Donna A. Leahey*

Why do you write? That’s kind of like asking “Why do you breathe?” I just do. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t telling myself stories. As far back as I can remember, I would tell myself a bedtime story while falling asleep. I still do it, though now it’s often more deliberate, working out a plotting problem or the like… I just have to hope I remember the solution when I wake up! I started writing them down for fun, but then when I realized that people were enjoying my writing, I decided to get more serious about it.

Describe where you write. I have a desktop computer, but unfortunately, it’s not in an ideal location. I don’t have privacy, and I don’t have control over the environment. I can be in the middle of the most perfect scene, and suddenly there’s noise and the mood is ruined. I find I do my best work in a coffee shop. There’s just the right level of background noise, and I’m not tempted to get up and do something else. Plus, coffee shops have given me some of my most popular Facebook or even blog posts when I start people watching.

Who or what is your muse? At the risk of sounding pretentious, the world is my muse. I’m constantly drafting entire stories based off something I saw as I was out driving. A weird mausoleum, a young woman walking on the side of the road, a unusual building…. and my brain is off and running with all the “what if’s” Sometimes those proto-stories make it to the story stage and sometimes they’re forgotten, but I find something out there that gets my creativity going every day.

Three wishes . . . 1. I wish sanity for the world. There’s so much crazy out there right now. I want everyone to take a big step back, get a big, cleansing breath, and realize that we’re all people. We all just want to live. So, yeah, I guess I just wished for world peace. 2. I wish for my son to have a healthy and happy life. 3. I still want to be able to fly!

Favorite childhood book, and why? I recently reread Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonrider trilogy. That’s some fantastic writing there. I always find myself wanting to write stories about telepathic dragons after I read that! I read and reread that and her Harper Hall stories. As a kid, the Harper Hall books spoke to me. Plus, she’s the first female writer I remember reading.

Explain when is your ideal time to write. Anytime. Day, night, morning…. I have chronic insomnia, and some of my best writing happens at 3 am when I should be sleeping!

Name a book you would reread again and again, and why. Stephen King’s The Stand. There’s a lot of reasons. The first is that it’s fantastic. But one of the most interesting things about The Stand is the story behind it. When he first wrote it, he wasn’t all that big and they made him cut 150,000 words from it. They made him CUT more words than is in a normal novel! I read that novel so many times that when he released the uncut version – with the 150,000 words added back in – that I could immediately tell when I got to the stuff he’d added back in. And it’s educational. Some of it shouldn’t have been cut – it was important to the story. Some of it was unnecessary, but interesting. And some … he should have left out. It didn’t help the story and it wasn’t interesting to read. Reading the uncut version of The Stand is like reading a practical demonstration on self-editing!

E-book or print? Why? I miss print books, but I still buy them as ebooks, and that’s mostly just because it’s easier to carry them around. Boy, do I wish ebooks had been around when I was still a student. I always had a novel with me, and it took up weight and room in my backback. So, I buy ebooks just because they’re easier to carry around, but I miss the feel and the smell of books.

Favorite magazine, and why? I’ve never been that into magazines. National Geographic for the amazing pics.

What would you like readers to take away from your writing? Women are people too! Women can be the main character in things besides romance. Women can be tough and strong and smart. Women can be realistically portrayed and still be interesting.

*I used Leahey’s short story, “The Wisteria,” taken from the collection Growing Concerns, in my English 111 class, and my students gave it glowing reviews.

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