An Interview with Leanna Renee Hieber

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What is crafty, clever, and runs about in full Victorian garb? Why, it’s the best-selling author Leanna Renee Hieber. When she is not busy weaving masterful fantasies of Gothic Victorian elegance, she is on stage, working behind the scenes, or leading folks on ghostly tours of New York City.

Photo by C. Johnstone

Photo by C. Johnstone

This spring, she will be returning to the International Steampunk Symposium as our Author in Residence. She was good enough to sit for an interview to tide us over until her return.

Me: You play a lot of roles – both literally as an actress, and figuratively as an artist. You write books, build scripts, and lead tours. Are these all different sides of your personality, or do they all tie together?

LRH: They’re all tied together in the grander arc of storytelling in general, though they use different parts of my mind, different amounts of energy and different refinements of skill and memory. What is the through-line is the content and genres, the ghostly, Gothic Victorian atmosphere is present through everything I do across the boards. I can’t seem to stick to only one art form, so I’ll always be drawn to both performative arts and writing equally, as they represent an extroverted artistic life and an introverted one, together it’s the whole spectrum of the artistic soul in its infinite possibilities.

Me: Last year you were named Pandora Society Author in Residence. What are you excited to see or do during your next year ‘in residence?’

LRH: I’m so honored by this appointment. I may not live in Cincinnati currently, but I was born and raised there, and my family still remains there, Cincinnati will always be home to me as well and I honor it as such, thusly this appointment is extremely meaningful for me as a product of Ohio education, arts and theatrical development. What Pandora represents is such a wonderful testament to the area and the collective is full of such great people and talents.

In terms of being a support for other writers, while I don’t have time for any direct fostering of aspiring writers or reading/critiquing any of their work due to the very pressing demands of multiple book deadlines and multiple freelance contracts across the artistic spectrum, what I do always want to do is be a resource for aspiring writers. On my website I’ve a “so you want to be a writer” post that shares all the resources that were most helpful for me when I started out, so I hope aspiring writers will take a look at that and not hesitate to ask questions at any author panels I do in any upcoming events. And I hope we can find ways together as the Society to foster art and artists in terms of upcoming workshops or forums, online or in person. Check that out at http://leannareneehieber.com on the Extras page or the Appearance page.

Hieber Eterna FilesI’m a big cheerleader of artists. If you don’t make your art, your unique vision will never reach the world, it will simply die unmade. That’s the biggest of tragedies to me. No one in the world can write your characters, paint your painting, photograph the world through your eyes, so please, you be the one to do it. Art matters. It’s one of the most vital contributions to human existence.

For my part, this year marks a very important transition for me to Tor Books, the house I’ve always wanted to be published with, and I’ve got seven contracted novels with them upcoming, starting with THE ETERNA FILES, a new Gaslamp Fantasy saga about two quirky paranormal offices in 1882 New York and London, the misdirected search for immortality, and a far more dangerous looming threat of an insidious society bent on paranormal exploitation. It’s a large-cast novel full of colorful characters at the precipice of life and death. I’m so excited to share it with all of you. It’s available for order now wherever books are sold, I’ve links and mentions of where you can get a signed copy later in the post.

Me: What is the biggest risk you’ve taken as a writer? Did it pay off?

LRH: The biggest risk has been throwing myself back into the publishing world after my first three books (the Strangely Beautiful saga) went out of print and my publisher went bankrupt, costing me more lost royalties and payments than I care to mention. It has been utterly devastating and while the book remains out of print, it has remained devastating both financially and spiritually. Moving forward and writing the next books anyway was very hard but I knew I couldn’t let the mistakes of circumstances out of my control kill my great love of writing. Thankfully the Magic Most Foul saga found a home, and then I landed with Tor and my amazing, wonderful editor Melissa Singer, and Melissa bought not only my front-list Eterna files, but the backlist Strangely Beautiful novels, also buying the final, never-before published fourth and final novel in the series. So continuing my writing career no matter what, putting work out there no matter what, that’s always an emotional risk. But thankfully Strangely Beautiful has its own resurrection story that matches the Phoenix in the series.

Me: You’ve won a lot of awards for your work, but what would you say is the most rewarding part of what you do?

LRH: There is truly nothing, nothing better than speaking with readers who have fallen in love with your characters as much as you. Writing a book that connects with readers is having children that everyone thinks are as wonderful as you do, there’s such a pride and joy in that sharing. Making a world outside of your own head a shared world is such a unique and profound satisfaction.

Me: You wear a lot of fantastic Victorian garb. Is this a way of connecting with the characters you write, or the character you are?

Photo by C. Johnstone

Photo by C. Johnstone

LRH: Both. I am a Goth girl at heart, always have been and always will be, so being a perky Neo-Victorian Goth is just me at my most true self. It also happens to correlate with my characters, so all the better. It helps me understand the garments of their world as dictating the ranges of movement, posture and attitude. The physicality of both writing and acting a character is so important for me. When I’m at events, I’m most certainly ‘on stage’ so there’s a fun heightening of both persona and characters relative to my work that I can step up to.

Me: Imagine an unlimited budget and a handy time-turner. What would you choose to write, stage, or perform?

LRH: Oh my goodness. That is a very, very long list. I’d start with getting the musical version of The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker further along its stage journey. We’ve a wonderful group of very talented staff and creators, and we’ve got the solid start of a show, but the whole creative team is very over-booked with lots of other projects, I’d so love to focus on that first and foremost for a while, because I think it’s really perfect for today’s climate and interest, and I can’t wait for the series to re-issue next year with Tor. More about the musical (yes, you can hear music from the show!) at http://strangelybeautifulthemusical.com .

I’ve got several one woman shows I’d like to create/perform, such as a show about how Female madness is viewed on stage throughout history, a show about the ASPCA, and a few web-series ideas with my production company, PsychWing R & D, I’d like to help develop/act in.

I’ve got a load of non-fiction spiritual books I’d like to dive into, and, of course, I’ve got so many more characters and novels that need attention.

Anyone who says they are ever bored, I have no concept of that notion in the least. There is always something to think, see, dream, create.

I’ll be very busy in the coming years with THE ETERNA FILES debut and series with Tor Books, and that’s what I hope you’ll all join me for in its unfolding adventures. I’ll have copies available for sale and signing at the International Steam Symposium, you can also get a signed, personalized copy and support a fantastic local indie bookstore, WORD in Brooklyn via http://tinyurl.com/eternawd.

Please join me on my sites: http://facebook.com/lrhieberhttp://twitter.com/leannareneehttp://leannareneebooks.blogspot.com and of course http://leannareneehieber.com

Cheers, blessings, and, as I’ve made a life of telling ghost stories, happy haunting!

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