Thursday, August 7, 2008

An Interview with Jeanne Marie Leach, and Book Giveaway

Jeanne Marie Leach is a published author in both fiction and non-fiction. For fiction, Jeanne writes historicals, as well, she has a writer’s help book out for the beginners out there. Please read on to learn more about Jeanne and her books.

Q: Jeanne, please tell us about yourself, what are your hobbies?

Jeanne Marie Leach responds: Scrapbooking, American history, Jeeping, interior decorating, buying and selling on eBay, reading, snowshoeing, winning the local annual chile cook-off, and my husband and I are Denver Broncos season ticket holders.

Q: How many books have you published and over what period of time?

Jeanne Marie Leach responds: My first book, ANGEL IN THE SALOON, was released in 2000. My next, THE PLIGHT OF MATTIE GORDON, was released in 2007. Then came my writer’s help book, WRITING BASICS FOR BEGINNERS, in January 2008, and SHADOW OF DANGER was released in April this year.

My book, THE PLIGHT OF MATTIE GORDON is under contract to be released in audio book with Books In Motion around the end of the month.

Q: In addition to writing, what other things do you do writing related?

Jeanne Marie Leach responds: I just finished teaching a course with The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network called Editing Fiction. I had 20 students, and most have said they want me to teach an extended version or part two. I am presently negotiating the months I will teach the class next year.

I work full-time as a freelance editor, which I absolutely love. I am making more money than ever before in my life, and I learned most of what I know from being a member of ACFW for 8 years. I was the 46th member to join.

I have judged the Genesis contest twice, and would love to do it again.

Q: What inspired you to take up fiction writing?

Jeanne Marie Leach Responds: All my adult life I've been daydreaming different stories. I'd play out the lives of my characters over a period of six months to a year. When I was about 40 years old, I became concerned that I was spending too much time in my make-believe world, so I finally got up the nerve to tell my Clinical Psychologist father-in-law about my 'problem'.

He leaned forward in his chair, the prominent wrinkles between his eyebrows becoming even more pronounced. "Do you envision yourself doing bad things to these characters?"

"Well, sometimes bad things happen - like car accidents, or someone tripping and breaking their leg."

"No, I mean do YOU actually perpetrate bad things to these characters?"

I'm sure my eyes grew wide as saucers by then. "No!" I shook my head vehemently. "These are merely stories that I invent."

He let out a breath of relief. I could tell because the wrinkles went back to their normal depth. Dad relaxed against the back of his chair. "The only difference between you and a writer is that a writer writes these stories down."

A writer? Could it be...?

So, I sat at the computer and started to write. Ten books later, it was my husband's turn to influence me. He looked at me one day and said, "If you don't start sending those books out to a publisher, I'm revoking your computer privileges. The amount of time you spend there on this 'hobby' of yours is ridiculous. There needs to be a purpose to all of this."

Submit my 'babies' for someone else to read? Is this the type of stuff people want to read? So, thus began my writing career.

That’s amazing! I love this story, Jeanne, thanks for sharing it with us!

Q: Is there something unique or special about you or how you write that you would like to tell us about?

Jeanne Marie Leach: I write in a style I like to call “organized seat-of-the-pants.” I prepare to write a new book by first doing my research. Since I write historicals, this means I must research everything from terrain to clothing to furniture. So, I write down everything I might possibly need to know and head for the library, internet, and schedule field trips I might need to take.

I then look for maps of the area, pictures of buildings, and any other photographs that will help me describe my town or terrain.

I write character charts for each of the main characters.

All these items then go into a folder for easy reference. I don’t like to keep things exclusively in my computer because I find it much quicker and easier to simply keep my folder on the desk beside me, and I can find whatever I need right away.

I have tried outlining, but that doesn’t work well. I usually know what I want to happen in the book, but rarely know the step-by-step events. So, I sit down and just write. Whenever I tried to go by an outline, the story has taken an entirely different direction by chapter three, so I no longer write outlines.

I do not edit as I go. I sit down and just write from start to finish. Then I go back and edit the book as many times as it needs it. I’ve noticed the longer I write, the fewer rewrites and edits I have to do, but make no mistake, I still must edit. I have never written the perfect chapter yet, but it’s something I aspire to.

Q: Rejections, what is your experience with them, and how do you handle them?

