Horror Author Interview with Leanna Renee Hieber
Autumn brings some of my favorite things…foggy streets in the early hours of the morning, spooky decor, and a chill to the air to remind you that soon, everything will be reborn. It also brings some of my favorite things in the world…horror author interviews!
I’ve talked to and heard about Leanna Renee Hieber’s books for a while now. I was hoping she would be a guest on the blog and I was delighted when she agreed. She’s not just an author, she’s also an actress and a playwright. And honestly, I’m not sure if there’s anything she can’t do!
As of October 2019, she’s written thirteen gothic, gaslamp fantasy novels for adults and teens for Tor and Kensington Books such as the Strangely Beautiful saga, the Magic Most Foul trilogy, the Eterna Files trilogy and The Spectral City series.
Let’s dive in and get to know her better!
What kind of books do you like to write or have you written?
LRH: I write historical fantasy, specifically ghostly, Gothic-inspired Gaslamp Fantasy set in a realistic late 19th century in which paranormal things happen. I just turned in my 13th novel. I write diverse casts of quirky, loveable characters both alive and dead that utilize phantasmagorical methods to help save the day. In my latest Spectral City series, young and driven Eve Whitby leads a girl-gang of talented psychics as they help the NYPD solve weird and inexplicable crime in 1899 Manhattan.
Okay, your books sound amazing! I love anything gothic-inspired and after slightly stalking what you write on Goodreads, I’m hooked! Give me all of the psychic girl-gangs! So tell me, what is your writing process?
LRH: I write the scenes that come to me first, often out of order and non-linear, the scenes the characters are so excited to relay to me, as a character-driven novelist I let them lead. I need music, non-lyric, so I always have classical or atmospheric music playing and a hot cup of coffee or tea on hand.
I love your process! I love the image of your characters telling you their story with little glimpses at a time. So I have to ask, as someone who has traditionally published many books, what does your editing process look like?
LRH: Tricky. Writing out of order and “as the spirit moves” means the real hard work happens during the editing process to make sure that the character arcs, pacing and plot build in the best way. I love working with editors, who always see things I don’t, to make sure I’m making the best book I can. None of my books are perfect, and perfection is an impossible goal to chase. What I can say is that each book is filled with love and thoughtful process as I try to learn something new each time.
What is one of your proudest achievements as an author?
LRH: Honestly, when people respond that they are helped and moved by my books. While I love for my books to have a fun, sweet, spooky, delightful sense of adventure and escapism, I also try to write in profound meaning and emotional resonance. So when that’s remarked upon by readers, when that’s evoked in fan art or even in tattoos, when readers tell me my book got them through a hard time, that’s the most incredible compliment and motivation I can possibly receive.
Wow, that must be such a wonderful feeling for people to reach out and confess that your writing helped them in an emotionally significant way. You are amazing! One of my favorite things to do with my favorite books, is to dream-cast it for Hollywood. Pick one of your favorite books. Now, if you were dream-casting it for Hollywood, which actor would play your MC(s) and why?
LRH: I’ve got to go with The Spectral City series here. It recently occurred to me how wonderful Timotheé Chalamet would be as Detective Horowitz. They’re the same age, Jewish, and strikingly handsome, with the ability to radiate both strength and kindness; the core of Jacob’s character. As for Eve, I’d have to go with Maya Hawke. She blew me away in this last season of Stranger Things, she’s just the kind of unique, bold, strong and heartfelt energy Eve needs. I’d be over the moon if I got the chance to see Zendaya as Eve’s powerful and determined right-hand, Cora Dupris and I’d cast the talented Hari Nef as the luminous and fiercely loyal Antonia Morelli.
I love those casting choices so much! As someone who is fangirling right now over your writing, do you have a favorite author? Who is it and why?
LRH: There are so many authors who have influenced me from my formative years to all my incredibly talented author friends today, but I have to give this particular honor to Edgar Allan Poe who was my most formative influence. I was always drawn to dark and eerie themes as a child and Poe captured psychology, language, setting and questions of narration, whether reliable or unreliable so beautifully and thoroughly. It’s like he opened up a playground I still love exploring and running around in.
I love Poe. Swoon. What is your favorite scary novel or scary movie trope?
LRH: My favorite single scary story is Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Poe’s collected tales considered as a whole. I’m also fond of Steven King’s short story collections, particularly Night Shift. I love high-concept psychological thrillers and I think short stories really lend themselves to an intense experience. I found that the Netflix adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House also explored my favorite scary movie trope; a setting so alive with ghosts that the building in and of itself is an entity, and the show’s expansive exploration of the many meanings and metaphors of ghosts and hauntings as a whole. The show gave me tons of food for thought for my own work.
How funny! The last interview I did for this blog also swooned over The Haunting of Hill House. I loved that as well. I loved that the house felt like another breathing entity. So, on the topic of ghosts, do you believe in them? Werewolves? Vampires?
LRH: It should be no surprise, considering there isn’t a single one of my full-length novels without them, that I absolutely believe in ghosts. I have had inexplicable encounters and I feel I have the most to say about ghosts. They have proven endlessly fascinating to me. I love reading about werewolves and vampires but I don’t write them as I don’t feel I’ve anything new to say that hasn’t already been creatively explored. Very much looking forward to Zoraida Cordóva & Natalie C. Parker’s upcoming Vampire anthology Vampires Never Get Old. Some of my favorite authors working today are in this anthology and I can’t wait to hear their fresh takes on old stakes.
