A website dedicated to books in the Young Adult genre, featuring book reviews, author interviews contests and much more!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Guest Blogger: Leanna Renee Hieber, Author of The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker

I'd like to welcome Leanna Renee Hieber, author of The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, which will be released August 25th 2009. The book is a Victorian Gothic Paranormal tale filled with romance, ghosts and sure to be enjoyed by both teen and adult audiences!

I am thrilled to be here today talking about my new book, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker. It’s the first in my Strangely Beautiful series, a ghostly, Gothic Fantasy novel set in London, 1888. It’s very special to me, having traveled a 9 year journey to get to this point. I’m very excited about release day, next Tuesday! And I’m very excited to share some background about the book.

Allow me to set the scene:

(From the back cover):

What fortune awaited sweet, timid Percy Parker at Athens Academy? Considering how few of Queen Victoria’s Londoners knew of it, the great Romanesque fortress was dreadfully imposing, and little could Percy guess what lay inside. She had never met the powerful and mysterious Professor Alexi Rychman, knew nothing of the growing shadow, the Ripper and other supernatural terrors against which his coterie stood guard. She knew simply that she was different, haunted, with her snow-white hair, pearlescent skin and uncanny gifts. But this arched stone doorway offered a portal to a new life, an education far from the convent—and an invitation to an intimate yet dangerous dance at the threshold of life and death…

I was asked about the following themes and some of the research and inspiration that went into creating them, so here goes…

1. Greek Mythology

I loved Greek Mythology since I first heard of it in grade school. I memorized all the major Gods and Goddesses, but instead of being drawn to the most popular and powerful characters, I loved the smaller stories tinged with darkness like Pandora, or the quietly beautiful stories like Iris and the rainbow and Cupid and Psyche. I loved the Muses, the concept of a Phoenix, and most of all, I loved Persephone. I was so intensely curious about her. She haunted me like a ghost. I use only some parts of Greek Mythology in my work and invent a lot of non-traditional things. Like making the Phoenix a character more like an angel. I’ve invented new ideas on ancient themes. Inventing things is fun.

My idea of the Underworld was clear to me the moment I heard of it and it hasn’t changed since I read The Odyssey and the Iliad. It’s all wet stone, grey shadows and deep, deep darkness that while frightening, has a whispering allure. My Whisper-World, as I call it, will continue to be a setting in the rest of the series.

2. Victorian London

I have loved this era, the 19th century, forever. It was an odd thing to fall in love with as a kid, but I’ve been haunted by it for about as long as I can remember. It was a difficult era, a grandiose time, a civilized and uncivilized time (it sort of depended on where you fell in class lines and who had the power) and a time when some of my favourite books were written (Except for my very favourite books, the Harry Potter series).

Charles Dickens’ London was an early draw for me (I performed in Oliver Twist in school and loved it), as was Jane Austen’s England, and Bram Stoker’s London, and then particularly all the 19th century Gothic novels, from Wuthering Heights to The Phantom of the Opera, I was filled with inspirations from literature and that formed how I used the language in my own work. I studied the era in college, went on scholarship to London, and started adapting Victorian literature for the stage. The text of The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker is an adapted language too, because I’m writing for a modern audience. The publishers I targeted wanted the book to have a flavour of the time period and the language, not an exact representation.

I surrounded myself with research books for some of the societal details, but as my characters lead exceedingly unconventional lives, the constraints of society meets a load of supernatural conflict. And that was the most fun part for me to write, where real history and supernatural invention met!

3. Ghosts!

There are a ton of ghosts in this book. Most of them are real. As in real, documented London haunts. These ghosts are the spirits my Guard (basically, they’re Ghostbusters) patrol in London. The settings in which I use the Jack the Ripper murders are also documented, many of the details about the horrific crimes are factual (while my “Ripper” remains supernatural).

For these details I turned to a few resources. I went on the fabulous London Walks during my travels to England, led by talented tour guides who told incredible ghost stories and led the way to the sites and set the stage of the murders on the Jack the Ripper tour. I rely heavily on Richard Jones’ Haunted London. And one of the most helpful and comprehensive resources I found for Jack the Ripper research is http://www.casebook.org/.

If you want a front row seat to some great ghost stories, follow along my Strangely Beautiful Haunted London Blog tour starting tomorrow, 8/22 and find out all the real stories behind the ghosts I feature in the book. Each day a different ghost story and a chance to win a signed copy of the book! The schedule and links can be found at my website www.leannareneehieber.com, click on the Haunted London Blog Tour page! While you’re there, check out my Contest page for details on how to win one of two cool prizes starting release day, 8/25!

Thanks, Kim for the opportunity to be here at your lovely blog! I hope your readers will pick up the book next Tuesday! Strangely Beautiful blessings!

