New writers and books are popping up on the scene like fresh grass in springtime. There are true gems out there, sometimes thrown unnoticed in the haystack, unrecognized by the world because the author is new, hasn’t developed a huge cheering section, and hasn’t received the attention they deserve. I know an author like that, with a book that offers a pertinent message for a generation increasingly in need of safe passage through the minefield of toxic relationships. She speaks from experience and authority, and with a delightfully readable voice.
May I introduce to you an accomplished children’s writer with over twenty short stories in publication, a generous and supportive soul who has been cheering authors in the Christian writing community for at least as long as Facebook has been around…
Leann Austin, it is my pleasure to feature you for our readers here.
· Tell us a little about yourself and your book!
Thank you Kathleen. I'm happy to be here with you today. I started to write professionally in 2006 as a newspaper correspondent. I reported on village and school board meetings in my small town and have written over a hundred newspaper articles. I earned my BBA in 2014 while raising my four fabulous children. I knew I wanted to write for children, so I enrolled in The Institute of Children's Literature to prepare me for writing children's stories. To date I have written twenty stories for Primary Treasure magazine. I recently wrote my first article for . I was also awarded honorable mention in Writer's Digest 75th Annual Writing Competition in the Mainstream/Literary Short Story Category.
Finding Henry is my first Young Adult novel. Emelia recently graduated from the class of 1982. Life is sweet with her handsome boyfriend, her forever bestie, and her totally awesome friend Henry. But when Emelia learns Jasper cheated on her, she realizes Henry isn't around to cheer her up. Henry is the boy next door type of friend that's always around. When he tells Emelia he has feelings for her, she chooses Jasper over him. Now he has left for Cornell University. The trouble is Henry never showed up. In a time before the internet and social media, will Emelia find the friend she thought would always be around? And in her search for Henry, will she find herself?
Here is my (Kathleen's) endorsement for Leann’s wonderful debut:
Emelia Berggren is the kind of everyday girl that makes Finding Henry powerful in its chilling relatability. The author’s recreation of a retro 1980’s setting and her authentic portrayal of an often-misunderstood personality disorder make this not just a compelling read, but an important cautionary tale. A must-read for every girl who gives too much and asks too little.
· Why is this story near and dear to your heart?
You know the old saying, write what you know? I guess that's what I did. I set Finding Henry in the 1980s with a lot of the pop culture that goes with it. I also had several girlfriends in high school with boyfriends like Jasper. I thought that was normal. I learned too late in life that it's not.
· Who is your ideal reader? And what do you hope they take away from this lovely story?
I think anyone who enjoys Young Adult novels, the 80s, or time travel stories would enjoy Finding Henry. I wrote it for young adults, but have received feedback from people in their 70s who say it wasn't the kind of book they'd normally read and they loved it. I tried to write it so anybody could read it and not feel uncomfortable. I hope readers will learn more about hidden abuse, the type that destroys a person from within and doesn't always show in a woman's physical appearance. I also hope that anyone who reads Finding Henry and relates to Emelia, will realize their worth and come out from the shadows of their abuser, seek help, and walk in their true purpose. And maybe someone will recognize that abuse in their daughter, friend, aunt, sister, mother, and gain a greater understanding and compassion for the woman in that situation.
· Please tell us one (or two) quirky memory(ies) from your high school years that may or may not have inspired or informed your characters or a plot line in your brand-new book, Finding Henry.
It started when a memory of my very own Henry came to mind one day. He liked me too much and looking back, I don't think I believed he was sincere. I wasn't worthy of that kind of affection and I thought he was goofing around until we had a moment like the one Emelia and Henry had on the bench after graduation. I didn't know how to put the idea into a story until one day I had a memory of when I had gone to the Gala Days with a friend. She coaxed me into seeing the palm reader. I went along for the fun of it. The palm reader told me what the fortune teller in Finding Henry told Emelia. Like Emelia, I laughed it off.
· What fuels your passion to write?
In children's stories, I hope to send a positive message and help them step outside themselves to see the world from the perspective of someone different from them.
It's my passion to reach out to women like Emelia, no matter what their age. Women don't choose the verbally or physically abusive man. They are drawn to them because it's their normal. I've heard both men and women say that a woman who is with an abusive man must like it because they stay with him. I don't think that's true. I think it's their comfort zone if they were raised in a violent home or were neglected as a child. Once they realize it's chipping away at their soul, it's difficult to leave due to financial hardships, threats from the abuser, and the fear of losing their children.
· What hobbies or pastimes do you enjoy when not writing?
I love to read and always have a book with me. I also crochet. It's what I do to decompress and relax when I'm stressed. Making baby hats for the hospital's newborns has been a good way to fuel my hobby and not accumulate things I don't need. I also do some knitting and have made hats for soldiers in years past.
· What is your favorite book?
Ah, that's a hard question. There are so many wonderful books to choose from. The book that I can read and always get a smile from is a Little Golden Book titled The Monster at the End of This Book. I read that book over and over as a kid and shared it with all four of my own children. I love how creative and interactive it is.
· What is next on your writing journey?
I have an idea for another young adult novel that centers around the daughter of a country star. It takes place in a small town in Pennsylvania. I'm also planning to compile my children's story into a book collection. And I'll continue to write my children's stories for church take-home papers.
Thank you, Leann. And thank you readers, for stopping in today!
I am offering an e-copy of Finding Henry to one lucky commenter who answers this question by the author: What is the one moment you would go back to and do differently if you could?
Please leave your email addy (name at mailserver dot com) with your comment so we can be sure to notify you if random dot org selects you to win.
Extra entries can be earned if you share this interview on your social media. Just mention in your comment where your shared. Okay, good luck!
Kathleen L. MaherStories Where Every Underdog Has His Day.
Kathleen L. Maher’s first crush was Peter Rabbit, and she’s loved conflicted heroes ever since. She has two novellas in BARBOUR BOOKS' collections: Victorian Christmas Brides and Lessons on Love. Winner 2012 ACFW Genesis Award. Author of Sons of the Shenandoah Series: The Abolitionist's Daughter and The Chaplain's Daughter.
Kathleen and her husband live in an old farmhouse in upstate NY with their children and a small menagerie.
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