After years searching my native Ozark Mountains for the portal into Fairyland, I finally gave up on reality and then discovered the key to Magic lay in my own writing and art. I can now be found, hiding behind my laptop, a stack of good books, or a small mountain of art supplies. I enjoy reading and writing fantasy, retold fairytales, romance, comedy, and Christian fiction (especially all combined). As for art, pretty much anything goes. Doodling in a notebook, sketching, painting, mixed media, art journaling, digital art. I love to experiment!
SOME THINGS I LIKE
- Fantasy and magical tales that have a sense of wonder about them.
- Mystical, spiritual themes in fiction.
- Elves (I admit it, I’m obsessed, thank you J.R.R. Tolkien).
- Woods, trees, nature
- The color green.
- More Books.
- To think, ponder, wonder, and muse.
- Creating things!
- Books. Books. Every where books.
- Fairytales, romance, kids books, or classic literature
- Retellings of such tales.
- Did I mention books?
- Words and wordplay.
- A clean but quirky sense of humor.
- And of course–books.
Who are you and what do you do? My name is Leslie (pen name, Marie Lesley) and I’m a writer who draws and an artist who tells stories.
Why do you do what you do? I don’t even know how to answer this. I can’t imagine NOT making art and writing. It’s just in me. I have to create.
How do you work? I’m honestly not very professional or consistent. I just do whatever feels right. I guess I work intuitively. Which means I tend to feel guilty about whatever I’m not doing. If I’m drawing I feel bad because I don’t want to write, and visa versa.
Where are you from? I live in Missouri, in the Ozark Mountains. It’s a gorgeous spot with steep, rocky hills, clear cold streams, and thick woods everywhere. I’m kinda obsessively in love with my home. But I also love seeing new places.
What’s your background? Well, I’m a hill girl from the woods (which, stereotypes aside, I love being). I’m a Christian, and I was home-schooled. I have a wonderful family and awesome friends. Basically, I love my life.
Who are your top three heroes? First off Jesus. Second, my fiance. Third…I think I’d have to pick my favorite writer, C.S. Lewis.
What (if you couldn’t be a writer or artist) would be your dream job? I think I’d enjoy being a fashion designer, or maybe a travel blogger.
Who is your favorite mythological god or goddess? Well, I love the Norse myths, and I think I’d pick Thor. Not the Avengers Thor, but the real guy from the myths. He got into some funny scrapes. Look at this one where he disguises himself as a lady giant and out wrestles some giants at a party. It’s hilarious.
What’s your favorite color? Green. The color of the woods and of Elves. It’s kind of magical.
What are your favorite smells? Earth just before a storm, cedar and pine, bread baking, lilacs, citrus fruits.
What are your favorite sounds? Birds twittering, a soft breeze, rain on a tin roof, kids playing, laughter, fire crackling.
What is your favorite food? Chocolate. Ask anybody, I have a definately weakness.
Who is your favorite fictional hero and/or heroine? Hero: Aragon from Lord of the Rings, or any of the Sacketts from Louis L’Amour westerns. Heroine, it’s a tossup. Elizabeth Bennett, Anne Shirley, Jane Eyre….or quite possibly Cimorene from The Enchanted Forest Chronicles (Patricia C. Wrede)
What makes you feel afraid? The thought of anything happening to my family.
What is your biggest failure? My inability to eat healthy. Lol
What do you want your tombstone to say? She found time to laugh, to create, to be there for others.
If you had a superpower, what would it be? I’ve always wanted to fly. Or be an empath…to read and understand emotions and such.
If you were a super hero, what would your name be? What costume would you wear? Rainbow Quill. I’d wear a rainbow dress and my weapon would be a drawing quill that writes and shoots out magic rainbow ink.
What literary character is most like you? I identify a lot with Emily Starr of from the Emily of New Moonseries by L.M. Montgomery. Probably because she’s a writer too.
What secret talents do you have? I can sing but I’m rather self conscious.
Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before? P. E. Island, or any of the Celtic lands in Britain (Ireland, Wales etc)
If you were an animal in a zoo, what would you be? I think a tiger would be the coolest. A white tiger.
What is something you want to accomplish before you die? What an important question! I want to do all I can for my family and for God, make lots of art, write lots of stories.
If you could have any accents from anywhere in the world, what would you choose? Too many cool ones. British, Irish, Scotch, Aussie…
What were you like as a child? Your favorite toy? Quiet, imaginative, opinionated, funny bookworm. Favorite toys were books and my twin dolls Cindi and Katie (Cindi had brown eyes and Katie blue, andheaven help anyone that mixed them up).
Do you dream? Do you have any recurring dreams/nightmares? Have you dreamed anything interesting lately? Yes. No. Probably…the other night I dreamed I was continually late for a job I didn’t remember having, and I couldn’t figure out why they didn’t fire me.
