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Interview with Bonnie Leon

Welcome, Bonnie. Let’s start by asking you a few questions about how God moved you into your writing career. Your writing is so well-received, and it seems to come so naturally to you. But this hasn’t been your life-long occupation.

Could you tell us a bit about how God turned things around in your life?
I was a full-time wife and mother who relished life on our small farm.

After surviving a terrifying encounter with a loaded log truck, I was confident the resulting pain and infirmity would pass and I would return to life as usual. The accident threw me completely off my comfortable track, though, and after more than a year of doctor visits and various therapies, I was told my painful existence would be permanent. That was a dark day.

My life changed considerably. I couldn’t stand long enough to cook a meal, and my husband and children handled the housework. Outdoor chores or even something as simple as grocery shopping were too taxing on my body. With my family carrying most of the load, I struggled to find a purpose for my life. As a result, I fell into depression.

What I perceived as my lack of faith left me even more defeated and lost. I knew God was my only way, so I prayed for peace and direction. I remember asking Him specifically, “God, please give me something to do that matters.”
I was confident that God had a purpose for my life. The support and prayers of friends and family along with hours spent in God’s Word sustained me. I didn’t believe God caused the accident, but I also understood that He had not intervened to prevent it. He is good … all the time.

Amen. He is good all the time! Even when it’s hard for us to recognize it. So, when you reflect on that dark time in your life, how do you recognize God’s goodness? How was His hand at work to not only move you through the difficult season but to be victorious and bring Him glory?
Before the accident, I’d been bitten by the writing bug. I had attended my first workshop just two weeks prior to the fateful day. After critiquing my work, a visiting author encouraged me to continue writing. She liked my writing voice and felt I had talent. If not for the accident I likely would never have followed through on her advice. At the time, I was hoping to return to work full time. There would never have been enough hours in the day to include a writing hobby.

The following summer, a woman who had attended the local workshop extended an invitation to the Oregon Christian Writers (OCW) Summer Writing Conference. I glanced through the pamphlet and dreamed for a moment… and then I threw the flyer in the trash. It was too expensive, and even if I could afford it, I was in too much pain to attempt a four-day writing conference.

A few weeks later I received another invitation plus a scholarship offer. I couldn’t ignore God’s provision. If He wanted me to go, I needed to trust Him. So, I went. God watched over me, and that life-changing week became the beginning of my writing career.

He made it pretty clear for you! So, now you teach budding authors about the craft you’ve grown to love. What “no-no’s” do you see most new authors falling prey to?
Some of my favorite times have been teaching fiction to beginners. When I have students for several days, I often see huge transitions.

There are a few common mistakes I see repeatedly. One is believing that the work doesn’t need refining. A writer gets excited about what they created and becomes impatient to share it. But almost always the work needs time to rest, and the author needs to do more editing before sending it off to an editor or an agent. I still fall prey to this from time to time.

The other deadly sin is being overconfident and inflexible. We need to get input from other writers and be open to suggestions. Sometimes we look at our own work with blinders on. That’s why I never like to write without a critique group.

It’s great how you help new authors learn the craft. Let’s talk about your own work. What drew you to write in the historical genre and how do you go about researching your books?
Historical novels have always been a favorite of mine. The idea for my first novel was inspired by an incident that occurred in my grandmother’s life when she was a young woman. A beautiful gift of that project was becoming more connected with my Native Alaskan heritage.

To me, research is like going on a treasure hunt. I know I’ll discover tidbits of information that will fit perfectly into my story and might even send it off in an unexpected direction.

The internet is an endless resource, but I always back up info with other sources. And although I could probably avoid the expense, I purchase lots of books so I can take plenty of time digging through them. I even mark on pages and decorate them with sticky notes. Whenever possible I visit museums. If I can connect with someone who has special expertise in an area I meet with them, either in person, on the phone, or over the internet.

One of my favorite research memories is sitting around a table with several old-timers who’d once been coal miners. As the stories and conversations flew, I learned so much! Way more than I could have gleaned from a book. The insights into what their lives had been like--and the surprising news that they loved their job--made my story all that more meaningful.

It really sounds like you love digging deep into your characters’ worlds to find out what could have motivated them. Then you have to take all of that great information and create a story with a message. What message do you hope readers take away from your current book, Valley Melodies? How did God work this book out in your heart so that you were able to convey His message onto paper?
His Presence. His Plan. His Way. No Need for Fear.

In hindsight it seems pretty simple and straightforward, but the process of creating this book was difficult. I lost my way more than once, distracted by all that has going on in the world. Plus, here in our own little town we had a devastating fire that destroyed many of our friends' homes. We lost our outbuildings and some animals, but our home remained intact. The forest is mostly burned and will never return in my lifetime. It was hard to endure these hardships while trying to create Valley Melodies. However, as often happens, the themes in this story were the lessons I was living out.

Bonnie, you have such rich life stories and wisdom to share. As we close, what are a few other interesting facts about your life or thoughts about writing that readers might find interesting?
• As writers, helping one another is a huge part of succeeding in this world of writing. We need to pray for and reach out to our writing brothers and sisters.
• Although I’m not tied to any regimented schedule, I try to write at least five days of work per week. It might be as little as an hour or it could be a full day. The important thing to me is to stick with a project and keep plowing through. If I do that, I will reach the line in a book I love most—The End.
• My book The Journey of Eleven Moons found its way into the hands of an inmate who had no possibility of parole. The message in the story touched him deeply, and he rededicated his life to Christ and serving him all the days of his life right there in prison. He wrote, with a grateful heart, to let me know the difference the story had made in his life. I’m often reminded of that man, and my purpose is made clear.
A life-long reader, LeighAnne Clifton decided to take the plunge into the writing world after more than 30 years as an engineer. Now, she writes Christian romance, upcycles junk, and teaches 3rd grade Sunday school. LeighAnne and her husband live in South Carolina with their spoiled cats (are there any other kind?). You can read her Christian living blog and find out more about her book series on her blog at

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