Today I have the pleasure and honour of interviewing Leigh K Hunt. We have decided to conduct the interview in a civilised manner so I hope you won’t mind if we open a bottle of lovely red wine to enjoy while we chat. I got to know Leigh through mutual writer friends that we had in common and am now pleased to call her not only a fellow writer but also a friend. The first thing that struck me about Leigh was her openness and her straight-forward nature. She also has a wicked sense of humour that is at times irrepressible. But I won’t spoil the interview by giving you any more information, why don’t I just sit back and let Leigh charm you herself.
Welcome to my studio, Leigh. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me.
girl with a quill: Introduce us to Leigh K Hunt – Writer?
Leigh: Dreamer, writer, painter, surfer, environmentalist, designer, lover, wife. I’m not sure what else to say.
girl with a quill: How long have you been writing for?
Leigh: Technically, I think I have been writing throughout my whole life, but until now – I have never really acknowledged it. My parents have still got the multitude of ‘books’ that I wrote when I was a child. When I morphed into an adolescent, I tried my hand at all sorts of tortured teenager poetry. I even wrote a couple of chapters of a fantasy novel when I was about fifteen, which I now wished I had kept. After that particularly nasty period of my life, I kept journals. Every single day, I made sure that I wrote about my woes, worries, happy times, and inspirations.
In terms of writing fiction, I have been writing that for just about five years now. It all started off in a whirlwind of a journey, and became something that I never expected. To say that it took me by surprise is an understatement. My parents had just split up, and I found an old journal that had a ‘bucket list’ inside it. On that this was 100 things that I wanted to do before I died. Sitting there at number 13 was: Write a novel. And that was the day that my fictional life started – 1 November 2006. (So for you #13 was a lucky number as it led you to your writing. Interesting how many writers have difficult childhoods or experience pain or maybe as writers we just tend to be more in tune with our emotions both negative and positive.)
girl with a quill: Who or what influences your writing?
Leigh: That’s a really tough question that has a multitude of answers to go with it. Everything influences my writing, whether it’s the people I meet, music, art, or even the weather patterns. I collect books, and have a whole library stacked with them. Each of these books all leave their own mark on me. The writers range from Janet Evanovich, to Tess Gerritsen, to Bryce Courtney, to Matthew Reilly, to Eric Lustbader, to Jodi Piccoult, to Khalad Hosseini, to Jane Austen, and to Shakespeare. And there are so many more in between. I think that each and all of the writers sitting in my library with me influence me in their own ways. As well as the incredible expanse of the outer world that the other part of me lives in.
girl with a quill: What aspect of the writing life do you find the most challenging?
Leigh: The middle-book-blues. Some people call this ‘writer’s block’, but I know deep down inside, that I’m not blocked up. It’s the point in a book – somewhere near the middle, that when I feel that every single word that I write is crap, none of which are advancing the story, characters, or plotline of the book. I usually end up feeling like utter rubbish for a while, but I know that the only way out of it is to keep writing. Thankfully, my husband recognises it when it happens, and distracts the living daylights out of me for a while till I work myself out of it. It’s a blessing. (I am sure most writers can relate to this at some point in a book. I prefer the way you describe though, not a block – which can seem insurmountable – but “blues” which has more of a temporary sense to it.)
girl with a quill: Do you have a Write time of day set aside or do you write when the inspiration strikes?
Leigh: I have set times of the day when I write. Early morning during the week, from 6.30am to 8.30am. I arrive at my office at 6.30, set up, and get stuck in. Usually there are a couple of writing-related emails to respond to, but I get those out-of-the-way quick smart, and settle in. I used to also write from 4.30pm to 6.00pm as well due to my husband’s working hours, but they have recently changed, which now means that I have to re-sort out my schedule. Mental note to self: Sort out afternoon/evening writing schedule.
girl with a quill: Tell us what inspires you as a writer?
Leigh: Knowing that I have so many stories and characters within me that are scrambling to get out. I have always lived in my head and my imagination… so releasing these characters and stories is a natural thrill for me.
My mother and grandmother are brilliant story tellers… my talent in story telling is stories of fiction – not of life. I get a huge buzz out of developing characters, throwing them into impossible situations, and watching them work their way out of it.
