Happy Sunday, Katy Lee here. I am very excited to have Leanna Ellis visiting with us today to share her story on how Plain Fear: Forsaken came to be. As an Inspirational writer, there are pretty strict guidelines to follow when writing for this market. One of them being, absolutely no vampires. But Leanna had a story to tell, so what was she to do?
Leanna Ellis is here to participate in the Scribes Spooky Theme Week to talk about a scary step she had to make. After all, taking the risk to blurr your market guidelines can be pretty scary. So please, give Leanna a warm welcome!
Happy Halloween! Oops! Did I say something wrong? Did you know that little phrase can be fairly controversial? There are certain camps regarding Halloween.There are those who embrace the holiday with all the gore and such and drape their houses in cobwebs. Then you’ve got those who allow their kids to dress up and enjoy the candy but no gory or other-worldly costumes. Then there’s the group that shuns the holiday because of its roots in paganism. So I didn’t mean to offend anyone by saying ‘Happy Halloween,’ but I just meant it as a friendly greeting. Like Halloween, we each have to figure out what is right for us and what is right for our families. And this is true in writing too.
In light of all of that, it seems very appropriate to discuss my current release, Plain Fear: Forsaken, which is a bit like Halloween, somewhat controversial. Some people may love the idea. Others may withhold judgment until they’ve heard more about it or even read it. And others will shun it just because of the subject matter. Just last week, I received this great review where the reviewer said, “Plain Fear Forsaken is a book that screams to be opened. It offers a fresh portrayal of vampires and their complex world, while taking readers on a journey of love and heartbreaking loss. This haunting tale is wonderfully written, with such intensity that you will not put it down.” Obviously a really nice review. Within an hour, I received an email from a reader who called my book, “Evil.” Did they read the same book? Apparently. But like Halloween, it’s not for every reader and it was a risk to write it, much less publish it.
Amish and vampires? Really? Yes, really. I’m asked a lot how this book came into being. Forsaken actually began as a joke. I was at a book signing and another author and I made a joke about we should write an Amish/vampire story because those were the two genres that were selling incredibly well. It really was a joke. I didn’t rush home and start writing the book. But I suppose some seed was planted in my warped little brain and took root. Soon a character was speaking to me about her story and wanting me to write it. But I resisted. However, there was a very intriguing element that I couldn’t seem to ignore. To me, this was a Phantom of the Opera type story, with a love triangle, and a clear dividing line between good and evil. So just playing around with the story idea, I wrote the prologue and first chapter. Then I set it aside because I was busy meeting other deadlines. Besides what was I to do with an Amish/vampire story?
Really, where would an Amish/vampire story ever fit? I was writing in the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) where Amish is very popular. Why couldn’t I write a traditional Amish book? Well, that’s just not how my brain works. I mentioned my story idea eventually to a couple of writer friends. They laughed but in a good way and encouraged me to write it. Well, I wasn’t so sure.
However, I was becoming obsessed with the story and very passionate when I spoke about it to anyone. I spent a lot of time in prayer over this book, because I didn’t want to write something that God didn’t want me to write. Also, I knew I’d have to leave the Christian market and sell it in the secular market. I wasn’t about to make that move without God’s clear direction. He began to show me in more ways than one that this was the book He wanted me to write.
More than a year passed, and I was at a writer’s conference minding my own business and not pursuing this story at all. An editor said the perfect submission would be…you guessed it! An Amish/vampire story. So I made an appointment to meet that editor and just talk about the idea. It almost felt like when an addict first admits she has a problem. I felt like I was teetering on the edge when I said, “I’m a writer and I’ve written an Amish/vampire story.” Well, she requested it.
Then I had to tell my agent about it. Thankfully, my agent loves the way my brain works. I caught her at the same conference and whispered to her that I’d had a request for a book I hadn’t even told her about. When I said, “Amish/vampire,” she laughed out loud in a joyful way. Gotta love an agent like that.
After she had read the prologue and first chapter, we had some serious discussions about ABA or CBA (secular or inspirational) and adult market or young adult. We both felt that in order to have a book about good versus evil, you have to be able to show evil and in the inspirational market I would be hindered in that way. I was once told that I couldn’t have a character say ‘pee.’ Really. Also, my agent and I decided that even though the heroine was young, the topics were adult. In YA novels, the characters are often in school and dealing with issues teenagers deal with. But in the Amish world, kids stop going to school at age 14. They’re making big decisions about their life much earlier than Englisch teenagers.
So began the submission process. Some editors got it, and some didn’t see how the two genres could ever be combined. Thankfully, Sourcebooks had a visionary editor, Peter Lynch who got it and gave Forsaken a chance. It’s honestly been great working with him, and I know God led me to this publisher.
What I love about this story is that it shows the battle of good and evil. Yep, I guess that reader did get part of the theme of the book. Evil doesn’t always appear with pitchfork and horns though. Quite often, evil is appealing and attractive and hooks us in before we realize what has happened. Such is the case with my heroine Hannah. She simply loved a boy. But she opens her heart and her mind too easily and the consequences could be devastating. Even though this story is published in the secular world, it has a powerful spiritual message, a message the world needs to hear.
In Plain Fear: Forsaken, Hannah Schmidt, a young Amish woman mourning the mysterious death of her beloved Jacob, must decide between two brothers, between good and evil. When she learns her first love is now the vampire Akiva, she must forsake him and cling to a new love, a lasting love, one that will save her soul.
Winner of the National Readers Choice Award, Leanna Ellis writes women’s fiction. Known for her quirky characters and wacky plots, don’t let the quirkiness fool you as Ellis probes deep in the heart and plucks at the heartstrings. She lives deep in the heart ofTexas with her husband and children and an assortment of dogs and cats, including her crazy labradoodle, aka Hilo Monster, and her new kitten, Sawyer.
To keep in touch with Leanna, you can find her at:
Leanna, thank you so much for sharing how Plain Fear: Forsaken came to be. Stepping out of your market can really be a scary thing to do. It’s a risk we are glad you took.
Readers: Leanna is giving away a free copy of her book to one lucky commenter who posts before 10/30/11 -11:59PM (EST) Good Luck!