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Through the Wringer: Shayne Leighton

This New Year's Day, our Blog Maven got a chance to chat with the Of Light and Darkness series author, Shayne Leighton! She's emerged to spill the tea on her new literary ventures with the upcoming OLAD sequel, Of Blood and Magic (expected later this year), her writing rituals, AND the brand new Parliament Press secret society website.

You’re currently working on book two of the OLAD series. What is your literary journey like, lately?

I am so excited that I am finally getting back to my own world after some years of not really giving my whole heart to it. Of Light and Darkness (to me) is my Sistine Chapel. I’ve published and republished and reworked because every detail has to be right…or as close to right as possible. The journey is different now, because I have The Parliament House and that is obviously very time-consuming, but it’s an equal love of mine. Before, I used to hole up for weeks at a time to write and immerse myself in my own world and really live with these characters (who are all based on real people and real situations)— but now, I don’t get that luxury. So writing Of Blood and Magic has been my favorite escapism — just stolen moments here and there of plunging into my own world for a bit and then having to resurface and put my publishing hat back on. 

Is there a scene, in either OLAD or OBAM that made you cry while writing it?

Yes, actually— in OLAD, it was the birthday party scene. For my 17th birthday, my mom threw a surprise party that was outrageous and very special. It was similar to that scene in the book (minus the gang of undead people, unfortunately). But all of my friends were there. And Frank, who worked at night and slept during the day and who used to travel long distances for his work, was supposed to not have been there that night. But he was—my friends had shoved him away in a corner. Later, I found out he’d said to one of my friends that he would have “moved mountains to be there”. Keep in mind, Frank is ten years older than me, so when I was seventeen, we were strictly just friends. (And remained just friends for a long time after that. Lol.) But I’d been in love with Frank since I’d met him a year earlier. I had the biggest crush on him. So, when I was writing that birthday party scene, it had been a really hard year. Life became very different, and I was in a darker place— so I think just recounting all of that happiness just made me emotional and made that scene in particular very personal and special. 

Would you consider your protagonist a good person?

So, my protagonist is Charlotte, who is based (very loosely, lol) on myself. I think good and bad are hard to see sometimes. I think she tries. I  think she has her bad moments. I mean…she kills people. She’s assisted with like…a ton of murders. So, is she a bad person? But she loves Valek with her whole self and she wants him to be alive and comfortable. So, is she a good person? I guess it depends on where you’re standing. We are all the villain in someone’s story. And we are also, sometimes, the hero? The comedic relief? …depending on where other people are standing. 

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

Speaking about the craft, I think comparing yourself too much to others is the biggest trap. It’s a great time to be a writer, because I think readers are more accepting now than ever before of different styles and mechanics and the way you use the craft to paint your picture. People are becoming better at celebrating when something is different, so you will always find your readership. Sometimes it takes a bit longer…but you will find your people. So don’t spend time comparing yourself to other writers (especially the more established ones), because you will never finish your book. Learn and love and accept why your voice is unique while simultaneously growing to become better (we can all be better), but let that happen organically and not because you wish you were as masterful as Leigh Bardugo (who is my particular ghost on my shoulder). 

How does a big ego help writers? How can it hinder writers?

Haha. I have a big ego probably. I think having a big ego makes you more brazen and more willing to take chances. A think a big ego allows you to look before you leap. It’s a good thing in art, because you put yourself out there unapologetically and expect that people will love it. It can hinder you when you find out not everyone will love it and then when you’re writing your sequel book (like me), you second guess every move you make for the next five years until everyone has forgotten about you and your series…. *cough* sorry. What was the question? 

What is your writing Kryptonite?

Music with lyrics in it. Shut off that noise. I can’t focus. You’re ripping me out of my world. Can’t you see I’m painting the next great masterpiece? It’s as if you’ve ridden into the room on a horse! (And then I start singing…and then I get on social media…What’s a manuscript? Why am I here?) 

What is the darkest thing you’ve ever written? T