Doing research inspires new twists and turns to the story, meeting new people inspires new character traits, studying body language gives me more grunt and guts when it comes to creating realistic characters, and music gives me the rhythm to unleash these new beings on the world.
girl with a quill: Do you have a Muse?
Leigh: Yes, I think I do. I know that traditionally, a muse is female, but this one is a dude. A big powerful dude! My muse would be Tangaroa (Maori), god of the Sea. In Greek mythology, he is known as Poseidon. I see Tangaroa/Poseidon as my keeper, inspiration, and loyal follower. He keeps me safe when I am out in the water, and he inspires the writer within. (He definitely sounds like a keeper then.)
girl with a quill: Where do you write? Describe your place of writing to us?
Leigh: I have a few places that I write in. My number one place is my library. Surrounded by knowledge, literature, music, comfort, and a bed so that when I am really tired, I can crawl into bed for a sleep, and then I can roll out of bed when I feel the need to keep writing. This is so that I don’t disturb the husband when I’m in writing mode. I also have an incredible sound system hooked up in this room, which surrounds me with its rhythm and beats whenever I need them. I thank that the gods every day that I used sound-proofing materials when we built this room. Most of the month of November, I’m holed up in this library – if I’m not at work!
The other place in our house where I write is at the special antique desk in our bedroom. You can find me there when I’m really in need of my own solitude and space. No one disturbs me when I’m there. It’s wonderful.
I used to love writing on the train, when I caught it to and from work… but I haven’t done that in months now. There are times when I seriously miss it. (I love the news that you write in your very own library..what great inspiration from being surrounded by a wealth of imagination and creativity. Mmmh I like the idea of sound-proofing your writing space.)
girl with a quill: Are you a pen and paper writer/typewriter/digital writer?
Leigh: I am both a pen and paper writer, and a digital writer. With a pen and paper, I find that thoughts and ideas flow a lot more organically, so I tend to use pen and paper to freely process ideas, mind-map, and plan. Then everything is transferred into the digital world into more sensible structures.
But when I’m writing normally, I write digital.
girl with a quill: Do you have any writing superstitions or traditions that you follow?
Leigh: I’m not sure if this counts or not, but when I get bad news about something, I light a candle to drive away my woes and inner-demons. If I don’t do this, then my writing turns into something dark, morbid, snarky, and to be honest – it’s not very pleasant to read.
For example, today I got some feedback from a friend that I guess I didn’t really want. So before I started writing the responses to this interview, I lit the candle, and set to work. Letting the candle light absorb all the negative thoughts that I had flying around in my mind. (I love that idea of lighting a candle to deal with negative energy. Good idea to be able to do something physical and tangible to rid yourself of negative energy.)
girl with a quill: Do you believe it takes more self-discipline to write while working a full-time job?
Leigh: I believe that it takes a huge amount of discipline to write anyway, regardless of all the other happenings going on around you in life. Yes, working a 40-hour-week certainly impacts on my time. I am often jealous of writers who have the luxury of writing full-time, as I would love nothing more than to be able to do that myself.
But it’s about managing time and workload, and life balance in general. I have to allow for a solid 25+ hour writing week, plus my day job, as well as spending quality time with my husband, friends, and family. Needless to say, I try to do the friends/family thing during the week, as well as the day job, and some evenings are spent with my husband, as well as some hours of the weekend. I’m pretty lucky that he can entertain himself quite happily. God only knows what it’s going to be like once we start having children!
girl with a quill: What genre do you write in and why?
Leigh: I typically write thrillers. I love writing them, because of the thrill, surprisingly. Creating twists and turns, linking everything together, causing events, and throwing my characters into unrelenting situations. And I love creating the dynamic bad dudes, as they are so much fun to play with! At the moment I am writing a trilogy which is primarily Urban Fantasy, but each book is still a thriller. I have also written a couple of Glitz-thrillers as well.
girl with a quill: What genre would you like to write in but have not yet? Why?
