AUTHOR INTERVIEW 50

E M Richmond is a pen name

My name is Leanne Warr

I live in New Zealand

I’m 49

I’ve worn many hats over the years, from journalist to customer service rep. Writing has always been my passion but I also love to work with technology. I’m far from an expert at it. 

I grew up in a small city near the bottom of the North Island of New Zealand, otherwise known to Lord of the Rings fans as Middle Earth. I left my hometown for a few years but returned to it to be closer to family.

Palmerston North is the biggest centre in the province of the Manawatu. While there are many beautiful parts of the country to visit, I love the fact that wherever I go in the city, I can get a good view of the Ruahine and Tararua Ranges. As much as I hate winter time, when the snow falls on the ranges it’s quite picturesque. The city is situated in a valley and snow down to that level is fairly rare. 

I began writing in my teens. I think I had always been fairly proficient at making up stories and English was one of my favourite subjects in high school.  Never really athletic, I preferred academic activities rather than sports.

I realised my gift with words through an assignment to write poetry. My teacher encouraged me to develop this gift and I embraced it with a passion. Painfully shy as a child, I found it a great way to express myself. Often my fellow students would see me scribbling in a notebook. I have been doing that ever since. 

Writing has also been cathartic. My life hasn’t been an easy one with a lot of ups and downs. Losing myself in the different worlds I entered through my writing helped me deal with many personal issues, including mental health. 

I consider myself a depression fighter, rather than a sufferer and at times it seems a never-ending battle. If there was a badge for being a survivor of this horrible illness, I would wear it proudly. I refuse to be ashamed of my illness even though it is damned exhausting at times and makes me want to hide or refuse to have anything to do with the rest of the world. Not through shame but through frustration. Sadly, there is still a large percentage of the world’s population that remains ignorant as to the true nature of this illness. As many of us say, if we could show physical symptoms of our battle the way others show theirs, people would not be so quick to judge or dismiss it.

I attended Massey University in the first half of the 1990s and earned a Bachelor of Arts. Through that I was able to explore my love of history and literature. I also earned a Bachelor of Communication Studies from AUT University in Auckland. Those degrees led me to working for a number of newspapers as a reporter.

While working for one of those papers, I won an award. It was for BP Surf Rescue Best Story in Print, 2008. Maybe it’s not as prestigious as a Canon Award, but I was still proud of the award and the story that won me that award. 

Sadly, I am not working as a journalist now, but after leaving the newspaper world behind I discovered the world of fan fiction. 

Fan fiction is stories based on tv series revolving around the characters. Sometimes that meant inserting an original character in the story but most of the time for me it was exploring alternate storylines.

I must confess it was one show in particular that I began writing for. I still love this show, despite its many flaws. I could not say what it was about it that drew me to it. Maybe it was the main character and his eventual nemesis – I certainly found myself relating to them in many ways. Or it might have been my way of ‘fixing’ what I felt was wrong. There were times when watching an episode was like watching a train wreck.

I was certainly not alone in my view. As I discovered, the fandom was quite large, although there are other shows that have bigger fandoms, obviously. Writing the fanfics and posting them in online communities introduced me to people around the world and through their encouraging words, I was able to work through a very rough period in my life and I began to believe in myself again, as well as my writing. 

Thanks to those friends, I picked up a novel idea I had been working on for about fifteen years. I chose a pen name as my author name and self-published the novel in March 2014. I have since written a few more. 

I am an avid reader and am a fan of various genres. I’ve always enjoyed classics like The Black Stallion, Black Beauty, The Count of Monte Cristo. I have not read a lot of New Zealand authors, sadly, but there is one book written by a NZ author that has always remained a favourite. That one is The Changeover by Margaret Mahy. 

I’ve always been a huge fan of crime fiction. As a child, my favourites were the Famous Five or Secret Seven by Enid Blyton. Then I found Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and Trixie Belden series. I still have a fondness for these even though I cringe at the writing. It was hardly Shakespeare. 

In my teens, I began watching a tv series called Spenser: For Hire. I learnt it was based on a series of novels by American author Robert B Parker. I went looking for the books and you could say I fell in love with Spenser. He was hard and tough with a soft spot for the love of his life and an intellectual wit that appealed to the brainbox in me. 

I also profess a love for science fiction writing, but while I have had ideas, I have yet to develop those ideas into actual stories. I loved the escapism of the genre and being a child of the Star Wars generation (the original trilogy) I suppose that made me something of a nerd. I’m a big fan of live action Superman series but I wouldn’t go so far as to buy all the merchandise and I have not read too many Superman comics. 

I consider myself a homebody. I’m happier curled up with a good book, or working on my writing. 
Deanna has spent her life trying to please everyone. Then Richard Carter asks her to marry him and she accepts, because why not? He’s smart, good-looking, and sure, there are a few red flags but he claims to love her. The marriage is against her father’s wishes but she’s tired of sacrificing her own desires for her father’s sake.

