Friday, August 7, 2015

Today I begin a series of weekly interviews with writers and readers of all types. First up is Leona Pence.

A lifelong resident of Illinois, Leona Pence is a widowed mother of four, grandmother to twelve, and come December--great grandmother to five. Leona started reading romance novels as a teen. She graduated from Nancy Drew stories to Harlequin Romance, and then to her favorite author, Barbara Cartland and her vast Regency romance collection. Happy endings were a must. Leona began writing late in life after the death of her husband of forty-four years. They married on her 19th birthday after a three month courtship – and yes – love at first sight really did happen. She enjoys reading, writing, and especially being a Mentor in F2K, a free online writing course.

  1. What genre(s) do you write in and why? Do you write flash fiction, short stories, novellas and/or novels? If you do multiple genres and/or lengths, which do you prefer? Have you ever written any poetry?

My usual genre is Romance or Romantic Suspense. I have only written one novel, thus far, but I have written some flash stories. I have a short story that I plan to expand into a novella. I enjoy the challenge of writing a full story in as few words as possible. Poetry is not my cup of tea, although I have a few stashed away. To me, poetry must rhyme and have cadence. I used to write Limericks for my grandchildren, long before I ever considered myself a writer.

  1. What writers do you admire? What are you currently reading?

Steven King, Dean Koontz, Barbara Cartland, and a whole slew of new authors like Joyce Hertzoff, Mysti Parker, Cynthia Wright, etc., etc. I read a book fifty years ago called Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor. I never forgot it. A while back, I purchased it on Amazon as a rediscovered classic, and it was just as good the second time around. I read so many books and rarely remember the titles; not sure why this one stuck in my mind. I finished it last week and just started A Way from Heart to Heart by Helena Fairfax.

3. How do you pick character names?

For the good guys, I usually twist the names of family and friends. The protagonist is a little harder. I have so many relatives, I have to be careful lest I offend somebody.

  1. How long have you been writing?

Except for a few Limericks and poems, I didn’t start writing until after my husband’s death. I wrote the first draft of Hemphill Towers in 2008 at the age of sixty-five.

5. What kind of support do you get from your family and friends?

I get a lot of support from both. My daughters read my stories and give opinions. Many relatives, some I’ve never met, encourage me on Facebook. My husband would have been so proud that I wrote a novel. I have so many friends in F2K and WVU who support me too.

6. What social media do you use to spread awareness of your work?

I use Facebook mostly, Twitter, when I can figure it out. I’ve had several newspaper articles written about me and have been interviewed by three local TV news channels, book signings, and word of mouth. I’ve also used Kindle Books and Tips, and The Fussy Librarian to help boost sales.

On August 30, I’m renting a table at a huge Flea Market in Peoria. I hope to sell some autographed books.

7. If you had unlimited funds, how would you advertise your work?

I’d do television, radio, and newspaper ads. I’d buy magazine space. Hummm, I’d probably just hire somebody to do all this for me.

8. What are you working on now?

I wrote a short story for a class in Writer’s Village University that I plan to expand into a novella. Who knows? Once I start, I may get a novel from it.

9. Have you self-published anything? What was your experience like?

No, I have never self-published.

10.Do you have an agent and/or publisher? How did you find them?

Yes, I am published through MuseItUp Publishing. A mutual friend sent an email to the publisher, Lea Schizas, who told me to send my manuscript to her. Thank God, she saw promise in what I’d written and sent me a contract. It took about eight months from contract signing to publication…five years from the first draft.

11.Have you sold your work at book fairs or conventions? What kind of experience did you have?

I traveled to Louisville, KY last September to The Imaginarium Convention. I didn’t sell many books, but it was an amazing experience to be gathered with so many authors. I met our mutual friends, Mysti Parker and Veronica Jorden. I also met several MuseItUp authors. I haven’t been to a book fair yet, but I’m hindered by being deaf and in a wheelchair. If the flea market works out, I’ll probably go there on a monthly basis. I have two wonderful daughters who help me.

12.What's the one piece of advice that has helped you, and where did you get it? What advice would you give a beginning writer?

I’d advise a beginning writer to take a basic writing course to brush up on grammar and punctuation. It would save so much time in revision. It’s hard to pinpoint one piece of advice. The people in the Novel Group at WVU were a tremendous help to me. I saw first-hand how we all struggled and none had error-free writing. Their advice was to hang in there and do your best.

13.If you had it to do over again, would you have started writing sooner?

I truly wish I had started writing earlier, but for me, the time was right when it finally happened. I had only used a computer to stay in touch with my children and play a few Solitaire games. But after I lost my husband of forty-four years, I turned to my computer, met people online, and gained the inspiration I needed to try my hand at writing.

14.What are some review remarks that stick in your head?

I especially liked these comments: Leona Pence’s debut novel, Hemphill Towers, does not disappoint. It is a Romantic Mystery, not to be confused with a romance novel. The lives of three young women intertwine and evolve in different settings across the globe. I found her handling of a complex tale masterfully accomplished.

I absolutely LOVED this book! It had romance, intrigue, & locations that were so vividly described that I felt I was there myself.
I would definitely recommend this book to readers of romance who like their tales served up with a side of danger

15.Which do you find hardest: coming up with a story idea, writing, revising, or marketing?

Revising and marketing are both the hardest part of the writing scenario. I hate making lengthy changes in the middle of something I’ve written. Marketing is a never-ending job.

16.Are you a plotter or a pantser or a hybrid of the two?

I’m a pantser, but I envy the plotters. I’ve never been able to write a good outline and usually, I don’t know how my story will end.

17.What are the hardest kinds of scenes for you to write? Romantic? Sex? The death of a character? Fight scenes? Others?

For me, it’s the sex scenes. I have so many family member reading what I write, so I tend to write cautiously. I could write a steamy sex scene, but…I doubt I’d let anybody read it.

18.What's your solution to writers' block?

I read, read, read, until I get the urge to write. I consider myself a lazy writer because I am not committed to writing every day.

Riley Saunders, an art director at a leading advertising agency, works every day with her two best friends, Stella and Birdie. All three have been assigned to ensure that the Grand Opening of the Peterson Art Museum is nothing short of a success.

When a girl’s night out at a hot new Italian restaurant ends with a spilled bottle of wine, it sets in motion a series of events that leaves Stella and Birdie caught up in whirlwind romances, and Riley fearing for her life at the hands of a deranged stalker. When the handsome museum curator, Trent Peterson, learns of Riley’s situation, he vows to keep her safe.

In a quick-paced tale of fine art, wine forgery, and even the Russian Mafia, Riley and her friends soon discover their pursuit of love will require them to expose a crime, thwart a murder, and trust the one thing that has never failed them--their friendship.

Here are some links to connect with Leona:

Bump off Your Enemies Anthology:
The Darwin Murders Anthology:
Tasteful Murders Anthology:


  1. Thank you very much, Joyce, for hosting me on your blog. I enjoyed answering your questions.

  2. You were a terrific person to start with. And I love your book even though I'm not usually a fan of romance. The mystery element was perfectly handled.