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Welcome To SORMAG's Blog

Monday, July 12, 2010

FEATURED AUTHOR: Bonnie Leon


Bonnie Leon dabbled in writing for many years but never set it in a place of priority until an accident in 1991 left her unable to work at her job. She is now the author of several historical fiction series, including the Sydney Cove series, Queensland Chronicles, the Matanuska series, the Sowers Trilogy, and the Northern Lights series. She also stays busy teaching women’s Bible studies, speaking, and teaching at writing seminars and women’s gatherings. Bonnie and her husband, Greg, live in Southern Oregon. They have three grown children and four grandchildren.

How did you start out your writing career?

In 1989 I was hit by a compulsion to write and filled legal pads with short stories, poems and personal experiences. In May of 1991 I attended my first writing seminar and was encouraged by one of the guest writers to keep writing. One month later, a log truck hit the van I was driving. My life forever. I was left with chronic pain and disability and was unable to return to work.

One day, in despair I asked God to give me something to do that mattered, and He gave me writing. After attending a four day writers’ conference in 1992 I was encouraged to write my first book.

I returned home and went to work on the book. The following summer I took it to the conference and presented it to an editor from Thomas Nelson Publishing. She loved the story and asked to see the rest of the story. Thomas Nelson offered me a contract, and I’ve been writing ever since.

What did you learn while writing this book?

Each book is a learning experience, but with Touching the Clouds I was strongly reminded that the learning never ends. While I was creating the story I knew that something was out of sync, but life was crazy and I had a deadline so I pushed forward.

Shortly after turning it into my editor she contacted me and agreed that the book needed some major work. I prayed about it and the Lord helped me see that the characters weren’t right to tell this story. I reworked the characters, which changed everything. I basically rewrote the entire book. It was a lot of work, but I ended up with a novel I feel good about.

What did you hope to accomplish with this book?

First and foremost, I wanted to have fun, and to take readers on an Alaskan adventure. I also wanted to tell the story of an incredible woman who has the courage to do the “impossible”. I admire women who refuse to be average. Kate chooses a life-long dream over the norms of her day. It’s tougher than she expected and could cost her more than she imagined.

What is the toughest test you've faced as a writer?

I’d contracted for a three book series, each with an expected word count of 140,000 words. I’d finished the first two books in the series when the publisher notified me of financial cut-backs. My part in the belt-tightening was to trim my books down to 110,000 words. I had to cut 30,000 words from each book. It was a daunting task. I took out every word that wasn’t absolutely necessary, cut entire scenes and chapters. It was tough, but I learned a great deal about writing tight and leaving in only what’s necessary to a plot—a very good lesson.

If you had the opportunity to talk with three writers, who would you choose and why?

Francine Rivers would be one. I admire her writing and I met her once at a writing conference. She seemed to be a steady, reasonable person. I’d love to get to know her better.

It would be a dream to sit down with John Steinbeck. I love his writing style. He had the courage to look at and then write about the darker side of life. He traveled the roads with the destitute during the great depression of the 1930’s. I’d love to hear about his adventures first hand.

James Michener is my third choice. He wrote one of my all time favorite books, Hawaii. Most of his books were lengthy and his writing process of was amazingly thorough. I read somewhere that he read each book seventeen times. I’d love to talk to him about his journey through his books.

What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?

Take the time to read quality writing. I’ve always loved to read, but there are so many great books I haven’t read. Tasting masterpieces help writers create their own works of art.

Market your work. I did almost no marketing in my early years and now as a senior writer I’m forced to learn. At this stage of the game, it’s a steep learning curve for me.

Marketing isn’t everything. This sounds contradictory to what I just said, but writers can get so caught up in marketing they cut too deeply into their writing and personal time. We need big chunks of time to just write. And if we don’t make time to recharge our spirits our creativity suffers.

Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a writer?

Do attend writing seminars and conferences. It’s the perfect place to learn the craft and to connect with people in the industry. Both are extremely important.


Don’t pay too much attention to reviews. They’re subjective and have the power to bring you down unnecessarily or to elevate you to places you don’t belong.

I borrowed this question from Author Carleene Brice, What is your author fantasy?

My fantasy has already been fulfilled. When I set out to write, my greatest desire was to serve God and make a positive difference in people’s lives. I’ve heard from lots of readers who’ve told me that something I’ve written has helped them through a difficult time. It’s hugely encouraging to hear that kind of feedback.