She slowly begins to realise that her husband’s charming exterior hides a monster beneath. She escapes her abusive marriage and begins an affair with another man – her husband’s former best friend. He’s kind and thoughtful – sure, he may not be as good-looking but he’s a good man and he makes her laugh. She loves him but knows it’s not enough.

She has to move on from the past and learn to love herself. With his help, she will.

Learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.

Romelia:    WHICH OF YOUR CHARACTERS ARE MOST LIKELY TO BE AN ACTIVIST, AND WHAT KIND?

E.M. Richmond: I think the character most likely to be an activist would be Abby from my very first novel, Phoenix. Her journey starts off trying to get justice for someone so I think she would join an activist group looking for harsher sentences for certain crimes.

Romelia:   DO YOU PLAY MUSIC WHILE YOU WRITE – AND, IF SO, WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE?

E.M. Richmond: I sometimes do, depending on my mood. Queen have always been a favorite. Again, it depends on my mood.

Romelia:     HAVE PETS EVER GOTTEN IN THE WAY OF YOUR WRITING?

E.M. Richmond: Ha, ha, yes. I have a cat that loves to cuddle. She’ll either hop up on the desk if I’m working on the desktop or she’ll want me to cuddle her while I’m working on the laptop and she’ll step on the keys.

Romelia:   IF YOUR BOOK WERE MADE INTO A MOVIE, WHICH ACTORS WOULD PLAY YOUR CHARACTERS?

E.M. Richmond: This is a hard one, since I’ve written a few now. I couldn’t even think of any actors who would play the characters in my current work in progress. Mostly because one of the characters is someone I think every reader will hate, even though he’s really good looking. I did once have thoughts about who would play characters in Phoenix. I’d have to actually see the actors using the words I’d written, of course, but someone like Justin Hartley (Smallville, this is us) would be good for the male protagonist, Michael. I did once think about Crystal Lowe (Smallville, supernatural) to play Abby. It would depend on her ability to play a ‘dual’ character as Abby becomes Phoenix in the book.

Romelia:    HAVE YOU EVER KILLED OFF A CHARACTER YOUR READERS LOVED?

E.M. Richmond: Hmm, I don’t think he was ever loved as a character as he’s a bit of a sleaze in Phoenix, but I killed off the bad guy in the sequel, From the ashes. Well, he was one of the bad guys.

Romelia:   WHAT IS THE MOST VALUABLE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN ABOUT WRITING?

E.M. Richmond: Hmm, I think to have someone else edit your work. While you can do a lot of editing yourself, another set of eyes always helps to pick up mistakes.

Romelia:   WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE BEST WAY TO IMPROVE WRITING SKILLS?

E.M. Richmond: Just to keep writing. I’d been writing short stories and fanfics for years before I finally published my first novel and looking back at my old stuff, I can see how much my writing has improved. Of course, it always helps to talk to other writers, or take a course in writing. If your grammatical skills or your punctuation needs improvement, use online tools to check your work.

Romelia:   WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO HELP OTHERS CREATE PLOTLINES?

E.M. Richmond: Think about your character’s journey. What are their motivations for the journey? What is your theme? Are you trying to convey a message through the theme? Sometimes I don’t have a firm plot in my mind, other than the germ of an idea. I might be inspired by something that happened in the media. I think the best advice in creating plotlines is to read a lot, especially news articles to see if they inspire something. Start off with the idea and build your world by creating your character. Develop their backgrounds. Often if you have an understanding of where your character comes from, that guides their growth.

Romelia:   WHAT HAS HELPED OR HINDERED YOU MOST WHEN WRITING A BOOK?

E.M. Richmond: I tend to procrastinate sometimes. I have also struggled with mental health issues which can affect my motivation to write. However, it can help too as if I’m feeling down, it can sometimes inspire a piece of writing that lets me work through those emotions.

Romelia:   DOES WRITING ENERGIZE OR EXHAUST YOU? OR BOTH?

E.M. Richmond: As above, it has helped me work through some emotions so it can be energizing. When I’m on a roll, so to speak, I can get kind of buzzed. It’s a natural high for me. Having said that, it can get a bit exhausting, because I do have to push myself, especially when I’m getting to the end of a project. Writing is the one thing that has kept me going through really low periods. I’ve said it in my non fiction book about my journey with depression – I think in many ways it saved my life.

Romelia:   WHAT IS THE BEST MONEY YOU’VE EVER SPENT WITH REGARD TO YOUR WRITING?

E.M. Richmond: To be honest, I haven’t had a lot of money to spend as I’ve been out of work for much of the last few years. I will say that the covers have been the best investment. A friend of mine in the US does them and maybe I’m biased but I think they’re beautiful. A good cover not only attracts the eye of the reader but it also can help convey something about the book that attracts the interest.

Romelia:   WHAT ARE COMMON TRAPS FOR NEW AUTHORS?

E.M. Richmond: I think it’s having unrealistic expectations. It’s not easy getting an audience and it can take years before you develop a fan base, so do not expect to become a best-selling author overnight.

