Leah Petersen lives in North Carolina. She does the day-job, wife, and mother thing, much like everyone else. She prides herself on being able to hold a book with her feet so she can knit while reading. She’s still working on knitting while writing.
SFFWRTCHT: When did you decide to start writing? How did you begin?
Leah Petersen: I don’t remember ever deciding, it was just something I did. Couldn’t help myself. I did take a long break from it between my teens and late twenties, but I had to start again to get Fighting Gravity to stop playing on a constant loop in my head.
SFFWRTCHT: Did you study writing in school? How did you learn your craft?
Leah Petersen: I didn’t study it in school. I didn’t really plan to do it other than for myself. I learned to write the way I think everyone should: by reading great writers.
SFFWRTCHT: How long did you write until your first sale? What was that?
Leah Petersen: From the time I decided to write Fighting Gravity to its sale? Probably two years. I placed several short stories with e-zines during that time, but Fighting Gravity was my first paying sale.
SFFWRTCHT: What aspect of Fighting Gravity came first? Characters? Plot? Setting?
Leah Petersen: The characters. Specifically the main character, Jake. The idea came out of a dream I had of a boy being taken from his home by a totalitarian government who had identified his genius for physics and wanted to use him for their own ends. Everything developed from that point, following this boy who had been taken completely out of his element and away from everyone and everything he knew.
SFFWRTCHT: What sort of pre-writing did you do for Fighting Gravity? Did you outline?
Leah Petersen: None whatsoever. Not for Fighting Gravity anyway. I “wrote” the whole thing in my head just for myself, and then put it to paper to share with others. Now that I’m serious about my writing career, I’ve had to learn more about planning and plotting and such.
SFFWRTCHT: What’s your writing time look like? Planned time? Grab it when you can?
Leah Petersen: It’s mostly grab-it-when-I-can within expected “free” times.
SFFWRTCHT: Do you use any special software or music playlist?
Leah Petersen: Just MS Word for writing. I have a playlist, called “melancholy” that I usually write to (so, there’s a hint as to what you can expect from my books) but it’s far too eclectic to mean anything to anyone else. I tend to latch on to a song less for its sound and more for lyrics, even just one phrase that tugs at my heartstrings.
SFFWRTCHT: How do you deal with writer’s block?
Leah Petersen: Stress out, scream, cry, drink… then I go somewhere I know works for me to stimulate the writing-brain. That’s usually the local pub or just taking a long drive. If I get desperate, I’ll head to the local inn and stay there for the weekend, to get away from all distractions.
SFFWRTCHT: What role do beta readers play, if any, in your process as a professional author?
Leah Petersen: Beta readers are vital. As an author you’re too close to the story to see its flaws and weaknesses. I send my first completed draft to at least four trusted beta readers. I couldn’t do without them.
SFFWRTCHT: What advice would you give an up and coming writer?
Leah Petersen: Learn to cope with criticism and rejection. The better you are at the former, the less you’ll deal with the later. Find an editor you trust, whether that’s with a big publishing house through the deal your agent got you, or extensive research before you self-publish. You can’t do without one. You are not the exception.
SFFWRTCHT: Are you involved with cons and fandom? Cosplay?
Leah Petersen: I just got back from Ad Astra con in Toronto, and I’ll be going to Readercon again this year. I wish I could do more. I’d be crazy-all-over cosplay if I had the time and money. But for the most part, I’ve watched and envied fandom for years. I live in a small town. All cons require travel for me, usually airfare and then a hotel room and registration and meals… I’ve got kids who are (almost) 11 and 8, so there’s all the mom-time-and-things considerations. (Though my husband is so terribly wonderful about supporting my career, even though he’s as much of a fan as I am and would love to be going to these cons with me.) In other words, I’m as involved as I can be, but it’s not as much as I would like.
SFFWRTCHT: Where did your love of specfic and science fiction in particular begin?
Leah Petersen: Birth? I don’t ever remember not loving specific, science fiction in particular. Some of my earliest entertainment memories involve watching Star Trek with my parents.
SFFWRTCHT: Who were some of your favorite authors/books growing up?
Leah Petersen: Anne McCaffrey (RIP,) and Stephen R. Donaldson are the two that I have very specific, very powerful memories of. I remember finding Dragonsong in the school library when I was in 6th grade. I remember the little bookstore in Colorado I was in, and the space I was crouched in upstairs, where I was when I found The Mirror of Her Dreams. I remember a friend explaining to me why he wore a simple silver band on a chain around his neck and why I needed to read Lord Foul’s Bane.
SFFWRTCHT: How do you define science fiction? “Hard” science fiction versus “soft” science fiction? Romance?
Leah Petersen: I don’t think my definition of scifi matters so much as what the powers that be say. According to them, anything that’s not possible or realistic right here and now, but that could possibly be possible scientifically and sociologically is probably science fiction. Works for me. I just like the idea of being able to create worlds that do anything plausible that you can imagine, whether you accomplish it with science or with “magic.” (And I’ll reserve the right to say the line between the two is fuzzy at best.)
SFFWRTCHT: What future projects are you working on that we can look forward to? Will there be a sequel to Fighting Gravity?
Leah Petersen: There’s a sequel to Fighting Gravity. Or there was until my editor got a hold of it. Now there are pieces of a sequel to Fighting Gravity and me working feverishly to replace the 60-some thousand words I can no longer use. (Love you, Gabrielle!) I digress. There will be a sequel, and that’s what I’m working on. That’s all I can tell you, otherwise I’d have to… you know that cliché.
To read our review of Fighting Gravity, click here.
Michelle Ristuccia writes short fiction of all speculative fiction genres in between chasing her toddler from tree to tree. The shorter the work, the better, because 200 words looks very long on her cellphone and that keypad is very, very small. You can find out more about her rabid love of Star Trek, podcasting, and raising future geeklings at her blog, wakingdreamsblog.blogspot.com