I am pleased to welcome my guest here today, author Leigh Lee.
Leigh is a writer of historical romance and I find her work most enjoyable for a reason that will come to light in a few moments.
Do we pronounce your first name “Lei” or “Lee”?
Leigh is pronounced like Lee. Leigh Lee is a nickname that I have had for many years so when it came time to choose an author name it was an easy decision.
Like many of us, ideas and stories came to you years before you put pen to paper, (or fingers to keyboard). Did you find that when you did start getting your stories down that they were as you had imagined them to become all along?
I started writing many years ago when my children were babies. But raising my children and my career got in the way and I never finished them. They all found their way into a box. Years later when we moved I found them again and began finishing them. As to your question about how they might have changed, all of them took a different turn from their original beginnings. I’d changed so my characters now spoke to me in different ways. It was a struggle at first because not wanting to change the original story I tried to “argue” with my characters, but of course in the end they won.
When you finally decided that the time had come, how long did it take you to finish your first story?
My first story, Vows of Pain and Passion took a year to complete. It was a time in my life when I could devote large amount of uninterrupted attention to writing. I thought of it as my day job and it was all I did Monday through Friday. I know there are authors who can complete a story in a few months or less, but I am not one of them. This might sound odd, but I need time to ponder and speculate the thoughts and feelings of my characters. I engage them. Put them into different situations to see how they might respond.
Whatever you have done, you have done it right, since your first published novel, “Vows of Pain and Passion” spent 10 weeks on Amazon’s top 100 list. Congratulations! Can you tell us how that struck you?
Since this was my first submission, I had no idea what to expect. In fact, I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I just felt a passion for storytelling and submitted Vows of Pain and Passion. I was in the grocery store when a friend called me to tell me the book was rising in Amazon charts. I had no idea it was even in the top 100. I didn’t believe her at first but once I got home, I was floored! This is not how it’s supposed to happen for new authors. Looking back, I’d say part of the reason is the genre I chose. Vows of Pain and Passion is a medieval romance which was and still is very popular, and back then, there weren’t as many authors writing it. Another reason might be that I really “felt” this story as I was writing it. The characters are so still real to me. It is as if I’d known them all my life.
In that particular book, you have an illustrator, Winter Bayne, a name that I see credited in many novels. Can you tell us about this collaboration?
Winter Bayne is a writer who was in a local writer’s group I organized years ago. From that, she and I began meeting monthly to discuss our writing efforts and from that a close friendship developed. Since then, she’s created all my book covers. Winter is a very talented graphic artist and once she began doing book covers, I jumped in line. Unfortunately her “day” job took her to another state, and though our friendship remains strong, time does not allow her to do book covers at this time. My hope is that she finds her way back to it, for I believe she has a gift.
One thing which I truly admire about your works is that your research is done extensively, but you put just enough into your stories make them seem real; you don’t overload your readers with too many details. You know how to strike a good balance, which is quite a talent. I don’t like to repeat questions to my guests, but since you do write historically, I’d like to know how you do your research.
About half of the time spent writing my historical novels involves research. I don’t want to have something in the story what isn’t historically correct. However each book written was researched in a different manner and focus.
For example, with Vows of Pain and Passion, when I wrote the scene where Adaira, the heroine, studies her appearance in a mirror, I had to stop and research if the Saxons had mirrors. Yet it got more involved than that. The Saxons and the Normans had individual customs, language, mores, and foods and religions. All those had to be researched. I was fortunate to find a Scottish professor who specializes in Medieval History who didn’t mind answering my emails and questions. He was of great help especially with religion and the languages of the old French and Saxon.
I grew up near Philadelphia where there is a wealth of historical locations close at hand. For Rules of Decorum, the civil war romance, I did most of my research touring Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. You can’t grow up in Pennsylvania without a deep appreciation for the state’s history from seeping into your blood. I’ve seen reenactments of the Battle of Gettysburg and came away so impressed with our forefather’s courage and dedication. But the actual idea for Rules of Decorum came in the form of an article written in 1878. It was about a woman who disguised herself as a young man and joined the Army of the Potomac, the Union side. She was later found out by her commanding officer, who tracked her down after the end of the war, and married her.
