Bonnie Leon’s interview

» Posted on Aug 1, 2007 in Blog | Comments Off on Bonnie Leon’s interview

Don’t forget to email ( me by Sunday evening if you want a chance to win Bonnie’s book.

1. What made you start writing?
I’ve always loved to read, but never saw myself as a writer. Out of the blue in 1989/90 I was gripped by a compulsion to write. I started putting poems, vignettes, personal experiences and short stories down on legal pads. I didn’t know where any of it was taking me, but I just had to get my thoughts down.

All that changed in 1991 when I was in a terrible auto accident (a close encounter with a log truck) and was left with little of my former life. I couldn’t take care of myself without help, I couldn’t do the everyday things I’d always taken for granted and spent most of my days propped up on pillows on my sofa. My husband and children took on my responsibilities.

I was devastated and more than a little depressed. One day in desperation, I asked God to give me something, anything to do that mattered.

At that time, I could sit for about 30 minutes at a stretch and so I started writing. After receiving an invitation and a scholarship to the Oregon Christian Writer’s Summer Conference I gathered up my courage and attended. I learned enough in four days to write my first book, which I sold the following summer at the next conference. I was stunned. I’ve been writing ever since.

I live with chronic pain, but God has been good to me; I can now do more than my doctor’s ever expected, including spending hours at my computer (with lots of breaks).

2. How long have you been writing? When did you sell your first book?

I think the first thing I ever wrote as an adult was in 1978. I’d been thinking about my dad who had died in 1975 and I was missing him. He was a one-of-a-kind guy so I wrote about him and how his life had impacted mine. When I finished, I reread what I’d put down on paper and was surprised—it was pretty good (for a beginner).

I didn’t begin writing in earnest until 1989/90 when the writing bug hit me. And after my first conference I wrote to publish.
My first book, the Journey of Eleven Moons, sold to Thomas Nelson Publishing in 1993. I was stunned. It was my first attempt at novel writing and sold to the first publishing house who looked at it.
3. How do you handle rejections?

Rejections are never easy. What I send out feels like my baby so . . . shouldn’t every publishing house love it like I do? Not so.

I’m facing that now with a new book idea. It’s very important to me and is a story I long to tell. The first publishing house to look at it said, “No.” It’s being shopped around and I’m praying it will find a good home. If that doesn’t happen, I have to trust God and His timing. He knows the big picture. I don’t. He has a plan for my life and His ways are always the best for me.

4. Why do you write?

Primarily because I love to write—the process still astounds me. I don’t know where ideas come from—they just appear in my mind. What fun! And sometimes when I read something I’ve written, I can’t believe I wrote it.

I also believe God opened the door for me to write and I ought to walk through His open doors. I see my writing as a ministry. I’ve heard from many readers who have been encouraged or have found forgiveness or a new direction for their lives because of something they read in one of my books. It’s a huge encouragement to know that something I’m doing offers hope to others.

5. What would you be doing with your free time if you weren’t writing?

I recently stepped down as the deacon of women’s ministries in my church because of time constraints. There just aren’t enough hours in a day to do both full-time writing and women’s ministry and do them well. If I weren’t writing, I’d step back into women’s ministries. I love working with other ladies.

I’d spend more time with my family and friends. I’d be raising chickens and goats and doing some canning. My house would definitely be cleaner. I’d also like to take an art class and a sewing class. I’ve always wanted to do that. And photograph is a hobby of mine that I’d like to do more with.

6. What are you working on right now?

I’m presently finishing the third book in the Sydney Cove Series. I’m only a couple of weeks from completion. I’ve really enjoyed this series and will miss my characters.

I also have a proposal for my first contemporary making the rounds of the publishing houses. It is very different from anything I’ve done before, but it is a story from my heart. I hope to be moving on to that project next.

7. Do you put yourself into your books/characters?

When I was offered a contract for my first book I considered not signing. I wasn’t sure how I felt about exposing myself to readers. My love for writing and a belief that God had asked me to write persuaded me to go ahead and sign.

Readers get a glimpse of who I am when they read my stories. How I see the world is influenced by my life experiences and my own perceptions, therefore who I am has an impact on my characters and it effects what ends up on the pages of my books. I haven’t purposely created a character fashioned after me, but pieces of me or those I know well show up in lots of characters.

8. Tell us about the book you have out right now.

It is the first in a three-book series and opens in 1804 London. I’ve enjoyed my time with Hannah Talbot and John Bradshaw and the cast of other characters. I’m going to miss them.

