Welcome Back, Leigh!
By Jeff Salter
Leigh was among my first skulk [yes, that’s the correct term ] of Guest Foxes, appearing for Hound Day on April 28, 2011, almost exactly six years ago today. We had 57 comments to her blog appearance back then… so I hope to beat that with today’s showing.
At that point in 2011, after several non-fiction titles under her belt, she was about to release her first novel through Avalon — Wait A Lonely Lifetime.
Since then, she’s published many more.
Take a look at her re-released cover for Salsa Dancing…
Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls Blurb:
Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls is the story of an interracial, multicultural American family.
Emily’s promotion is on hold after her Public Relations Department VP transfers her to Legal to provide research assistance to the corporation’s takes-no-prisoners lawyer, David Gitano. Her career isn’t the only part of her life on hold. Her closest friends are married and making babies. Her baby-clock is ticking and her doctor has no good news but dancing the lead in her ballet class recital is as close to her dream come true she’s likely to get.
As she digs into the liability case Gitano entrusts to her, Emily Burdis uncovers evidence she believes she has been hand-picked to overlook. Torn between her growing admiration for Gitano and her personal integrity, she buries her research and absconds with the evidence.
Gitano wastes no time in chasing her down, for more reasons than he’s ready to admit. Dealing with his own life-on-hold battles complicates his professional commitments as well as his private concerns. As Emily and David battle with each other for justice and self-preservation, the conflicts of their professional roles and personal ethics forge a bond that may answer all their needs.
- From Maine to San Francisco, to Wales… and back to the United States. Gosh that’s quite a varied group of settings in which to live. Do any of those years (or those settings) really stand out for any particular reason?
[ LVR ] — My travels have both inspired and restricted my work for most of my adult writing life. When I first visited Wales, I spent the following four years writing a family saga set in the 9th and 10th centuries after I had begun to learn more about the history of the country and took a course in the language. That course led to my immigrating to Wales and eventually raising a family. The more I learned about the Welsh, their history and their language, the more deeply I admired their strength and determination to retain their unique and valuable culture. Six of my historical novels are set in Wales and my debut novel, Wait a Lonely Lifetime, though set in Florence, includes characters of Welsh descent. My early childhood and many family vacations were in Maine, my home state and the foundation of my creative soul. I have set my novel by installment, Nights Before: The Novel in Portland and Bath, Maine and my next historical novel (my first American historical), Pavane for Miss Marcher, is set in an imaginary village very much based on my childhood experience.
- You went to an art college and then traveled extensively in Italy. Surely you realize how envious most of us are. How old were you then? What stands out from that travel?
[ LVR ] — Art college was one of those early adulthood pipe dreams that lead to a wake-up call when you realize you are not good with lines and shapes. I now satisfy my love of the tactile arts with textiles—I make patchwork quilts and wall-art for my family and friends. I have a good sense of the color spectrum, a rotary cutter, needle and thread and a sewing machine. My years in art school led to my eventual realization that I paint better with words! The trip to Italy also led to my debut novel which combined my art school experience with my strong interest in history, language and culture. In Wait a Lonely Lifetime, I worked in a Mafia bombing, the Piazza Mentana Monument “To the Brave who fell at Mentana, consecrating Rome to Free Italy” and the amazing Statue of David. I also learned some interesting World War II history about Ponte Vecchio.
- Somewhere on your website, you state that Leigh “admits to running with scissors and leaping before she looks.” I gather that indicates your boldness and/or impetuosity. Explain how you arrived at that description.
[ LVR ] — I owe that particular assessment of my personality to honest self-appraisal, as well as my younger sister and a high school friend. I’m one of those nit-wits that say ‘yes’ and figure out how to do it later. For instance, when I worked in marketing for publishers in Wales, the Welsh Book Council offered me a marketing trip to promote books in Scotland and England. At the time, I had a nine-month old child but I said ‘yes’, hired a nanny and the three of us toured the north of England and the east of Scotland. Two years before that, I did the same marketing effort within Wales, with a six-month old!
- I’m pretty certain we’ve discussed this at some point, but the title of your first novel comes from a Beatles song. Why did you pick a line from “I Will”?
[ LVR ] — ‘I Will’ (Paul McCartney) and ‘Looking for the Right One’ (Stephen Bishop) were and are two of my favorite songs. Both are part of my courtship with my husband—a professional musician. While I wrote and revised and edited Wait a Lonely Lifetime, I happened to get these songs stuck in my head. The premise of the songs fit the basis of the novel exactly then I checked with my editor, Lia Brown at Avalon, about the copyright issues.
