I’m excited to introduce you to the lovely and talented LeAnne Hardy, a fellow MN-NICE author.
Where did you grow up? I was born in Rochester, Minnesota, while my dad was a resident at Mayo. When he finished, we moved back to my parents’ home state of Indiana. But then I married a Cambridge boy. During our thirty years overseas as missionaries, we were members of a Minnesota church, held Minnesota driver’s licenses and spent most of our furlough time here. Wisconsin, where I now live, was the extended-family lake home. Two of my juvenile fiction books—Crossovers and Between Two Worlds—are set in the fictional town of Rum River, Minnesota.
What did you want to be when you grew up? I always wanted to be a missionary. My parents had planned to be missionaries. Health concerns prevented them, but they still felt strongly that God wanted them involved in what he was doing in the non-Western world. They set goals for giving as much as they could to world missions. The missionaries they supported became family friends. I grew up praying for them and playing with their kids when they were in the US. I even wore clothes ordered from the Sears catalog that could then be shipped to Pakistan as “used.”
I “arranged” for my college roomie to meet one of these MKs (missionary kids) when we were in college. They married and have been missionaries in the Middle East for many years. For me the spiritual challenge was to tell the Lord I was willing to stay in boring old suburbia if that was what He asked of me.
It sure is a challenge to be willing to say that to God. Even though you now live in Wisconsin, what do you love about Minnesota? What are you not particularly fond of? What we love most is Minnesota Nice—that practical caring that typifies Minnesotans. When we moved to Communist Mozambique in the 1980s, our friends in Indiana were quick to write checks. Minnesota friends also sent donations, but total strangers in Minnesota refused money to outfit our barrels and used their own truck and forklift to deliver our crates to the shipping company in the Cities for free. We felt cared for.
What am I not fond of? Mosquitoes. I have threatened to write a horror story about the guy who takes the garbage out in the evening and in the morning they find his bloodless body.
Love it! I think it could be a best-seller! Tell us about your writing journey. I started writing in the mid 1990s when a daydream took over my life. I actually wondered if I was going crazy until I found out that outlines and character summaries are what writers do. Could I actually be a writer? (It could be argued that we are all crazy, but I’m not going there.) I studied the correspondence course from Institute for Children’s Literature. My final lessons there became the opening chapters of The Wooden Ox, about a Minnesota family kidnapped by rebels during the Mozambican civil war.
Thirteen-year-old Keri wonders if God is big enough to take care of not only her family but also the African child soldier who has become their friend. It took the usual long shopping around time to find a publisher. One major publisher wrote back that he didn’t believe we should suggest to young readers that they might doubt God, but this story is about finding out that God CAN be trusted. Eventually, Kregel offered me a contract based on the opening chapters. I then went into my own self-doubt. What if they changed their minds when they read the ending?
Every writer’s nightmare. Did they change their mind? They didn’t. They went on to publish three more books of mine. Unfortunately, despite great reviews, none of the books sold well. I returned to Africa to write for children affected by HIV&AIDS. That didn’t interest Kregel. Nor did they want the sequel to Glastonbury Tor since even being a Christy Award finalist was not enough to guarantee sales.
That left me at a disadvantage. Instead of being a promising new writer, I was a published writer with a bad sales history. My agent retired, leaving me on my own.
Wow. After the high of publishing numerous books, that must have bee quite a blow. It was a discouraging time. It was a nationally known agent at ACFW who advised me to self-publish. She loved my work, but it all appealed to niche audiences—not something she could see selling to a commercial publisher.
So that’s where I am now. Kregel returned rights to me. I have self-published Kindle versions of my previously published fiction, and done print-on-demand versions of one juvenile and my recently-released sequel to Glastonbury Tor, Honddu Vale. Both books are set in sixteenth century Britain at the time of King Henry VIII and contain mystical elements of the Holy Grail.
What is a lesson you learned during that journey? I realized early on that ultimately my agent is God. He is the one in control of my writing career. If it is His will for a handful of enthusiastic readers to be touched by my writing, that’s okay. Anything more is up to Him. It is my job to be faithful. I can’t expect Him to make me a bestseller if I’m not out there marketing, but I don’t need to feel like a failure if I never hit the big time.
That’s a great lesson for all of us to keep in mind. What was something that has surprised you so far? It surprised me that being previously published could be a liability.
That’s definitely not something I would expect. Tell us about your current work. I just released Honddu Vale. In Glastonbury Tor, God makes his presence known through an ancient olivewood drinking bowl found in the treasury of Glastonbury Abbey just as King Henry VIII is closing down the monastic system. In Honddu Vale, God is silent through most of the book while Colin, returned home from the monastery with the cup, must fight his own battle to forgive his demanding and abusive father. I’m working on book 3 in the Glastonbury Grail series, where God’s presence invades the life of the reclusive witch in the hills.
Before that is ready, I intend to release my HIV&AIDS novel in time for World AIDS Day, December 1. Keeping Secrets is about a promising South African figure skater, desperate to keep people at the rink from finding out her father has HIV.
What are your future plans and goals around writing? I have set up my own imprint called Birch Island Books. I have a fourth Glastonbury Grail book in mind and several other ideas to explore. Plus I have been doing freelance editing for a Christian publisher and private clients. It’s kind of nice to set my own deadlines
What is something you’d like to experience in Minnesota that you haven’t yet? I want to step across the Mississippi at Itasca! My husband and I are talking about driving the River Road in retirement.
What’s something most people don’t know about you? I am an adult figure skater. It’s wonderful fitness and aesthetic expression. I have competed a couple times, taking notes for my skating books, Crossovers and Keeping Secrets.
You’ve had an amazing journey so far, LeAnne. Thanks for sharing some of it with us here.
If you’d like to learn more about LeAnne and her books, you can find her at the following: