I’m so excited to get to share my interview with Leslea Wahl with you all today! I am a little star struck, I have to admit, whenever I get talk to someone I really admire. Ms. Wahl is one of those people! Not only is she a great young adult author, but she tells her story and shares her faith with such entertainment! Her books are great adventures and mysteries and I, for one, am so glad she has decided to start writing.
Can you tell us a bit about you and your family?
I live in beautiful Colorado with my husband and three children. Although “children” doesn’t really describe our kids anymore. Our oldest just graduated college, our middle child is currently in college and our “baby” will be a senior in high school. As a family, we love to travel and try new adventures like zip-lining, jet skiing and scuba diving.
What made you decide to start writing and why did you chose to write for a young adult audience?
I’ve always been creative but never thought about writing a novel, especially for teens. But when my older children were preteens and began searching for YA books to read, I was having a really hard time finding books that they wanted to read that also reflected our values. I wondered why no one was writing these kinds of books. Then one day I woke up and the story of my first novel, The Perfect Blindside, just came to me. The characters and scenes kept flooding my mind until I finally started to write them down. I definitely felt God called me to write that book. Since then my passion has been to write Young Adult fiction and to encourage teens in their faith.
I am a convert to Catholicism. I actually grew up in the Mennonite church. After my husband and I were married, I started to see how amazing the Catholic faith was. What I loved the most was how the church, through the Pope and bishops, remained unfaltering in the teachings of Christ. Some churches I had attended focused more on what was important to the minister and sometimes the sermons were made to match their political or personal beliefs.
When our children started school, I wanted them to not only grow up in the faith but to be surrounded by it, so we sent them to Catholic schools. Our older two chose to continue their education at Catholic colleges and our youngest is currently applying to Catholic colleges as well.
How has Jesus played an important role in your life?
Jesus has always been important in my life. I grew up in a strong church community and family and felt Him guiding me throughout my life – answering prayers, leading me, and protecting me. I love looking back and seeing the way He always answered my prayers, often in unexpected and surprising ways.
What is your favorite under-appreciated novel?
That’s a tough question. I guess I’d have to say Sketchy Behavior by Erynn Mangum because this book really helped me find my writing style.
After the idea for my first novel popped into my head, I began to write the clean, wholesome story but didn’t think about making it a Christian novel. I felt sure God had called me to write this book but when I began to send it out to publishers, I wasn’t getting any interest. In fact, I sent nearly 90 query letters with very little feedback. One day, after praying for God’s guidance, I went to a local bookstore and began to browse the Young Adult section. I came across Sketchy Behavior. It had everything I love in a book – humor, mystery, light romance, and adventure. It wasn’t until I was part way through the story that I realized it was actually a Christian book. The faith elements were just a natural part of the story and the character’s journey. I realized this was what I needed to do with my story, let my characters experience their faith in a natural way and turn to God when trouble arose. Once I changed the genre, I had immediate interest in the novel, and the first Catholic publisher I sent it to, decided to publish the book.
So, that book will always have a special place in my heart since it helped me become the writer I am today.
What is your favorite children’s picture book?
Go Dog Go by Dr. Seuss was always one of my children’s favorites. I have fond memories of my husband and children reading this book, quite enthusiastically.
In recent years our family been lucky enough to travel to Italy twice and honestly I would love to go back. But my other “bucket list” destination would be Greece. I’ve always thought it would be amazing to visit the islands that St. Paul visited – Corinth, Philippi and Thessalonica.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
I would recommend finding a mentor of some sort – another writer or teacher who could give honest and productive feedback. It’s really hard to critique our own work. Even though the idea for my first novel just popped into my head, it was extremely rough and I worked with a mentor for a year to develop the right voice for my characters and craft the mystery into a compelling story. That unbiased feedback was invaluable.
Are you working on any new novels? If yes, can you share a little about it?
I have a few projects in the works. My newest adventurous mystery, Where You Lead, will be coming out next spring. The spark for this novel actually came to me nearly twenty-five years ago. I had a fleeting thought that I felt would make a great beginning to a book but since I wasn’t a writer back then, never pursued it. But after I published The Perfect Blindside I kept pondering the idea and wondering how it could be made to fit a YA novel. Eventually inspiration hit and the story about recognizing a call from God came together. I’ve also recently finished the sequel to The Perfect Blindside. Revisiting those characters was so much fun, I hadn’t realized how much I had missed them! I’m hoping it will also be released sometime in 2018.
Finally, can you tell us one thing about yourself that you haven’t shared in any other author interview?
I like to include lots of incidents from my own life in my books. For instance, my pets all make an appearance in my stories. In An Unexpected Role, my main character is a theater enthusiast and the plays and musicals that she mentions are all ones that either myself or my kids were in. Without giving anything away, there is also a scene in this book involving a certain sea creature. That scene was inspired by an actual event that occurred on one of our family vacations. Also, one of the main characters in An Unexpected Role is related to one of the main characters in The Perfect Blindside. So far no one has figured it out.