline.
Joanne: What was the hardest part for you in the writing process; the outline, synopsis, query or building the story itself?
Leona: The dreaded synopsis and query letter are part of the reason it took me so long to submit. Yeah, writing the manuscript was easier.
Joanne: It is not enough to write a book and wait for the money to start rolling in. What marketing techniques do you implement to increase your sales?
Leona: My daughters raised a media blitz for me. I had television and newspaper coverage with more to come. I blog, and guest on as many as I can. I use Facebook and Twitter. I’m limited on marketing outside my computer. Being deaf and in a wheelchair puts a damper on live appearances. However, have you noticed via Facebook, that my overzealous supporters are trying to get me on the Ellen show. It would be funny if they weren’t so dead serious.
I am having a-Celebrate With Me- Facebook event November third. I have some cool prizes including my ebook.
Joanne: That sounds like an exciting event. And we will watch for you on Ellen’s show. It could happen. We will all watch for the Facebook Event on November 3rd. Here that readers? — cool prizes including her e-book.
Do you consider yourself a pantser or a planner?
Leona: I’m a pantser. I sit at my desk and write what pops into my head.
Joanne: What advice would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?
Leona: I’d tell them Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a good book. Patience is definitely a virtue. Never give up. Cut unnecessary words like ‘that, just, really, suddenly, seemingly, to name a few, and remember, a person cannot laugh, snort, or yawn words. Watch those he said/she said tags.
Joanne: How do you feel, now that your novel has been published?
Leona: I feel such a sense of relief that it’s finally happened. All the hard work, along with the agonizing wait, has faded, just like birthing pains do. Ooops, is that comparing apples and oranges?
Joanne: I don’t think so at all. The waiting is really painful (and rejections along the way) What is the premise of your novel we are promoting today?
Leona: Hemphill Towers is about romance, art, stalking, wine forgery, the Russian Mafia, and friendship.
Joanne: Where can readers get a copy of your book and other works of yours?
Hemphill Towers 2013 MuseItUp Publishing: http://tinyurl.com/lrqon56
B & N : http://tinyurl.com/k597f84
The Darwin Murders: http://goo.gl/YX3Xre
Joanne: Thanks Leona. Can you share a few paragraphs from your book to wet our appetite?
A little later, Stella put down her fork unable to eat another bite. She was listening to JB tell Federico a story about his latest fishing trip. JB raised his arm in a mock casting of a line, and in doing so, hit the wine bottle with his arm causing it to strike Stella’s full glass. The contents of both poured all over the front of her clothes.
Stella gasped when the chilled liquid came in contact with her body, soaking through her white blouse and bra. JB jumped up, grabbed a cloth napkin and began dabbing at the rapidly spreading red stain. Then the inevitable happened. First one button then another popped from her blouse and landed in the middle of the table.
JB stood dumbfounded, staring at the lacy exposed bra. Stella snatched the napkin from his hand and covered herself. Her face was much redder than the spilled wine. Riley could no longer contain her laughter and was soon joined by Birdie. Stella looked at them and then at the stricken face of JB Edwards; she began to laugh herself. Tears ran down their cheeks. JB sat back down, relieved there would be no repercussions from his gaffe.