Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Please Welcome Author...Margaret Leigh!

Thank you for taking the time to interview with us! We're excited to have you!

Margaret’s newest release is Coffee Kisses, which came out in April 2008, her full length romance novel, “The Heart Divided” will be available in paperback and e-book in July, 2008! She also has a m/m novella: The Keeper due to release in July 2008.

Personal website: http://margaretleigh.com
Blog: http://margaret-leigh.livejournal.com
My publisher:
http://www.torquerebooks.com/zencart/index.php?manufacturers_id=128&zenid=ae5b5457e50a5f1a9ec9177d81b2ab99&main_page=index

1. When/how did you know you wanted to write?

MARGARET: I’d been making up stories since before I learned to write. My grandfather was Welsh and came from a family with a strong ‘oral tradition.’ He would tell us stories, sitting around camp fires at night when we went to spend summer holidays with him. I learned the craft of storytelling from those nights. When I learned to write, I would just write down the stories I thought of. I didn’t show them to anyone other than my sisters, though. When I had children of my own, I continued the oral storytelling tradition and would tell them stories my grandfather told me, or make up my own stories for them. I guess, there was no particular moment I knew I wanted to be a writer, because I have been a storyteller all of my life.

2. How long did it take you to become published?

MARGARET: Oh years and years! I didn’t have a lot of faith in my stories or my writing early on, so my first publishing successes didn’t come until I was well into my thirties. I probably could have been published much sooner with a little encouragement. Sadly, that was lacking and so I wrote and wrote and kept the stories hidden away. It wasn’t until my eldest daughter was born, and I wrote a story of her birth and sent it in to a magazine which accepted it, that I started to think that maybe I could get other things published. I started small and got non-fiction filler items and letters to editors published at first. My first fiction story that was published was a short story titled “Time and Motion” which was accepted by a guy who ran a website featuring fiction by new writers. He didn’t pay, but that didn’t matter. What mattered to me was someone else liked my story enough to publish it.

3. Who are some of your favorite authors?

MARGARET: Gosh, that’s always such a hard question to answer, because my tastes change a lot, and I am pretty sanguine so my latest favorite author might turn out to be whoever’s book I am reading now! Authors I keep coming back to, though, are Jodi Picoult—especially when she writes paranormal: “Second Glance” is wonderful. I also like Bryce Courtenay, (“The Power of One”) and Colleen McCulloch (“The Thornbirds,” “Angel Puss” [paranormal]).

4. Who do you count as your literary influences?

MARGARET: Definitely the three authors I mentioned in the previous question. Bryce Courtenay taught me that it is okay to write a book in the same way you’d tell a story orally, using plain language, simple phrasing and a warm voice to carry your message across to your ‘hearer’ because even when we read, I think we tend to ‘hear’ the voice of the book in our heads. So, I developed my own voice based on his example. Colleen McCulloch influenced me to write what I felt compelled to write and not worry that it is too farfetched. Nothing is farfetched if the writer believes in it and can make it real for the reader. Jodi Picoult did the same.

5. How long does it usually take for you to research a book?

MARGARET: As long as it takes me to write it. I tend to research as I go, because I am what I call a ‘seat of the pants author.’ I know the beginning, have a sketchy idea of the middle and hope that by the time I get well into the writing, I will have the ending sorted out. It’s not a style that a lot of writers would be comfortable with, but I find this works better for me than trying to plot and outline before I write. Usually about four or five chapters into a new work, is when I start to develop the beginnings of a synopsis, so research is done as needed throughout the writing.

6. Many authors are doing strictly e-books, do you think this is just a trend, or does it spell the end of real books?

MARGARET: I don’t think that there will ever be a time when books will go out of fashion. I think that people like the connection that holding a paper and print book in their hands gives them. One of the things I love about Star Trek, for instance, is that Captain Kirk shuns reading on data pads and likes to hold a real paper book in his hands to unwind. Because we use PDA’s and computers every day in work situations, I think that books will always have a place, because they are a break away from reading on screens. I might be wrong, but I don’t think I am.