I’d like to share one story. I received a letter from a man serving a life sentence
(no parole) in a federal prison. When he was nineteen he shot and killed a man during a robbery. He’d been in prison ten years when he wrote to me. Although he’d trusted in Christ sometime in his youth he lost his way. He stumbled upon my book, The Journey of Eleven Moons and after reading it he dedicated his life to serving Christ in prison. I recently heard he is continuing to do just that.

What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?

Writers work hard, really hard.

What was the best advice you’d ever gotten about the publishing industry? The worst?

“The best way to learn to write is to write.” I believed those words and wrote my first novel, which became a bestseller.

The worst is “Write what you know.” It’s often said, but if I wrote only what I knew I’d be hugely limited. And I think the whole idea is misunderstood. Stories are about people and I know about them.

If you could visit any place in the world where would you travel to?

I’d love to visit Ellis Island. In my series, “The Sowers Trilogy” I dealt with immigrants coming into our country and as I did the research my admiration for these brave individuals grew. They had to register at Ellis Island, a challenge to any soul. It was a place of hope and shattered dreams.

What is something readers would be surprised you do?

Although it’s becoming more common, I suppose people might be surprised to know that I see an acupuncturist twice a month. I don’t claim to understand how acupuncture works, but it helps me manage my chronic pain.

Our theme for this month is Agent Hunting? What advice would you give someone searching for the right agent?

The key word here is right. We need agents that are a good fit for us. To accomplish that, we need to do our research. I encourage writers to do more than an online search. It helps to talk to other writers and when they attend a conference to schedule appointments with agents where they can sit down face to face and chat.
Make sure to read the agent’s guidelines carefully and only send proposals to those that fit your style of writing. You don’t want to waste your time or theirs.

Oprah always asks, What do you know for sure?

Relationships matter. All the material possessions in the world can’t make up for shipwrecked families or friendships. In the end, all that matters is love. Love well.

Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?

The working title is Heaven’s Promise. It’s book two in the Alaskan Skies Series. The Alaskan adventure continues with Kate, Paul and their friends. Kate is still flying, at least for now, and Paul is working as a doctor in the bush. They combine their gifts to serve the people of Alaska.

When life takes an unexpected turn their grit is put to the test.

How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)

I love to hear from readers. They can stop by my website at http://www.bonnieleon.com/.


Touching the Clouds

Kate Evans is an adventurous and independent young woman with a pioneering spirit. When she leaves her home in Washington State to follow her dream of being an Alaskan bush pilot, she knows it will be an uphill battle. But she never expected it to be quite like this. As the lone woman in a man’s world, she finds that contending with people’s expectations is almost as treacherous as navigating the wild arctic storms.

When she crosses paths with a mysterious man living alone in the forbidding wilderness, she faces a new challenge. Can Kate break through the walls he has put up around his heart? And will fear keep her from realizing her dreams?

Leave a comment, question or email for a chance to win a copy of Touching the Clouds.

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4 comments:

LaShaunda said...

Bonnie,

Thank you for being our featured author today. If you have a chance can you tell us what do you do to cut down your word count?

Many blessings,

Rekaya Gibson said...

Nice interview Bonnie. I particularly liked your answers about marketing and the "do" and "don't." I needed to hear those things today. I wish you continued success. Thank you.

Rekaya Gibson, Author
The Food Enchantress
The Food Temptress
rekaya@rekayagibson.com

Bonnie Leon said...

Hi LaShaunda.

Cutting the word count can be torturous for a writer--we like our words, but a story doesn't need them all.

One thing I do is go through and look for redundancies--I'm good at including those so there are always some I can get rid of.

We can almost always write tighter--chop out anything you don't absolutely need to move a scene forward. If it doesn't contribute, get rid of it.

And when looking at a book as a whole make sure every scene is REALLY necessary to the plot. You might be surprise at what doesn't need to be there. If you don't need it, cut.

And another pair of eyes are helpful. Have a writer you trust go through your manuscript and help you find words and passages that can be excluded. I've actually cut entire chapters when necessary.

Good luck.

Bonnie

Bonnie Leon said...

Thank you, Rekaya.

I'm so glad I could be an encouragement. The writing life is an ongoing lesson--we keep growing and growing. What a blessing.

Grace and peace to you,

Bonnie

About Me

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I believe in promoting authors and their books. Let me introduce you and your books to online readers.

I'm also a happily married mother of three who's trying to break into the Christian writing field. The writing road can be rocky.

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