Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
Hi, and thanks for having me!
One of my first memories is of sitting with a book in my hand and discovering I could read it by myself. It was Hop on Pop from Dr. Seuss (I’m still a fan of all things Seuss!) and I quickly progressed from the I Can Read books to vintage children’s books I found wandering the stacks of large used bookstores my parents took me to. Honey Bunch and norman, The Happy Hollisters and The Bobbsey Twins were quickly followed by Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, The Dana Girls, and Cherry Ames.
Then one day as I was browsing the stacks, I discovered The Phantom Tollbooth. That led me to a lifelong love of genre fiction as I began to explore further afield. Then one day a teacher spent the year reading from The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet. The entire class was enthralled and we began to make up scenarios as to what we thought would happen next, so she sat us down in class one day with something that changed my life. She told us to write our own story.
Wow! Kids could grow up to be real writers too! This was a huge revelation to my child self. Thirty years later, here I am. I’ve been a translator, an editor, a short story author, and now, a novelist. Under my Leona Windwalker pen name, I currently have two novels and a short story in The New Beginnings Series, a free short for the Goodreads MMRomance Group’s Love is an Open Road event, a short story in a charity anthology, and have three works in progress. My muse is relentless, I tell you.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest completed book is Ben’s Beginning, book 2 of the New Beginnings Series. I was inspired by the idea of redemption. In Book 1, Sol’s Solstice, Ben’s thoughtlessness led to dire consequences for his twin brother Sol. Readers hated him with a passion for what happened to Sol, even though he too suffered and eventually acted at great personal risk to save his brother and himself. Sol didn’t blame Ben though. Well, not entirely.
Ben blamed himself though, as much as the readers did, and I wanted to focus on how guilt can drive a person. Ben works hard to redeem himself, and I’m happy that fans not only forgave him, but fell in love with him as much as they have his brother Sol. I’m a sucker for happy ever afters, so Ben’s redemption kept me up late at nights until I had it all down. Until it was all written out, it hadn’t happened, and my characters feel quite real to me as I write them.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I do playlists for each book and listen as I type away. the music actually spurs me on and I hear the Muse more loudly. For example, with my next upcoming book, the words simply refused to flow without Petula Clark and Motown hits from the ’60’s playing in the background. I also go through food phases. With Sol’s Solstice, I had to have sour dummies, raisins, salted peanuts to munch as I wrote, along with marshmallow mochacinos. With Ben, it was sesame seed bagels, Oreos, and hot milky Caro to drink.
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Wow. That’s a LOOOOOOOONG list. I’d have to say my biggest influences would have to be Mary Calmes, Andrew Grey, Isaac Asimov, Ursula K. Le Guin, Robert Heinlein, Anne Rice, and Anne McCaffery.
What are you working on now?
I’m on the home stretch of finishing up a romance featuring humans shifters, fae, and vampires. It’s been a lot of fun to write. It’s also been one of the hardest as the words came in fits and starts. I’m also working on a sci fi. It’s pure space opera with a romantic subplot.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
That’s tough. I’ve tried blog tours and those do fairly well, but to really do well, I’ve found nothing beats connecting with readers on a more personal level as a fellow reader. Being unafraid to talk about books I’ve loved and not hesitating to recommend the works of other authors I think they might like has actually led to readers checking my own work out. In return, I’ve not only gained new readers and social media followers, but gained recommendations in turn for books that would have otherwise flown under my radar. I think it’s a win/win.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Do your research. Make sure you have your facts right, whether it’s current law or local customs, nothing is a substitute for quality research. But don’t let yourself get bogged down in it though. Above all, stop thinking about writing your story- you need to sit down and actually do it. Don’t worry about wether it is any good or not. Get your story written, then off to a few reputable beta readers. Don’t use friends or family for this as you need a completely biased eye. Do your revisions, then get it edited. Whatever you do, don’t skimp on using professionals for editing and cover design. Nothing sinks a book worse than poor editing and an awful cover, though a poorly written blurb comes a close third.
Also, don’t wait to engage readers, putting efforts of self promotion off until the book is published. nice you’re in the final third of your rough draft, start networking. Review blogs book promo up to month in advance, so have your cover and blurb ready before release and don’t be afraid to use a blog tour organiser.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
The way to sell even more books is to write more books. It’s very, very true. With each release, I sold more as readers not only bought my newest release, or borrowed it on KU, but also my backlist. So, write, write, and write some more.
What are you reading now?
Against the Grain, Charlie Cochet’s fifth book in her THIRDS series. I’m a huge fan!
What’s next for you as a writer?
I’ve got plans for another sci fi romance, a young adult contemporary novel, and the third book in the New Beginnings series. I’ve already got readers asking me for that one, so I best get my skates on!
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island and allowed to take 3 or 4 books with you what books would you bring?
Nooooo! I can’t possibly choose only three or four! I’m afraid I’d have to go all professor and build a coconut radio to effect a rescue for myself, or build one of those boats like the ancient Polynesians sailed used to sail from Tahiti to Hawaii. I’d no doubt end up lost at sea. It’s not as horrible a prospect though as only having three or four books ever!