7. How long does it take for you to write books?

MARGARET: Ever since getting my first novel “The Heart Divided” accepted, I have been telling myself I need to learn to write faster. It took me about eleven years to write that, and I will need to be a lot quicker with subsequent books if I want to keep my name ‘out there’ on the bookshelves. I recently started another novel and am hoping to finish this one in a few months. I think my first novel took so long to write because of my self-doubt more than anything. That’s no longer such a problem, with a few short stories published, and a novel coming out, I know I can sell my writing now, and that’s been an enormous boost to my confidence.

8. Is there any character in your books that you can really relate to?

MARGARET: I usually have at least one person in all my books that I can relate to. I don’t think I could write believably using a character I didn’t relate to and care about. Even my ‘villains’ will have some small aspect of their character that I can at least feel empathy for. No one is all bad, or all good. People are a mixture of both.

9. Do you see yourself writing in the same genre in 10 years? If not then what?

MARGARET: I love what I am doing now. I write a mixture of Historical and Contemporary, GLBT, and het, with a smattering of sci-fi and paranormal thrown into the mix, so I don’t think I will ever get bored. If I tire of one kind of story or genre, I can switch to another.

10. What advice do you give to those who are just starting out or trying to become published?

MARGARET: Well, the most often quoted piece of advice given young or beginning writers, is to write what you know. I say that’s not necessary. Rather, write what you love! If you love paranormal romance, write that—love historical or time travel, or steam punk? Write that. What you don’t know, you can research and learn about but if you’re not writing what you love, that will come through in your writing voice and make your stories lackluster.

11. What do you do when preparing to write a story?

MARGARET: I day dream. Lots! The preparation for writing, for me, lies in opening myself up to hear the voices and the stories of my characters. I literally hear them talking, and moving around in my head and playing out scenes. I don’t even write notes at this point, I just listen. This is where my sister—she’s a psychic—thinks that I am actually listening to real people who have a story to tell. She and I are not entirely in agreement or disagreement on that. My partner thinks that I am just a schizophrenic who has learned to channel the voices into a creative outlet. *giggle*

12. Where do your story ideas come from? Do you use people you know as characters sometimes or even sometimes a certain event from real life happenings?

MARGARET: I have never deliberately used anyone I know in a story. I can see aspects of people I know in some of my characters, but they’re not the actual person. My ideas come to me from who knows where. Sometimes I just get a snippet of dialogue, or a flash of a scene and start thinking on that, and a story develops. My short story, Coffee Kisses came from a discussion on a mailing list I am on. “The Heart Divided” was inspired by real events that took place in the history of my state. Originally, I set out to write that historical event as a fictional novel, but found myself taking so much poetic license that it was better to call it a novel inspired by real events.

13. What is your favorite part of writing?

MARGARET: The writing. Sitting down with my characters and letting the words come out onto the page. It might start of a little stodgy and slow, but then I get into the ‘zone’ and it flows and there’s rhythm and magic and life in the words and that’s when I am at my happiest. My heart sings then.

14. Do you have any projects you are currently working on?

MARGARET: Whew! Several! I don’t often just write one story and stick to it till the end. I have usually got two or three on the go at one time because of my short attention span. When I peter out of steam on one, I will switch to another. The one that is flowing best at the moment is a paranormal m/m romance which is actually a prequel to my short story “Hunter’s Kiss” which is in the anthology “Another Fine Mess” and is available now from Torquere Books.

15. Did it take a lot of rejections for you to finally get published or was it pretty easy for you?

MARGARET: I think I was very very lucky. I managed to strike publishers when a particular idea was hot and so I got accepted very easily. I did get my fair share of rejection slips back when I was writing non-fiction and trying to sell fillers to magazines, so I guess I served my apprenticeship there. As far as fiction goes, I think I am blessed and just happened along at the right time.

