Interview with Leslie Edens Copeland

Who are your favorite authors?
I like Ray Bradbury! Pretty sure I was influenced by Douglas Adams. Also learned some things from Neil Gaiman. My love for Jhonen Vasquez is of the undying variety. Anne Lamott is really funny. I also think Lynda Barry is really talented. Old ones: Lewis Carroll and L. Frank Baum. Beyond them, I mostly dig the classics.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Huh? My cat would eat all my papers if I didn't get up. C'mon.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Trying to figure out a way to be writing.
What is your writing process?
Sit down. Pull up document. Write.
This was a lot harder before I practiced for many, many hours a day for many years. But at the current time, it is quite easy for me.
It has always been fun.
After I write my daily stuff, I usually read it to my daughter or a friend. I read out loud to detect phrases that don't work or repetition of words. Then, it's off to the beta reader or writer's group, then the editor, then online.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
No. I think it was in utero.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I remember reading The Wizard of Oz when I was five. This was not the first story I ever read, but it was the first chapter book without pictures. I thought the beginning chapter was a bit dull, so I skipped to the middle. This part was a lot more interesting, so I read from there to the end. It entertained me to read this way, because I did not know a lot of the earlier story, so I had to make parts up myself. By the time I reached the end, I found I wanted to know what happened in the beginning, so I went back and read from the beginning to the middle.
The impact was that I thereafter had to read all the Oz stories, and since the library had limited acquisitions, I read them out of order and had to make even more things up.
How do you approach cover design?
Very carefully, because it is rumored to be venomous.

I do often (safely) approach other people who claim they can help me with cover design. I am currently in the throes of cover design angst. I have tried my neighbor, my daughter, a web design service, a local photographer, and I hear somebody down at the co-op is supposedly doing it for cheap. I may eventually bite the bullet and learn to do my own.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read my own work. I also read the work of other authors who are friends of mine, in order to give them feedback. And yes, I do enjoy this.

I read books on writing craft and on book promotion, which I won't bore you with here. But I also enjoy this, particularly the craft, which is my passion. I can talk for days about craft, characterization, voice, story arc, themes...

I have an MA in English, so I have stored up an awful lot of other people's work in my brain by now. Occasionally, I do run across a book I like. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury really struck my fancy. I like books with a distinct or lyrical voice. I also enjoy some classical poetry. I have been trying to read more comic books and manga, an experience I didn't get enough of in childhood.
Describe your desk
Hahaha, DESK? If I wrote at a desk, I wouldn't be able to put in ten to twelve hours because my body would hurt too much. No, I have a writing COUCH, next to a yoga mat. I alternate between the couch and sitting on the yoga mat. My computer is on a roller table in between. I sleep next to it. That way, I can feel SAFE.

I also have a wall of inspiration behind me, with pictures of my characters and random cool-looking stuff. I don't actually look at it for inspiration, but it's pretty cool anyway.

Then there is this chair over here, with a lot of papers and junk piled on it. I don't know what that's about. Probably some bills in there or something.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was raised by wolves. Or more accurately, Labrador Retrievers. My parents were into ecology, which involved raising field trial dogs, living fifty miles from civilization, studying bird populations, working for the Fish and Wildlife Service, hiking, camping, fishing, horseback riding... I can't list all their things they did. This is a small box. Suffice it to say, my family was somewhat unusual, untrammeled by the bounds of society, marching to the beat of their own drum. And they did it in the middle of nowhere.

I lived on the Desert Range Experimental Station in Utah, then Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge in South Dakota, then Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. It influenced my writing in the following ways:
1) I did not have a lot of other kids to play with, and I had a LOT of space. So I roamed, and told myself stories as I did so. Out loud, usually. We only had three TV channels, and when I was very young, only a radio. So I often made my own entertainment. When my sisters got older, I made up stories for them to play out, and used them as my "characters," or recorded my own stories and shows on an old tape recorder to entertain them.
2) I rode the bus for an average of 2.5 hours a day in South Dakota, went on numerous long family trips into the wilderness, and had an 18-mile commute in New Mexico. This led to a lot of reading--and later, writing--in the car. A book or a notebook are great companions on a long trip.
3) I went to so many beautiful places, and I grew up around such beauty, that I still have a lot of great visual images to draw on to this day. My parents took us caving--they loved caves--and I often include caves in my stories. I saw a lot of natural wonders and magnificent, expansive landscapes, and I find I do use this kind of imagery in my stories. But in a larger sense, perhaps seeing and living in wild places all over the Western United States gave me a feeling of expansion and freedom to create that I still hold today.
4) But it also had very little to do with why I like cheesy scifi tropes. I can't answer that one for you.
When did you first start writing?
I mostly drew pictures until age six, when I started doing picture books with stories. From age seven on, I was quite serious about writing letters to friends, relatives, and penpals, and I had a diary at ages seven to nine, which I wrote in every night. At age ten, I adopted a journal that I carried everywhere. I did the journal thing until about five years ago, when I started to write mostly by laptop. I do still have journals, but they're mostly a backup tool now.

