She was an avid reader as a child, with her favorite authors at the time being Roald Dahl and Carolyn Keene.
"I remember having just finished Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach and thinking about how much pleasure I derived from the story, when it occurred to me that I might offer that same kind of pleasure to others if I wrote stories of my own. Along with my twin sister, I wrote my first short story, and I was so proud of it that I used cardboard and crayons to make it a 'hardcover book.' I remember the story was about a good witch and her cat, but beyond that, I can’t recall any of the details. I found I enjoyed writing even more than I enjoyed reading, and I’ve been writing ever since."
Writing was an important part of Leigh's childhood, just as it has been an important part of her adult life.
"I don’t think one should judge a person’s status as a writer based on publishing history, but rather how much one loves the art and how much time he or she spends doing it," she told me. "I remember in my early teens spending an entire summer co-writing my first novel with my twin sister. I think that was my favorite summer. Did we ever publish that novel? No; I don’t even include it in my novel count, as it has long been lost and was a crude first attempt. Still, it defined my teenage years, just as everything I write now defines my adult life. I do not make a living as a writer, but I would lose all sense of personal identity without all I’ve written and continue to write."
She will experience writer's block from time to time, which usually tells her it's time for her to make a change. Writing in multiple genres helps, because she can switch to something completely different from her last work, or she might try writing a screenplay adaptation of one of her novels that she feels might someday look good in film. She has found that forcing herself to write through the block—pressing herself for ideas—doesn’t work well for her.
"I have to be excited about what I’m writing for the story to live up to its potential, and I am all about quality over quantity," she explained. "I know many authors will tell you writer’s block is a myth, but I say when the well has run dry, it’s dry, and the best way to get past it is not to continue to tap something that’s empty, but rather drill a new well while you’re waiting for the old one to refill itself."
Leigh has written eleven novels, nine of which are published. She finds it difficult to choose a favorite, as each of her books she has qualities she finds endearing.
"I don’t think a person can write a novel without ending up with some kind of maternal/paternal love for it. With that said, I would probably choose Finding Poe, " she said, "as it is by far the most unique (and marketable) piece I’ve written."
Leigh believes that good writing has to incorporate a unique voice that takes its readers into the moment.
"In order to do this, a writer must take a physiological approach: one must take all five senses into consideration, appealing not only to the mind’s eye, but also the mind’s nose, ears, skin, and taste buds," she said. "It must contain a reasonable balance of prose and dialog, and it must never include wasted space—every scene should have a purpose and every line of dialog should be important to the story’s forward momentum. Good writing evokes emotion and makes the reader sympathetic to the protagonist, and in order for that to happen, the protagonist needs to be well-rounded and interesting. Good writing also exhibits proper use of syntax, grammar, and punctuation."
One of the best pieces of writing advice Leigh ever received was to go back to college. It corrected her own grammar and punctuation, but as well gave her the opportunity to read and analyze works she might have never read on her own, opening her eyes to genres and styles that she might not have understood without the help of some amazing professors. She told me her writing improved dramatically as a result of her education.
"Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darknesstaught me that a work can be jam-packed with symbolism and other literary devices, and yet also be an enjoyable read. Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own taught me to be myself with my writing, to look within and write accordingly. Everything I’ve read by Stephen King has shown me that only in examining the dark might we endeavor to bring light and enrichment to this world. Finally, Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle and similar sci-fi works showed me that it’s okay to strive for a profound ending, even at the cost of a happy one," she told me.
Leigh has discovered that every genre has a different set of muses, and she also discovered that her voice changes significantly depending on what she is writing.
"When I was in college, I realized that my critical analyses typically took on the voices of whatever authors I was writing about, and the more I branched out in my own fiction, the more varied my own voices became," she said. "Conversely, there are commonalities in style between all of my stories, as different from one another as many of them may be. Looking at my collective works, it makes for an interesting dichotomy."
Finally, I asked, "If you had to do your journey to getting published all over again, what would you do differently?"
"I would be more patient and less apt to compromise in the name of gaining a sale. I made a few choices early on regarding book titles, and even a change to a story’s ending, that I felt pushed into because the publisher was so adamant. I learned that the publisher is not always (although usually) right, and sometimes giving in to a publisher’s 'firm request' can be a mistake. I remember my publisher requesting that I change a short story so that a married woman’s fantasy was an actual act, essentially making the protagonist an adulterer. I caved despite my disagreement—then cringed as I read a review that went on about how good the story would have been had my protagonist not cheated on her husband, but rather merely fantasized about. I felt pretty stupid about not having stuck to my guns. The same goes for a title my publisher felt confident would do justice to one of my novels. That novel is one of my lowest sellers, and I’m positive it’s because of the corny title."
About the Author: ):
Find the author online at: