Saturday, November 28, 2009

Winners for Week 1

Congratulations to our winners this week. Richard will be sending a copy of New America to
Jenny Thornton of Seven Springs, NC and Amy Simon of Jackson, WI.

Thanks to all of you who entered the contest. Remember that we will give away two more books next week. So stop by again and leave a comment. Be sure to tell your friends about our contest.

See you next week!

Friday, November 20, 2009

NEW AMERICA Interview and Contest

Available now! New America: A Novel by Richard Leonard

"If you save someone's life, they belong to you forever."

Russia might want its territory back. Should New America, the fledgling Christian nation on Siberia's east coast, pursue a defense treaty with its decadent mother country? Sent to the United States on a fund-raising mission for a New American presidential candidate, a young lawyer grapples with a dilemma. A woman whose life as an abortion survivor is endangered by the Fugitive Fetus Law appeals for his help. There's only one way he can rescue her, and that way will jeopardize his relationship with his New American girlfriend.


Ann Knowles from Write Pathway recently spoke with Dr. Richard Leonard about his latest book, New America.

Ann: Richard, I wanted to interview you because I believe that New America is a book whose time has come. You dare to step into the future and give us a story that almost seems like it is based on today's culture in America.

So let's get started. I know that you are a minister. Since you are also a writer, do you consider yourself a bivocational Pastor?

Richard: Actually, I am “retired.” Except for a few interim pastorates (most recently 2004-05), I have not been employed as a minister since 1980. I worked for Rand McNally as a transportation data analyst and retired from there in 2001 after twenty years. At different times I have also been a college professor and dean of a graduate school. Since 1993 I have done work-for-hire editing and writing from time to time, mostly through the Livingstone Corporation. But my fiction writing has always been on my own, more or less as a hobby rather than a vocation.

Ann: Tell us your educational background?

Richard: I majored in music at Illinois Wesleyan University (B.A., 1960), then attended Boston University School of Theology (S.T.B., 1963) and earned the Ph.D. in Biblical Studies (Old Testament) from Boston University (1972).

Ann: So many authors say that they always wanted to write. Is writing something you have always wanted to do?

Richard: I have been writing since childhood; going through some memorabilia recently I found a story I had written as a child that my mother had saved. I won two short story awards in high school. For many years most of my writing was for academic purposes, including pieces I wrote in a college writing class and, of course, term papers for college and graduate school and my Ph.D. dissertation. I also usually wrote out my sermons when I was serving as a pastor. I started writing for hire when asked to be Scripture Editor for The Complete Library of Christian Worship (Hendrickson, 1993) and have continued off and on since then.

Ann: What prompted your decision to become a writer?

Richard: I never made such a decision. I have always had a penchant for creating and organizing, and writing has been part of that thrust along with other activities such as photography, composing music and web site development. When I started writing fiction it was for a specific purpose, to bring across a theological or cultural message through the medium of narrative instead of direct discussion.

Ann: What types of writing have you done?

Richard: Short stories, sermons, academic papers, theological studies, technical writing, children’s stories, novels, poetry, blogs, newspaper and web site copy, and commentary on the photos in my railroad web site (

Ann: What motivates you to write?

Richard: The creating and organizing impulse mentioned above, the furtherance of hobby interests, and the desire to propagate Christian truth as I understand it.

Ann: What kind of projects are you currently involved in?

Richard: Because we have been involved in relocating in recent months I do not have a current writing project. I am also a publisher (see and that is an ongoing activity. I self-published my latest novel, New America, in January 2009. Also, my web site management is an ongoing project; see for the list of sites I manage, including our ministry site,

Ann: I know your wife writes poetry. Do you two ever work together on projects?

Richard: Yes, I publish the poetry magazine she edits, WestWard Quarterly ( ), and publish her poetry chapbooks. We have also shared some writing projects, such as our incomplete novel The Twilight Side of the Hill.

Ann: Where do you get ideas for your books?

Richard: My ideas for fiction come from life experiences, from an awareness of theological or cultural issues that could be highlighted through narrative form, or from a desire to do something differently from the way it is usually done. For example, I was disturbed that Christian readers are drawn to fantasy that partakes of magic or the occult, so (together with my youngest daughter) I wrote a fantasy-adventure where the characters encounter the God of the Bible — under another name — instead of dealing with wizardry.