Leanna Renee

Award-Winning author Leanna Renee Hieber grew up in rural Ohio where childhood memories were full of inventing elaborate ghost stories. Graduating with a BFA in Theatre from Miami University, a focus in the Victorian Era and a scholarship to study in London helped set the course for her books. While performing in the regional theatre circuit, her short plays such as Favorite Lady, were published, produced, won awards and continue to be produced in colleges and festivals around the country. She has adapted works of Victorian literature for the professional stage.

She hit the fantasy fiction scene with her novella Dark Nest, winning the 2009 Prism Award for excellence in Futuristic, Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. THE STRANGELY BEAUTIFUL TALE OF MISS PERCY PARKER is the first in her Strangely Beautiful series of Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels published by Leisure Books/Dorchester Publishing.
Visit Leanna at her Official Website HERE.
Author photos by http://www.taraleigh.com/

Leanna has been so gracious as to offer one lucky winner the opportunity to win

a SIGNED copy of

The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker.

Please leave a COMMENT or QUESTION for Leanna about anything topic related to this post or her novel and you will be entered in the drawing!

The contest will run through September 10th 2009 and is open to US entrants only.

Thank You Leanna for taking the time to stop by and we wish you great success!


Jazz said...

Mythology, Victoriana, and ghosts. You've put three of my favorite things in one book so I must read it.

Leanna, why do you love the Persephone myth? I love it myself, and I've met many other women who say it is their favorite of the Greek myths. Lately I've begun to wonder why so many women love the myth when it is largely about being unable to break free of dominance without compromise.

donnas said...

I love Greek Mythology. Its cool to see aspects of it appear in books and cant wait to see how you interpret and use it.

bacchus76 at myself dot com

Cecelia said...

I'm ready for a wave of Victorian London to wash over YA lit. I think this book and the steampunk trend might just do it. Yay!

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

Hey Jazz!

We have the same favourite things, I think you'll like my book! :) The Persephone myth. Gosh. It's a complicated thing. I'm so intrigued by her and you're absolutely right, what the myth is about, at heart, troubles me. I couldn't speak for women as a whole but perhaps unconsciously women see themselves trapped by certain societal underworlds of sorts, having to make those same compromises in a dominant society and so there may be identification there? That's my wild theory of the night. :) Due to my issue and trouble with the myth, I have chosen to change it and write new endings to the old tales. Between books I and II you'll see how.

Hello Donnas!
I'm so glad you love the mythology like I do, I hope you'll like the way I thread it into Victorian England, Victorians were fascinated with it at the time as well, so I think it's an appropriate partnership.


Unknown said...

Hi Leanna! I am really impressed by the fact that this novel was NINE years in the making--that is true perseverance!! I'm curious- did your theatre background help to inspire and write the novel? Do you still act? I'm really looking forward to reading this novel.

Thanks Kim for featuring this great post. :)


Book Butterfly (Kim) said...

Hi Leanna- I'm curious as to what first sparked the idea for The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker? I love hearing about how a novel goes from a tiny "what if" to a published work!

-Kim :)

Tales of Whimsy said...

1. This sounds amazing.
2. I would love to be considered for the contest.
3. My question for the author: did you listen to music while writing this? If so, could you tell us a few of the songs that helped propel the book?


jpetroroy said...

Sounds great. I'd love to be considered. Have you incorporated Greek mythology into other stories that you've written? I've always been interested in Persephone, too.

throuthehaze said...

I absolutely love Greek mythology! I can't wait to read this book!
throuthehaze at gmail dot com

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

Leanna's response to questions part 1:

You and me both, I've ALWAYS been a lover of Victorian England and so if I'm suddenly "in" - I'll take it! I'm ready to ride the wave! :) Thanks!

Thank you! I felt every minute of that long period, but it's so much better now for the wait. As for theatre, I don't have time to pursue stage work while working on these novels as I'm trying to focus on one major project at a time, but absolutely yes, my theatre training helped me in many ways. My classes involving play analysis made me able to look at the dramatic builds, tensions and conflict within a scene and apply it. Training in characterization and inhabiting a character really led me to be able to feel like I was 'in the skin' of the characters, giving them quirks and details that I might give a character I was portraying on stage. I had a reviewer give me a great compliment in saying "she never forgot her characters" - because Percy is so pale and sensitive, she wears glasses, scarves and gloves to cover up, the reviewer appreciated that these items were never forgotten and continually were used and brought into play. I credit that to thinking of them as Percy's most important props, and as an actor you can't forget those items on you and around you.