What’s your scariest experience? 4 years ago when my sister nearly died in a car wreck.
What makes you angry? Judging others
Name something you love, and why. Being out in the woods, because it’s beautiful and peaceful.
Name something you don’t love, and why. Watching the news, because it’s super depressing and just makes me mad!
Favourite or most inspirational place? “The Glade” which is a section of woods and hills across the road from my childhood home. I wandered there and imagined and wrote a lot.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given? “Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.” –C. S. Lewis
Professionally, what’s your goal? To make and share lots of stuff. That’s my goal for now. Specific goals about numbers of followers or money made, or items sold…I think its easier to set productively goals. It’s the one thing I know I can control.
What wouldn’t you do without? My loved ones. And I always like to have a pen and notepad handy!
What’s your strongest memory of your childhood? I don’t know if it’s the strongest, but the first that comes to mind is going for walks with my mom, and my love for collecting rocks…especially big, flat rocks. I called them typing rocks. Even before I knew about computers, I was fascinated with typing, writing, and typewriters.
QUESTIONS ABOUT ART
What got you interested in art? Have you taken any art classes? I’ve loved to draw since I was little. I still have all the notebooks I doodled in as a kid. I am self taught, from books, the internet, and a correspondence course (after high school). I also went to one oil painting class when I was 13. Some very nice older ladies gathered at the Senior Citizen’s Home, and they’d let me paint with them. It was fun. But oil painting is too messy for me. I haven’t the patience to wait while it dries!
What is your preferred medium and why? I used to draw more than anything, and loved colored pencil above all else. Now I’ve developed a love for mixed media. Collage, markers, watercolors, gesso…I love being able to use whatever I want to use!
Can you remember one of the first things you ever made? I will never forget the first time I realized, hey! I can draw whatever I want toO and it looks ok! I loved the Narnia illustrations by Pauline Baynes and I was drawing the dragon’s head fro the Dawn Treader. What makes it memorable? Seeing that I could draw and make something recognizable!
Where do you gather most of the inspiration for your works? I don’t intentionally. Life in general, books and movies, other artists, looking up new craft ideas…these things inspire me. But I don’t “gather” ideas for art. Most of my pictures I just start using whatever supplies appeal me and a picture comes later.
What, in your opinion, is the hardest step in creating a masterpiece? No idea cause I don’t know what makes one…I think that’s a matter of opinion!
How has your practice change over time? I’m looser and freer in the way I work. Not so hung up on perfection.
What art do you most identify with? Mixed media art, fantasy art, mythical creatures, fairytales, fairies and elves, myth and legend.
What work do you most enjoying doing? Any of the above!
What themes do you pursue? None in particular. I don’t put themes in. First you create, then people see messages in them. That’s how I see it…
What’s your favourite art work? There’s too many to choose from! Instead, see my list of favorite artists down below (lots of links!)…
What jobs have you done other than being an artist? writer duh. Factory worker, housekeeper and ranch help, preschool aide. Volunteered at the library too as a teen.
What is an artistic outlook on life? Find joy in everyday things. Be creative everyday, in everything you do. Put beauty into the world.
Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it? No. I’m never lonesome when I’m making art. Besides like most creative people, the problem isn’t being lonely, the problem is finding enough quiet, alone time to make stuff.
What do you dislike about your work? I would enjoy making more realistic art, but to be honest, I don’t have the patience.
What do you like about your work? The sponteinaty. Trying new things and experimenting.
What is your dream project? Oh, its something new every day.
Who are your favorite artists? I have too many…I will divide my links up into three sections: teachers, artists, and paper doll links:
PAPER DOLLS: Liana’s Paper Dolls, Paper Doll School, Pabernukublogi, Paper Thin Personas, Pop Culture Paper Dolls, a paper doll group on Deviant Art, Lulu’s Lovelies (a paper craft blog), Azalea’s Dolls and Doll Divine (online dress up dolls).
What is the hardest part of making art for you? Drawing anything realistic…I have issues with perspective and foreshortening, so buildings and figures (especially hands!) are hard. But the good news is its always fun to keep learning.
Do you have any advice for other artists? Don’t get hung up on it being perfect or looking exactly like real life. Just have fun, keep learning, and keep trying.
Have you ever hated something you made? Just like everyone else, sure. It just happens less often now. And its usually not the art I dislike, but the fact that I didn’t make it look like I imagined before I started. Which, maybe, is why I enjoy and like my art more lately, because I tend to start playing with art supplies and let the picture develop later.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your art? Not really, other than a few technical aspects (like perspective), or sometimes, finding time for it.
What is your work schedule like when you’re making art? What schedule? Lol. I just do what I want to do when I have the time.
