Good morning everyone. Today we are featuring one of our very own! Author Leslie Soule is a Coffee House author, and I am so happy we get to showcase her talents today. “Fallenwood” is her first full length published novel and will be out soon with Decadent Publishing, yeah Leslie!
Hi Leslie, my name is Lori (Lototy here at CTR), and I am really looking forward to getting to speak with you for the first time. Will you give us a bit of background on what your life is like in beautiful Sacramento, and have you always lived in this area?
Hey there Lori! Well, Sacramento is a nice place to live. I’ve lived here my whole life except for summers spent in Chico with my dad when I was little. I live in Rio Linda, which is in the north Sac area and it’s kind of a rural area. I work full-time for the state and I love living with my awesome roommate. She’s got two dogs and four cats, which is great for someone who loves animals as much as I do.
I see that you also practice martial arts. What form of martial arts do you study, and what affect do you feel this discipline has on your work?
I’m a black belt in a Korean martial art called Tae Kuk Mu Sul. It’s a style that my grandmaster founded and it’s like taekwondo but incorporates a lot of flowing movements. I’ve also taken Judo and I have a friend who shows me Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. I definitely think that the discipline involved in martial arts has helped me in my writing because it gives me the perseverance to keep going when I hit obstacles and makes me realize that even if I hit snags, I know that if I keep going, I’ll be able to get past them eventually. Martial arts works like that because as you’re working up through the belt ranks, you hit rough spots and have to force yourself to keep practicing.
Your art must be a huge part of your life, and after viewing your paintings on your site, I can see that there is a similarity between those and your written work. The elements of magic, mysticism, and old world lore come through in everything you do. What first started your fascination with mythology, and do you ever paint scenes or characters from your books to help in visualization?
Well, when I was very little, my mother would tell my sisters and I bedtime stories. My mother was fascinated with Greek and Roman mythology, and she would tell us mythological stories before we went to sleep at night. I think this is what originally started my fascination with mythology. Later on, I took a mythology class in high school and absolutely loved it. I liked it so much that I began to do a lot of research on my own about mythological stories.
As for painting characters from my stories, I actually haven’t tried yet. I’ve commissioned a lot of artwork of my characters from other people. One of these days, I’ll have to give it a go and try painting scenes and characters. I do have a couple of sketches I drew on receipt tape way back when I was first gathering concepts for Fallenwood.
Not to toot our own horn, but I will! I think Coffee Time is one of the best sites that I have ever found that features everyone from brand new to well established authors and works in every genre. How is it that you came to be part of the CTR family, and what do you feel is different about our site compared to others?
Well, I had my first short story, “The Devil’s Bidding” picked up by Decadent Publishing and I submitted it to a bunch of different sites, looking for reviews. Review sites were posted on the author discussion group and I’d had no experience with hunting for reviews before. It’s silly to write this, but I do Google searches sometimes on “The Devil’s Bidding” and on my stepfather’s novel “The Temple of the Heart” to see what comes up. That’s how I found out that reviewers from Coffee Time Romance had reviewed both of these works. Ever since I found the site, I’ve loved it! I really like that I bought one of the packages that gives me a forum on the Coffee Time site. It’s really hard to find a good discussion board to use on a website, and the Coffee Time forum is one of the things I really like having. I think it’s great that you can post the cover on your review and have it up for the rest of eternity. That’s another great, unique thing about Coffee Time. I could really go on and on about how great the site is.
Writing fantasy must seem like the most amazing way to let your imagination just run wild. Do you feel that you have found your perfect niche, and how did “Fallenwood” evolve from those feelings?
Yeah, I really do feel like I’ve found my perfect niche with fantasy. Well, my stepfather introduced me to The Lord of the Rings, and that’s where I discovered that fantasy stories can also be intensely meaningful. Also, I’ve always loved adventure stories and with Fallenwood, I wanted to write a story that included things I’ve been fascinated with since I was a child – the medieval period, court jesters, animals, and gypsies.
