I’ve a little treat for you all.
LJ Shen (Leigh) agreed to answer all my questions! She really is such a super sweet person and I love her books. I’ve a crush on Alpha males and Leigh writes Uber alpha males. They’re also complicated and often @holes in some ways but what can I say, they always make my hormones dance like crazy.
And let’s not forget her kickass and sassy heroines. I love female characters with some punk and backbone. I began with Sparrow as first book and I’ve been addicted to Leigh’s writing since the first sentences.
So just for your eyes only, here comes Leigh’s interview.
First I’d like to thank you wholeheartedly for agreeing to answer my questions. I know you’re a very busy bee being a working mom and a writer so I really appreciate the time you’ll put into this interview.
I’m certain your readers would really love to know more about you, your writing process, inspiration, books taste and maybe some personal stuff. So now it’s the moment to lift the veil on who Leigh Shen is and what makes her such a fascinating writer.
- How was little Leigh like? Did you always know you would write books one day or was it something “out of the blue” a “spurt of the moment” decision?
I always knew but I never had the balls to actually try. I thought it would be a very slow, very painful process. In a way, it is, but I’ve been blessed enough to find my tribe and my readers very early on in my career.
Little Leigh was much like the old(er!) Leigh. A neurotic, eccentric, ADHD kid with big dreams, who wants to conquer them from the comfort of her bed, while reading a good book. I think I make her proud every day, though, by chasing our dream. J
- Tell us more about your first steps in the writing world. Was Tyed the first book you’ve ever written? Who was your first beta reader? Who encouraged you? How did you end publishing and promoting your book? What was the most difficult thing you had to do?
I always knew I was going to self-publish. I’m too much of a control freak to hand over my work for someone else to choose the editors/cover/marketing strategy etc. I’ve only just started to learn how to be a team player, but I’m still completely obsessed about my products to a point I think it’d be a challenge for someone else to publish my work for me.
Tyed was maybe my fourth book? I kind of played with a few manuscripts but never made it to the finish line. With Tyed, I just knew that this was going to be my debut novel. It was far from perfect but it had so much spark and potential. I was in love with this couple and to this day, Ty is one of my favorite men.
A few of my friends beta-read for me. One is the blogger Lin Tahel Cohen who runs From Chika With Love. It was a frightening experience but I wouldn’t change it for the world (hitting publish on my first book, not having Lin as a beta reader, LOL).
- What do you need to write? Morning/night? Coffee/chocolate? Silence/Music? Something else?
Silence. Complete and utter silence. I like it when the house is quiet and everyone’s asleep or when I’m alone. Honestly, my ADHD is so bad even the cat snoring softly under my desk can drive me out of my mind. It’s a problem.
- What’s the most difficult and easiest part when writing a book? What was the easiest and the most difficult book you had to write and why?
I’m a pantser, which means that I don’t outline my books at all. This means that I write seven or eight drafts at a time until I get it “right”. The most difficult part is to get the story to “click” and come alive. Sometimes it doesn’t happen until the fourth and fifth draft.
The easiest is…writing. I freaking love writing. I hate the editing part and the part where I toss most of yesterday’s text to the recycle bin, but once I have my silence and coffee, writing is pretty easy for me to do.
Blood to Dust was my hardest book to write because it was so dark and complex. No book was easy for me to write but Defy came close. It was just a novella and I loved the banter between Jaime and Mel.
- How do you build your book: find the plot, flesh out the characters, find the places, all the side characters…? Is it a linear process or rather a “stop and go”? What’s inspiring you and who inspired your main characters?
I literally don’t.
I write and erase constantly, and see what sticks. I throw away between 100k-150k words per book. That’s my work process and, unfortunately, it’s not going to change because that’s what works for me. It’s not a linear process, either. I write a ton of scenes that are not chronologically connected. I can write the epilogue on the first week of writing a book.
By the way, I wrote Vicious’s prologue a second before I sent the book to my editor. So there you have it.
My female characters are always loosely based on me or a good friend. Male characters come to me at night. It’s actually pretty great. I have an indefinite amount of possessive, crazy-ass alpha males running in my head.
- Do you always know right from the beginning where the story will go or do the character hijack your story and have a mind of their own?
I never have a clue. I let the characters set the pace. My books are very character-driven. I just join the ride. J
- What are your favorite books and your favorite authors? Besides Romance, what do you fancy reading?
Gah, that’s the toughest question. I have so many authors I absolutely love. From the romance community, to name a few: Mia Sheridan, Penelope Douglas, Colleen Hoover, Bryn Greenwood and a ton more. I have like 100+ one-click authors.
I really enjoy other genres too. The Beat Generation influenced my writing greatly, and I still revisit Bukowski, Burroughs, Fante and such. I love Stephen King (who doesn’t?) and his son Joe Hill’s books. I also enjoy Zadie Smith, Jonathan Franzen and Jonathan Safran Foer. I never read romance when I board a plane. It’s always a James Patterson or whatever hit the NYT list from the big publishers. I find that reading outside our genre keeps my mind and style fresh.
- How do you explain your books success? What are the key factors? Do you have a special relationship with your writers?
I have no clue. Seriously, success is a very evasive thing. One thing I have learned is that success is like booze. You shouldn’t let it go to your head, and you absolutely mustn’t let it cripple you. It’s risky. To have a book that everyone loves. But you have to keep on writing and ignore the expectations, because they’ll be there. Waiting.
I found a lot of author friends in the book community and have a very positive experience with other authors. But I have to say that networking is at the bottom of my to-do list when it comes to my career. I make sure I answer my readers and engage them in my reading group/author page, and of course I have friends I’ve met through beta-reading each other’s work and such, but I don’t see it as a tool to get ahead in the game.
- What’s your distinctive signature as a contemporary writer? What sets you apart from other writers?
I don’t know. Asshole heroes?
Even that’s not completely true, because not all of my heroes were assholes. I think every writer has a voice, and it’s uniquely theirs, and they should embrace it and develop it, as opposed to trying to write “what works” or what “seems to work”.
I seriously couldn’t tell you what sets me apart from other writers. My readers must know, though.
- Do you have advices for aspiring writers?
Read more than you write.
Write even if you think it’s crappy.
Use all the help you can get from beta-readers and editors.
Kill your darlings when needed. I have a whole cemetery full of wonderful one-liners and witty dialogues I never got to use.
- What is your biggest dream? Would you do anything else besides writing?
I wouldn’t do anything else besides writing. Well, other than sleeping, eating and spending time with my family, of course.
If I could, I would rent a place in the middle of nowhere and write for a year the historical romance that’s sitting in my head.
No internet. No distractions. Somewhere in the South of France or Italy or Ireland. Definitely in Europe and definitely far, far away from the city. Just have the luxury of eating real food every dinner and working on one manuscript. Oh, and I’d have a huge-ass library that’d be my only source of research.
Man, that’s the dream!
- What question are you dying to answer that’s not been asked yet? And what would your answer be?
I don’t think there’s such thing. I’m a very awkward, silent, introvert person. Not really the chatty type, and not by choice. But I’m willing to answer anything you throw at me, that’s for sure.