Leigh: One day, I would love to try my hand at writing horror. Why? Because it fascinates me, scares me, thrills me, and terrifies me. I don’t read much horror because of all these different reasons, not to mention it keeps me up at night, but I would love to write something that does these exact things to readers. There is something about the darkness that I find interesting. I love some incredibly dark music, and I often play it when I’m writing the ‘bad-dudes’ in my work… But to explore some of the darker inner-workings of the brain and mind would be a huge experience that one day I will have to embark on.
girl with a quill: Do you have any beta readers or critique partners? Do you think they are a necessary resource for writers?
Leigh: I’ve had beta-readers for a few years now. A couple of incredibly trusted people. I am a writer who was seriously stung by releasing a piece of draft work to someone who I thought could be trusted with my precious creation. It was not a good experience by any stretch of the imagination. I thought about throwing it all in at that point, and even tried to! But the creative writing calling was too strong, and I went back to it.
And as of this year, I now have critique partners. Wonderful critique partners! Great people, brutally honest, and never malicious. The sole purpose of this group is to become better and brilliant writers within ourselves, and with each of us giving support and love and motivation when we need it. (I am sure that all writers would agree in that having the support, love and motivation of like-minded individuals who understand the pains and gains of the creative process are invaluable. From the sounds of it, you have a great group of people to lean on.)
girl with a quill: You belong to Warrior Chat, an online writers group seeded in NaNoWriMo. Do you find it useful to belong to a writers group? Why?
Leigh: Very useful, yes. This group is amazing collective of dynamic creative individuals from all walks of life, who all have the same focus: to write. I find being there with them is great. You see discussions and opinions forming all over the place that really makes you think. There are incredible amounts of information flowing, that you can choose to take in, or choose to leave it for another time. And we all laugh. We all support. And we know that we all have our good days and bad days. We celebrate success. Everyone experiences the similar emotions in there at different times, and it opens my eyes to know that I am not the only one. It’s reassuring.
girl with a quill: Would you describe yourself as a panster or a plotter?
Leigh: Ah, I am a hybrid. Technically, I am first a plotter, as I like to kind of know what pathway my writing is walking down. I’m really good at character profiling before I even start writing a novel. But then I find that my characters start taking on a life of their own, and then I become a panster.
I think that writing organically can take you places that you never would have plotted before. Once you start researching locations, careers of your characters, and all sorts of other symbology in relation to your work in progress, the story starts to evolve. So, to start me off, I’m definitely a plotter. It’s as if I need some sort of map or some form of direction to get me going. But after that, I’m a flying by the seat of my pants for the rest of the way.
If I start to get stuck anywhere, or confused, then I will revert back to plotting. This means a complete read through, superficial edit, stock-take of the storyline, and then re-plotting my way forward until I start pantsing again.
girl with a quill: You competed in NaNoWriMo2010. Tell us about your experience? Would you compete in NaNoWriMo again?
Leigh: Absolutely. November is the one month of the year that I have an excuse to be a total hermit, and hole myself away in my library and just create! It is the one month of the year that my friends, family, colleagues, and everyone else knows that I am not coming out to play.
My experience with NaNoWriMo 2010 was a mixed one. As I tried to remain focused on the goal, everything else was in turmoil around me… my place of work announced a restructure of our team, and I had to try to maintain my creative focus. I found that the word wars schedule our Nano Warriors set up were incredibly helpful at jump starting me back into action with it. I don’t think I could have done it without the support of the Warrior team! I slogged it out at the end. I really didn’t know if I was going to make it or not – completely on the wire. I finally finished up with 50,003 words to my name for the month of November. (You have to love those word wars..nothing like someone saying go and everyone writing together for a mad hour.)
girl with a quill: Tell us about your process of getting a new idea for a novel or story?
Leigh: The process is massive. It’s a big job in itself, but I think that every writer probably has similar processes going on.
Something, (doesn’t have to be big,) will etch its way into my mind. My mind will start to play with it, slowly tossing and turning it over. And that’s when it all starts snowballing out of control. The next thing I know, I’m looking at different locations and situations. Developing new personalities, setting scenes in the planning stage, and then I start plotting. I can actually spend days plotting and planning. Sometimes I completely overdo it – and then I already know the story inside out and backwards, and I don’t want to write it anymore. But I always save all my notes and hard work, knowing that one of these days, I might just come back to it. (One word: Back up….Back up….Repeat…Back up…those ideas are precious.)
girl with a quill: Are you working on anything now? Can you share a little about your latest WIP?