Well I'd been really inspired by some amazing literature and art at the time (9 years ago!). I was working full-time as an intern for the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, surrounded by Shakespeare. In my down time was reading graphic novels and books by Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Neverwhere) and Alan Moore (From Hell), had just fallen into OBSESSION with Harry Potter and was rededicating myself to a childhood passion: 19th Century literature. I started adapting parts of Lewis Caroll's Alice in Wonderland and Looking Glass tales into a one-woman show, and I was watching my favourite Jane Austen films and re-runs of perhaps my favorite show ever, the X-files. So out of all this... stepped Percy, into my head. Like a ghost come to haunt me, she arrived late one night in the middle of the night. Death-pale and striking, she stepped into Professor Rychman's 19th Century office as he sat brooding at his desk, both of them dressed immaculately in Victorian garb, and Percy sweetly asked if I would write her story. I knew my life would never be the same once she entered it, honestly. She was so compelling and intriguing for me that I knew suddenly hers would be the story to launch me as a writer. I knew I had to know WHY she looked the way she did, and why she saw the visions she saw, and why there were so many ghosts! And that's where The Underworld and Greek Mythology come into play.

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

Leanna's response to questions part 2:


1. Thank you, you're awesome!
2. Music: Yes! I have to have music around me. While I'm writing I can't have music with lyrics on because it clashes with my words so I put on classical music like Dvorak and Tchaikovsky, the stuff that would have been "pop" music to my characters then. I also had piano music and soundtracks by composers like Phillip Glass (and the Harry Potter soundtracks). But for inspiration in between writing spells, I always turn to my beloved Goth music and my very favourite Goth band: VNV Nation. Some of their gorgeous songs, particularly "Beloved" have such incredible and inspiring lyrics, a whole part of the last part of the book is inspired by that song. Go on iTunes and check out that song! I love VNV Nation and try and see them play live whenever I can.


One of my first short stories I ever started submitting was a Persephone story that didn't go anywhere, I think because my better work was meant for this book. So far this is the only series where I'm using Mythological themes to this extent, however I'll always be inspired and drawn back to the characters in the Myths, I can't imagine I'm quite done with them as a whole. :) The Mythology will actually get a lot more intense when we get to Book III which is a prequel book.


I'm so glad, thanks for your excitement and thanks for dropping in!

I love your questions! Thanks everyone! Keep em' coming, I love getting a dialogue going and I'm thrilled you've gotten engaged!

MrsMixx said...

(i'm not entering the contest, i live in France)

This is a book i can't wait to read! A mix of Greek mythology in a Victorian setting how can i resist?! easy i can't! I'm so excited about this book.I've always loved the Persephone myth,i even did some papers for college on this ;)

I'm really glad to learn that there will be a sequel and a prequel to this book. Yes i know i haven't read it yet, but it's still good news.

Thank you for the interview and answering our questions, a lot of the questions i wanted to ask you were already asked and answered so this is really great

ReggieWrites said...

I can't wait to read this book! I hear such good things about it. A mix of mythology set in a Victorian background looks interesting...I've never read anything like it before. Can't wait!


Reggie :-)

mrsshukra said...

I'm a mythology fan, too and really look forward to reading Leanna's new book!



this is the second interview type posting i have read today and it looks like i am going to have to do a lot of internet searching to find the rest. you book has not only dropped onto my wish list, it has been moved further up. and i haven't even told my dh about it 'cause i haven't budgeted for it yet. you sound like so much fun and so does your book!

spvaughan yahoo com

Gaby317 said...

Your book sounds fascinating!

The research and preparation for the novel is impressive. I'm looking forward to visiting your blog for the Haunted London Blog Tour. Do you plot your book extensively before you begin writing? Or do you plot generally and develop the story as you go? Or do you not plot at all?

Are you currently working on something new?

gaby317nyc AT gmail DOT com

Unknown said...

Hi Kim and Leanna!

I've read several great review of this book, my interest is really peaked, I've already added it to my TBB list.

I love ghost stories or stories involving ghosts and making contact with ghost/influenced by ghost. Are you a pantzer or a plotter? I always love reading how the author comes to put their stories together.

Please enter me and I'll put contest on my sidebar at http://myblog2point0.blogspot.com/

Dottie :)

Ashley said...

Victorian London AND ghosts? Great combination! I can't wait to read this. And I loved the trailer - it really caught my attention. Congrats on your release!

Ashley said...

Please enter me in the drawing, too.

Leanna Renee Hieber said...


Thank you for being here! And thank you for being interested in the series, I love reading series myself so of course I had to write them as such! I'm glad I've answered your questions and sparked your interest!

Thank you! I'm really pleased that reviewers have said just what you said, that this book is unique and different, for those qualities you mentioned. Blessings!

Why thank you!

Hi there, I saw you over at Literary Escapism! Well keep following me and my contests and you may not have to budget, you may just win one! Drop over to my website: www.leannareneehieber.com and you can see the schedule to follow along on my Haunted London Blog Tour, there's a chance to win a book each day of the tour! Thank you so much for your interest, and your kind words, I'm having so much fun with this and I'm so glad it shows!! :)

Hey Gaby!
Great question!
I am what they call a "pantser" meaning I write by the seat of my pants. :) I have a general idea and arc, I know generally where I'm going but not exactly how I get there. I'm working on the next book in the Strangely Beautiful series, Book II is drafted complete, I'm working on Book III. There's a fourth book and if the series does well I can write a 5th and final book.

