Friday, 1 April 2016

Flashback Reading: Guest Post from Leanne Renee Hieber + Giveaway

Flashback Reading is a new feature on the blog in which we feature backlist books. But instead of just reviewing them - which is also on the plan book for 2016 - I thought it'd be fun to interview or have guest posts by the authors specifically to focus on their pre-2015 releases. I've been sitting on this post for AGES because I'd keep opening up a blog post and then forgetting I did it and not remembering until I got to bed and I've been exhausted lately and not up for blogging much, but no more! So, without further ado, a guest post from Leanne Renee Hieber!


If you want advice on how to write the next blockbuster novel that will take you soaring to J.K. Rowling heights, I am not your lady. If you want to know how to be an odd, cross-genre black-clad duck who has carved out her tiny niche in Gaslamp fantasy, well, have a seat. I’d like to think this post will apply to anyone interested broadly in books, in writing, and where things get placed on shelves and the drive to keep writing no matter what. Sometimes it’s a bit of a mystery. The process of getting books into readers’ hands seems to me, after 9 full length novels, countless novellas and short stories, to be as mysterious as writing the book itself- which also doesn’t get any easier like I thought it would. Darn you, expectations and artistic preconceptions! (For my advice on getting onto a shelf in the first place, please visit my writer’s resource guide on my website.)
When I first started in publishing after years as a professional Shakespearean actress in the regional theatre circuit, it was the mid-2000s. I was querying a lyrically lush Gothic novel about Victorian Ghostbusters with elements of YA, fantasy, mystery, romance, horror, suspense, paranormal, historical/alternate history and mythology/esoterica (I wasn’t trying to be difficult, genre-stew is how I think). Said novel; The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, first in my Strangely Beautiful saga, received responses from agents and editors like: “I think this manuscript has some promise, but we don’t know where to shelve it.” Cross-genre was still a bit taboo. But thanks to the expansion of YA and other cross-genre foremothers and forefathers blazing trails in Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy and Speculative Fiction, I could add myself to that cross-genre number when Gaslamp Fantasy was trying to distinguish itself from the rising Steampunk tides.
The house that finally took a chance on me after countless rejection letters was primarily known for its romance line, so, because my Strangely Beautiful books had a prominent romance that tied into the fantasy plot, there I was shelved in the romance aisles and digital tags, with a very fantasy-genre cover. Thankfully the cross-genre move of fantasy cover on romance shelf didn’t hurt me, my debut did very well. What happened next; my publisher folding and all my work going out of print when I’d just begun is another difficult story for another day. You’ll hear about it on my Strangely Beautiful re-issue tour in April, when that beloved, currently out-of-print series is resurrected by Tor Books.  
Freaking out about what to do next and what direction to take, I was taken in by a former editor of said belly-up house who was acquiring YA. Strangely Beautiful was a YA crossover, and I was interested in writing it, so I made sure my next manuscript was YA. The Magic Most Foul saga, beginning with Darker Still, had all the hallmarks of my work; Gothic, Victorian, Mystery, Suspense, Horror, Romance, Paranormal, etc. But the audience, the POV (first person) per genre expectations and marketing all differed. There’s a wide crossover between romance and YA readers but I was still trying to find my way in the niche. It remained hard to market what I do. We all moved on, and I had to again figure out what to do next. I was out of contract, 3 of my 5 published books out of print and at a loss as to which genre might welcome me. All I knew was my life made no sense without writing. I needed my next book. 


By a twist of fate and being very visible in the field as a presenter, (no matter what happens, keep networking) I met my current editor (Melissa Singer) while teaching at a convention. Because I’d always hoped to work with Tor, and because she was aware of my Strangely Beautiful saga, an awesome partnership began to develop. After massive mutual hard work on a new proposal, Melissa secured my new front-list series, The Eterna Files trilogy, as well as my backlist Strangely Beautiful books. Tor understands Historical Fantasy better than anyone, and is known to be a Sci-Fi/Fantasy house. The Eterna Files is shelved in adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy but keeps the PG-13 “rating” of all my books. My third series had a third different shelf to find me on and not as many crossover readers/followers. Still holding down niche genre in the Gothic, Gaslamp Fantasy fort. I love my house and my editor and I’m just hoping for the best as the Eterna Files sequel comes out this August and the Strangely Beautiful saga gets a long-awaited, overdue resurrection in new editions and an old wound can be healed with this phoenix story. All I can do is put out a Gothic, Gaslamp bat-signal and hope more amazing readers will come my way, adding to those I already treasure. Gothic is a specific, sometimes acquired taste. It isn’t for everyone but it can cover a whole lot of ground within its wild expanse. Three shelves worth.
 
