Writer’s Desk: Leslie Gould
Leslie Gould is the #1 bestselling and Christy Award–winning author of over forty novels, including the SISTERS OF LANCASTER COUNTY series and the PLAIN PATTERNS series. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history, an MFA in creative writing, and has taught writing on the university level. Leslie enjoys traveling, studying church history, and hiking in the beautiful state of Oregon, where she lives. She and her husband, Peter, have four adult children and one grandchild.
More about A Brighter Dawn
Ivy Zimmerman is successfully navigating her life as a young Mennonite woman, one generation removed from her parents’ Old Order Amish upbringing. But when her parents are killed in a tragic accident, Ivy’s way of life is upended. As she deals with her grief, her younger sisters’ needs, the relationship with her boyfriend, and her Dawdi and Mammi’s strict rules, Ivy finds solace in both an upcoming trip to Germany for an international Mennonite youth gathering and in her great-great-aunt’s story about Clare Simons, another young woman who visited Germany in the late 1930s.
As Ivy grows suspicious that her parents’ deaths weren’t, in fact, an accident, she gains courage from what she learns of Clare’s time in pre-World War II Germany. With the encouragement and inspiration of the women who have gone before her, Ivy seeks justice for her parents, her sisters, and herself.
Q&A with Leslie Gould
TG: What is your writing process like?
LG: Once I have an idea, I diagram my main characters’ arcs and the overall story arc. Then I write a 30–40-page outline of the story, chapter by chapter. The beginning of the writing process starts out slowly—I’m happy if I hit around two thousand words a day—but I gain momentum as I go, and toward the end of the project I’m writing eight thousand words a day.
TG: What is your writing kryptonite?
LG: Anxiety is my kryptonite. If I’m not careful, it can shut me down. I do my best to trust the story will come together. But I also try to be as proactive as possible. If I’m feeling anxious about my word count or don’t feel as if the story is off to the start I need, I’ll go away for a few days and power-write. By the time I get to rewrites, even if I have a ton to do, I have faith the story will come together. But the beginning stages of a story are sometimes difficult for me.
TG: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
LG: Find a mentor as soon as possible! Established writers love to help upcoming writers!
TG: What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
LG: Tuition for my MFA! One of the classes I took inspired an entire bestselling series, a second class inspired me to do freelance editing, and a third class gave me the tools to teach writing myself at a local university, which I really loved.
TG: What did you edit out of A Brighter Dawn?
LG: I ended up deleting a character named Autumn, who was a distant cousin of my protagonist, Ivy. The purpose of Autumn was to provide more backstory about Ivy’s secretive parents, but it soon became obvious that I had more story than my word count would allow. Thankfully, I’d only written one scene with Autumn in it when I realized my problem, but I still feel bad about cutting her. I love the name, and she was wearing a butter-yellow dress.
TG: What is the most difficult thing about being an author?
LG: Balancing life and deadlines! I always make time for family and the Lord no matter my deadlines, but I can get pretty obsessed with the story toward the end of the process, and things like friends, exercise, housework, and grocery shopping can fall off the rails.
TG: What is the first book that made you cry?
LG: To Kill a Mockingbird when I was ten. I’m the youngest of four kids born in five years, so I tended to read what my older siblings were reading. When I finished To Kill a Mockingbird, I was so mad that I cried. And so sad, so I cried more. It’s a story I’ve read over and over through the years, and it still makes me cry.
TG: What is your favorite underappreciated Christian novel?
LG: I’m really loving anything by Susie Finkbeiner right now, though I don’t think she’s underappreciated—she’s award-winning! But she just recently landed on my radar. She writes beautiful literary fiction with a super strong voice and character development. She also writes about the 1960s and 1970s, two of my favorite decades to read about, and she includes threads about war and veterans, two topics I explore in my own novels.
TG: As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot?
LG: I’d have to say a house cat. I’ve had cats my entire life. Some have been my muse. Others have been my bane. But I can’t imagine my writing life without a cat in the middle of it. Just like a house cat, it might seem that I’m sitting around not doing much—but I really am. I’m either plotting, working out a problem, writing, researching, or reading.
TG: Which book that you’ve written is your favorite?
LG: Beyond the Blue, my second novel, was inspired by our emotions after adopting our youngest daughter from Vietnam and has stayed my favorite all these years. It’s told from both the birth mother’s and the adoptive mom’s points of view. It was challenging to think through a birth mother’s story, along with the journeys of the children in the story. Adoption is a complicated paradox. It’s both intense loss and the beginning of something new, all woven together with incredibly high stakes.
TG: Which of your books was the most fun to write?
LG: Courting Cate, the first in my COURTSHIPS OF LANCASTER COUNTY series. Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew was my inspiration, and Cate is one of those characters who showed up from the get-go and didn’t stop until the very last page. It was such a fun story! And it came at the perfect time in my life. While I wrote it, my husband was commanding a field hospital in Afghanistan in the middle of a war zone. I’d Skype with him every morning—which was his night—and then do my best to put my worries aside and spend a few hours with Cate. She was a great distraction!
TG: Which was the most difficult and why?
LG: Scrap Everything, my third book, was my hardest. My mother—who was my first reader, my biggest prayer warrior, my biggest encourager, and my biggest fan—was dying of cancer but asking for more chapters to read so she could finish it before she died. It was a really painful time.
TG: Finally, what is coming up next for you?
LG: I’m in the middle of the editorial process for This Passing Hour, the second in my dual-time AMISH MEMORIES series. Both the contemporary and historical threads take place in Lancaster County, mainly on the same farm, but seventy-two years apart. During the historical thread, German World War Two POWs are working on the farm and attempting to wreak havoc, threatening its survival. During the contemporary thread, a disabled Afghanistan veteran is injured on the property and threatens to sue. Brenna, the main character in the contemporary series, learns from her great-great-aunt Martha’s story, as Brenna tries to figure out her place in her current life—and in her future.
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