Today I’m excited to welcome paranormal fantasy and romantic suspense author, and fellow RWA committee member, Leisl Leighton to my blog to talk about her passion.
Leisl is a tall red head with an overly large imagination. As a child, she identified strongly with Anne of Green Gables. A voracious reader and a born performer, it came as no surprise to anyone when she did a double major in English Literature and Drama for her BA, then went on to a career as an actor, singer and dancer, as well as script writer, stage manager and musical director for cabaret and theatre restaurants (one of which she co-owned and ran for six years).
After starting a family Leisl stopped performing and instead, began writing the stories that had been plaguing her dreams. Leisl’s stories have won and placed in many competitions in Australia and the US, including the STALI, Golden Opportunities, Heart of the West, Linda Howard Award of Excellence, Touch of Magic and many others.
Leisl lives in the leafy suburbs of Melbourne with her two beautiful boys, lovely hubby, overly spunky dog, Buffy, and likes to spend time with family and friends. She sometimes sings in a choir and works as a swim teacher in her day-to-day job.
Leisl writes paranormal fantasy and romantic suspense. Her debut novel, Killing Me Softly, was released last year with Penguin’s Destiny Romance and her new paranormal novel, Dark Moon has just been released.
Hi Leisl, welcome to my blog. Please tell us, do you have a passion other than writing?
My passions kind of revolve around my writing and my family and the things I do with them, like skiing and sharing experiences like tree surfing and so on. But I suppose my other passion would be singing and performing. I sing all the time, although I don’t perform much anymore, but when I do, I just find it so exhilarating.
You’ll have to give us a tune at the next conference! How long have you been involved in your passion?
My mum says I could sing before I could talk and pretty much when I was able to walk and talk, I would perform in front of people whenever asked. I loved to act as well and dressing up as someone else and diving into their character was always so much fun for me. I do get nervous, but that’s all part of the experience and it was never enough to make me want to stop. In fact, there was a time when I was performing professionally in a show four times a week and I was walking on stage and I wasn’t feeling nervous anymore, and it actually bothered me, because I had always used those nerves to feed my performance, to stretch myself and make myself do better. I hated the thought of just ‘cruising’ through a performance. And, to tell the truth, it wasn’t as much fun as it had been. It was then that I knew I couldn’t act and perform professionally full time, because it was sucking the joy out of it for me.
What is it about it that brings a sparkle to your eye / motivates you?
I just love entertaining people. Touching people’s emotions is something that just gives you such a thrill. I love that about writing too, although, the author is somewhat removed from the reciprocation of emotion that an actor has. Reading someone’s review of your work is not quite the same thing – even though it is lovely and special to hear someone enjoyed your work or that it touched them in an emotional way. But getting that back face to face, in the moment as you are doing something on stage… that immediate response is just priceless. There’s nothing like hearing the audience laugh when you’re doing something funny, or gasping when something shocking or sad has happened. And making people cry – whether tears of laughter or sadness – is amazing. You know if you’ve done your job right away, because you get this emotional surge back from the crowd. Actors often talk about ‘live’ audiences and ‘dead’ audiences. A live audience gives back every ounce of the energy you put out there, a dead audience sucks it in and gives you little to nothing back. But even with a dead audience, I used to love to get out there and try to get something from them, and if I did, it was worth every ounce of sweat and effort I put into it. The adrenaline rush is just amazing. I mostly don’t act anymore, but I do occasionally get up in front of people and sing, and every time I do, I just love it.
I can imagine it would be quite addictive! Do you have a funny story about something that’s happened to you while involved in your performing?
Oh, there are so many funny moments that happened over the years, especially because I worked mostly in cabaret and theatre restaurants where there is no fourth wall and the show changes every night depending on the audience and how much they get into the whole audience participation – and many of them are a bit on the rude side, so I can’t share them here ;). (Awww, you’re no fun!) But I do remember one thing that I can share with you.