I think of writing as more of a lifestyle choice than an activity.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Heather Despair, Book One: Mortals follows the adventures of fifteen-year-old Heather Despair, whose older brother, Sam, disappears mysteriously right before they are about to run away. Raised in a junkyard by a stepfather they dislike, Heather and Sam have long had strange abilities. Sam hears voices and has visions, while Heather sees ghosts and crackles with blue electricity. They can speak to each other telepathically. They attribute this to their father, who was the town spiritualist before his untimely and mysterious death.
After Sam's disappearance, Heather involves a geeky paranormal investigation club from her high school to help her track down Sam. But her spirit writing, blasts of blue electricity, telekinesis, and ghost sightings may be more than they can handle. Finally, a ghost appears to Heather in the junkyard, and tells her Sam is in the City of the Dead.
Attempting to make further contact with the ghost, Heather next encounters a strange boy in the junkyard, a teenaged Victorian spirit named Emmett who escorts her to the spirit world. But he seems to have other plans for her when he offers her a ring and asks her to become his protegee--for life! Heather is put off, but the ring focuses her dangerously out-of-control powers, and she does need Emmett's help, and she's beginning to feel weirdly at home in the spirit world. But--for life?! To find Sam, and to fulfill her own destiny, Heather will have to discover just who she trusts and where she really belongs.
What are you working on next?
Currently, I have completed the rewrite on the manuscript for Heather Despair, Book Two: Portals, which will be manifesting in ebook form on March 31st, 2018, after my editor has a go at it. So I am currently working on a rewrite of Heather Despair, Book Three: Spirits. After my beta reader hacks away at it, and then my editor attacks it with her large talons, we should see it manifesting in ebook form some time in the summer of 2018, if all goes well.
I also have a fourth Heather Despair manuscript, currently in disarray, and two manuscripts about one of the characters in Heather Despair (the titles are Oskar Ottokar Chandler, Paranormal Extraordinaire and Diary of a Mad Editor). Additionally, I have numerous short stories and a short trilogy called the Half-Ghosts, about the children in the next generation of the Despair 'verse. Finally, I am currently working on... ta da... The Odd Pizza Place!

My current work-in-progress, The Odd Pizza Place, is an urban fantasy set in a seaside town (like Seattle, or Bellingham, perhaps?) It's my first for-adults book! The rest have all been YA fantasy. It's the story of Jake Li, who is by all appearances an ordinary pizza manager in a funky university neighborhood. Yet something is strange about this pizza place, and we learn that Jake is not just a pizza manager, but a psionic mystic, a type of dimensionally transcendent alien from 37.5CZ, who has been sent by the Higher Purpose Committee to watch over the portals present in and around the pizza place. He provides other aliens with cover jobs when needed, and manages a large collection of information disguised as 'zines that pile up in the pizza place.
The trouble begins when Coney Idyll, the infamous editor of the deadzines, arrives looking for a cover job and a place to lay low. When the Higher Purpose Committee orders Jake to interrogate Coney, Coney disappears--and takes his 'zines with him. Determined to get him back, or risk losing his promotion, Jake goes on a journey through the city, out to sea, and to the underworld below, searching for Coney. He meets a talking dog, a pack of thieving cat people, a sexy cat burglar, some offshore pharmacy pirates, and a man who hasn't come up from underground for six years. Then the true goal of the Higher Purpose Committee is revealed, and Jake has to decide just who calls the shots for Jake. Is his body truly his own, or does it belong to a corporation? And who has control over Jake's destiny? We better hope it is Jake, or it might be the end of Earth as we know it!
Published 2017-11-10.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.