QUESTIONS ABOUT WRITING
When and why did you begin writing? Other than writing for school…I think I first wrote a story when I was 10 or 12. I used to tell my little sister bedtime stories, and I made up a story about the tooth fairy and mermaids, and some mischievous pixies that steal the tooth fairies teeth. I eventually tried to write it down. And when I was 13 or so, I tried to write a fantasy inspired by Narnia. It was terrible and I eventually threw it away (I greatly regret that. It would be so interesting now!). And when I was 15 or 16 I wrote a kids story about my 3 yr. old cousin and a village of stuffed animals (think Pooh Bear). And I then wrote a horrible allegory tale, inspired by reading Pilgrim’s Progress. Don’t ask me why, when I always found Pilgrim’s Progress incredibly boring…
When did you first consider yourself a writer? I’m not sure. It came on so gradual, I never realized it, I guess. I guess it was in high school. By the time I graduated I knew I wanted to write and illustrate picture books. I’ve yet to do either, but that’s where it started.
What inspired you to write your first book? NaNoWriMo. About halfway through it, my best friend started doing it, so I quickly whipped up an outline for a story idea I’d been plotting all summer. It was a time-travel fantasy with portals and Elves and a fantasy world. The plot was insipid, but there are bits and chapters in it that I think might be recycled someday, somehow. I only wrote 7 chapters (but I thought that was pretty good for two weeks work). It was enough to get me hooked on NaNoWriMo though. This year (2017) will be my 10th year.
Do you have a specific writing style? Well yes. I’m rather unconventional. I’m quirky, and chatty and opinionated. I love to use a narrator style and I live for moments when I can break the fourth wall. I know this isn’t a “popular” way to right, but my favorite books have this style, and I have the most fun when I don’t fight my natural inclinations. I’ve finally decided I will just be me and not worry about what’s popular.
Is there a message in your stories that you want readers to grasp? Again, I don’t start any of my creative projects with a theme. I have certain values and beliefs that are important to me, and I should hope they come through my stories. I want everyone to feel like they can create, I want everyone to know the love of God, I want to put more beauty in the world…
What books have influenced your life most? Narnia most of all, because it revealed to me the love of God and just how awesome he is, not to mention heaven (I mean is there anything more awesome than Aslan and His land? I think not).
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor? C. S. Lewis, Tolkien, Jane Austen and L.M. Montgomery. I don’t know if I can choose between them. C.S. Lewis gave me a love of magical spirituality. Tolkien gave me a fascination for Elves, languages, epic fantasy, and worldbuilding. Austen taught me the joys of romance, sarcasm, wit, longtailed words, and Regency England. As for L.M. Montgomery…ahh. Everything about my love of words, writing, imagination, the woods…I don’t know if she and her heroines (particularly Anne and Emily) gave me a love for these things or if she just called to something in my soul that I already loved, and I responded wholeheartedly.
What book are you reading now? I just finished The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede and may I just say I am SOOO jealous that I didn’t write them. Cimorene, the protagonist of the first book, is everything a fantasy heroine should be. I want to be more like her.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? New new or new to me? ‘Cause new to me: Patricia C. Wrede, Terry Pratchett, N.E. Bode, Patrice Kindl, Katie Cross, Kelsey Keating, Diana Wynn Jones, Catherynne M. Valente.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work? L.M. Montgomery. I love Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon. The imagination and love for writing, the descriptions of nature and love of home. Her amazing and hilarious character portrayals. I love every one of her books. One of the few writers I’ve obsessively collected every bit of work I could find.
What is the hardest part of writing for you? Actually doing it. I know plot, I know character, I know what I enjoy. The hard part is sitting down in on a regular basis and actually putting words down.
Do you have any advice for other writers? I have to say that from my own experience thus far…don’t get too serious about it. Whether you write for a hobby or a business, it doesn’t matter. Writing is something you love. It should be fun. If your stressing out about characters not acting right, dialogue sounding stiff, plots being contrived, words being corny…embrace the bad. Have fun with it. Remember its just first draft, it can be fixed, and so, for now, just see how awful you can make it. This is really odd advice I know. But seriously, if you make it a game to see how terrible you can make the writing, chances are you will not only make yourself laugh, but it will get you unstuck. And the main thing is to just enjoy the writing.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? Seek God, laugh a lot, love hard, scatter beauty all around, keep a mind that’s open to wonder and magic and miracles, and do whatever amazing, creative things you were put on this earth to do.
What books/authors have influenced your writing? Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, The Princess Bride, lots of old children’s classics, and several newer “lighthearted” children’s fantasies.
Do you ever experience writer’s block? Of course. There are many ways to combat it. It depends on what is causing the block. This seems like something that I could do a blog post on…
Do you write an outline before every book you write? I used to write outlines compulsively. The outcome is, I have tons of outlines and no books written or finished. Lately I’ve been more drawn to writing by the seat of my pants, or to plotting lightly and writing wherever the plot takes me. I also enjoy multitasking and working on several stories at once. Partly because I enjoy writing several different genres and age levels. It’s hard to choose one genre or niche to focus on for a while!