Romelia:   HOW MANY HOURS A DAY DO YOU WRITE?

E.M. Richmond: If I’m working full-time, it’s usually about two hours a day. Weekends I tend to write more.

Romelia:   WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE BLOGS OR WEBSITES FOR WRITERS?

E.M. Richmond: I don’t really have any, to be honest.

Romelia:   AT WHAT TIME OF THE DAY DO YOU DO MOST OF YOUR WRITING?

E.M. Richmond: I guess it depends on whether I’m feeling inspired. Mornings are usually the best, especially if I’ve thought of something during the night. It is true that a writer can wake up in the middle of the night with an idea for a plotline or a scene in a story.

Romelia:   HOW DO YOU COME UP WITH CHARACTER NAMES FOR YOUR STORIES?

E.M. Richmond: I often go on the internet and look up different names. Say I want a maori character – I will look up maori names via different websites to see what suits.

Romelia:   DO YOU PARTICIPATE IN WRITING CHALLENGES ON SOCIAL MEDIA? DO YOU RECOMMEND ANY?

E.M. Richmond: I sometimes participate in fanfic challenges, but that’s pretty much it. It’s mostly for fun. These are usually through sites like live journal.

Romelia:   IF YOU HAD THE POWER TO CURE A DISEASE OF YOUR CHOOSING, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

E.M. Richmond: I don’t know if I would call it a disease, but if there was a way to cure depression, I would love that power.

Romelia:  WHEN YOU’RE WRITING AN EMOTIONAL OR DIFFICULT SCENE, HOW DO YOU SET THE MOOD?

E.M. RICHMOND: I just had this the other day, writing a very difficult scene for my current work in progress. I just had to make sure it was very quiet in my immediate area so that there were no distractions. Thankfully my neighbor wasn’t outside working. This scene was a really tough one and emotionally draining because of what happens in it and it really is important to ensure there is nothing to distract you when that happens.

Romelia:   WHOM DO YOU TRUST FOR OBJECTIVE AND CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM OF YOUR WORK?

E.M. Richmond: That’s a hard one. I sometimes get imposter syndrome which makes me question my ability, even though I’ve had people for years tell me I’m a talented writer. As much as you think your close friends will provide that much needed objectivity, they can be too close. Having said that, when my current novel is finished, I’m sending it to a friend in Australia who is an editor. He’s seen the first two chapters so I think he’ll be really helpful in pointing out inconsistencies or where I need to make improvements.

Romelia:   WHAT BOOKS DO YOU ENJOY READING?

E.M. Richmond: I have a few favorites. My main favorite author is a man named Robert B. Parker. He wrote a series about a Boston private investigator who is both intellectual but a bit of a tough guy. My second favorite is a new Zealand writer named Margaret Mahy. When I was a teenager, I found a book called The changeover. It had a supernatural theme but I liked the character’s growth in it. I also enjoy reading Harry Potter, although only the main series. I haven’t read any of the others. A classic novel I enjoy is Alexandre Dumas’ The count of Monte Cristo. It’s a fascinating exploration of how a man can be the master of his own fate, in a way.

Romelia:   ARE THERE ANY BOOKS OR AUTHORS THAT INSPIRED YOU TO BECOME A WRITER?

E.M. Richmond: Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels inspired my detective series, which I actually started writing in my late teens. I only started writing that again about four years ago. I don’t think I had the maturity to handle the character. He didn’t exactly inspire me to become a writer, though. I discovered my ability through an English teacher, who encouraged me in my writing.

Romelia:   NAME AN UNDERAPPRECIATED NOVEL THAT YOU LOVE.

E.M. Richmond: I think The count of Monte Cristo is somewhat under-appreciated. There have been a couple of movies, but they just cannot do the book justice.

Romelia:   TELL US SOMETHING FUNNY FROM YOUR ADULT LIFE.

E.M. Richmond: I don’t really know how to answer this. I have a weird sense of humour. What I find funny some others may not. I tend to take things too seriously sometimes.

Romelia:   describe yourself in a few sentences. Tell us something we do not know about you and something you hate about the world.

E.M. Richmond: I’m very much an introvert. I tend to be quite shy in social situations, so I don’t talk much unless it’s a subject I’m very passionate about. It bugs me sometimes but people can be talking about something and I’ll want to contribute but then someone else will start talking and I lose the opportunity. I’m always too polite to interrupt. I’ve struggled with depression, but I think I’ve come out the other side now.

I hate how unequal things are, especially between genders and ethnicities. I hate how one particular culture pervades everything and acts superior. I believe in respecting other cultures but I also believe that a person should be judged by their character, not by the colour of their skin or their gender. Why do we need to pigeonhole people and put someone down because they don’t conform to a certain way? We should celebrate diversity, not condemn it.

As my latest book is still a work in progress, I don’t have a link to that, but I can link to my website which lists all my books so far.

http://elldubak.wixsite.com/leannewarrwriter.

Contact: email is elldub_ak@yahoo.com.

Leanne Warr

Palmerston north

New zealand

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