Interview with Leslie Wells

How did your book publishing career influence the writing of your novel, Come Dancing?
I began writing Come Dancing in 2009, on the thirtieth anniversary of my arrival in Manhattan. I wanted to describe what it was like in the early Eighties, when the city was still rough along the edges. And when nightclubs like the Palladium, the Roxy, Danceteria, and the Mudd Club attracted a huge mix of people from many different strata of society.

Back then, you could go out dancing and run into just about anyone: actors, politicians, rock musicians. Celebrities weren’t surrounded by bodyguards; the assumption was that if you were allowed into a club, you were cool. No one was going to harass anybody; after all, this was downtown. And there were no cell phones back then. People didn’t walk around with a camera in their pockets 24/7—so if you were famous, you didn’t have to worry about being photographed every time you turned around. That made for a much more open atmosphere, where regular people rubbed shoulders with the glitterati as everyone cut loose on the dance floor.

I also wanted to write about book publishing before the advent of e-readers and computers, when we were all lugging home 400-page manuscripts every night. As with the music biz, the changes have been seismic. Over the years, many people have asked me what editorial meetings are really like—so I’ve included some of those in my novel.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
My day job is editing, so I spend my time editing other authors' books--both fiction and nonfiction.
I also hang out with my family and our dog, and enjoy cooking (and eating!) and jogging (actually "trudging" may be a better description). And I spend time blogging about writing tips and New York City in the Eighties at
What is your writing process?
I'm a very early riser, so I tend to write between 4 and 8 am. Come Dancing began with a dream; I woke up one morning with the words "Please Do Not Touch" echoing in my mind. I went downstairs and wrote that scene, and the entire novel spooled out from there. I'm a big believer in outlines, so I did a detailed synopsis before I wrote the rest of the book. Of course, that outline changed about a zillion times -- I revised this novel for four years before it was published.
How do you approach cover design?
I wanted a very strong, crisp cover image that would stand out on both a phone and an ereader. I also wanted a flirty photograph that would indicate the humor and freshness of my story. I worked with Laura Klynstra, a talented designer who found the picture and did the typefaces. Once we decided on the photo, I wrote that skirt into the novel!
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: Humor, romantic tension, earlly 1800s English countryside and manners
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf: Stream of consciousness that flows from one amazing character to the next; an unforgettable portrait of a wife and mother
Ulysses by James Joyce: This book broke the mold for all literature to come; experimental and mind-bending
Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust: Sheer luminosity of prose
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner: Southern as can be, with all the pain and angst that apply
What do you read for pleasure?
I have very eclectic reading habits, and also I read to keep up with current publishing trends, since I'm a book editor. For instance, books I've recently read (and really enjoyed) are: 1927 by Bill Bryson; My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff; One Plus One by Jojo Moyes; Vacationers by Emma Straub; All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr; The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner; and Longbourn by Jo Baker.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Lowering the price of my novel to 99 cents and posting the info on bargain book sites. Also I have done guest posts about writing and publishing on blogs such as Jane Friedman's excellent publishing blog. My blog about writing tips has also garnered interest in my novel:
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in southern Virginia, and this definitely influenced my writing in terms of adding Southern dialogue and characters. For instance, one of the members in Jack's British band is a keyboard player from Marietta, Georgia named Sammy. I had a lot of fun with his colorful Southern expressions.
When did you first start writing?
I wrote my first long story in third grade, when I was eight. With my publishing career, my own writing took a backseat for quite a while.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I woke up from a dream with the words "Please Do Not Touch" echoing in my head. I went downstairs and wrote that chapter, which occurs in the middle of the book; then I worked backwards and the rest of the book spooled out from there. I wanted to describe what New York City was like in the early Eighties before it was sanitized, and also what book publishing was like before the advent of computers and e-readers, when we were all lugging home 400-page manuscripts every night.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords enabled me to get my novel out to all the ebook platforms quickly and easily. I loved the convenience of being able to download the book once and have it disseminated. When I want to lower the price for a few bargain days, all I have to do is enter the change in one place, and I can rest assured that the various venues will make the adjustment. And I really loved Mark Coker's advice on marketing; I have taken every word of his Smashwords Marketing Guide to heart, and his blog is fantastic!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
It is a true thrill to envision a scene and then get it down in the right words. Often an idea for dialogue comes to me when I'm out jogging; I'll rush in and scribble it down on a scrap of paper. Then I revise endlessly, of course. It's such a pleasure to feel you have finally nailed it. The other great joy is seeing readers' and reviewers' positive reactions, once the book is out. I wish I could thank every single reader individually. I do respond to all emails sent to me at
What do your fans mean to you?
The word "fans" might be a little exaggerated, but readers who enjoy my novel put me on cloud nine. So many people have asked if I'm writing a sequel, and those comments have inspired me to do just that!
What are you working on next?
I'm working on the sequel to Come Dancing. It picks up right where the novel left off; Julia and Jack go to England to meet his Mum, and then lots of other things happen once they're back in New York City.
Published 2014-09-10.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Keep Dancing
Series: Jack and Julia. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 82,670. Language: English. Published: May 6, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Contemporary, Fiction » Humor & comedy » General
Julia is a young book editor on the rise. Jack is a British rock star at the pinnacle of his fame. Can they both get what they want—when what they need threatens to tear them apart? "This is a 5 star series...I loved the chemistry between Jack and Julia." —The Book Enthusiast " Emotionally plump with laughter, love, and heartbreak." —Smexy Reviews
Come Dancing
Series: Jack and Julia. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 94,280. Language: English. Published: September 7, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Contemporary, Fiction » Humor & comedy » General
Julia is a book-loving publisher’s assistant. Jack is a famous British rock star. “Opposites attract” is an understatement. Julia enjoys going dancing in Manhattan nightclubs with her best friend. One night, a hot guitarist invites her into his VIP section—but she resists being one in a long line … Eventually Julia soars to heights she’s never known, and plunges into depths she’s never imagined.