September is rolling along with lots of great interviews. Award-winning author Nikki Leigh joins us today to talk about the second book in her Misty Cove Chronicles series, Lady Lightkeeper. We’ll also discuss the settings for both the Misty Cove series and Nikki’s Cape Hatteras series and find out what other projects Nikki is working on. And make sure you read all the way through to find out about the two giveaways Nikki has going this month during her Virtual Book Tour.
Welcome to The Book Connection, Nikki. It’s great to have you here.
Before we get to your books, can you tell us a bit about yourself? How long have you been writing? Did you choose this career path or did it choose you?
I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I’ve always read too much (just ask my parents)and I enjoyed writing and creating stories and plays. After I got out of school, I got tied up in the business world and did some writing, but not as much as I wanted. Finally in the summer of 2001, I decided to find an online place to take writing classes and to get serious about it. That was soon after I read “The Artist Way” which was incredibly helpful in helping me get past a bunch of mental stumbling blocks. At first I chose writing and then in the fall of 2005, I needed to make a job change and for some crazy reason I decided to get into freelancing fulltime.
This might be a question you hear a lot but it’s one I ask all my visiting authors because I find how they approach their craft intriguing. What is your writing process like? Do you write every day? Is there a time of day when you are more productive than others?
I like to plan my writing. I interview and plan the characters, plan and research the setting and I plan the major things that will happen in the story. However, if I’m writing and the story starts to take an unexpected path, I let it play out and see if I can make it work. Most every time it works. When I was writing one book a year, it wasn’t as critical, but between my books and client ghostwritten books, I’ve written 14 books in the last 2 years. I’ve found the planning helps me to write at a much faster pace and that’s helped very much. Planning is also helpful when working on a series and it helps me to tie things together and to make sure I get from point A to point Z.
I have to tell you that when I found out you wrote about the Outer Banks of North Carolina (the place I long to retire to) and a fictional fishing town similar to Gloucester, MA which is only a couple hours away from me, I knew we were kindred spirits. Why are you drawn to the Atlantic Coast? How does it inspire your writing?
I live about four hours from the Atlantic Ocean and have traveled all along the coast during my life. There is so much incredible history around the Outer Banks along with a truly unique setting and so I had to write stories there. I had a contemporary story in mind and stuffed it in a box for many years, but I couldn’t figure out where to set the book. My brother and I took a vacation to Cape Cod and I knew immediately that that setting wouldn’t work. On the same trip, I insisted that we visit Gloucester. It was the year that The Perfect Storm was in the theatres and curiosity got the better of me. When we got to Gloucester I knew that was the setting I’d been searching to find. The more I read about the history of the area, the more the original story idea changed. Then, I got an idea for a historic series set in the same location. The ocean, the sand, the history and the lighthouses all inspire me. Besides, when I write about the ocean, I feel like I’m there. It’s a nice change since I live in the mountains. There are beach and lighthouse pictures throughout my house which also help set the mood for my stories.
Let’s move on to Lady Lightkeeper. This is the second novel in your Misty Cove Chronicles series. Why did you create the fictional town of Misty Cove and why did you use Cape Ann in Gloucester, MA as an inspiration for it?
Misty Cove was in my head for about fourteen years before I figured out where it was located and before I really did any work on the story. I knew it would be on the coast and I knew there would be a lighthouse and lifesaving history that would play a part in the story. Those original ideas became Stormy View (which will be re-released later this year under the title Stormy Shores). I wanted to show the proud heritage of the multi-generational lighthouse keepers in the story and I inserted quite a bit of family history into that story. Then, it dawned on me that I could write the story of the great great great grandmother that I mentioned in Stormy View. And, Widow’s Walk was born. I brainstormed the story ideas so much that the original idea has grown into 2 books with a short story and another book in the works. The history of Gloucester and the hardships and determination of the fishermen and their wives inspired many ideas for the book and certainly Lady Lightkeeper.
So that the readers can get a feel for these books, can you talk briefly about Widow’s Walk, which is the first book in the Misty Cove Chronicles?
Widow’s Walk begins in the evening of October 3, 1841 and the October Gale is headed to the Cape Ann coast. The October Gale actually happened and some of the news reports are included in the story. It hit Cape Cod worse than Cape Ann, but it still worked for my story. Lizbeth, the heroine, is preparing for her wedding to her longtime sweetheart, William. (William is wonderful by the way.) The Gale is getting closer and Lizbeth’s father is headed to shore in his fishing boat to be home for her wedding. She’s apprehensive and that concern gets much worse when she realizes the lighthouse isn’t shining and William spots her father’s boat, stranded on the shoals. Lizbeth is a strong and independent woman – which doesn’t go over well in the 1840’s. There is plenty of atmosphere and the reader sees how Lizbeth handles the multitude of problems that I give her. William is by her side and Sara, her beloved friend and former caretaker, is with her. I can tell you, never believe everything you read and there could be surprises around the corner.
Chapter One of Lady Lightkeeper, finds Lizbeth Sullivan Kinsey staring out at the coast from the Misty Cove lighthouse. She is eagerly awaiting the return of her husband William whose ship is weeks overdue. In this chapter, we not only find out what is currently going on, we also get a brief glimpse into Lizbeth’s past. How did you weave in this backstory without halting the action of the present day happenings?
