Award winning author, Leisl Leighton, is a tall red head with an overly large imagination. As a child, she identified strongly with Anne of Green Gables, and like Anne, is a voracious reader and born performer. It came as no surprise when she did a double major in English Literature and Drama for her BA and Dip Ed, then went on to a career as a performer, script writer, script doctor, stage manager and musical director for cabaret and theatre restaurants.
After starting a family, Leisl stopped performing and began writing the stories plaguing her dreams. She is addicted to the Syfy channel, her shelves are full of fantasy, paranormal, Sci-fi and romance books and DVDs, she sometimes sings in a choir, has worked as a swim teacher, loves to ski and horse ride, and has been President of Romance Writers of Australia from 2014-2017. She now has a Graduate Diploma in Publishing and Communications (Advanced) and continues to write novels and also helps other writers make their manuscripts shine with her manuscript assessing and mentoring services.
Your 9th book, Blazing Fear (CoalCliff Stud, 2), comes out on 12th May, what was the inspiration for the story?
Blazing Fear (CoalCliff Stud, 2) is the second book in my CoalCliff Stud series and it has grown from a few inspiration points. One is the inspiration I had years ago when I first visited Walhalla, a small gold mining town in the southern alps of Victoria. There is something magical about Walhalla that just stuck with me over the years and I knew that one day I would have to write a novel set up there. But it would have to be the right story but nothing came to me until years later.
My sister and I used to go on horse riding camps when we were teens – I was horse mad – at a place near Anglesea where we would ride every day through the state forest there. Five years ago, we decided to share another experience – a 4-day horse riding trek around Mt Buller, riding through some of the most iconic mountain countryside Australia has to offer, sleeping in tents and going places you can’t go if you’re not on a horse.
It was April and they were burning the undergrowth around Mt Buller and the smoke was so thick that when we rode to the top of Mt Stirling for the view, we could barely see any of it. It reminded me of all the times we’d been places that had been on fire, or that fire was coming down on; of being stopped on a freeway because fire was sweeping across kilometres ahead; of flying into Sydney and Canberra when they were surrounded by fires; of the smoke from the horrible fires we’d had here blanketing the city; of driving back from the coast late one night after tour managing a show in Warrnambool before the fires that were raging down the Great Ocean Road area cut off our way back to Melbourne; of being up at Buller six months after fires had swept up its sides and seeing the ruin of it still marked so clearly on the landscape and in the eyes of the people who were there when the fires were coming; after going to support Marysville with our tourism in the years after it was wiped out by fires.
So many memories of so many times and so many conversations with so many people who had endured. I was suddenly inspired to write a romantic suspense series set on a horse-riding stud with one of the novels touching on the impact of fire on the land and the people. Climbing Fear came first, but as I wrote it, I realised the fire story wasn’t Nat and Reid’s story, it belonged to Flynn and Dr Prita, a story of destruction and yet hardiness that is bred into the country people I’ve met who have faced fires year after year and just never want to give up on their dream of their life in the country. Blazing Fear is a homage to them, to the remarkable people who led us on that 4-day trek and to the family who own the horse stud where I spent many a holiday in my teens with my sister. Hardy, amazing, resilient people with stories written in each line of their face and deep in their eyes. How could I not write a story based on that?
What place would you most like to visit?
It’s a toss-up. I would love to visit some of the ski fields in Canada – I love the mountains and snow and skiing. It’s also always been a dream to visit Prince Edward Island one day – I’m a huge Anne of Green Gables fan (red hair unites and all that!)
If you could be one of your characters – Who would you be? And why?
From this series? Bev, the matriarch of the CoalCliff Stud family. She’s so sure of who she is and happy to be in the moment. She’s wise and fulfilled and gets to spend her life in the country with her family doing what she loves.
Other than books, what is one item you can’t resist buying?
DVDs of series I love watching. I love to know I can watch them whenever I want. Even with all the streaming services – you can’t be guaranteed to find them when you want them. It’s also why I always buy my books rather than borrow them.
What is your favourite love story of all time, either book or movie?
One I keep coming back to time and time again is a book called Hummingbird by LaVyrle Spencer. It’s a historic romance and is a hate to love romance as well a coming of age romance. The characters, the world building, the conflict – it all just wraps me up and carries me away every time I read it.
Buy Links for Blazing Fear (CoalCliff Stud, 2)
Blurb for Blazing Fear (CoalCliff Stud, 2)
Fire stole his past – now it is threatening to burn everything, and everyone, he loves. All over again…
Flynn Findlay likes everyone to think he’s in control, but the death of his wife during the bushfires six years ago changed everything. Now, even though it feels like a betrayal, Flynn can’t seem to escape his growing feelings for the beautiful new doctor in town. He’s never felt as truly alive as when he is with Prita – even his fear of fire doesn’t seem as bad.
Dr Prita Brennan is ready for a fresh start in Wilson’s Bend with her adoptive son, far from her overprotective family. It would be perfect, except some of the locals don’t like the changes she’s making to the practice. One of them is even making harassing calls. The handsome local horse stud owner, Flynn, is a further complication she doesn’t need right now.
But when harassment escalates to arson, to save the horse stud and their children, Flynn and Prita must work together to figure out who is after her – and why they are trying to burn to the ground everything she touches.
Other books by Leisl (Amazon Affiliated Links)
Leisl is the author of the paranormal Pack Bound Series, romantic suspense novels, Dangerous Echoes (Book 1 in the Echo Springs (2 Book Series) Series), Climbing Fear (CoalCliff Stud, 1) and Blazing Fear (CoalCliff Stud, 2). Most recently, she has been a finalist in the 2019 RUBY Awards (for Moon Bound (Pack Bound Book 2)) and a finalist in the 2019 ARRA Awards (for Climbing Fear (CoalCliff Stud, 1)).