No Fear My Love is set in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1833 during a time of peace. The real struggle takes place between a woman with a vision beyond her time and man who has a past to hide. With this novel I studied women of the time and the rights they were permitted, which most times were rigid and depended on the whims of a husband, father or brother.
However one has only to study what was known as the Petticoat War during President Jackson’s term to realize that women could and did exert considerable influence during the time. Those ostracized from society, found it hard to find their way back into its graces. For those out of favor with the matrons of society, nothing was easy. In No Fear My Love, both characters face personal defeat and social failure on their way to happily ever after.
You often include in your stories the medicines and botanicals used in other times. Do these hold a special interest for you?
I began my studies as an RN and continued in healthcare working for an ophthalmologist as an ophthalmic technician. Medicine of the past has fascinated me especially the herbs and homeopathic remedies used throughout history. I find as time goes on, the “old ways” are being reinstated in modern medicine as viable solutions to illness and diseases. A perfect example is the herb, Feverfew for migraines. It has been used for centuries in Europe and is chemically very similar to aspirin without many of the side effects. It is just now beginning to gain renewed interest in the United States.
Your novels span from Medieval Europe (Vows of Pain and Passion), to the U.S. Civil War, ( Rules of Decorum), to Early America, 1833, (No Fear, My Love). In which era did you find the most surprising things during your research?
I’d have to say the medieval era. I’ve always enjoyed tracing the origins of words. The medieval era was a time of great change, a blending of cultures, religions, and of course, languages. Many might not realize this but much of the English language we speak today is a blend of old Anglo-Saxon, Gaelic, French and German, Italian as well as many other languages. Once the Normans took control of England, they sought to wipe out the customs of those living in England. They killed all the warriors and nobles with power and influence, married all the noble women and insisted that the language spoken within their households be what is known today as Old French. Thus many of the English words we use today originate from France, or the Frankish kingdom as it was called back then. Of course the Normans were actually Vikings or Norsemen who settled in the region of Normandy in the early 900’s so there is also that influence as well upon what we know as English today.
Which era holds the most fascination for you?
That’s a hard question to answer as I find each era fascinating in different ways. But studying the Civil War period really made an impact on me because like many of the time, my family had relatives on both sides of the conflict. War between countries is hard enough on all sides involved but a war within a country, a civil war, is even more devastating. Our American Civil War tore families and communities apart. Healing from that is still affecting our nation today and has truly tested our country’s mettle.
Are you working on more stories of these or other eras? Is there an era about which you have not written, but would like to?
I have two medieval stories in the works, a novella and a full length novel. I’ve also begun a contemporary military romance.
Please tell our readers about your life: besides writing: what takes up your time, your interests, your hobbies, your family, your cats!
Ha! This is a good question and to be honest most on social media know the kitten I raised, Rufus, better than they know me as an author. I do love cats, and seem to understand their body language pretty well. If you pay attention, they find ways to get their messages across. But other than cats, I love singing, sewing, studying history, camping, baking and cooking, arts and crafts, and of course reading.
I am married to my hero and best friend who reads all my writings, many times over. My husband will often joke that he is a captive audience because when we take road trips, I plug my kindle into the car speakers and let the text to speech option read my manuscripts. I find it a good way to catch typos and grammar errors, but he loves to critique the work and having a man’s point of view always helps when creating my heroes.
Between the two of us, we have 3 grown children, 2 sons and a daughter, two grandsons and a wonderful son-in-law, all of which we only get to see occasionally because they live so far away. More the reason why Rufus and Mimi, our cats, get spoiled so much.
Thank you for being my guest, Leigh Lee!
Thank you for allowing me to visit and the opportunity to talk about my books. I love comments and feedback from readers. So please visit my website at www.leighlee.com and tell me what you think.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org,
or Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/leigh.lee.5209.
Leigh Lee is a writer of historical and contemporary romance, married to her hero. She started writing when her kids were toddlers. Then life changed and all her stories found their way into a box. That raggedy cardboard box saw many moves, until one day Leigh Lee found it, along with her manuscripts, and began writing again. Leigh and her husband currently live in upstate South Carolina enslaved by their rescue cats, Rufus and Mimi.