Have you ever hated something you wrote? Oh yes. Old journal entries, stories written as a kid, scenes in a novel…
What is your favourite theme/genre to write about? I’m torn between fantasy and romance. In fantasy I prefer lighthearted stuff, particularly for children. In romance I prefer what they call “sweet” romance, with Christian themes, and country settings.
While you were writing, did you ever feel as if you were one of the characters? My first romance attempt, “Dicy” was basically me. Sadly the plot was nonexistent and it’s the most boring thing I ever wrote. But I did love the character and I think I can reuse her in a new plot (though I no longer identify with her so much).
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? Writing every day is pretty much the hardest for me.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? Probably in high school, but I just remembered…I actually wrote my first “book” when I was ten. I called it “Meet Elizabeth” and modeled it after the American Girl books. My mom helped me type it into a booklet and I illustrated it. Later it won second place in our home-school group’s talent contest. I still have it. Anyway, maybe I’ve always wanted to be a writer, lol.
How long does it take you to write a book? *snort* that depends entirely on the book, how much I procrastinate, and whether or not, I’m using NaNoWriMo to write it.
What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? As said before about art, I haven’t any…but I do need one…
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books? Everywhere. The world is full of cool stuff. Just pick something and go!
When did you write your first book and how old were you? 20 I think, when I wrote Time Warrior. 12 when I wrote the Aryala piece (only a few pages, but I envisioned it as a novel).
What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Draw, read, watch movies, go outside, explore new hobbies, spend time with friends and family.
What does your family think of your writing? Everyone’s pretty supportive actually.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating a book? This is an interesting question because it makes me try to go back in my mind and try to remember how I felt when I first started writing seriously…I’ve thought and I’ve come up with something to share.
I was pleasantly surprised on my 2nd NaNo (the Dicy novel) by how much fun I had even when the writing itself was so awful. This story was set up for my heroine to be a storyteller collecting tales about her home. So I had it set up as so many Dicy chapters, a story, back to Dicy, a story, Dicy, a story, and Dicy again. In the last “inner story” I came in one night, super, super tired, but determined to write because I hadn’t that day and I didn’t want to get behind. My brain was not working but I started the story and accidentally dropped into omniscient point of view, broke the fourth wall, and wrote all kinds of stuff that the next morning I just found completely hilarious. What’s interesting now, looking back is…these things kind of make up the style I love to write in! Stuff that isn’t traditionally “popular” or “bestseller.” Moral of the story, be you and have fun, and worry about professionalism later when its time to edit and publish.
Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they? Keep learning, experimenting, reading…and don’t ever give up. Don’t just talk about writing…write. That’s the only way to get anywhere. Write!
What do you think makes a good story? A good sense of humor will keep me reading when all other aspects of plot are absent or weak. Also I have to like the main character.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up? Everything. Write, draw, act, be a spy. Lol.
What does your writing process look like? I procrastinate for a long time and do nothing (hence me saying to be a writer you must write. I fail to write regularly and my work suffers). Then inspiration or guilt or NaNo strikes and I will write regularly for days. I’ll have something done and a friend will help me edit. Then formatting. Ugh. Takes forever, but its nice when something is done!
Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)? Sorry to disappoint you but no. Not that I’m adverse to trying anything like that for the fun of it!
What book do you wish you could have written? Currently it’s the Fairyland series by Catherine Valente and the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend? I can’t say one way or the other. Sometimes I’ve had names and made characters to fit them. Sometimes I’ve changed a name a dozen times before it fits. Sometimes I surf the internet or consult a name book. For my character Kimdance Canderly I started with the desire to write a “present” story for two friends, and I got the mc’s name by mixing the two friends names together (Candace, Kimberly)
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment? Gee I don’t know. Deep question, and I feel a bit concerned that I don’t have an answer right off the bat!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Married with kids, creating and arting, writing, sharing my work, taking care of my family, loving my life!
If you didn’t like writing books, what would you do for a living? Obviously, art! Lol
Are you a plotter or a pantster? Used to be plotter who’s turning into a pantser
What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process? Formatting stories for publication and writing the ad copy for them.
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it? There might be a few but I hate to tell myself anything is off limits. It might turn out to be the very thing that needs to be addressed in one way or another!
Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Battle scenes bore me, so I try to avoid them if at all possible.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? I’ve always loved to read so I’ve always found writing awesome too.
What can we expect from you in the future? Well, basically, you can expect me to write more, publish more, share stuff more!
Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published? Take writing classes, find a teacher who can edit your work and show you how to get better, publish stuff and learn from the process…its not easy but its worth it!
Is there anything else you’d like to say? I’m glad I decided to do this interview for my blog and ebooks. It’s been very enlightening and fun! I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed doing it. J