Ann: Which of your books has given you the greatest sense of accomplishment?

Richard: I think Heart of the Highriders (mentioned above) gave me the greatest sense of accomplishment because it was co-written with my daughter, Charity Silkebakken (see

Ann: How do you come up with characters? Do you have some type of form that you fill out to plan for your characters and their characteristics?

Richard: My characters are usually modeled after people I have known, picking up major traits or combining traits from several people into one character. Often I have “written myself” into one or more characters. In my latest novel, for example, I identify with at least two characters who have traits similar to mine.

Ann: Are you a “fly by the seat of your pants” writer or do you plot everything before you start writing?

Richard: I have a general working concept of where the story needs to go, but as it develops I add twists and turns I had not thought of before. For example, in Heart of the Highriders I had not planned to have one of the “villain” characters turn out to be the secret illegitimate son of a major good character. And in New America it was an afterthought to make one of the characters a handicapped person, adding to the novel’s diverse cast of characters.

Ann: Let’s talk about your latest book, New America. You had some interest for this book from a traditional publisher, didn’t you? Why did you decide to self-publish?

Richard: There was one “feeler” from a standard publisher but after they considered the proposal they turned it down. I do not write according to the contemporary template for Christian fiction, so I could never find a publisher or even an agent that would take it on. I decided to self-publish to get the project behind me.

Ann: When I read New America I thought it was a very fitting book for today’s culture. What have others said about it?
Richard: Most people who have commented on it have said it held their attention--at the end of a chapter they wanted to keep reading to see what would happen next. Several have agreed with you about the book's timely warning. A few have suggested that some plot elements are unrealistic, though I defend them in the preface. I suppose if everything in a work of fiction was totally realistic, we wouldn't need to write it.
Ann: Will there be another book by Dr. Richard Leonard?

Richard: Now that we are resettled in Hamilton, Illinois, Shirley Anne and I might be able to take another look at The Twilight Side of the Hill, which has been on hold.
Ann: What would you like to say to a struggling, unpublished author?

Richard: Write because you love writing and need to create in order to be fulfilled. Try to do something different from what other writers are doing; avoid writing to a template or fitting into a mold. Do not expect anyone else to be eager to publish or promote your book, because others are involved with their own interests and preferences and are may not view your work as fitting into their scheme. Write because it’s fun and because it’s “what you do,” not because you could make any money from it. If recognition and remuneration come, that is the “icing on the cake,” but it is up to the Lord whether or not it comes.

Ann: Do you have other special interest or hobbies?

Richard: Some have been mentioned above. Classical and sacred music have been major interests, and I have composed choral and instrumental works although my only instrument is the flute. From childhood I have followed my father’s railroad hobby and maintain a web site based on photographs of steam locomotives I took in the 1950s ( ), along with other railroad-related web site work and activities. Some of my scenic photography is on Flickr ( ). Occasionally I build furniture items, such as bookcases, for our grandchildren (of which we have 26), or for our own use. I build web sites using straight HTML and CSS coding (no templates or third-party programs).

Ann: What is your favorite “get away from it all” day?

Richard: I do not have such a day because it would make me nervous to be “getting away” from all the things I need to be doing! I am most relaxed and at peace when creating, and bringing order out of disorder. (My middle daughter calls me “the king of organization.”)

Ann: Thank you so much for sharing with us, Richard. Readers are always interested in learning about the writer from a personal viewpoint. And who better to tell us about that, than the author himself. And about The Twilight Side of the Hill---I really hope you and Shirley Anne will get back to that. I enjoyed reading it when I was in the critique group with you.


Okay, folks, here’s the good news! You can be a winner! For the next five weeks, Richard will give away two copies of New America to lucky readers. All you have to do is leave a comment each week on the Write Pathway blog. Two names will be drawn each week. You may enter every week, but you can only win once. If you win a copy of his book, Richard would like feedback from you about the book. So leave a comment right now and you may be the first winner of a copy of New America.

Thanks again, Richard, for making the book available on “Write Pathway Where Writers and Editors Get Together.”

Be sure to visit to see more books by Richard.