- One of your other early fiction titles was Salsa Dancing With Pterodactyls. That’s always struck me as a fascinating title (and, before reading the blurb, I assumed it was just unusual imagery).
[ LVR ] — Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls is one of those titles that come to you as a fully formed gift. The “pterodactyl” part actually arises from experience and one of the proudest moments in my personal life as a wife and mother. I have made that a defining moment in the novel. The “salsa dancing” is also personal as I studied ballet and modern dance as a child and continued in adulthood as a participant in a community dance company.
- How long have you been writing fiction?
[ LVR ] — I have been writing fiction since my earliest days in college. My ambition had always been to publish and I was fortunate to be published in “literary journals” and broadcast while I was still in college. I also published in non-fiction when I became a founding member of the Welsh women’s publishing cooperative, Honno. Parachutes and Petticoats was my second non-fiction book, a collection of women’s autobiographical writing about their World War II experiences.
- Having also written and published non-fiction, do you strongly prefer one genre over the other?
[ LVR ] — Definitely! I love research but not as much as I love making up stories that blossom from the wonderful things that people have accomplished throughout history.
- What kind of jobs have you held? Which did you like best?
[ LVR ] — I have always found jobs that depend on my ability to put words together, from copywriting to marketing copy, web content etc. I also end up in mathematics! I have held jobs with titles like Company Manager, Financial Director, Marketing Assistant, Office Administrator. I currently work in a law office with an attorney who is also an investment analyst. I provide the services of web development and site design, as well as content advise, budget control, financial management among other jobs! Not boring in the least.
- Have you ever encountered people who seem unable / unwilling to comprehend that writing is something you are driven to do?
[ LVR ] — I’ve been fortunate to be supported in my chosen art form for most of my life. My mother was not impressed, worried that I would not be able to support myself unless I became a journalist. I road-tested become a teacher but, aside from training adults to use software applications, I did not enjoy that process at all. My mother was a wonderful story-teller and loved reading. I inherited her story-telling penchant and presented her with her own autobiography on her 90th birthday. I think she understood by then.
- If you were not a writer, can you imagine what else you might do to express the creativity within you?
[ LVR ] — There are so many ways I participate in creative art. I’ve been a dancer, singer, fashion designer, website developer, textile artist, cook, bottle-washer, photographer. If there’s a way of expressing, constructing, building, making, I will try it. Oh yes, and gardening!
- If sales (money) and critics (reviews) were immaterial to you, what genre and length would you write?
[ LVR ] — I recently read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. He’s clear about the difference between artistic effort and being a hack. Of course, I like the fact that people buy and read my books—I release my work to the public to be read. And I read reviews from time to time—especially the positive ones! But, I write what I have to write, what I’m inspired to write, regardless of trends and flavors of the month. My short novel, This Can’t Be Love, was inspired by the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the experience of one of my friends and an incident involving an argument and a sports car.
- Give us at least one example of someone who has contacted you and expressed how much your writing meant to them.
[ LVR ] — Many of my “finest hours” have been with my Welsh historical novels. Because Wales is a small country, with a passionate history and a patriotic citizenry, novels about the culture and language engender a warm response. One of my readers said, “Each book gets better than the last and I never want the stories to end! They make me proud I am Welsh!” and “…I am in love with these characters and especially to hear words in Welsh!”
- In the interviews & blog questions you’ve handled over the years, what is one writing question which you’ve WISHED had been asked of you… but never has been asked?
[ LVR ] — The question that hasn’t yet been asked: How do you decide if a story has what it takes to make a book?
- What’s your answer to that question above?
[ LVR ] — My answer: The story decides for itself. An idea pops, characters manifest, words flow. If they flow long enough, if characters join in to sustain the relationship and a resolution becomes possible, the story deserves to be completed.
A native of Paris Hill, Maine, Leigh spent most of her childhood and early adult years in San Francisco before immigrating to Wales to marry and raise three sons. She has been a writer, editor and lecturer for most of her life, intermingled with career portfolios in marketing, finance and community arts projects.
An award-winning editor, she has published three volumes of women’s autobiographical writing about their lives in Wales and during World War II and has just released a collection of her mother’s anecdotes about her travels during the war, Following the Troops. Leigh is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Welsh Academy and several RWA chapters. Her novel, Wait a Lonely Lifetime, was released in April 2012, originally published by Avalon Books.
Buy Link for Salsa Dancing with Pterodactyls:
READERS, here’s Leigh’s question for YOU:
What advice do you wish you had received when you were young that you would now pass on to a new adult?
[JLS # 329]