Here's his article that was featured in the Warkworth Words (produced by Kim McNeil, owner of Eclectic Mix > http://www.eclecticmix.ca/) :
Swaying with Jennifer Gibson
Bob Leahy talks to local illustrator, photographer and now novelist Jennifer Gibson about her new career
Hi Jennifer. Thank you for talking to Warkworth Words. Tell me, how are you enjoying writing as opposed to other things you’ve done for years, like photography and design work?
Thanks Bob! I absolutely love it! It’s a nice fit and a new addition to my growing list of creative skills. Growing up, I’ve always been interested in writing poetry, short stories and articles which have been published. Midway through Sheridan College while studying Illustration and Photography, I was told by my creative writing teachers to seriously consider writing books. At that time, I didn’t really follow up on that since I was so focused on being a professional illustrator and photographer. Now, looking back, it’s no surprise that they had caught on to my talent at an early age. That speaks volumes about how much they enjoyed my work.
Bob: You’ve written two, right, with another on the way?
I’ve self published two novels, Sway and Compass. I just finished writing the third book Destiny last month (Sept. 2012). What an achievement! Between producing three novels, marketing and selling them by myself, it had turned into a full time job. Honestly, it wasn’t easy - it took a lot of hard work, grit and perseverance. However, I was compelled to write them and strongly felt the need to share my stories with the world. Their titles Sway, Compass and Destiny all indicate a sense of direction, a journey - it’s about finding a sense of true purpose and a personal discovery.
Bob: Your novels to date all have hearing impaired characters. Why?
I initially wanted to write a book for young adults and realized that I was in a unique position to provide a compelling story about a teenager with a disability. It just made sense because I could easily offer realistic situations, interaction and emotions due to my experiences.
All three novels are part of a trilogy where the main character named Jessie is severely hard of hearing. They are based on my life as hearing impaired teen and features many segments of my life growing up. Over 65% of what happens in all three novels is true. Which parts are true, I’ll leave that up to the imagination of the readers.
Bob: Are the stories you write at all autobiographical
It’s not necessarily autobiographical, all three novels feature segments or particular situations that have happened to me as I was growing up from a young age up to recently. I’ve incorporated certain aspects of my life that I felt was important or integral to the overall storyline. The end result was a very real and strong connection to what is happening in the books. Those intense emotions are true and reflect what I would’ve felt at the time. It’s an amazing journey and I wanted everyone to join the ride alongside with me including all of the highs and lows. It’s worth it because that’s my soul out there.
Bob: How is living in a community like Warkworth reflected in your books?
I’ve incorporated parts of my life from living in a small town like Warkworth into the books through people I’ve met or worked with over the years. Some of my experiences working at a hospital, teaching sports and day to day interactions have made their way into the storyline. Some clues are obvious while others are a bit more subtle. I like that since it adds a bit of mystery to it and keeps some people guessing which is a lot of fun. I can be such a tease! Local eagle eyed readers will instantly recognize some of the characters or situations in my books and that’s a wonderful connection to have because they will say “I know exactly what you mean!”
Bob: Who is your main intended audience?
The original audience was for young adults. However, as the series grew, so did the audience. I’ve been told that the youngest reader is ten years old. It appears that many people, of all ages and all walks of life have taken a very keen interest in my books. There is something intimate and very real in the novels, not only because it features true emotions but also that it reflects what it’s like to have a hearing loss. Everyone has met another person who is hard of hearing at some time in their life, whether it’s through their relatives, at school, sports or even their neighbours.
Bob: But are other people are liking them too?
Yes! And that’s amazing! I had never expected anyone past the age of twenty to love the series. I suspect it’s because we’ve all met someone who wears hearing aids or struggles with a hearing loss and that provides an instantaneous connection to the books because we can relate to it on some level.
Bob: You’ve just found a publisher for your first two books after originally going the self-published route. What advice would you give to writers looking to find a publisher?
It was hard work being self published since I was doing all of the work from the writing, promoting, marketing while searching for a publisher at the same time. It was a daunting task. However, I truly felt compelled to follow my dreams. I simply couldn’t quit, not now. I could not have done it without the support of the community, close friends and especially my parents. Their support was invaluable.
When you first start writing and you truly believe in your talent, try self-publishing it at online bookstores such as kobobooks.com to test the market. This will give you an good idea how popular it will be. In the meantime, keep writing, keep searching. Send out as many queries as you can through potential publishers. I kept searching for a publisher all across Canada for nearly two years. It wasn’t until I switched tactics and started searching in the USA that I finally found the right one. Their slogan says it all “Because some stories just have to be told.”
My advice is to follow your heart. This is one of my favourite quotes from Sway, “To reach the stars, all you have to do is Believe.”
Bob: Where do you want to go next with your writing?
Now that I have experience and I'm happy with my trilogy, I want to venture in a new direction. I love science fiction and adore the imagination of the creative writers on shows like Warehouse 13, Supernatural, Doctor Who and Fringe. I’m in awe of those writers and constantly impressed by the stories that they produce. The worlds that they create are simply stupendous and I would love to be a part of that. It should be a supernaturally fun ride!
Bob: How can readers find out more, including where to buy your books?
You can request my books from local bookstores. If the suspense is simply too much, you can get the first book in the series, Sway, at various online bookstores including Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, BarnesandNoble.com and kobobooks.com. It should be coming soon to Chapters!
Hopefully, the second book, Compass, will be hitting the shelves by Christmas and the third one, Destiny, soon after that. Since so many people are excited about this series, we have been printing them as fast as we can!
Author's note: regarding the release of Compass, it will be available after January 2013.
Want to know more about Bob Leahy? Here's some info > http://www.spiritofthehills.org/members/bobleahy.html