I feel like “Fallenwood” is not your typical fantasy or fairy tale. There is definitely a much darker thread that is woven into the story and its characters. The main character Ash is the perfect example. How hard is it to build a character whose grief and depression could easily overshadow her entire personality?
I set out to write Fallenwood because I wanted to find a way to make sense of all the feelings I was going through after my stepfather’s death from diabetes. It was really hard to keep Ash from being completely consumed by her grief, because I was totally devastated when my stepfather died. I think this is the reason for the point of view changes in the story. If I’d kept the entire thing in Ash’s point of view, the grief and depression she is going through might overwhelm the reader.
Your grasp on her feelings is so easily identifiable. How do you study the human psyche in order to convey such raw emotion, and what resources do you find to be the most helpful?
Thanks! I think my grasp on her feelings and it being identifiable comes from Ash being a reflection of what I was going through when my stepfather died. I really don’t study the human psyche. Instead, I base my characters on real people that I’ve met in my life and that seems to give them the needed depth. Greymalkin is based on aspects of my stepfather’s personality. I based Will on a martial arts friend of mine and into Prince Edward I’ve channeled some of the anger and hurt that I experienced in the process of growing up. At times, I tend to be melodramatic and that’s where Terces comes from. Akaji is based on an ex-boyfriend of mine. This makes it a whole lot easier to figure out how they’d act and what they would say.
Will Everett is the magician who comes to Ash’s aid, and in my opinion is truly the unsung hero of this story. Did you intend for him to be so, and will he feature prominently in any upcoming sequels?
Well, I definitely think he’s the unsung hero of the story. He’ll definitely feature prominently in upcoming sequels. Originally though, I just meant for him to be a protective mentor figure for Ash.
Ash’s self-deprecation follows her throughout this story, and time and again it makes her second guess herself and her actions. I found this element of her personality to be very realistic, and as sad as it is, I am glad you did not turn her into Miss Mary Sunshine just to keep readers happy. Is this a struggle you face whenever writing something that has a definite feeling of gloom running through it, and how do you balance these emotions for your readers?
Yes, it is definitely a struggle to make the work and the feelings realistic without being too gloomy. I wrote about her second-guessing herself, because I’ve done that so much in life. I keep a journal and when I would go through my writings, it seems that’s all I’d be doing sometimes – second guessing the choices I’d made in life. In Fallenwood, I’ve tried to balance out the gloom by adding in lighthearted chapters. My editors sometimes questioned the inclusion of these chapters, but I knew that the work desperately needed some comic relief now and again so it wouldn’t be so overwhelming.
Prince Edward faces his own dilemma with the threat of war looming menacingly. His brashness and immaturity put him in his current predicament, but you can tell that with maturity has come dignity and honor. I like how his armor is a bit tarnished, and he does not necessarily fit the mold of Prince Charming. Do you often strive for this diversity in your characters, or do they make themselves known without your consent?
They just sort of make themselves known without my consent a lot of the time, really. I like my characters to have some tarnish on them and to not be perfect, but much of the time it’s due to “happy accidents” that my muse creates.
“Fallenwood” is a wonderful launch for what feels like an epic saga. Can you give us a hint to what is in the works for Ash and her band of brothers in arms? And what other stories may be on the horizon for readers to keep a look out for?
Well, Fallenwood is a reflection of the difficult things I’ve experienced in my life’s journey thus far. Fallenwood’s main theme is death and how to make sense of it. With the sequel, the focus is going to be on the idea of “losing yourself” and what that involves. Our band of heroes is going to make a comeback, but I’ve only started writing the sequel, and I don’t yet know how it’s going to go – my muse is a wily one and the entire story doesn’t come all at once, so it’s a surprise even to me! But keep an eye out for Fallenwood II: The Other Realm.
Our time here is nearly done, and I want to thank you for such an exciting and intriguing read! I am really looking forward to reading more from “Fallenwood”, as well as the short stories that you have available and in the works. Thank you for your time and your insight into the world of fantasy!