LeeAnne Hanks – Author Interview

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

Within the Flame is my debut novel. It is a Young Adult Fiction inspired by my experiences as a child living in Gallup, New Mexico. There were many stories of “Skin Walkers” and there is still a wide-held belief by those that live there that these beings do exist. That belief made these ghost stories so much more real than other stories I had heard. These were no Frankenstein or Dracula. I wanted to put my own spin on this legend, especially to keep a respectful distance from the true Navajo culture and religion, and also incorporate a bit of romance as well. It was fun for me to write a love story that was surrounded by danger and the supernatural. I think that most teenage girls fantasize about a situation like that. I certainly did when I was a teen!

Tell us something about yourself.

I am married and a mother of two children and am expecting my third child this November. I began writing seriously when I felt the urge to write about my teen years. I had led a sort of double life where I very effectively hid an abusive relationship as well as an eating disorder from every person I knew. I felt the need to tell my story, but needed to sort of “warn” my mother first, by confessing what had happened during my teen years. After telling her my writing intentions, she was very supportive, but mentioned that she felt I should perhaps write a fiction story as well. I have always been a bit of a day-dreamer and always needed a creative outlet, such as dance and music. I hadn’t thought until that moment of attempting to write a fiction story, and the possibility excited me. So, I sat down and said to myself “what mythical character hasn’t been written to death already?” and came up with a story about Navajo folklore.

What inspired you to write this book?

Thinking about “Skin Walkers” I remembered hearing stories about them from my friends. My mother was a teacher on the reservation and the staff at her school would swap stories in the teachers lounge and so forth. My father was a manager at a Navajo jewelry supply company and I would overhear him mention his friends warning him or telling him their past experiences with Skin Walkers. With almost everyone around me believing that these beings existed, it was hard for a child not to believe them too. That is what gave me chills as a child and I wanted to put that feeling on paper. In “Within the Flame”, it says “In order for someone to become frightened by a ghost story, they must believe, even in the smallest degree, that it might actually be true. That possibility is as much a part of the thrill as the actual story”. The main character is someone who dwells in reality and doesn’t believe in the supernatural. This doubtful view is what brings the characters to the climax of the story.

What do you believe is the hardest part of writing?

Staying on track. I do most of my writing after my two children have gone to bed. Most nights, I’m mentally exhausted, as many mothers can relate to, and just want to sit in front of the TV and watch what I DVRed that day. I have to make myself at least crack open my laptop and do some editing. That usually gets me in the flow of my story and I add on to it, whether I intended to or not.

How do you do research for your books?

I write fiction, so I draw from life experience and soak up whatever inspiration I can. Music, beautiful pictures, interesting conversations, new experiences, and strong emotions all inspire me. I do keep a writer’s notebook to keep track of all of those things and reference it almost daily.

Did you learn anything from writing this book? What?

I absolutely learned more about how the publishing world works and how to get myself into a better contract for the next novel. I also learned to slow down, take my time with the details, and welcome criticism, whether it is harsh or not.

What are you reading now?

I am reading a compilation of C.S. Lewis’ novels. I am currently in the middle of “Mere Christianity”. It was a gift from my husband for Valentines Day, because I had grumbled a bit that I had run out of things to read and wanted a new book.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors? Why?

I love fantasy and classics. It’s odd to put those together, but that’s just my personality. I have read Jane Austin’s complete works through a dozen times, but also was completely engrossed in Terry Goodkind’s “Sword of Truth” series. As far as who my favorite author’s are, I absolutely love Roald Dahl. There is no one who has ever written better character descriptions. I love how he often focuses on a character’s mouth and the way it is shaped to tie that in with their personality. His characters truly jump off the page and it is easy to picture them in your mind. My favorite book is Og Mandino’s “The Greatest Salesman in the World”. I read it as a young girl and had never been so moved by a book before. I reread it every couple of years, just to keep the story fresh in my mind. I also love the “Sherlock Holmes” stories. I have read the all of them twice through. With those, it is not so much the story, but how they are written. For some reason, other murder mystery type books, such as Agatha Christie’s, seem too obvious for me and don’t hold my attention, but Sherlock Holmes’ character is so naturally intriguing, it keeps me turning the pages.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

I am writing a trilogy in the YA Fantasy genre, loosely titled “The Beckoning”. I am almost complete with the first book of the three. It is a story that I am very excited to write, because it is not a derivatave from folklore or legend as so many other fantasy or fiction novels are, though in the end it incorporates them all. It is an original idea from my own imagination, which is very fun to put on paper. It is certainly a long way off from even being submitted to a publisher, but I will keep everyone updated on its progress on my blog.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Though I am quite inexperienced in the literary world still, I would give a warning to those first-time authors looking to get their books published. Do your research on the company, I recommend “Editors and Predators” for information, and steer clear of those companies that have bad reviews. You can get drawn in to a smooth talking agency or publisher who will take advantage of you. Also, keep trying! I received a whole group “no’s” before I got one “yes”.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

At my blog, http://booksmithleeanne.blogspot.com/