Leigh: I am always working on something… At the moment it’s an Urban Fantasy trilogy called Talent. I’ve completed the first draft of the first book, and I am currently writing the second book – Talent Uprising. Here is a little piece about the books… for the rest of it, you’ll just have to wait and see.
Ollie is a normal seventeen year old; passionate about skating, girls, and still trying to decide what he wants to be when he grows up. Becoming a pro-skateboarder would be his ideal career choice, until one day he wakes up and finds that normal life has all been an illusion created to protect him.
Discovering a world of carefully weaved lies and deception throws Ollie onto a pathway he never dreamt of walking.
The Talented are a secret race of people living amongst the rest of humanity. Bound by the elements and the rules of their powers, the Talented are split into two clear factions; Light Talent, and Dark Talent.
As Ollie discovers Talent, and the people associated with it, he also finds that he is caught in the middle of a war that has been raging for centuries that the rest of humanity is oblivious to.
Summer, Ollie’s biological twin, knows that she is not like Ollie in the slightest. Not only does her brother believe her to be dead, but she is part of the Dark Talent faction. She is extremely advanced in her abilities, and she has no fear of using them to her own advantage. No matter what the cost.
No matter how much you try to avoid trouble, it will always find you… (Now this sounds like a story I want to read…love the idea of twins being on opposite sides, just adds that extra element of conflict. Can’t wait for you to finish this trilogy Leigh.)
girl with a quill: What publishing market are you aiming for?
Leigh: I think that I am aiming at two different publishing markets with my work. My big thrillers are aimed at adults with an age-group ranging from 25 years old and upwards. But my trilogy is definitely aimed at the Young Adult market – probably 16+. Although, I have recently had a 13-year-old beta-reader go through it, and she felt that it was wonderful. I’m feeling the pressure from her for me to finish it.
girl with a quill: There is a lot of talk right now about Digital Publishing (Ebook) versus Traditional Publishing? What are your thoughts on this debate?
Leigh: There is a massive amount of chatter on this subject at the moment! So much, that I have recently joined a group that specifically explores the different e-book publishing techniques. As much as I love holding a book in my hand, and snuggling up with a good book… I really do think that e-books are definitely the way of the future. I keep looking at getting myself a kindle, and thinking that if I had one, I could store a couple of thousand books on there (or however many it holds) and then for those books that I seriously think are special – I might have them in hard copy to add to my book collection.
I think that some of the e-book success stories like Amanda Hocking are the exception, and not the rule. Her success truly is incredible, but she has also been writing for years. For her, this payoff is years and years of very hard work. She also had a few manuscripts that were complete, polished, and ready to roll when she had the time to release them, and so she rolled them out one after the other. It’s an amazing journey that she has been through over the past 18 months, but she is the first to admit that this sort of journey won’t happen for everyone in e-publishing. She has good books, and a very critical eye when it comes to editing her own work.
So, my thoughts? I think it would be wonderful to publish your own work on e-book, and be that successful. But I also know that it’s a heck of a lot of hard work. I’m pretty 50/50 on the debate at the moment. But, like Amanda Hocking, if I do get rejected a multitude of times, then perhaps I will go down the e-publishing route. (This is definitely an interesting topic..To e-book or not to e-book. A debate to look out for I think. But I do agree with you in that Amanda Hocking did put a lot of work into it.)
girl with a quill: Living in New Zealand is a help or hindrance to becoming a published writer?
Leigh: I think that it is a hindrance because the publishing industry and market for New Zealand writers is so small! I have always written for a much wider market, broader market, and international market. At the start of my writing career, I never intended on publishing in New Zealand, and I never wanted to be recognised as a New Zealand writer.
Some of you will probably wonder what the hell I am on about here, but it’s just that I don’t particularly like traditional New Zealand literature. I find that some of the more famous traditional NZ writers over-describe every single thing, and I get incredibly frustrated when a writer takes two pages just to describe the way the sky looks, or how green the grass is over here. And I know that I am probably not the only person to get frustrated with this, so I didn’t want my work judged by the preconception of New Zealand writing. (It would be great if New Zealand could expand in the publishing world, hopefully one day it will.)
girl with a quill: What is more important to you: Story or Character? Why?