Oh! That vampire anthology sounds good. I haven’t heard of it. I’m going to have to add another book to my mile long TBR list! Have you ever had a real-life spooky encounter?
LRH: Countless! In addition to being an author and actor, I’m also a ghost tour guide in Manhattan for Boroughs of the Dead, so I’ve plenty of opportunities to learn about haunted places and experience them first-hand. One of my favorite moments was when I was taking a tour of the interior of the Merchant’s House Museum (the exterior of which we speak about on our tours). I became very emotional about how close the city was to losing the house. A last-minute hero preserved this 1870s time-capsule, a space unlike anything else remaining in the city. I was standing off to the side from the group, in the corner of the lush parlor, and as I blurted “thank goodness it was saved!” Just then, I felt an ice-cold hand squeeze my elbow in a supportive, fond gesture as if to say “we’re glad you feel the same way” when no one was there. I turned to the corner to see and feel only the continuing ice-cold chill that no mere draft could have fashioned. Telling the docent afterward, they smiled and said I was standing in the most haunted part of the parlor. It was an uncanny but lovely moment and I think indicates that spirits haunting a place are appreciative when the modern living cherish their old relics.
Whoa! That is crazy. I just had chills run up my arms. What is the favorite costume you’ve worn for Halloween and/or what will you be this year?
LRH: My debut novel came out in September of 2009. That Halloween, I dressed as my main character in the Strangely Beautiful series, Miss Percy Parker, a young woman who was born with severe albinism under mysterious circumstances. In 1888 she finds her destiny. Being her for the night, seeing how startled people were by her image, even on Halloween, gave me additional empathy for how hard it was for her, shy and sweet, in a brutal world. This photo is a treasure. She remains one of my favorite characters I’ve ever created, from STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL, to the prequel PERILOUS PROPHECY to the finale MISS VIOLET AND THE GREAT WAR, an epic family legacy of spirit and myth.
Wow! This photo is amazing. You look incredible and I love that you were able to bring Miss Percy Parker to life. The details here are incredible, I’m awestruck! You are simply an incredible creator.
So tell me, can you look into your crystal ball and see the future? What are you working on next?
LRH: A SUMMONING OF SOULS! Out July 2020! The third Spectral City book, I can’t wait to share this one with readers. I’ve also got some reissues of novellas forthcoming, with an extension of a dear little series I didn’t think I’d get the chance to write in again, so there’s a lot to look forward to.
More soon once I’m given the green light to talk about it all.
But the ongoing Spectral City series holds my heart so A SANCTUARY OF SPIRITS and A SUMMONING OF SOULS are the things to look out for! I really adore this ghost-filled, character-driven series and I hope you will fall in love with it as much as I did writing it.
About A Sanctuary of Spirits
New York, 1899, and the police department’s best ally is the secret Ghost Precinct, where spirits and psychics help solve the city’s most perplexing crimes . . .
There’s more than one way to catch a killer—though the methods employed by the NYPD’s Ghost Precinct, an all-female team of psychics and spiritualists led by gifted young medium Eve Whitby, are unconventional to say the least. Eve is concerned by the backlash that threatens the department—and by the discovery of an otherworldly realm, the Ghost Sanctuary, where the dead can provide answers. But is there a price to be paid for Eve and her colleagues venturing beyond the land of the living?
Searching for clues about a mortician’s disappearance, Eve encounters a charismatic magician and mesmerist whose abilities are unlike any she’s seen. Is he a link to mysterious deaths around the city, or to the Ghost Sanctuary? Torn between the bonds of her team and her growing relationship with the dashing Detective Horowitz, Eve must discern truth from illusion and friend from foe, before another soul vanishes into the ether . . .
Where to buy:
A SANCTUARY OF SPIRITS (Releasing Nov. 12 from Kensington Rebel Base Books in digital and trade paperback):
Signed, personalized copies via WORD Brooklyn (book page)
About the Author
Leanna Renee Hieber is an actress, playwright and the author of thirteen Gothic, Gaslamp fantasy novels for adults and teens for Tor and Kensington Books such as the Strangely Beautiful saga, the Magic Most Foul trilogy, the Eterna Files trilogy and The Spectral City series.
Her fiction career began with her futuristic paranormal novella Dark Nest, which won the 2009 Prism Award for best novella, given by the Futuristic, Fantasy and Paranormal chapter of RWA.
The Strangely Beautiful series hit Barnes & Noble and Borders Bestseller lists and garnered numerous regional genre awards, including two more Prism Awards for best fantasy novels, with revised editions now available from Tor.
Darker Still hit the American Bookseller’s Association “Indie Next List”, was a Scholastic Book Club “Highly Recommended” title and was a finalist for the Daphne du Maurier award.
The Spectral City, Leanna’s new ghost-filled series set in 1899 NYC with Kensington Books, has been a bestseller across several genres and platforms. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous notable anthologies and her books have been translated into many languages.
A proud member of performer unions Actors Equity and SAG-AFTRA, she lives in New York City where she is a licensed ghost tour guide for Boroughs of the Dead and has been featured in film and television on shows like Boardwalk Empire and Mysteries at the Museum.
She has been a featured guest, guest of honor, panelist, performer and lecturer at countless conventions and writers’ organizations around the country. She is represented by Paul Stevens of the Donald Maass agency and she tweets often @LeannaRenee.
Free reads, writer resources and more on my website: http://leannareneehieber.com.