After achieving success in the ABA, Leanna Ellis is now finding her niche in the CBA with her flair for Southern storytelling of contemporary women’s fiction. Elvis Takes a Back Seat is a wonderful read (click here for my review) and in September, Broadman & Holman will release her second novel, Lookin’ Back, Texas. Here are Leanna’s thoughts on:~
You initially wrote romance novels for the ABA but you are now writing Christian women’s fiction. How did that change come about?
The desire to change from romance to women’s fiction really began at a deeper level. There’s something about taking your newborn to a pediatric cardiologist that puts you on your knees. God healed my son’s heart and began to change mine. From that, my story ideas began to outgrow the bounds of romantic fiction and I left romance to follow where God was leading me.
You are a wife, mum and writer AND you home school your children! What does a “typical” writing day look like?
Chaos! It usually starts very early when I stumble upstairs and start with my quiet time, then I move to the computer until my kids wake up. Then it’s the usual scramble of getting breakfast fixed and starting school. Two days a week, my kids go to a ‘university model’ school. Their teachers teach the new concepts and then give massive amounts of homework for us to do on our days off. So when the kids are in school, I’m usually at Starbucks working. A girl has to have her mocha frappacino! I also am often working on writing while my kids are fencing, dancing, playing the piano. It’s a juggle trying to fit it all in.
What is your favourite part of the writing process?
Having written ‘the end’! Writing is rewriting or so some brilliant writer said once. And it’s true. I spend much more time rewriting my work than the actual writing.
What writing project are you working on now?
Your next book is Lookin’ Back, Texas ~ can you give us a sneak peek, please?
Oh, I’m very excited about this book. It was a lot of fun to write as I never quite knew what the mother in this story would do. See, Betty Lynne Davidson is putting on quite a funeral for her dearly departed husband. Trouble is… he only departed. He’s not dead. When Suzanne, the main character, gets a call from her father to come home because her mother has gone off the deep end, she has to return to her hometown of Luckenbach, Texas, knowing it will mean looking at the faulty foundations of her parents’ marriage. As well as her own. The perfect façade of home and family has been Suzanne’s family motto. But her life and marriage begins to crack under the pressure of perfectionism and the secret past Suzanne had thought she’d buried long ago.
Elvis Takes A Back Seat
Tell us the inspiration behind this story.
This story began during a garage sale I held with my mom and sister. I began to think how hard it is for some people to let go of things as well as the past.
Originally Elvis had a minor role. He was just a quirky part of the garage sale that takes place at the beginning of my book. I’d written chapter one and wanted a ‘white elephant’ type of gift that my heroine would easily want to get rid of, but because it belonged to her deceased husband she suddenly had a hard time letting go. My husband has a friend who has an Elvis bust, so that’s why I thought of it. This was a journey story, but I wasn’t exactly sure where these three women were going to go. I actually wanted them to go to Europe because I thought I’d need a research trip. J However, when I called my dear friend, D. Anne Love, who writes YA fiction, she suggested Memphis. She didn’t know about the Elvis bust because it was such a minor part. But the story clicked at that point. Suddenly, we were laughing about strapping that Elvis bust in the back seat of a vintage Cadillac and the story really took off.
Have you had an Aunt Rae in your life?
The closest I’ve come to an Aunt Rae in my life was my Aunt Dot whom I adored.She was very different from Aunt Rae, and yet she always made me laugh. She was terrific. I miss her still.
What was your favourite scene to write?
That’s a tough question. I had a lot of fun with the scene at Double Takes, my made up Elvis impersonator club. I also had a lot of fun writing the scene at the café in Arkansas where the bust is almost stolen. But I really enjoyed writing the last scene, the epilogue, too.
How do you go about choosing names for your characters?
Often the name just comes to me. If I’m not sure, I might thumb through a baby name book. Quite often I choose the wrong name at the beginning of the book, then the right name will come to me sometime during the course of writing the novel.
I loved the interaction between the three women, Claudia, Rae and Ivy. Were their individual personalities difficult to create? Did you find one easier to write than the others?
Claudia was probably the toughest. I’ve never been a widow (thank you, God!) but I wanted to handle her difficulties with truth and dignity and love. I had to pray a lot about her. Amazingly, I’ve had widows contact me after reading this book, and how it touched them.
Any ideas who you might cast in a movie of this series?
Oh, no, I’m not good at that! But it sure would be fun if that happened!
What impact do you hope this book has upon the reader?
This is a book of hope. I think it speaks to people of all walks of life. To those who have it all together and those who don’t. To those who are stuck and need the courage to take a new path. To those who have drifted away from God and need to find their way back to Him. Taking a step of faith is never easy.
Do you read much yourself? If so, some favourites please?
I LOVE to read. In the past year or so, some of my favorites have been: The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, The Other Boleyn Girl, A Year of Wonders and Water for Elephants.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’ve got two going at the moment (often I’ll be reading 5 as some I’m listening to in the car, on the treadmill, and others reading the actual book): Pat Conroy’s nonfiction book called The Losing Season and Leif Engle’s Peace Like a River.
Favourite movie and favourite line from a movie?
Oh, not sure I can limit it to one favorite movie! But I’ll try: It’s a Wonderful Life!
I see you are a fan of Mel Gibson, Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett! What appeals to you about these famous Aussies?
Absolutely! I love Aussies! So much talent Down Under. I’ve loved Mel since I was in college which goes way, way back. J I suppose I think they are just amazingly talented. And for the guys, well, you gotta love that accent.
Who inspires you?
I’m inspired by so many women I meet or know. Women who aren’t famous. They might seem plain and ordinary to the majority of people, but they shine with God’s love and they go about their work (whether it’s at home or in a work place) doing their best.
Please tell us a little about your family
I’m happily married to a great man! He is so incredibly supportive of what I do. Even when it looked like I might never sell a book or might never sell again, he believed. We have two kids – a boy and girl. They’re 15 months apart in age, so they’ve always been very close. They’re in 4th and 3rd grade right now and they keep me very, very busy!
Please share some of your faith journey…
Some essential Aussie questions
A platypus or a koala?
Can’t I see both? I don’t want to have to choose.
Barrier Reef or Uluru (Ayers Rock)?
Definitely the reef.
A cricket match or a game of Aussie Rules Footy?
Aussie Rules for sure!
Any last words…
Just thanks for having me! I hope I can come Down Under some day. That is definitely a dream of mine.
Thank you so much, Leanna ~ it has been delightful!
Leanna’s website is a lot of fun too, so check it out here.