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Interview with LeighAnne Clifton

LeighAnne Clifton's latest release, What We Don’t See, is a story of faith, that unseen but powerful force connecting us to God. It’s also a story of darker unseen forces — gossip, bitterness, hatred — that not only destroy the one who spreads them but also seek to undermine all those around.

In addition to the powerful force of faith, what message do you hope readers take away from your newest release?
In What We Don’t See, a character is introduced who tries to undermine the loving bonds that have been established in the first two books of this series. I tried to illustrate the hurt and destruction that gossip and half-truths can cause in even the best relationships.

You have lived most of your life in the same town and same home, but now that your kids are grown, you are traveling. What literary pilgrimages (if any) have you taken for research? What was your favorite and what did you discover or learn?
Getting back to travel is going a bit more slowly than we’d planned, but I’m trying to use our brief trips to learn. The beach and the mountains, both easily accessible from our home, are favorite getaway destinations, and I always seek to discover the beauty of God’s creation in them. I take lots of photos on my phone so I can recall the feeling and try to recreate it in my writing.

I think one of the greatest pilgrimages writers can take is to more deeply explore the ordinary and mundane, trying to describe the everyday things of life in a way that makes the reader feel present. That’s my favorite thing when I read, so I strive to do just that when I write.

Although you began your writing career with a children’s book, you shifted into inspirational fiction and wrote three books. What have you learned from writing full-length fiction, and from writing a series?
Oh, my! I think I could write a book in response to this one question! As an engineer, I learned early on in my writing that my affinity for organizing information would be to my benefit. I tend to compartmentalize information, so I have a spreadsheet for almost every aspect of my writing: querying, character traits, chapter summaries, etc.

When I began writing All Your Heart, the first novel in the series, I hadn’t given much thought to the possibility of a sequel. But all of the spreadsheets came in handy when God began tugging on my heart to continue the story.

I try to write the books I’d like to read. And when I’m the reader, I catch little hiccups in plot or character development. I guess years of working as a technical editor comes at a price! So, I strive for my writing to be clean. No inconsistencies.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
That’s a tough one. First, I’ve loved the encouragement, willingness to share, and wisdom I’ve gained by joining the ACFW. I had no idea it was such a close-knit and generous group of people.

But I also think that the money I invest each year in my blog pays dividends on so many levels. Because I blog about Christian living topics (a non-fiction endeavor), it stretches my writing skills on a regular basis. It also gives me the opportunity to interact and build relationships with guest bloggers, which is something I didn’t even know existed a few short years ago. Finally, it keeps me accountable. Planning a series of posts and creating newsletters to go with them requires a level of organization that could very easily slip away with a retirement mind-set!

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Honestly, my greatest research tool is prayer! Each of the books in the Together for Good series has been inspired by and based on a different Scripture verse. I seek God’s leading on how to flesh out the truths of His word, showing human flaws and His grace as the characters make their way through life’s joys and sorrows. When I feel released to write, only then do I begin.

As writers, we often must be careful of our word count. Sometimes, that means snipping bits of what we write during the revision process. That being said, what did you edit OUT of this book?
Most of what came out of this book was extra wordiness that didn’t even help the story! Isn’t it funny how we become so attached to such things?

One thing I started doing while writing my first book was to keep all of my chunks of deleted text in a single document. Although it sounds strange, I was able to use the stuff I deleted from my first two books to create the prequel to my series, which I give away to my newsletter subscribers.

You love to craft, paint, and take someone else’s castoffs to transform them into something new. Has your repurposing work slipped into your writing yet?
Without a doubt! It’s what Alex, my main character, does for a living. I’m able to describe her work because I love to immerse myself in it. I’m not the successful business woman Alex has become, but I can relate to her urge to rescue a piece of furniture from the side of the road and give it a new life. We write what we know, and, yes, I know all about that!

If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?
I’ve always filled every spare minute with reading. The introduction of ebooks was a dream for me. But, if I could go back in time, I would have written more and earlier. For most of my life, publishing a book was only a distant dream. I had no idea it could indeed be attainable. Had I known, I like to think I would have begun honing my skills and learning the industry much sooner. Between baseball games and dance rehearsals!

Your faith is central to your marriage, family, and life. How do your faith and spiritual walk play out in your novels?
Each book centers on one particular spiritual truth. I strive to show that Christians aren’t immune to the difficulties of this world, as evidenced by the struggles and painful circumstances the characters in my books experience. We do, however, have God’s strength to get us through them. I seek to illustrate this in each book.

For example, in All Your Heart, based on Proverbs 3:5, the concept of trusting God is central to the story. In Ready to Forgive, based on Nehemiah 9:17, I try to highlight both receiving God’s forgiveness and extending forgiveness to others. What We Don’t See concentrates on the concept of faith, with Hebrews 11:1 as the inspirational verse.

In each book, a broken, struggling person learns about the love of Jesus through not only words but also actions and deeds. My hope is that having a character come to salvation in Jesus in each book as a natural progression of the storyline shows how integral leading others to Him should be in our own lives.

Finish this statement: In the future, I will…
… continue writing for God’s glory. Currently, I’m not exactly sure what that looks like. I’ve written several devotions for my church, and I’ve begun a new fiction series that’s based in the same town as my previous series. I continue to bathe my writing journey in prayer to discern where He will lead.

Any parting words?
I’m so glad I found ACFW. Through its members, I’ve learned that when we write for the Lord, it’s our responsibility to help fellow writers get better. I don’t think you get this kind of deep, sincere camaraderie in any other writers’ group.
Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood, when she was accused of having an active imagination and a flair for the dramatic. Today, she has honed those skills to become an award-winning author and speaker who works as a homeschool mom and independent contractor, helping others become their best from the inside out. She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, in Kentucky. They have a daughter and son, and 2 cats. She has sold over 25 books so far, three of which have won annual reader's choice awards. She is represented by Tamela Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. (

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