Leigh: Character first, then story. Naturally when I first start planning a story, I dream up the situation first. But I then throw all my focus on creating a character with natural flaws that will hinder them in some way. Each journey that the characters embark on is never easy. I prefer to stretch the character beyond their known limitations, and therefore provide the character with growth.
girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character that you have created and why?
Leigh: I actually had to take time out from this interview to think about this. I would probably have to say Summer Atlantis, out of the Talent Trilogy. While she is still young, she is trained to be a killer, and a leader. She is sexy, powerful, she knows what she wants, but she’s confused. She’s fun to write, because she is so conflicted with the feelings about her brother (not sexual at all, so you can get that nasty notion out of your heads straight away!), but yet she also has to constantly conform to the evil bidding of Cyprian – her mentor and leader.
girl with a quill: Who is your favourite character in the literary world and why?
Leigh: Stephanie Plum, created by Janet Evanovich. I just cannot get enough of Ms Plum. She is hilarious. Stephanie is a bounty hunter by trade, and a complete klutz in every other aspect of her life. Whether it’s love, bounty hunting, or just taking her grandmother to the local morgue for a ‘viewing’ – she always right-royally screws it up. They are fabulous stories, which will make anyone laugh, no matter how serious a person they are.
girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 famous creative people, who would they be and why?
- Michelangelo: He once said – “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” He was a poet, an artist, an architect, and a sculptor – not to mention that many consider him the creator of the Renaissance period. I think he would be an absolutely fascinating person to meet.
- Oscar Wilde: As a clever ‘quip master’ I think that he would provide huge entertainment and debate on societies shortcomings.
- Edward De Bono: Because of his incredible ways of extraordinary thinking and his theories around human thought processes.
- Jane Austen: Her wittiness, cynical outlook would be hilarious at the dinner table. She would quietly watch everyone there with class and intelligence, and then write about all the silliness of their airs and graces later on.
- And finally… Leonard Cohen. He wasn’t famous for his music until he was in his thirties, but he was a brilliant poet and writer before he started singing.
girl with a quill: If you could throw a dinner party and invite 5 of your favourite fictional characters, who would they be and why?
- Jemima Puddleduck (Beatrix Potter) – She’s so gorgeous, that everyone would love her instantly.
- Jace Weiland (Cassandra Clare) – because I want to know what he would really be like in real life.
- The Mad Hatter (Lewis Carroll) – for obvious reasons.
- Stephanie Plum (Janet Evanovich ) – because everything she tries to do turns into utter chaos.
- Mr Darcy (Jane Austen ) – because he has no tolerance for stupidity or the lower-class, and he’s arrogant as hell. (I would even seat him next to the Mad-Hatter just for entertainment purposes!)(Sounds like your party would be a riot! Mmmh Mr Darcy and the Mad Hatter, now that is Mad food for thought. Could be a story in that Leigh?)
girl with a quill: If you could give yourself one piece of advice at the beginning of your writing career, what would it be?
- Don’t stop writing.
- Planning isn’t everything.
- Take on feedback, but choose whether or not you use it.
- Learn when to stop editing.
girl with a quill: What is the one piece of writing advice you could give your future self, 10 years from now?
- Learn from the past.
- Don’t forget what it’s like to be young.
- Never forget to eat because you just want to get one more chapter finished.
- Don’t get plastered on red wine just because you can’t write that sex scene sober – don’t write it at all. (Talking of red wine, I don’t know about you but this wine is going down very smoothly..maybe it’s the great conversation.)
girl with a quill: What do you want your lasting legacy, as a writer, to be?
Leigh: Even just having a legacy would be great. What that is… I have no idea. As long as it’s not anything bad, then I’ll be happy.
girl with a quill: Tell us where we can find you on the World Wide Web?
Leigh: You can find me in a myriad of places on the ‘interweb’.
Facebook: Leigh K Hunt
Writer’s Blog: http://parchmentplace.wordpress.com/
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Thank you for a very entertaining and informative interview Leigh. You have been a literary pleasure. I know that the audience will agree that we are waiting with bated breath for the publication of the Talent Trilogy.
signing off….~girl with a quill
© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.