Jeanne Marie Leach responds: Having written and submitted ten books to publishers so far, I have received my share of rejection letters. My record: I received four rejections for the same book in the mail on the same day.

Rejections don’t bother me because I don’t take them personally. It’s part of the business. There are over 8,000 publishers in America. I just have to find the one who is looking for what I write. A rejection slip simply means I now know one less publisher to submit to. Since most rejections don’t tell me why I’m being rejected, it really doesn’t affect my writing at all.

Q: You’ve written many books, waited a long time before beginning to submit, so tell us, how did you keep inspired to write?

Jeanne Marie Leach responds: I joined an ACFW critique group seven years ago. We were together until last year, when most of us were becoming too busy to continue any longer. Those were the most productive years I spent in between my first and second books. I learned so much about writing, and as of now, every one of us from the group are published, several multi-published, and the last one just got a great three-book contract from a major Christian publishing company.

It was during this time of learning the ins and outs of writing that I came to the decision that I enjoy the editing process as much as writing. Another year of training, and I now work solely from home as an editor, teacher and speaker.

When you send out your manuscript, the best therapy is to remain busy doing what you love; write, edit, research and just keep on going. Never give up! The longest waiting time I had was one publisher kept what is now SHADOW OF DANGER for two years before I got it back in the mail with a generic rejection slip. When I finally got a contract on it, the small publisher had personal set-backs physically, and she was ordered by the doctor to cut back to only working 4 hours per day. That meant I waited another two years before the book was released.

Never give up! Keep working on something, and be patient. You’ll be rewarded if you do.

Q: How many novels did you have completed before your first sale? Do you intend to try selling all of them? Why, or why not?

Jeanne Marie Leach responds: I wrote 3 ½ books before my first sale. These were all part of the same series as the book I sold, but since the publisher rejected the rest of the series, I had to wait until I got my rights back before I could try to sell these books. I intend to sell them all. They are presently with an agent, who I hope is considering representing me.

Q: What is a typical writing day for you?

Jeanne Marie Leach responds: As of January 1st this year, I haven’t had time to write. My hubby’s mortgage business had to shut down due to the new laws passed in Colorado over the past two years. Consequently, I must make as much money as I can, and God has blessed me with work. I love editing, and am so thankful for this ability to make more money than ever before. However, this has left me with little, if any, time for writing.

Even so, I am not the typical career writer. I don’t have a tight schedule I adhere to. I have often heard people say that they get frustrated because “life gets in the way.” I love my life. If my hubby wants me to go with him to get his haircut just for the ride together, I’ll drop everything and go.

My calling is not writing, but to minister hope to women and show them their true value in Christ Jesus. Writing is just one of the ways I can do this. Above this calling is my husband. The day I hear myself saying or thinking that my husband is an intrusion in what I’m doing, I will need to make a drastic change in my life.

Q: What does your publishing house expect of you with regard to self-promoting your novel(s)?

Jeanne Marie Leach responds: Everthing! I must get reviews and interviews, get the books into bookstores and libraries, book my own signings and other appearances, and do my own marketing. I must make and send out postcards, make up my own bookmarks, find reviewers and bloggers who will promote the book.

The publisher got the books listed with Baker and Taylor, Barnes and Noble, and She made a table stand of the cover for me to use at signings. She put my books in a brochure that goes out to bookstores, and she goes to booksellers conventions.

Q: Do you have any further direction or thoughts that you care to share with weary authors-in-training?

Jeanne Marie Leach responds: The Bible says we must study to show ourselves approved. Before going forth to preach the Word, one must go to Bible school, or missionary training. Writing is no different. Not only must you learn proper grammar, punctuation, usage and style, but fiction has another completely different set of components that must be present before a publisher will consider it for publication.

Do NOT compare yourself with anyone else. We are all God’s personal stories; each one is different. One person may get a sale on their first book. The next person might wait seven years before their book is finally published, and still others might work fifteen years before they realize publication. That doesn’t mean you aren’t called. It doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

Never give up! Never, never, never give up!

Thanks so much for all these wonderful, informative responses, Jeanne! It was great featuring you! To learn more about Jeanne Marie Leach, please visit her website at

Shadow of Danger,
ISBN: 978-1-932695-68-7,

Mountain View Publishing,

released April 2008

Back cover copy:

Rachel Ringhold is roused from her bed in the middle of the night and sent away from the orphanage, where she'd grown up and now works. Dazed and confused, she flees from an undisclosed danger. With a prayer in her heart, and little money in her satchel, she sets out to find Seb Jameson, the man who used to work for the orphanage as blacksmith and handy man, and who'd captured her heart as a youth.