This is my specific story. It’s important to hear a variety of authors talk about the winding roads that get them into writing and the thorny briars while you remain in the business, because no one story is anyone else’s. There are a million ways to get in and to get out of writing. Saying merely that I’ve bounced around shelves isn’t the takeaway, the takeaway is need, perseverance, being flexible, open to opportunity, and hungry.
In traditional publishing, where the book is shelved is out of your control. I advise any writer to be mindful of genre expectations in terms of POV, intensity of content/language/situations, focus and age of the story and length/pacing. All you can do is write the book as the characters, plot and your desired genre parameters demand and expect that the shelf will follow. I can’t tell you what the effect of being on all these shelves has been. I’m not sure I’ll know for some time yet, if ever. I’m just as cross-genre as when I started. My circumstances in regards to twists and turns in publishing houses has meant I’ve had to keep making my Gothic voice relevant somehow. My books cause consternation in some readers and reviewers, baffle some and delight others, and this often polarized reaction can make me feel less than mainstream. I’ve been writing very similar series all along, in fact each one exists within the same overarching “Hieberverse” with parallel worlds and crossover characters examining their own perilous lines between mortal and spirit worlds. To me, the shelf is immaterial, I simply pray audiences will continue to find my work. Those who fully understand that first and foremost I’m a Gothic novelist- if I must distill to one word- they are never baffled nor misled, as the Gothic is by nature cross-genre. 
But don’t write to fit on a shelf. Write the books you need to write. Not “want” to write. Want factors in, of course, but it isn’t the animus. It won’t get it done. “Want” won’t freak you out when you’re on deadline like need will. Sometimes I don’t ‘want’ to write, it’s hard and miserable sometimes and I’m still utterly terrified I won’t know how to write the next book, let alone the book I’m working on now. But I need to.
The house, the editor, the shelf, that will all come if the book has promise, vision and voice. (And that will likely all come with twists, turns, heartbreak and disillusionment but all the sweeter and more hard-won, every ongoing battle). Be true to that place you want to be in the book, not on the shelf. Tell the story only you can tell. (And then, sure, let’s all have a drink and a big ol’ bitch-fest about how to market it.) “Book of your heart” isn’t a hackneyed phase, it’s the crucible. The rest of the trial will come. And you’ll weather it. Like I have, and countless genre foremothers and fathers before me. Write what you need, when you need. But need it.
  
Leanna Renee Hieber is an actress, playwright, artist and the award-winning, bestselling author of Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels for adults and teens. The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, hit Barnes & Noble and Borders Bestseller lists and garnered numerous regional genre awards. The series reissues in revised editions with new content as Strangely Beautiful from Tor in 4/16. Leanna's Magic Most Foul saga began with Darker Still, an American Bookseller's Association "Indie Next List" pick, a Scholastic Book Club "Highly Recommended" title and a Daphne du Maurier award finalist. The Eterna Files, is now available from Tor with the sequel, Eterna and Omega releasing 8/16. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies, she is a 4 time Prism Award winner for excellence in Fantasy Romance and her books have been translated into many languages. A proud member of performer unions Actors Equity and SAG-AFTRA, she is an unabashed Goth, a lecturer and advocate for Gothic literature and lives in New York City, where she works as a ghost tour guide and has been featured in film and television on shows like Boardwalk Empire. She is active on Twitter @LeannaRenee on FB at http://facebook.com/lrhieber and more about her and her many artistic endeavors at Http://leannareneehieber.com
And you can enter to win one of Leanna's titles - DARKER STILL or THE ETERNA FILES - below!
 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!
--Julie 

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