Interview with Leni Hurley

How do you feel about marketing your book?
When it comes to my book Mindful Nutrition, I prefer that people stumble upon my book in their search for food advice. I don't like the hype about selling and I didn't write the book to earn lots of money. I wrote the book because the question of what is, and is not, a healthy diet, intrigued me and I wanted others to share in what I found out about the best diet via my studies in Chinese Medicine. A healthy diet is so simple, it could have been written on one A4 size page. Yet, you need to understand why it is so simple and I hope my book helps people understand. In the end, I want to sell to people who are really interested in the book's information, not to people who have been led into buying it through some hyped up selling techniques, then find that they don't read the book.
As for the children's books, yes I'd like to do some marketing next year (2015) for these books can be read by any 6 to 9 years olds.
Describe your desk
I write in our main bedroom. It is a large room and I've fixed a long and wide plank along one wall. This wall is blank, I like to keep it that way. But I have a row of postcards along the length of my desk, leaning against the wall. The cards change now and then, when I come across newer, fresher cards. I frame some of the cards. Some of the cards currently on my desk show a lion with a cub lying over one of its shoulders; a little naked man from Greek mythology chasing something with a spear; a Mexican child, such a serious little face for such a small little girl. There's an elongated card showing the Austen family on their way to Steventon Church. I bought that in the UK while visiting Jane Austens's house. I've a fantastic Spanish dancer and a beautiful horse statue, found in Olympia, Greece. A large window on my right overlooks some higglety-piggelty slated, mossy roofs, interspersed and flanked by many tall trees.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in Indonesia, then a Dutch colony. When I was two years old, my parents moved back to The Netherlands (they were ousted and rightly so). After moving here and there for a few years, we ended up living in the north-west of The Netherlands, where I lived till I was 21.