Tired, dirty, and malnourished, Rachel finally reaches Leadville, Colorado and discovers Seb engaged to be married. Unaware of the turbulence in Seb and Myra's relationship, Rachel enjoys her new life and grows to a fresh awareness of what Jesus Christ accomplished for her on the cross.

The danger suddenly catches up to her. Her renewed faith is shattered. All she'd ever wanted was for someone to love her and a home of her own, but now her dreams have been stripped from her. Who can save her now? Is there anyone who would want to?

The Plight of Mattie Gordon,
ISBN: 1-932695-47-8,

Mountain View Publishing,

released March 2007

Back Cover copy:

Mattie Gordon's ordinary life is turned upside down when bounty hunter Cyrus Braydon arrives on her doorstep showing a wanted poster for her son. WANTED: Will Gordon, Dead or Alive.
Consumed with finding her son and making sure his soul is ready to meet eternity, Mattie embarks on a desperate race to reach Will before the bounty hunter finds him.

When Mattie discovers someone following her, she reluctantly forms an alliance with Cyrus in order to save herself and Will. She soon discovers her own inadequacies and faces hard realities. The son she thought to be good, isn't, and the bounty hunter she judged as evil is perhaps not so after all.

Now she must save Cyrus from Will's venomous grasp. If she succeeds in helping Cyrus escape, will her son ever listen to her about Jesus' forgiveness? If only she can muster enough faith to trust God for one more miracle. But which one…?

Writing Basics for Beginners,
ISBN: 978-1-60145-375-4,, Inc,

released December 2007

Back cover copy:

Do you have a book idea, but the task of actually writing it is too daunting and has held you back? Jeanne Marie Leach takes the knowledge she’s gained over many years of research, writing, and publishing, and has arranged it in a step-by-step timeline and in an order most beneficial to beginning writers. This book gives beginners a springboard from which they can gain direction and understanding of the basic mechanics of writing a novel.

There are shelves filled with writer’s help books in today’s marketplace, but how does a beginning writer know what he or she needs in order to get started? Often the information we find at the library or online isn’t what we need at a particular time. It wouldn’t be helpful to understand how to submit a manuscript to an editor when the author has yet to write a word.

In Writing Basics for Beginners, you’ll find:
· A sample character chart
· Formatting a manuscript
· Words that mark you as a beginner
· The elements of a good story
· Plotting
· Point of view
· Writing good dialogue
· Writer’s helps books that will enhance your writing
And so much more!

This book will give you the knowledge of writing a novel, and will then point you in the direction to continue on toward publication.

My books can all be ordered online, and the instructions are found on my website at

Book Giveaway:

If you would like to be entered to win Jeanne Marie Leach’s most recent release, Shadow of Danger, please leave a pertinent comment with your augmented e-mail address. The draw will take place next Wednesday evening, August 13, 2008 at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time. Good luck, everyone!

Winner: The lucky winner of Shadow of Danger is Patti Shene. Congratulations!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

An Interview with Jill Eileen Smith

I welcome Jill Eileen Smith to my Author Interview Segment this week. Jill Eileen Smith is the author of a Biblical fiction novel, Michal: A Novel, that is due to release in March, 2009. So keep your eyes peeled! Until then, though, Jill Eileen Smith offers some wonderful insite into a writer's life and surviving it below.

Q: What are your hobbies, Jill Eileen?

Jill Eileen Smith responds: Reading, baking, scrap-booking, music.

Q: Do you have any experience with writer’s contests? Do you recommend entering them?

Jill Eileen Smith responds: I’ve entered the Noble Theme Contest (3 times), the Lone Star Writing Competition, and the Genesis Contest, placing in all of them. I took 4th place in the Lone Star Writing Competition in 2001 for Michal (an early version), and won the Genesis in 2006 for Romantic Suspense. I’ve also judged for the Noble Theme and the Genesis.

I recommend entering contests but with a word of caution. My personal feeling is that a contest is good for authors who have studied the craft, are used to critiques from knowledgeable fellow authors, and are ready for the next level. As a contestant, I had my entries critiqued by my critique partners before I entered, so that I could enter my very best efforts. The result allowed me to final in four out of five of the contests.