I’ll include a description for you —

Hannah Talbot has no one. Forced to leave the only home she’s ever known, she works for a cruel employer who brutally takes the one thing she has left—her dignity. When she is banished from London, she is certain God has turned his back on her.

John Bradshaw was a successful businessman whose untamed spirit sometimes wanted more. When he is betrayed by those closest to him, he loses everything—his wife, his business, even his freedom.

John’s and Hannah’s paths are about to cross. Aboard a ghastly, nineteenth-century prison ship from London to Australia, John and Hannah must keep hope alive and trust God’s unconditional love.

9. Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write because you love it, not for money or fame. Those may come, but they can’t be what compels you to write. Often, the road is long and rutted, and it’s never easy. The only thing that can keep you planted in your chair is a passion for writing and storytelling.

There will be challenges and when you receive a rejection or a tough critique it sometimes hurts. That’s part of the journey, for all writers. But taking the journey strengthens who we are and what we write.

With all the ups and downs writing is still a fabulous gift, so enjoy it.

10. How important is faith in your books?

My faith is a large part of what I write. It’s what comes out of me. I hope my characters aren’t preachy, but I do want them to convey truth to readers. I try to show that by creating real people in real situations and that God is in the middle of it all. I hope to demonstrate the goodness and power of God and to bolster struggling Christians and to introduce Christ to those who don’t know Him.

11. What themes do you like to write about?

Something that comes out often in my books is that God is big, bigger than we can comprehend. We often forget how powerful He is.

My stories often include reminders that God is always present in our lives even when it doesn’t feel like he is. Or maybe especially when it doesn’t seem like he is.

And that we can trust Him in every situation. He sees the beginning and the end. He is the God of the universe and knows better than I what ought to come next.

12. What is your favorite book you’ve written and why?

That is a really tough question. It would be easier to ask me which is my least favorite. There are things I like and don’t like in all my stories.

Being a writer is a growing experience. I don’t think my earlier books are as well written as my more recent ones, but I do love the stories. My first book, “The Journey of Eleven Moons” is one of my favorite stories (although I’d like to take a red pen to it). It is a simple story of faith. And I think I captured the native spirit in the book.

The Sowers Trilogy is probably my favorite series because of the people it is about. When I did my research I was stunned at what the Russian people lived through (20 million didn’t live, by the way) and the strength it took to survive. The books have a dual plot line—one in Russia, the other in the United States. Here in the U.S. the 1930’s were considered one of our darkest times and yet, in comparison to what was taking place in Russia at the same time it was brightly lit. God was alive and well, people loved and helped one another. In Russia the oppression was heavy and neighbor was set against neighbor. The parallel of evil and good is startling when the stories are set side-by-side.

13. You are a speaker. What is your favorite subject to teach writers?

I love teaching general fiction. I teach a class that takes the students through the process—from story idea to completed novel.


It is so great to see students come into a class, feeling uncertain, and not sure they should even be there. And then to see them blossom as they learn. I often see the light go on in students’ minds and they realize they can do it. All they needed were some simple tools. That always thrills me.

14. What is your writing schedule like?

I try to be up between 6:00 and 7:00 AM Monday – Friday. That way I can have my quiet time with the Lord before I begin working. I feel good if I am at my desk by 9:00 AM.

I usually begin by taking care of business details and then either create a new chapter or edit a fairly new chapter. I break for lunch and then go back to work by 1:00 PM and work on the final stages of editing chapters, and preparing a chapter for my critique group.

I often work nights because there are so many other things to take care of—research, promotional work, such as interviews like this or speeches to write or workshops to create. There’s a lot of tasks that have nothing to do with writing. But its all part of the process.

When I’m on schedule and staying focused I manage to take weekends off. However, when I’m on a deadline, all bets are off on the number of hours I have to put in.

15. I’ve noticed you have several three-book series for your historicals. How hard is it to plan a series instead of just one book? What are some things you have to do you don’t in a single book?

Interesting you should ask that. Some of my series began with the idea of being a single book and at the publishers request I created more to follow.

For me it’s tougher to write series than single books. I’ve got to keep readers interested in the story throughout a series. If there’s a romance involved, it’s an even tougher challenge. And at the beginning of book two and three you’ve got to bring readers up to date about the story and the characters without being obvious about it. It’s a challenge, but the Lord always give me an idea that works.

One of the pluses about series is that you have more time to create a story. Also by the time I’m in book two and three I know my characters, and the time and place so well, the writing flows more easily.