Author Interview: Krista Hoeppner Leahy

Krista Hoeppner Leahy
Krista Hoeppner Leahy

Born in Colorado, Krista Hoeppner Leahy was raised on the outskirts of Denver, in a then-rural area with wild asparagus, dirt roads, and a view of the Rocky Mountains. She now resides in Brooklyn, NY, which has its own demanding beauty. Happily, luckily, she attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2007. She is a member of Codex, the online writing community, and also the Fantastic Saloon — a group of NYC-based authors. She has a story forthcoming in Writers of the Future Volume XXV. For more about her and her writing, you can email her at kristahoeppnerleahy@gmail.com or visit her at http://kristajhl.livejournal.com/. Her story “No Place Like Home, or Building the Yellow Brick Road” appears in Issue #12.

How did you celebrate your first sale?
I believe there was some screaming involved, and jumping up and down. Then, an excellent bottle of wine, shared with my husband.

Does your work tend to explore any particular themes?
Transformation is possible. Difficult, but possible. Words matter. A lot. Language shapes our reality. Beauty revives us, if we let it. How we handle death defines our humanity. I’m not sure if I believe all these things, but I imagine I’ll keep writing about them until I figure out whether I do or not.

What people have helped you the most with your writing?
My graduate acting teachers who taught me about artistic agency, and encouraged me to write, as well as act. Jeanne Cavelos , founder and master teacher of Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop. The members of the Fantastic Saloon, my writing group in NYC, and the online writing community Codex. Always, always–my poetry teachers. My friends. My family, especially my husband.

Favorite book you’ve read recently?
Blood Meridian: or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy

If you could talk to any author from the past, who would it be? Why? Who would you NOT want to talk to?
That’s a hard one. I’ll have to go with Alice Bradley Sheldon, aka James Tiptree, Jr. Not only do I love her work, but what a fascinating life and career. Plus, any woman who takes her pseudonym from a jar of marmalade (if that story isn’t apocryphal) must have possessed terrific humor and perspective, and known a lot about the happy serendipity involved in writing. Can’t think of anyone I’d NOT want to talk to. I suspect even authors I hate would be invigorating conversationalists. Or fascinating in how they defy my expectations.

Do your characters talk to you? Do you see the stories as images? Do you ever argue with characters you hadn’t planned?
It depends on the story. Very often a story will arise out of a specific image or idea. For example, “No Place Like Home . . .” started as a writing challenge from the online writing group Codex. Sound prompts were offered for initial inspiration, and one evoked heavy rainfall on a metal roof. From there, I thought about the desire to be drenched. And how close the desire to be drenched is to the desire to drown. Voilà, the birth of Phil and his particular tin predicament.

When my characters are brazen enough to talk to me, I encourage them to talk to each other instead. Despite my best efforts, sometimes they do insist on arguing with me, and then they always win. Even if it takes me years to admit that.

Do you ever get to a certain point, reading a story, and feel the click! as you have got to the point of no return/can’t stop now? Does writing ever feel that way? If you had to liken writing to anything, what would it be?
I experience that ‘click!’ frequently as a reader. Love that!
As a writer, I often feel a different ‘click!’–not a point of no return switch, but an inspiration or ‘aha!’ switch. Thrilling when it happens. But not necessarily a guarantee that I’ll have the horses to race that idea to the finish line.

It’s far from a perfect comparison, but the one I use the most often to describe writing is pottery and sculpture. Working with the wet clay, or choosing the material, and then the process of shaping the figure, or unchunking the marble, firing the piece, or polishing the final figure–I find those to be useful (if unfortunately vague) descriptions for some of the essential creative steps involved in writing a story.

What piece of writerly advice do you wish someone had given you?
Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

What kind of advice do you wish characters listened to? Or offered?
Hmmm. How to tell their stories in the best way, the first time I write them down. And as for what I wish they would offer, now that it’s Derby season, I would love a good tip on the horses.

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