As a judge, I saw a lot of entries that were far from ready for publication. While I tried to be as helpful as I could, and I know the authors could benefit from the critique that came with the contest, I felt as though the authors would have been less distressed about their results if they had waited until they had studied the craft longer before entering. I think writer’s contests for pre-published authors should be viewed as a stepping stone, perhaps the last step before a sale, as often happens with those who final or win. But for those who are just starting out, I would recommend they wait until they are consistently hearing good things from fellow critique partners.

That’s wonderful advice! Thanks Jill Eileen.

Q: What are your thoughts on Writer’s Conferences?

Jill Eileen Smith responds: The only real conference I attended has been ACFW’s conference – every year but one. The benefits – friendships and networking. Hands down, this is the best thing that has come out of participation in those conferences. The classes can be helpful and I’ve learned some things, but it is those interpersonal relationships, bonds that form in a face-to-face way that have made the difference in my career. ACFW is where I met my agent, Wendy Lawton, and made some lasting author friendships.

Q: In addition to writing, what other writing related activities do you do?

Jill Eileen Smith responds: As stated above, I’ve judged for the Noble Theme and the Genesis. I blog on my website ( on a regular basis and participate in a historical fiction blog Favorite PASTimes ( where I interview fellow historical authors. I also do a monthly interview of an author on the Spotlight page of my website and I announce Christian fiction releases once a month – acting as the New Releases Coordinator for ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). I also have a monthly column writing Christian fiction reviews for my church’s newspaper which has a decent size (in the thousands) circulation. (I do not accept books specifically for review. Unfortunately, I do not read fast enough to keep up with reviews for current releases.)

Q: What or who inspired you to take up fiction writing?

Jill Eileen Smith responds: I wrote poetry in high school and buried any writing talent I might have had after graduation for about eight years. God figuratively tapped me on the shoulder and told me to dig up the gift (writing was His gift to me not any inborn talent). I obeyed and struggled to regain what I’d lost of the craft, but through that time, God redeveloped my love of writing. From poetry, He used a crisis in my family to push me into fiction. Writing has always been His gift to me to help me to cope when life’s stresses get too great. That He might also use it to touch someone else’s life is an added blessing for which I’m very grateful.

Q: How long did you concentrate on learning the craft of fiction writing before you received your initial offer?

Jill Eileen Smith responds: Over all about 20 years.

Q: Fiction writing is an extremely competitive industry, and as such, rejections are something writers must be prepared to endure. If you received rejections along the way, would you care to share how many you received? If so, how did they affect your writing?

Jill Eileen Smith responds: I would have to go back and count. I have several files of them, not counting the ones that are in emails on my computer that I forgot to print. I didn’t always try to market in those 20 years of writing, so my first attempts had probably dozens of rejections, maybe more. I took a five-year hiatus from marketing during the early years of homeschooling my boys, though I did complete one Biblical novel during that time. That book actually went to committee at a CBA publishing house, but I’m grateful now that it didn’t sell then. I’ve had the privilege of reworking it with my current contract and didn’t keep much of the original draft – except for some of the basic plot.

Rejections hurt. There is no easy way around that. A few of those rejections stung hard – books my agent and I thought would sell. In fact, those last rejections probably had a hand in leading me to the brink of stepping away from seeking publication altogether. But I didn’t want to give up on my agent whom I truly believe God placed in my life, and I wanted to make sure that if I did quit, I was following God’s leading, not my own frustrations.

Rejections almost always spurred me to write better, to learn how to improve, to fix what was wrong. On a few occasions I did not agree with the editor’s comments in the rejection and did not attempt to change the story to coincide with said editor’s opinions. Most of the time, if I received constructive comments, I tried to understand why and change the work.

Ultimately, rejection led me to Jesus. I carry a spiritual limp from the many times I have wrestled with His will. I’m not proud of the limp because it attests to my own selfishness, but I’m grateful for it just the same, as it reminds me Who calls the shots, Who determines my future, and Who has everything under control. My part is only to submit to Him.

Q: What helps you through the dry spells?

Jill Eileen Smith responds: Nothing comes close to helping me maintain my sanity, to keep me from giving up like prayer. I also vented a bit and shed a few tears, though I learned that an attitude of thanksgiving can dry those tears rather quickly. I often sought comfort from my family, my fellow author friends, and my agent let me call her and cry on her shoulder. I thank God for all of them. I honestly think that when we were waiting to hear from Revell (my publisher), some of my critique partners were more anxious than I was! God gave me such a wonderful support group. Their arms of prayer held me up more times than I can count!