16. Do you write your stories out with pencil and paper first or do you work straight on the computer?

MARGARET: I used to write exclusively on the computer, because I felt that I could work faster that way, but in actuality, I wasn’t connecting with my craft as well then as I do when I write with pen and paper. I went back to the pen and paper method late last year and I find I am much more productive and connected to my work when I write that way. I have my own desk in a study where I can lock myself away from the computer and the internet and just let the magic happen. I think my writing is the better for it.

17. You just recently were published. How does it make you feel?

MARGARET: Being published is the most amazing thing! I danced on air for hours after I got the acceptance email for my novel. I still dance around and giggle and have fits of insanity any time something I submit gets accepted. I don’t think the shine will ever wear off!

18. Getting back to your books coming out soon. Tell us a little about what to expect from them.

MARGARET: I have two new releases coming out in July. The first one is my novel which I have mentioned a couple of times in other questions. As I said, it is inspired by actual events back in the 1860’s in Queensland Australia. It tells the story of Abigail Pheeney, who meets and marries Robert Forester. It is a marriage of convenience. Rob needs a wife in order to get a job he wants, and Abbie needs to get out of town, basically, so they form this relationship based on all the wrong reasons. Abbie was working as a prostitute when she met Rob and was also on the run from a man in her past that she’d rather forget. Of course it all goes pear shaped when that man finds her, and all kinds of mayhem ensues. It’s not a paranormal story, although there are hints of the paranormal in it, with Rob being haunted by ghosts surrounding his actions after the stalker finds Abbie. I have made a trailer for the book, which you can view at http://www.youtube.com/user/Pheebleminded

The other July release is a m/m novella which is a complete flight of fantasy. Set in England in 1772, it is the story of an apprentice boy named Thomas, who is kidnapped and sold into the household of Frenchman Leon Chambellan.

Thomas was raised in a sheltered household by his Quaker master and dame, and has experienced very little of the real and often gritty life of London in that time period. Now, he finds himself thrown into a situation where young men are taken and ‘groomed’ for pleasure. For love—l’amour du greque, as his new master refers to it. Thomas must work through his horror at being party to such wickedness, whilst also fighting an undeniable attraction to the charismatic and sexy Chambellan. It has all the makings of a ‘breeches ripper’ as I have heard some people describe m/m historical fiction—Kidnapping, pirates, betrayal, love, jealous rivals and nefarious villains—quite a lively romp if I say so myself.

19. When and where can we purchase your books?

MARGARET: “The Heart Divided” will be available in paperback and eBook from Amazon.com, fictionwise, all romance e-books and others. “The Keeper” will be available from Torquere Books, Amazon, fictionwise, all romance e-books etc. My current releases with Torquere Books can be found at http://www.torquerebooks.com/zencart/index.php?manufacturers_id=128&main_page=index

20. How do you feel about fans doing fan fiction and/or roleplaying on the web based on your or other author's works?

MARGARET: I think that fan fiction is pretty much a fact of life nowadays. People like a character or a setting, and want to explore it and play with it. They want to interact with that character and his/her world and I don’t see any harm in that, so long as they are not trying to pass the characters and settings off as their own, or make a profit from them. I have had a few giggles myself over the possibilities for m/m slash from some of the scenarios in “The Heart Divided.” If I, as the author can see subtext—and it wasn’t deliberate at all—then who am I to complain if the readers see it too, and run with it? If they do, I would like to hope they might send me the links! *giggle*

3 deadly screams:

Sierra Wolfe said...

Great interview Margaret. I loved reading about your style in writing. I totally agree with you about Colleen McCulloch. I LOVED "The Thornbirds", it's one of my absolute favorites ever.

Thanks for sharing with us today!

Gracen Miller said...

Hi, Meg! Sorry I haven't been here today to welcome you. My grandmother and my step-father both had surgery today, so this is the first I've been home today.

I often say I "channel write" because I get so into it that it feels like someone else is writing through me. And I absolutely have to listen to the voices in my head. They won't shut up until I write what they say and since they direct the story, I really have no choice. It's kind of like being held hostage, I guess. LOL. *wink*

Great blog, Meg! Thanks so much for guest blogging with us today.

Dave said...

Wow, great interview! Thanks for sharing this.