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Interview With Leanna Ellis

In life and love, we could all stand a few nips and tucks . . .

Kaye Redmond, a "can do" kind of woman, has the magical touch when it comes to staging houses to attract buyers. Her ability to make things "perfect" has served her well in her career. If only it could transform her personal life as well. With a failed marriage, an angry teenage daughter, and an ex-mother-in-law who is no fairy godmother, Kaye's life is about as imperfect as it gets.

But sometimes blessings come in the strangest packages. Like her ex-mother-in-law landing on Kaye's doorstep after a botched facelift. Could caring for the impossible woman help Kaye get what she wants most: her husband back? Isn't that what God would want? And what her daughter needs? But no fairy princess ever faced such obstacles: an ex-husband's surgically enhanced mistress, hormonal teenagers, and—worst of all—an extra handsome prince! How's a woman supposed to find happily-ever-after with all that going on?

Facelift by Leanna Ellis
What does God really want for our lives? Leanna Ellis delves into this question and many more as she takes us on a wonderful journey with Kaye Redmond to make God's will happen in her life... right? Surely when the marriage vows were made God intended them to be adhered to no matter what. Kaye is convinced that even though her husband cheated on her, left her and divorced her that it is still her destiny to get him back from the bimbo he left her for. Of course in the meantime she has started her own home staging business in order to support her and their teenage daughter and she is finding a strength within herself that she didn't know she had. In everything except where her ex-husband is concerned, so when he calls about his mother needing a place to stay after her botched facelift how can she refuse even though she can't stand the nasty woman. What ensues is a journey of discovery for all involved. What a great journey it is!

Leanna, your newest book is, Facelift, and I am constantly amazed at the unique story lines that you come up with. Elvis Takes A Backseat was such a fun concept. Lookin’ Back Texas was totally unexpected. Ruby's Slippers was my favorite since I am a huge Wizard of Oz fan. Once in a Blue Moon kept me guessing the entire book, but now you knocked me out with Facelift. I just have one question for you... where do you come up with these one of a kind stories?

Hi, Janna! Thanks so much for reading Facelift! So glad you liked it and all the others. That’s always so nice to hear. Really the only answer on where I come up with these weird stories is God. Ideas go into my little head and come out through a weird prism, and He created my brain.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
I basically have two publication journeys. One, when I wrote category books for Harlequin/Silhouette, and then two when I moved over to the CBA. Those first three years when I had quit teaching and was beginning writing and not yet published were very significant in my actual learning how to write. I devoted many, many hours a day to learning the craft. Then after several years of publishing, I took a break. Before I began publishing again, there were several years of solitude (writing wise but busy in that I had two young children and was beginning to homeschool). It’s where I really discovered my voice, what I love to write, and my spiritual journey began to play a significant role on my writing as I turned my writing over to God. It’s taken me many years but I think I’ve finally figured out something about myself. When I was a kid, I loved to dance. I took dance for a long, long time and even taught dance in high school and college. But I also had a very strong faith and grew up in the Baptist church.

Unfortunately then, dancing was frowned upon at my church. And it created a rift in me. I even tried to give up dancing at one time. It wasn’t until much later in life that I understood our passions often come from God and when we align our passion with God, He can use our passions in significant ways. But I think going through that dance situation somehow caused me to hold onto my passions and not turn them over to God. So for a while, my writing was mine. I look back now, and even those works that were written for the ABA market have spiritual undertones within them. So those in between years when I wasn’t selling and wasn’t trying to publish my writing, I learned to turn my writing over to God. It sounds simple but it wasn’t. It was a process, a journey, and it was incredibly significant to my writing and publishing.

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
It’s always a juggle being a wife and mom, homeschooling, all of the kids’ extracurricular activities, cooking meals and cleaning. Notice, cleaning was last. ☺ But with two active kids and four animals, I do have to clean. And then there’s the writing. I’m just a happier person when I write. But it’s not easy. I’ve learned over the years that I’m not necessarily going to achieve balance every single day. But I can be very hard on myself when something doesn’t get done. I’ve learned that God gives me big helpings of grace, and so I should give myself grace too on those days.

And how do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
My faith and spiritual life play a huge part in my writing. First, I pray about my books a lot, from asking if I should pursue an idea to the actual writing every day to asking for guidance when I’m stuck. Frequently, I sit in church and not only hear words of truth for my life but often for one of my characters and what they need to grow. Or reading the Bible, a certain scripture will jump out at me for a story idea or a book in progress. Or even a praise and worship song will seem to encapsulate a book’s theme.

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
Selling a book is always grand and deserves a celebration as do awards, which are very nice, but ultimately the greatest reward and most satisfaction comes when I receive those wonderful emails or letters from readers who tell me how my book has touched them or ministered to them and they share bits of their lives with me. What a gift and blessing those letters are! I treasure them.

Who/What spurs you to write?
It took me a long time to discover writing was one of my purposes, and that’s too long of a journey to go into here but ultimately its God that continuously provides story ideas. I believe the desire comes from Him. But also, those letters from readers remind me why I’m writing.

Where do your story and character ideas come from?
I think it’s just how God wired my brain but I’ll give you a few examples that might explain a little. One day I was thinking: what if Dorothy lost her "somewhere over the rainbow"? That’s the kernel of the idea that prompted that story. As I noodled it, I thought of the title Ruby’s Slippers and from there the story started to flow. Sometimes I don’t realize my personal connection to the story until much later, sometimes even after the book is completed, but with , I eventually realized that I had walked the same Yellow Brick Road as Dottie. Just as my main character followed in her mother’s footsteps, I became a teacher, just like my mother. But those shoes didn’t fit me so well, and it wasn’t until I discovered I was a writer that I found who I really was and was meant to do. With Facelift, I had been seeing so many stories of celebrities getting facelifts or botox or all sorts of treatments, and I live in an area in Texas where plastic surgeons abound, and of course I’ve seen some folks post-procedure where…well, they probably looked better before. So I thought about what it would be like for a character to experience a botched facelift. But I didn’t want the book to be about facelifts and botox.

Ultimately, happiness, contentment, joy doesn’t come from a reflection in a mirror. It comes from within, and that’s a spiritual matter. For another book idea, one day I was at a group book signing, and the two authors that were selling the most books were writing Amish romances and the other was writing vampire stories. So I made a joke to a friend that we should write an Amish/vampire story. Well, I just meant it as a joke but some seed planted in my brain and began to grow and take root. It wouldn’t go away. It became a story of redemption and good versus evil. I prayed a ton about that story, even more than I usually pray about a book, and ended up writing a proposal called Forsaken. It’s the first of the Plain Fear series and it ended up selling. So that probably confirms that my brain is wacky! But God can use my wacky brain hopefully for His glory.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
I tend to write about tough subjects, deep subjects but with the added element of humor. It’s not easy to do because many tough subjects don’t lend themselves to humor easily. I also love to mesh these elements with pop culture.

Finish this question. What do you want to leave your readers thinking when they are done reading one of your books?
First, I want them to be entertained but then I hope I’ve given them something to think about and contemplate. Most especially I hope I’ve given them some spiritual truths to consider, which I hope will point them toward God.

Any parting words?
God is good. Always. If you feel called to writing, then write. There will be ups and downs along the way, as any road in life, so just keep praying and keep writing. God will open the right doors when its time.

Thanks for sharing with us, Leanna!
Thank you, Janna!

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