Hi Dottie! Thanks for stopping by, I'm glad you've seen my book, and thank you for posting the contest! I hope you'll drop by the Haunted London Blog tour too. And as I said to Gaby,
I'm a pantzer all the way!


Leanna Renee Hieber said...


Thank you! I made the trailer myself because I was so particular about the types of images I wanted to use, I'm really glad it caught your eye. And I'm glad you like the combination as much as I do!

Unknown said...

As I read through the three components which you intertwined in this book, I felt something unusual down deep inside me. I can't label what it was but it certainly was a sign that I should read this book.
I admire all the research that you did for the creation of this story. To integrate mythology, Victorian history and ghosts takes a special gift. I congratulate you!
All three elements are a fascination for me and I usually have to settle for books that cover the topics separately. Your book is the perfect blend.
Thanks for writing such a special book.

bstilwell12 AT comcast DOT net

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

what a gorgeous thing to say! I'm touched! That's the greatest compliment an author can get, that something about their story and subject matter has really reached and moved a reader. I am so glad you've found this book, then, like a kindred spirit, as I've always loved these elements so much, I'm thrilled to hear when others cherish them too. I hope you enjoy the series!

Kytaira said...

Percy went to school at a convent and now is going to an academy. I can easily see a Victorian girl going to a convent. Were there many women in higher education? I wouldn't have thought so or is there a story behind how she comes to the academy?

lynda98662 at yahoo dot com


i busted the budget...i just could not stand it! i ordered it. i am so easy. and of course i went to your site(s). i keep looking for the stories!
spvaughan yahoo com

Debs Desk said...

Please Include me in your giveaway.

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

Awesome question, you're right, not many women in higher education. Percy's convent doesn't know what do to with her, she's older than most who attend the academy but her dying mother instructed she be schooled. Athens Academy is in the Quaker model, they were the most progressive in many forms of social
reform, abolitionism against slavery, women getting the vote and getting educated. I felt I needed to back up what I needed to have happen in the story with a more plausible setting, thus the Quaker model.

You're a dear! I hope you enjoy it! It will be out in the stores on Tuesday, I promise! :)


if i win another copy, that's ok, i have two sisters that reproduced and their productions have reproduced so i have kids who would love getting a book.

Fellina Grose said...

I have heard nothing but great and wonderful things about this book! I would enjoy devouring it. :D

Unknown said...

This sounds wonderful. I was wondering, if you could be any mythological character, who would it be?


CherylS22 said...

I also enjoy reading books set in Victorian London & I share your fondness for Harry Potter! "The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker" looks like a fascinating book & one that I would enjoy reading (and I love the name Percy Parker!).
Thanks ~ megalon22{at}yahoo{dot}com

Amanda from Novel Addiction said...

Mythology! Ahhh, I love mythology. Also, this is a local author (at least she was!) and I'm super interested in checking the book out!

Please enter me! Thanks!
Morning Glow
ohmorningglow AT aol DOT com

Megan said...

I love mythology! It's so interesting. I can't wait to read this book.


Kimberly B. said...

I can't believe I've been following Leanna all over the net and hadn't posted here yet! The book sounds terrific!

van said...

This really sounds like a great book, i LOVE paranormal novels...victorian london and ghost, whats not to love!

littopandaxpress (at) yahoo (dot) com

Stormi said...

Sounds like a cool book.


Em said...

This book looks great, I'm excited to read about your take on Jack the Ripper (pretty twisted of me I'm sure, but don't you find the mystery around him fascinating?).
Please enter me.

Jennifer said...

Victorian London, ghosts, paranormal, bliss. What was it like going on the ghost tours in England. I have an image of it being scary but in a delightful way.
Thank you for this opportunity!

kalea_kane said...

Thank you for taking the time to pour out so much of yourself into this guest post. I imagine that your novel will be extraordinary if this is just a fraction of the attention you give to a project.

My question, mythology is obviously your central ingredient in what has inspired you, and I can totally appreciate your choices. I have always enjoyed the smaller characters, perhaps because they had so many real human characteristics. What is it about ghosts that brought them so high on your list of inspiration? Myself, I find again those human qualities are still slightly at the surface and of course the fact that these apparitions really did once touch this globe.

Thank you for taking the time to guest post. :)


Ladytink_534 said...

I've always thought Victorian London and it's literature were quite amazing as well! Ghosts and mythology are another awesome plus :)

Unknown said...

I would love to win a copy or this book. I have heard good things about it.
Leanna - Do you have plans for another book yet?

I have linked this contest to my blog.