I really struggle with backstory because I always want to reveal too much. This was my first sequel and I really worried about boring people who had read Widow’s Walk by giving too much detail or confusing people who hadn’t read Widow’s Walk by giving too little detail. That’s going to be even tougher with the third book in the series, but I’m ready for the challenge. I like using first person because I can bring the reader right into the narrator’s mind. One of my favorite reviews compared reading my books to reading a diary.
Lizbeth has already suffered many disappointments in life and in Lady Lightkeeper she is forced to create a new life for herself and her children while still holding onto the hope that William will return. What is it about Lizbeth’s story that readers can most relate to?
Lizbeth is a wealthy woman, but she proves that money doesn’t guarantee happiness. I actually struggled with whether to make her wealthy and it added some new dimensions to the story. She is strong and she is determined to get what she wants and needs, but her childrens’ happiness is of primary concern and their needs add to her inner struggle as the story progresses. She lost her mother at a young age and she lost her father as a young woman and she wants her children to know their parents. Lady Lightkeeper has been described as a story of lost denied, love lost and love regained. That can apply on a number of levels in the story.
In this chapter we also met Sara, who was the housekeeper when Lizbeth grew up. They are very close and Sara lives with Lizbeth and her family. What else can you tell us about Sara and why does she play such an important role in Lady Lightkeeper?
Sara is a quiet heroine in the story. I’m putting the finishing touches on the story of Sara’s trip to America in the early 1800’s and it shows how she came to live with Captain Sullivan and his young daughter Lizbeth. Sara becomes the closest woman in Lizbeth’s life because her mother died and her father is at sea much of the time. Their friendship causes problems for Lizbeth in Widow’s Walk and Lady Ligthkeeper, but she loves Sara and fights to protect her. There is also a family secret that I reveal in Widow’s Walk about why Sara loves Lizbeth so much. These women are tied together in many ways and I cannot imagine one without the other. The story about Sara will be an e-book and it’s tentatively titled "A Whisper on the Waves". I had to know more about how Sara got to Misty Cove, so it just made sense to write the story and to share it with others.
On your website - http://www.nikkileigh.com/index.htm - readers can find a wealth of information about all your books, including character sketches, pictures, and maps for your novels. Why did you provide this much online detail about your books?
The website has gotten much bigger than I expected, but there’s so much I want to share with people. For people who are interested in the creative process, there’s all kinds of detail and I liked the idea of sharing pictures of the setting. Much of this information was provided to help bring readers further into Misty Cove and the worlds where my characters live.
You also own a small business consulting and promotional business. How has this helped you market your books?
I’ve actually got over 16 years of marketing experience in a number of businesses. When I compiled my first query letter, people insisted that my marketing background wouldn’t help me and that publishers wouldn’t care. I knew that was untrue and the publisher who has all my Nikki Leigh books likes my promotional background and I used much of that experience in my first book promotion book. I think that having a strong promotional background has helped me and I just struggle to find more time to implement all the promotional ideas racing around in my head.
So, how do readers get their hands on a copy of any or all of your books?
The books which are available are all listed on Amazon. If you’d like the easy way to find them, I created a book sale page with links to the pages on Amazon. I always have copies of my book in stock and I mail autographed copies to people. My web page with order details is http://www.nikkileigh.com/books_4_sale.htm. For people who buy more than one book, I do offer deals. Anyone who would like a signed book plate for books they order from Amazon can contact me at email@example.com.
What’s up next for you? Do you have any new projects in the works? Anything exciting to tell your readers and fellow writers?
I’m finishing the short story about Sara and I hope it will be available in September. An anthology for my group, the Readers’ Station, is in layout and will be released soon and my promotional book, Book Promo 101 – Basics of Book Promotion is also in layout. I expect both of those books to be available in November. I need to finish editing and making some changes to Stormy Shores and I hope it will be released by the end of the year. Finally, I’m starting research and planning for Rebels and Rogues – the third book in the Misty Cove Chronicles and I hope to have it to my publisher by the end of the year. Once all of that is finished, I hope to start on Book Promo 201.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I think we’ve covered things pretty well. I’m starting to offer a variety of promotional services for authors and the details are at http://www.nikkileigh.com/promo.htm. The page is still rough, but it’s a good start. Readers and writers can feel free to contact me with questions and I especially love to hear feedback on my books.
Each person who buys a copy of Lady Lightkeeper, needs to email me a copy of their receipt. I just need a receipt that shows you bought a copy of Lady Lightkeeper and I'll enter you in the drawing for a copy of Widow's Walk. However, if the winner already has a copy of Widow's Walk, I'll be happy to send a copy of Lilah and the Locket instead.
In addition, each person who posts a comment on any or all of the blog stops will be entered in a separate giveaway. Each comment will be entered in the drawing and at the end of the month, one person will win a copy of Lady Lightkeeper. Again, if the winner bought the book already, I'll send them another book as a prize. Any questions, let me know. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for chatting with us today, Nikki. We enjoyed getting to know more about you and your books. I have a feeling we’ll be swapping more emails about our beloved Atlantic Coast. Until then, please know I wish you much continued success.
Thank you very much for having me and I look forward to talking about the coast. We might even run into each other on the Outer Banks one day.