Greetings from Kevin Thompson in The Swamp, better known as Florida. Where the gators and the mosquitoes play… We’re sitting here on the front porch, waiting to see which way Hurricane Irma goes. Pray she turns north and plays harmlessly in the Atlantic! Today, I have the privilege of sharing an interview with my friend and fellow author Bonnie Leon.
Welcome, Bonnie, and congratulations on the release of your most recent book! Please tell us about it.
In the spring of 1885, Luba Engstrom meets Nicholas Matroona, a strong, brooding Native from the island of Unalaska. The two elope, believing love is enough to bridge the gap between the civilized world of Juneau and the primitive culture of Nicholas’s small village. Luba struggles to adapt and the conflict between her husband’s belief in ancient gods and her faith in Jesus Christ threatens to destroy Luba and Nicholas’s relationship.
That could cause a rift, for sure. Tell us about your next project.
I’m diving into a new historical romance that takes place in my home town here in Southern Oregon. It’s the story of a young woman, Emmalin Morgan, who grew up among Philadelphia high-society. In 1855 when her mother dies she discovers she is not entitled to the family’s wealth. After her fiancé deserts her she flees to the wilds of the Oregon territory in search of a father she thought had died before her birth.
In the fledgling town of Deer Creek, Emmalin struggles against fear of the unknown and the very real threat of Indian uprisings. She longs to return home to Philadelphia but her growing attraction for an unsophisticated mountain man offers the promise of a life she never imagined possible.
What inspired you to write this book?
The culture and location are of special interest to me. My heritage is Native Alaskan Aleut. My great-great grandmother lived during the era of this story on the Aleutian Islands, where this tale plays out.
Also, the protagonist in this story, Luba Matroona, made a fatal error when she chose to ignore the wise counsel of her parents and friends. I have made similar choices in life and paid heavy consequences.
What surprised you the most during the research or writing of your book?
A beautiful thing happened while I did the research and worked on the story. I’ve always known that my family heritage is Aleut, but I never felt a true connection with my ancestors. While the tale played out I discovered my roots, the place and people who are part of me. I now feel a strong bond between myself and the family that came before me, and I have a better understanding of my mother’s love of her heritage.
What’s your favorite scene in this book?
There are many scenes that I feel especially proud of and that lift my heart when I read them. But what I love most about this story is how Luba (my female protagonist) begins to see the villagers and her husband’s family through new eyes. She gradually grows to love and even admire The People. Too often in life we believe that what is familiar is best, but sometimes when we open our hearts we discover beauty in the unfamiliar.
What is one thing about writing that you wish non-writers knew?
I’d like them to know how difficult it is to create a novel—the hundreds of hours it takes, the numerous rewrites and edits that go into generating a polished story. Sometimes when I read a “bad” review of someone’s work (mine included) I feel frustration. Certainly reviews play an important role in clarifying the quality of a book, but I hope that the person writing the review keeps in mind that most writers work incredibly hard, driven by a desire to create something special and inspiring.
Tell us about your funniest moment with a reader.
Many years ago, when my husband and I owned a combination laundromat/video store (we live in a tiny town). I was working on a novel while managing the store. It was a very hot summer day, and I’d just finished cleaning up an overflow mess and had returned to working on a book. Sweating and exhausted I sat at my computer and tried to focus on the story. A woman came to the counter and asked for change. When she recognized me, her expression turned to admiration and she asked with wonderment, “Are you that writer?” I told her that yes I was and smiled, while thinking to myself … And this is where it gets you.
Tell us about your most touching moment with a reader.
Through the years there have been many such connections, but a letter I received touched me deeply. The woman told me that even though she had been raised in a Christian home and spent her Sunday mornings at church she had never been able to believe that what she’d been taught was true. However, while reading my book “A Sacred Place” she was deeply moved by the story and began to see the possibility of the reality of the One True God. She explained that she still hadn’t made a decision to follow Christ, but she now had hope that one day it would happen.
Every time I remember her kind and transparent words and the longing I felt in her as I read the letter I am stirred to tears. I pray for her and hope that one day she will know the truth and find peace in knowing her salvation is assured.
Do you have an unfulfilled dream?
I have small dreams, but who ever said dreams had to be big?
I’d love to learn to quilt and to take an art class where I can learn to create the pictures I see in my mind on canvas instead of as words on paper.
I grew up in the country where my family always had a lush vegetable garden. Through the years I’ve worked in my own, and this summer I made another try, but my body let me down. This will be my last attempt and I feel sad because I love to work with the soil and to see plants sprout and grow. I always envisioned that in my senior years I would putter about my garden and now I know that can’t happen. However, I’m not one to give in too easily. I do hope to have a greenhouse next year, but I have to admit it’s not the same as a full-sized garden.
Everyone struggles with time management in our 24/7 world. How do you stay disciplined and meet your deadlines?
For more than twenty years I’ve prided myself on meeting every deadline. However, with age and additional disabilities it has become difficult. I’ve actually had to push a few deadlines out on my last project. These days I write without a contract. I first create a book and then I search for a publishing home. This is my first go-round working without a contract and I know there is much for me to learn. However, with the independent market available as a back-up it’s good to know that if I don’t find a publisher for my most recent work I can still get my book out to readers.
I do need to set personal deadlines to make certain I keep moving forward on a project. Writing is something I love to do, but it is still a job and I have to show up to work.
What’s your favorite bookstore—and why?
My favorite bookstore is no long open, but I am grateful it once existed. It was in the small town of Black Diamond, Washington. The owner sold new and used books. The building was historical and had once been the town pub. It still had the huge mirrored, heavy wooden bar where the bookstore owner made sure there were cookies and coffee available. The many book racks were kept fully stocked and I could spend hours wandering through the store in search of treasures. There were comfy chairs and sofas and antique wooden work tables where people gathered, and a wood burning stove kept the store warm on cold days.
The floors creaked and the building smelled of books and burning wood. I always felt warm and welcomed there. If I ever own a bookstore I want it to be just like that.
I love old bookstores. Well, I just love bookstores…new…old…and in-between. Thanks, Bonnie, and best to you and all your writing endeavors!
Until Next Time, may God bless you all, and may you all bless God.
Storytelling has always been an integral part of Bonnie Leon’s life. From childhood, she cherished the legends and family history handed down through her Aleut ancestors.
Throughout the ensuing years, Bonnie dabbled at writing but didn’t seriously consider becoming a professional author. And with each book she writes, her love for the craft and the challenges of writing grows. “The learning never ends,” she says, “But I relish the challenge of becoming a writer known for quality storytelling.”