I must say that nothing in my youth prepared me for writing this book. However, all life experiences eventually go into what you do in and with your life, so my childhood has made its own contribution, no doubt.
When did you first start writing?
I've written all my life. At school, creative writing was my best subject (with gymnastics!). In adulthood, I also wrote poetry, children's plays and stories, articles. I trained in, and taught ballet, jazz, modern theatre dance and mime. I had my own school of dance, and also taught in many primary schools. I liked to create shows and much of my writing went into that. However, I also wrote a lot of poetry and articles and these I published in the local newspapers. That's all, I'm afraid, I never thought of publishing anywhere else. Later, I worked for environmental organisations and wrote on farming practices.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I actually planned to publish via a publisher. However, when the book was written, I learned that only people who have already a following, through a column, for example in magazines or newspapers, or through any other media exposure, are accepted by publishing houses. That's when I found out about self publishing, also called vanity publising. I liked the whole idea. I get to make my own decisions and so, for me, self-publishing really is the way to go.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords accepted my ebook, what better contribution is there? It's great.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I don't really know. I've always wanted to write, it just happens. When I've something to say, I write it down.
What are you working on next?
I'm currently (2015) working on something totally different: a series of children's books for 6 to 9 year olds (The Cat Series). Some of these stories are based on the stage productions from my teaching days. Mr Miserly, for example, started life as the witch Mrs Miserly in a production called Playalore. So far, I have published four volumes: Playalore, To The South Side, The Return of the Sun and The Barrel Dogs. I feel that, in the first three books, I set out the geographical territory and the basic characters. In addition, I've created a number of characters who return at various stages in the various books. Now, in the second half of 2015, I will begin to look at marketing.The children's books do not sell well, and I want to see if I can change that. For the time being, however, it does mean that I've stopped writing further volumes in this Cat Series. Between paying the illustrator and the editor, each book costs about 1000 euros/1100 US dollars to produce. I now plan to work on a poetry-proze collection, describing my impressions of, and feelings for the land of my heart, Ireland.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
My partner Jim and I walk every day. I go to the shops daily and I cook three times a day (yes, we have ' dinner' for breakfast, lunch and dinner time). In September, we are going to put ourselves through Dr. Alejandro Junger's Clean Gut program. I like to experiment with food and digestive issues. I read a lot and every autumn I watch Strictly Come Dancing on the BBC. I like to watch dvd's, especially historical fiction and some documentaries. And, of course, I'm in Ireland a lot, to enjoy the company of my children, 3 grand children and many women friends. My highlight of the year is the Wise Woman Weekend, a yearly summer-event in Ireland. And I like to do chanting, and walk-and-chant day-outings with some of my Irish friends.
What do your fans mean to you?
If I have any fans, they are far and few between. I regularly get mail from readers. They are looking for advice and information. When I can, I give it to them. However, when people approach me for advice on serious health problems, I advise them to look for a TCM practitioner near them. I can't examine tongues and pulses by mail or skype (in fact, I don't practice at all), and any advice in serious situations should be preceded by a full and proper diagnosis in traditional Chinese medicine.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I start the day with walking meditation, yoga and some ballet to keep my feet and the rest of my frame strong. This takes from one to one--and-a-half hours. Then I cook a seasonal breakfast. When breakfast is cooked, I wake my Jim and we enjoy breakfast together. It's a great way to start the day. I must say, however, that if I do not have some writing project on the boil, I get restless and irritable. So, writing is very important to me.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I buy my ebooks on Amazon. I recently got a kindle so will be reading ebooks in the future. Untill now(August 2015), I've read paperbacks, which I buy at Amazon, and on train stations mostly (I travel a lot.)
Who are your favorite authors?
I seem to have a preference for female authors, my absolute favorite being Jane Austen. But I also read male writers. I've just read the third book written by Khaled Hosseini and I think he is an amazing storyteller, especially when his subject matter concerns some very difficult human condition and situations. Other favorites of mine include George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Harper Lee (To Kill a Mocking Bird), Mark Twain, Jean M. Auel, Bettany Hughes, Colm Toibin, John McGahern, Bernard Cornwell, Hillary Mantel (Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies), and Philippa Gregory, to name but a few... By the way, I've just reread the Dutch version of The Discovery of Heaven, by the recently deceased Dutch writer Harry Mulish. This book is said to be 'the best Dutch book ever' and I wholeheartedly agree. Harry Mulish is considered as one of the 'great three' of Dutch postwar literature (meaning World War II). A must-read! Over the last year (2015) I've also read books by writers such as Alice Walker' (The Color Purple, what a book!); the incredibly impressive The Earth and Sky by Jacques Dorme; Saturday, by Ian McEwan - a difficult book. I had to put the book aside regularly for, in describing the thoughts of the main character it is a dense book. What I like about it is that Ian McEwan is able to present most of our current concerns and fears (radical islam, climate change, etc.) in a story where not much actually happens, yet it takes place in 24 hours. Really clever. Of course, there are scholarly books, such as The Origins of the Irish, which traces the evolution of the Ireland as we now know it ,and its inhabitants, from the start of the universe, through many eons of time to the current day.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I remember Wuthering Heights, had to read it in secondary school. Waow, what an impression that story made on me.
How do you approach cover design?
That's a real tricky one. I've no problem with the design itself, there are so many diagrams to use from Chinese Medicine. But to get it nice - that's another story. I suppose I should have had it done by a professional... In The Cat Series, I use a professional illustrator.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have no e-reader yet. I hope to invest in a kindle, though, in the near future. It's handy for traveling.
What's the story behind your latest book?
My latest eBook is Playalore. It is the only one of my children's books that I've converted to an eBook so far. It's a story about good and evil. It's about greed and extortion. But it's also about the joys of nature and about sharing and helping one another. It's unlike many current children's books which focus, often rather selfishly in my opinion, on one or two children. Playalore has a number of characters. Some are grown-up and some are not. Some characters, such as the cat, are portrayed through animals. I like this broader canvass. And I like to talk about and try to instill a love and respect for the natural world and for other species. This becomes even more important in some of the other books in this series, think of The Return of the Sun, and The Barrel Dogs (which is to appear in 2015).
What is your writing process?
Well, now there's a question. To write, I need to be 'in the flow'. When I began on The Cat Series, and when I wrote Mindful Nutrition, i focussed on the writing. For Mindful Nutrition, 'writing' was as much about 'organizing' the book, as it was about writing. In the children's books, it's pure writing. I find that, when I start, the stories enfoldsas as it were. However, with self-publishing, writing is the easy part. Getting the book published has proved to be an endless, costly and stressful process. This is partly due to the fact that I use images in the book. An illustrator does not come cheap. But self-publishing houses are in the business of keeping themselves afloat in a competitive market. The authors are squeezed when and where possible. So, in one year, I would say that writing 4 books took about 2 months to complete. The other 10 months were spent on a stressful and often very frustrating journey in the publishing department. By now, my illustrator and I have become quite good at desktop publishing. That's a bonus. But my creative juices have become completely buried beneath the publishing endevour. It's so bad that my fifth book, Cousin Henry, was left halfway finished and I don't know if I ever get the courage to finish it.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
To Kill a Mocking Bird is an absolute favourite because of its very distinctive tone. It is set in Alabama, part of the American deep south. Even though the book is about the ugly reality of poverty, rape and racial inequality to name but a few, the tone of the book is entirely compassionate and humane, funny at times and also sad. It's a book, partly, about the innocence of children and their growing awakening to the often impalatable realities of the adult world.

Pride and Prejudice, of course, is a favourite because of its brilliancy. Jane Austin had a fine way with words. This book is extremely witty. The five sisters are so well drawn, their mother a gem of a character, their father hugely lovable. And what of William Collins and Lady Catherine de Bourg! Just great!
What do you read for pleasure?
At this point in time, I really like historical fiction, especially about the court of Henry VIII. Some fine BBC films have been based on these books, think of Wolf Hall.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Aha, I wondered when this question would come up. I now nothing of marketing and I really need someone to step in and help me out with this. I really need to market my children's books. If you can, please contact me via my website: lenihurley.squarespace.com.
Published 2015-08-11.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.