Q: How many novels did you have completed before your first sale? Do you intend to try selling all of them? Why, or why not?

Jill Eileen Smith responds: Eight full-length novels, though one combined parts of another, so 7 ½ might be more accurate. Two novellas and several more novels in various stages of development. I do not intend to try selling them all. Actually, my first two-volume epic of King David’s life is happily buried in a box under my bed, but the idea from that first attempt is what led to The Wives of King David series coming out in March 2009 with the first book Michal: A Novel.

The main reason I wouldn’t try to sell all of these books is that many of them are in a different genre. My agent advised me not to try writing in two genres when my career is about to start. Later on down the road, maybe we’ll test the waters of a second genre, but I think I’d like to stick with historical fiction. If God allows it, I could write Biblical fiction until I die or Jesus returns. But if the genre should dry up as it did in the 1980s, then I would like to write romantic suspense – both contemporary and historical. I have books in both settings and I’d like to see those sell someday. Maybe.

Q: When you first started writing, approximately how long did it take you to complete and edit a novel until you felt it was ready to be shopped around? Have you noticed a decrease in the time it takes you to complete novels to your satisfaction now?

Jill Eileen Smith Responds: When I first started writing, I didn’t know a thing about writing fiction. I just wrote what I wanted to read. I didn’t understand point of view or description and I was told by a friend that I wrote in black and white. Hopefully, I’ve learned a thing or two since then. J I rewrote David’s story in many forms over the years. When I finally tried my hand at writing Michal, it took me many tries, I’m thinking about seven rewrites, to get it to where it is today – the manuscript that sold. On the other hand, book two – Abigail – isn’t due to my publisher until December, but I finished it a few weeks ago. I had a critique partner read the whole thing and she likes it better than Michal. I did notice as I wrote it that the phrasing came much easier than it has come in times past, so yes, I think the time it takes to complete an acceptable manuscript has decreased with practice over the years.

Q: Many new writers don’t know when to stop editing and revising. How do you decide when your manuscript is ready for your editor’s or agent’s eyes?

Jill Eileen Smith responds: When I have read it through several times and still love it when I’m done. When it evokes emotion in me, which is hard to do, believe me! When I care about my characters and do not sense that the plot is contrived or comes out sounding cheesy, and when at least one or two critique partners agrees with my assessment and my agent says good things about it. (Surprisingly, Wendy does not always love everything I write!) Then it’s ready. I trust Wendy’s judgment quite a bit, so if she is excited about it, my confidence rises too.

Q: Do you have any further direction or thoughts that you care to share with weary authors-in-training?

Jill Eileen Smith responds: I wish I could hug you all and tell you to just keep going, it will happen for you one day. But I don’t know that because I don’t know the future.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite Biblical characters (apart from David and his wives) – Jacob. Jacob and I share a limp, though his was physical – he knows what it’s like to wrestle with God. I suspect he did a bit of verbal grappling with his wives as well, especially when Rachel struggled with barrenness while her sister, the fruitful vine in Jacob’s house, kept bearing child after child.
One day Rachel said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I'll die!” Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?”
In a similar way, that’s how it is with publishing. Sometimes, we feel like Rachel did and want to beg God to give us a book contract. Perhaps we want it more than anything else in life, as Rachel wanted a child. But no one can promise that God will open those doors for us to achieve our dream. God may do just that, but it will be in His timing, His way, and His will, not ours.
For our part, I believe we should keep treading the path He has placed before us. Do the work He’s given us to do. Keep our dreams, however big or small, in an open hand, offered back to Him. They are His, after all. Keep our heart surrendered to accept His will even if it means our dreams die with us. Rejoice in what He has allowed and what He is willing to teach us during the whole waiting process. And when the day comes that He moves us out of His waiting room, either onto a different path or through the door to publication, never forget where we came from and what He has taught us.
And never stop learning and loving Him along the way.

Thanks so much for sharing all this, Jill Eileen. You’ve been an inspiration for sure! For more information about Jill Eileen Smith, please visit her website at or her historical blog at

Michal: A Novel by Jill Eileen Smith

Releases March 1, 2009

From Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.