When I was at university, I was working at a theatre restaurant as a waitress. When you are waiting, there are large sections of the show that you see every night and you can often sing the songs and say the dialogue off by heart. But there are sections of the show that you don’t see, because you’re at the bar or in the kitchen doing things. Anyway, one day, my boss called me and said that the female lead in the show had come down with laryngitis and couldn’t do the show that night and they couldn’t cancel because they had a full house. So, he was asking, seeing I was studying drama and theatre (and they had just recently been to see me in a show, so he knew I could act and sing), if I could come in and learn the show in 1 day and do it that night. I’m not someone to say no to opportunities, so even though I was hugely scared that I wouldn’t be able to do it, I said yes.
It was the best thing I’d ever done. I went in and worked all day, going over the show, learning the dances that I had to do, going over the dialogue I knew and the stuff I never heard, learning the staging and singing the songs over and over. It was exhausting and exhilarating and very nerve wracking, but I was certain I could pull it off. That certainty continued through the costume fitting – thankfully, despite being much taller than the lead actress, I managed to fit into all the costumes – and even through doing my hair make-up.
Then the audience arrived. I could hear the minstrels go out, walking around, warming them up. My tummy began really fluttering, then rolling over, my mouth went dry, my hands began to shake as they held the microphone. And I began to really worry about if I could actually remember everything and just get through it. The thought grew large in my mind and it was all I could think of. All my lines flew out of my head and I thought, ‘Shit. I can’t do this. I’m going to completely stuff it up.’ I could hear the audience buzz of expectation as the lights went down. The minstrels began to do their opening patter, then strummed the bars of my big opening number, which I had to sing walking through the audience. I knew the song. I stepped out into the light and began to sing. I could get through that at least. The audience was warm, so it was easy to play up to them as I walked through them, hitting my lines, making them laugh as I worked my way up to the stage. I got up there, finished the number, there was a huge applause. The horrible doubt was still there, but I had at least got through that, although I felt like everyone could see I was green and nervous.
The minstrels were shooting me encouraging looks. I tried to swallow my nerves as I shared some banter with them, then it was time to introduce the lead male who came onstage with a big flourish. He sang his song, we did a little dance – which I somehow managed to remember – and then as he dipped me down backward on the end move, he pulled his mic away and while the applause was going on, whispered in my ear, ‘What’s my opening line? I can’t remember it?’
I looked at him, thinking he was pulling my leg, but he was absolutely serious. He was asking me, the girl who had never done the show before, who had rehearsed in 1 day a show that took them all 4 weeks to rehearse in, what his first line was. The funny things was, I did know it, even though this was part of the show that as a waitress, I never saw. Up until that point, I had still been incredibly nervous, wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into, but the moment he asked that question and I knew the answer and told him what his line was, I knew I was going to be fine. I relaxed and just decided to have fun and if I made a mistake, it didn’t matter, because even the seasoned professionals got it wrong sometimes.
I barely remember the rest of that night, but I know I had fun and did really well, even though I did forget the occasional thing. But it didn’t matter and I managed to smile and bluster and joke my way through it with the help of the cast and I learned a really great lesson about performing that night – it doesn’t have to be perfect, but it does need to be fun, for you and the audience.
Wow, talk about nerve-wracking! I don’t know if I could ever do that! Glad to hear it had a happy ending.
Dark Moon Blurb:
Lately, Skye Collins has been unable to shake the feeling that she’s being watched. After a lifetime spent hiding her true nature, she knows that any unusual attention is something to be wary of. And the only attention she’s been receiving lately is from the intense and attractive Jason McVale.
Jason claims to know things about Skye that can’t be true, and it’s obvious he’s hiding secrets of his own. Yet despite herself, Skye can’t resist the attraction between them, and her surrender will set in motion a chain of events that will have consequences for everyone she holds dear.
Gradually, Jason convinces Skye that she has to trust him if she is to solve the riddle of her past and learn the truth about her power. But believing Jason means that her entire life has been based on a lie.
As her enemies gather strength and the danger increases, Skye is forced to accept who she really is. Will she risk everything and fight for those she loves? Or save herself and let them be destroyed by the forces of darkness?
You can buy Dark Moon here:
And Killing Me Softly here:
You can follow Leisl and find out more about her and her books on her website: www.leislleighton.com
Follow her on Twitter @LeislLeighton
That sounds great, Leisl. Thanks for being on my blog today and good luck with Dark Moon!