Tidewaters of Virginia fuel Leah St. James’ gothic romances
Leah St. James is a worrier, a self-described neurotic who tends to imagine the worst-case scenario in response to brewing troubles. She hasn’t decided if this leaning toward the dark side is what draws her to write edgy, gritty stories, or if the suspenseful mysteries and gothic romances that filled her childhood bookshelves somehow imprinted their shadows on her psyche. Despite (or maybe because of) this propensity for infusing her writing with murder and mayhem, she still craves those happily-ever-after endings and the romance of everlasting love.
Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of two grown sons, Leah is a native of the Central Jersey Shore but now makes her home in the Tidewater area of Virginia. Her published works include Surrender to Sanctuary (2010, The Wild Rose Press; 2012 Edward Allen Publishing), novella Adrienne’s Ghost (2012, Edward Allen Publishing), and the award-winning short story Letter from Christine.
You can read more about Leah at www.leahstjames.com.
Connect with Leah on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.
Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?
First, thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to visit with you and your readers!
I didn't start writing (fiction) until my kids were well into their school-age years, and I spent years before that in all sorts of jobs – what I like to think of as author training. I've been a baker, a sewing machine operator, a sandwich-maker, a scopist/transcriptionist for court stenographers, legal secretary, administrative assistant, sales account manager…and I forget what else! I started writing at the encouragement of my husband and children, and I'm blessed that they are my biggest supporters.
A few years ago, we uprooted ourselves from my hometown at the Jersey Shore (Hey…no jokes! It's not like Jersey Shore on MTV, I promise!) and moved south to the warmer winters of southeastern Virginia. We love it here, and aside from missing New York-style pizza and bread, and our Jersey friends, we're starting to feel at home. I even almost said "y'all" instead of "you guys" the other day! But I stopped myself in mid-"y'a—," unable to finish. I guess it takes more than a change in geography to remove the "Jersey" from the "girl"!
Please tell us your latest news!
I'm really excited to tell everyone about a new book coming out this holiday season. It's called "Christmas Dance," and it's not like either of my other published books. It's a story about a man and a woman who become attracted to each other at a Christmas dance. The problem? They're married, to other people. The story explores the ups and downs of marriage and parenthood, and just why both can pose such challenges while offering the richest blessings. Ultimately it's a message of hope and love.
Do you plan all your characters out before you start a story or do they develop as you write?
I have to. To me, the characters drive the story. Until I know what my characters are going to do in any given situation, the plot is almost irrelevant. It defines what they'll say, how they'll say it, their mannerisms, their reactions…everything. The plot, to me, is the framework of the story, but the characters bring it to life.
How much research do you do for your books? Have you found any cool tidbits in your research?
The internet is a wonderful thing. Authors can go anywhere these days just by Googling a topic! I like incorporating detail in my stories, and I try to make sure that those details in my books are accurate, at least in the context of the story. At one point I was writing a hero who owned a yacht, so I spent tons of time online looking at luxury yachts…a fun chore! My first book (Surrender to Sanctuary, 2010) is about two FBI agents who go under cover in a BDSM club to solve a murder at the Jersey Shore. For that book, I spent hours (and hours…and hours) researching online – the people who live that lifestyle, the clothing styles, the rituals, even the equipment!
I think the "tidbit" I learned from that experience is that people will share pretty much anything online these days – photos, blogs/journals, how-to manuals. If you need information, it's there for the taking.
Do you have a ritual when it comes to writing? Example….get coffee, blanket, paper, pen and a comfy place.
I'm a creature of habit, and methodical at the same time. I have to have one task complete in my head before I can move to the next. For writing, if I have a to-do list hanging in my head, I can't focus enough on the story until all my items are checked off, at least mentally. That means reading e-mail, working out, making my lunch, all before sitting down to write….which is probably why I don’t have more books written!
What main genre do you write in?
I started out writing romantic suspense because that's my favorite to read. But after a while, I felt constricted by the rules of the genre (meaning the rules imposed by publishers). I love a happy-ever-after ending, too, but sometimes it might take two or three books to reach that ending. Right now, I can't say that I write in a main genre, but most of my stories will feature romantic love in some form. I like to tackle tough subjects, too, maybe give the readers something to think about.
What is the best and worst advice you have ever received?
The best advice – Join a writers' group. I've found that writers are enormously generous with each other. They share tips and advice. They encourage and cheer. And they help boost each other up when they're feeling down. I don't get to spend face time with other writers too often, but when I do, I always leave excited and pumped about this career we've chosen.
The worst advice – Write (only) what you know. Let's face it, fiction is fantasy, in one form or another. If George Lucas had listened to that advice, he wouldn't have written Star Wars.
Current release details: If you could be one of your characters - Who would you be? And why?
I would love to be the heroine in my new release (Alexandra) because she's fearless (except when it comes to driving in snow – she's a southern girl living in Jersey J). She decides what she wants and she goes after it, even if she knows it could be a huge mistake. Plus she's filthy rich, and I'd love to give that a try at some point. <grin>
When you have writer's block how do you break free?
That's an easy one! Usually writer's block strikes me over a plot point – when I can't figure out how to get from point A to point B. When that happens, I talk it out with my husband. He's one of those annoying people who guesses plots to movies and TV shows within the first five minutes. (Thankfully the kids and I have trained him now to keep his thoughts to himself, at least until the rest of us can catch up!) So when I'm stuck, a few minutes brainstorming with him usually gets me started again.
What would be the best way for readers to contact you? Do you have a website? Email address? MySpace site? Blog? Message Board? Group?
Probably the best way for readers to contact me directly is via e-mail – firstname.lastname@example.org. I always read e-mail and try to respond within a day at most. I also have a website (www.leahstjames.com) and am on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Pinterest.as Leah St. James. I love meeting readers anywhere though!
The second Wednesday of every month, you can find me blogging about "Mind Games," some real-life things people do and say that are stranger than fiction, at http://www.wordswomenwisdomw3.blogspot.com/
Alexandra Anderson has a loving husband who provides for her every need, a beautiful home in the suburbs, and money to fulfill her slightest whim. But after a lonely childhood, what she wants more than anything is a baby, a family of her own.
Sam Herrmann is married to his college sweetheart, and together they have three healthy, boisterous boys. Sam spends his days running numbers as a government accountant, and his nights and weekends trying to keep up with the grueling family schedule set by his wife – a wife he can barely remember.
What happens when two married people take a look at the perfect lives they've created and decide it's not enough? What happens when those same two people catch the eye of a stranger, and like what they see?
A story of love and marriage.
A story of hope.
Coming Holiday 2012