Guest & Contest: Leigh LaValle

Leigh LaValle was born in a time when ladies shopped at the modiste and rogues sent heated looks across a crowded ballroom. Time slipped forward a few hundred years, and she currently lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family. When she is not writing about said ladies and rogues, mommying, or reading, she is rarely seen cleaning. More often, she is found hiking or, when she is really lucky, in the white powder of the ski slopes. She is also a devoted yoga practitioner and instructor.

Please help us welcome Leigh to Romancing the Book as she interviews herself…

L: Where in the world do you come up with these crazy ideas?
Leigh: I am certain my mom asked me this question more than once. (And not just during my youth, mind you.) Where did you get the idea to pull the fire alarm at church? Where did you get the idea to drive across country by yourself? Where did you get the idea to quit your job and become a dishwasher at a yoga ashram?

L: I get this question about my books, too. Why did you decided to write a Robin Hood book? How do you come up with names? And, most often, how in the world can you fill four hundred pages with story?

Leigh: Often, I give the same answer I gave my mom: “I don’t know, my mind just does these things. Pretty cool, huh.”

The Robin Hood question has been a favorite during my Runaway Blog Tour (for who doesn’t love Robin Hood?) The basic answer is that I chose to retell the Robin Hood legend because I wanted to craft a story where the premise of right and wrong seemed really clear to begin. Throughout THE RUNAWAY COUNTESS, I try to challenge these preconceived ideas about justice. Stealing is not the answer, no matter how justified. Neither is oppression. As I retell the Robin Hood legend, both sides are right, and both sides are wrong. Both the hero and heroine have really compelling reasons why we should root for them, but only one can win. It’s a wrestling match to the end!

L: Where do I get my ideas for names?

Leigh: I have to admit this is a hard one for me. (My son was not officially named until he was 7 days old and I had to file the birth certificate.) For surnames, I often use thepeerage.com. For first names, I take inspiration from the local landscape. Trent derived his name from the River Trent. His estate, Giltbrook Hall, was also named after a local water way (and subsequent town). For my heroine, I knew I wanted a spirited nickname with a more formal given name. Thus I chose Mazie/Margaret, which was popular at the time. (I must also confess to being influenced by Maisy the mouse, a character in a children’s book my son particularly enjoyed at the time I started writing this book.)

The title THE RUNAWAY COUNTESS came about one night after my agent told me I needed something more catchy than LOVE’S PROOF, which I was then using. I still have the piece of paper I used for brainstorming. My other favorites were THE EARL’S DILEMMA and COUNTESS OF THIEVES. (I still love that last one!)

L: Finally, how do I fill four hundred pages of story?

Leigh: Even I don’t know the answer to that. I research a lot of history and take ideas from there. While reading about Nottingham, for example, I discovered the last rebellion in England took place just fourteen miles north of Nottingham in 1817. That quickly became part of my story. And I needed a scene where Trent interacted with his villagers, something fun and lighthearted. Research pointed me to the Midsummer’s Eve festival, which was a very entertaining (and naughty) bit of history. I happy incorporated that into the book as well.

Leigh: What about you, Dear Reader? Do you wonder how we authors get our crazy ideas? Do you want to know how we generate unique characters? Elaborate sex scenes? Unexpected twists? I am here to answer your burning questions. Or to chat about Robin Hood, who I could talk about any day of the week. One lucky commenter will win a digital copy of THE RUNAWAY COUNTESS.

Thanks for joining me today! I love to hear from readers. You can find me on Facebook and Twitter or visit my website at LeighLaValle.com

Contest details:

  • The prize is a download of The Runaway Countess.
  • The contest is open to everyone over the age of 18.
  • You must leave a meaningful comment for entry.  This means your comment needs to be more than “please enter me in the contest”.
  • A valid email address needs to be included in your comment.  If you’re worried about spam, please modify your address, such as admin.bookblog AT gmail.com.  You can also send a message to this email after your comment has been posted.
  • While following the blog isn’t required, it is appreciated.
  • The contest ends on Sunday, April 22.

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