The Writing Life: An Interview with Author Bonnie Leon

Welcome, readers! I’m excited to share a special treat with you today. I managed to score an interview with Bonnie Leon, my mentor and a fantastic author of both historical and contemporary Christian romances. Before we dive into the interview, here’s a bit more about her:

Bonnie Leon is the author of twenty-one untitled1novels, including the recently released In the Land of White Nights, the popular Alaskan Skies and bestselling The Journey of Eleven Moons.
Bonnie’s books are being read internationally and she hears from readers in Australia, Europe, and even Africa.
She enjoys speaking for women’s groups and teaching at writing seminars and conventions and especially delights in mentoring young authors. These days, her time is filled with writing, being a grandmother and relishing precious time with her aged mother.
Bonnie and her husband, Greg, live in Southern Oregon. They have three grown children and eight grandchildren.

Taylor: Hi Bonnie, thanks so much for joining me today! You’ve been such a help to me throughout my writing journey; I’m excited to get to chat with you. I know how busy you are so I appreciate you taking the time to talk about life as a writer. For starters, how did you start writing?
Bonnie: I love to share how God led me into the world of writing.
I’ve always been an avid reader but never considered writing books, at least not until my
late 30’s when I was gripped by a compulsion to put my thoughts down on paper. I filled
legal pads with poems, personal experiences, and short fiction stories. It was great fun.
One day, a friend suggested I attend a local writing work shop. I was seriously nervous,
but I went and enjoyed it. One of the teaching authors made a point of telling me how
much she enjoyed my writing and encouraged me to continue. That was a thrilling
moment.
A few weeks later my van was hit by a loaded log truck that tipped over on a curve on
one of our country roads. I survived, but was left with permanent injuries and spent the
months following seeing doctors and trying numerous therapies, hoping for relief from
chronic pain and disability. In the end, I was told I wasn’t going to get better. The life I’d
loved as a full time mother and farm wife was over. I sank into depression, wondering
what I was going to do with my life. I prayed and asked God to give me something to do
that mattered. He gave me writing.
God opened every door and somehow I found the courage to step through each one. I was offered a scholarship to a four-day writing conference and although I was in a great deal of pain I decided that if God had provided I needed to trust Him.
The conference was amazing and like a dry sponge, dropped into a mountain lake, I
soaked up all the knowledge and guidance I could. I returned a year later with my first
book. A requisitions editor for Thomas Nelson Publishing took a look at that first effort
and loved it. She pitched it to her publisher and they bought it.
That’s how it began, and I’ve been writing all these years. It has been an honor and a gift.

T: Wow, what a testimony! God turned tragedy into triumph—you’ve written so many amazing books. Where do you get your inspiration?
B: The backgrounds and plot ideas often come from real life. History is like a gourmet meal of story ideas. The struggles my characters face are often lifted right out of history. And some of them come from my own life experiences. My mind seems to always be in the “on” position and ideas for new stories pop up even when I don’t want them to. I will
have to retire one day, but I’ll never write all the stories I want to tell.

T: I know the feeling…sometimes my brain gets flooded with ideas for stories. I’m still not sure how I’ll find the time to put all of them down on paper 🙂
Speaking of time, I really admire your ability to tackle so many challenging edits and revisions. How do you stay focused during a tight timeline?
B: Often it’s nothing more than force of will. It’s tougher now that I’m a senior citizen.
When I was young I had plenty of energy and when on deadline could work 12 – 14 hour
days. No longer. Now I have to be more disciplined and report to work every day whether I feel like it or not. It has to be treated as a job.
Above that, it is my faith that helps me push through a tough edit. Sometimes my
insecurities can get stirred up and it’s not easy to see “my baby” criticized, chopped up,
shifted and revised. But I’ve learned that edits are good and good editors push writers to
do better. When I feel worn out or discouraged I remind myself that this path was laid out for me by God and He’s walking it with me. If I allow Him to lead me down the path of His choosing all will be well, even if when it’s not easy.

T: Writing really isn’t as simple as whipping out a fountain pen and scribbling down a smattering of words, is it? There’s prewriting, first drafting, editing, proofing…what do you like to do to relax?
B: I enjoy movies. So, if I have time off I love to get comfy on my sofa with a quilt and
watch a good movie. My favorites are feel-good true life stories. On a summer’s day I
can’t think of anything better than going fishing on a high mountain lake, and working in my garden and getting my hands dirty while nurturing plants (veggies are my favorite) is restorative. My husband is building some raised beds that will make it possible for me to sit on a chair while I work in the garden. I’m married to a loving man. :)

T: Sounds like you’ve found some great ways to relax and recharge! Of course, even during the crazy times, God is always there to uplift us. Do you have a favorite Bible verse? What makes it special to you?
B: There are so many amazing scriptures. But two come to mind right off.
Isaiah 40:28-31 reminds me that God is my strength. And Jeremiah 29:11 – 13 comforts
me. When I pray God listens and His plans are always what is best for me, and if I seek
Him I will find Him. Such amazing promises.

T: Those are such powerful verses. Jeremiah 29:11 is a favorite of mine, as well. It is so amazing that God always has our future planned out for us!
Something that makes your books so fantastic is your amazing sense of place…you’ve picked some intriguing settings—Communist Russia, Alaska, even an RV traveling cross country! Do you go on research trips to learn more about these places or do you stock up on guidebooks before writing?
B: I love to go on research trips, but I can’t always visit the places I write about. When that happens I rely on books, magazines, videos, and internet sites. And I always look for
experts, people who have been to the places I write about and have experienced what my characters are going through. One of my favorite memories, while doing research, is an evening I spent with four old-timer’s who used to mine coal in a small town called Black Diamond in the state of Washington. We sat around an oak dining table and I put a tape recorder in the middle of that table and tossed out a few questions. We were off and
running as the stories poured out. It was a precious time and I learned a great deal.
The most fun research trip was one I took for a book called To Dance With Dolphins. My
husband and I traveled across the country, 8,000 miles in three weeks. We visited all the
places my characters traveled in the book. My quirky and lovable characters had trouble
in the Rocky Mountains, and adventures in Branson, Missouri, eye-opening encounters in Kentucky and Nashville, and a life-changing encounter in the waters of Panama City
Beach, Florida, plus a few spectacular days at the south ridge of the Grand Canyon.
It was a time of discovery for me. Our country offers a huge variety of spectacular
landscapes, small and big towns, mining communities, and beauty beyond description. I
hope to make another trip sometime in 2017.

T: Ah, the perks of being a writer…that trip sounds amazing! I could chat with you all day but I’m sure you’ve got another manuscript to work on. Thank you so much for your time, Bonnie.
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Readers, before you go, don’t forget to check out Bonnie’s latest book, Return to the Misty Shore. It releases on April 15th , so be sure to pre-order your copy now! Or you can check back here on Friday and enter a special giveaway. 🙂
You can also connect with Bonnie on her Facebook page, web site,  blog, Twitter, or on Pinterest.
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