Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Author Interview with Leanna Ellis

The band plays a lively rendition of an Elvis classic, "All Shook Up." The audience is clapping and singing along. As the music fades, the curtain rises, and Carol Ann walks center stage and stands in front of the two chairs arranged for an interview.

"Audience, I'm so happy to be here today. It's been a rough few days and I owe everyone a big apology. Due to illness and a rare snowstorm that dumped 20.4 inches of snow in my yard, I haven't been able to interview my guest today until now. I'm sure your anticipation level has been high, because she is an awesome Christian author. Instead of wasting any further time, please put your hands together and welcome LEANNA ELLIS!"

The audience hoots, stomps and applauds as Leanna joins Carol Ann and takes a seat center stage.

CAROL ANN: Leanna, thank you so much for being patient and adjusting your time schedule to join me in the Blog Studio today.

LEANNA: It's my pleasure to be here with everyone today.

CAROL ANN: Leanna has one of the most unique titles and book covers I've seen in a long time.

Camera pans in on the book Carol Ann is holding in her hand.

CAROL ANN: Leanna, please tell us about your book.

LEANNA: In Elvis Takes a Back Seat, a young widow, determined to fulfill her husband’s last request, hauls a three foot bust of Elvis strapped in the back seat of a vintage Cadillac from Texas to Memphis to return it to its rightful owner. The road trip with her eccentric aunt, who knew the King of Rock n’ Roll, and a temperamental teen, hits roadblocks and detours as the three women uncover pieces of their own past along with the bust’s mysterious history. The discoveries change the course of their lives forever.

CAROL ANN: This sounds like a fun book. When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

LEANNA: I was a teacher, looking for something else to do, and my sister suggested I write a book. “You’re always writing in that journal of yours,” she said. I’ve always loved the creative process whether it was choreographing dances, writing stories for classes or creating interesting ways to teach reading. So without knowing anything about the book business, I quit teaching and started writing. (I don’t recommend that!) I discovered it was definitely my passion. It took me about three and a half years to sell that first book.

CAROL ANN: Three and a half years is a pretty good track record. I admire your courage in changing your career path. Something I always find fun is asking the authors I interview what we would see if we could peek into your writing space. Would you feel comfortable sharing?

LEANNA: A mess! Seriously. I’m finishing up a book, and by the time I get to this stage of a writing project my office is a mess. Books everywhere. Notes scribbled on post it notes. It’s definitely a creative, scattered, crazy mind at work. There’s also usually a kid working on homework on the floor beside me and sometimes a cat or one of my dogs under my desk.

CAROL ANN: **laugh** Sounds a lot like my writing office! What is one thing about you that might surprise the audience?

LEANNA: That I was on TV yesterday! I know this is lame, but I’m tired from my trip to Indiana and I can’t think of anything surprising except I have leftover mascara under my eyes and a packed suitcase lying in my bedroom floor. **big grin**

CAROL ANN: Traveling is always exhausting and there is no place like home. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

LEANNA: I love to travel, see new places, experience different cultures. I love to see beautiful scenery like the ocean and mountains. There are so many places I’d like to go where I’ve never gone: Australia, Germany, France, Greece, Italy, Africa. But there are a ton of places I’d love to go back and visit: Hawaii, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Scotland, England, New York. Honestly, anywhere with my family is always fun.

CAROL ANN: Many members of the audience are aspiring writers. What advice would you give?

LEANNA: Put your bottom in the chair and write. Just write.

CAROL ANN: Great advice! How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many edits before you are "satisfied?"

LEANNA: I usually write a fast first draft to get the story down on paper. That can take two to four months. But then the real work begins. I revise and edit for a longer period of time, adding, revising, rewriting, deepening.

CAROL ANN: Do you believe in writer's block?

LEANNA: To some people it’s a very real stumbling block. I personally haven’t experienced it. I usually have a story idea kicking around in my brain. But I will say I hit publishing exhaustion at one point, just plain ol’ burnout. I still had story ideas but needed to take a break from publishing. I do think one way to avoid writer’s block and burnout is to continuously refill the writer’s well. Sometimes that’s going to see movies or reading great books. Sometimes that’s going on vacation or getting a massage. Take a week off of writing. Enjoy life.

CAROL ANN: If you could speak on national television, what would you tell everyone?

LEANNA: Yesterday I did speak on a television show nationally and internationally. It was such fun! What did I say? Go buy Elvis Takes a Back Seat! **grin** Honestly, I’d answer the interviewers questions as best as I could. One thing we discussed in my interview yesterday is that writing is hard. It takes perseverence. There are down times for every writer. To me, the key is to take those hurts and complaints, grumblings and heartache to the Lord. Pray about it. Writing is a journey. There will be bumps along the way, hills to climb, but you have to persevere. I remember about six months before I sold Elvis Takes a Back Seat, I was down in the dumps. So once again, I asked God, “Do you want me to write?” A couple of days after that, I was flipping through a book I picked up off a friend’s table. There was a chapter called, “If you feel called to write.” I did. So I read closer. It was talking about ‘many are called, few are chosen.’ That made me very uncomfortable. I thought, did I do something to cause me not to be chosen? But actually what it said is many are called, and right after the calling there is a period (often long) of testing and trying, learning and growth. This is a time of preparation. But many give up during this time. Many fall by the wayside. God was telling me to hang on. So, I suppose, that’s what I would say to an audience. No matter what your dream is, hang onto it, keep pursuing it, don’t give up.

CAROL ANN: Leanna, that is wonderful advice that all of us should take to heart. I know many times I've found myself questioning the journey. But God always provides an answer. Thank you so much for joining us, and I wish you well with the sale of your book.

LEANNA: Thanks so much for having me here, Carol Ann.

CAROL ANN: To learn more about Leanna and her books, please visit her website.

Carol Ann and Leanna hug and walk offstage while the audience gives Leanna a standing ovation.

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