Welcome back, LeAnne. Why do you write the kind of books you do?
I write because I believe that story is an effective way to communicate the reality of who God is regardless of where we are in space and time. Facts and statistics can be remote and impersonal. Story makes the reader realize, “It could be me.” In my first book, The Wooden Ox, I wanted to communicate that God is big enough and cares enough to get down and dirty with his children in an African civil war. In my most recent book, Keeping Secrets, it is the reality that 22.9 million people living with HIV in Africa means 22.9 million people like me—sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and their families, desperately in need of a caring community that will show them God’s love.
I have lived in six countries on four continents, so my write what you know is a bit out of the box. My family spent the late 1980s in Communist Mozambique, setting up a theological seminary during their civil war. Later, living in
South Africa, I
conducted story hours and promoted reading with orphans and vulnerable
children. So the things I feel passionate about and want to convey in my
stories are not suburban North America, but
the truths of who God is are bigger than geography.
Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?
Probably my wedding day, although the natural childbirth of my two daughters is certainly up there at the top as well. My husband and I recently celebrated forty years of marriage. When we look back on all the places we have lived and things we have done as missionaries involved with theological education and leadership training, we shake our heads and think how different life would have been had we married anyone else.
That is so true. I thank the Lord often for bring my husband into my life. How do you choose your settings for each book?
Most of my books grow out of setting. They couldn’t take place anywhere else. It was the events of the closure of Glastonbury Abbey that inspired the Glastonbury Grail series. The elaborate fifteenth birthday party of my Brazilian neighbor percolated in my brain until my own daughter was approaching that age to produce Between Two Worlds. Even if the story could take place elsewhere, I would choose a place I know intimately. It’s so much easier to modify a real place than to make it all up. I suppose as someone who is into cultures, I love the insider details that make a setting authentic. For one reader of The Wooden Ox, it was toothbrushes stuck in the thatch over the door of an African hut that told him, “This writer knows what she’s talking about.”
How has being published changed your life?
Being published lets me into the advanced seminars at American Christian Fiction Writers! Those are great opportunities to grow. Being published means responsibilities for marketing, something that is hard for me as an introvert. It has also meant opportunities to help others develop their writing. I have taught several writing workshops in
Kenya, and it’s lots of fun to hear
of my student’s publishing successes and hold the books they are so proud of.
What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?
I am a perfectionist. It’s hard to call a manuscript finished. I want to keep tinkering even when we are to the proof stage. I’m not as prolific as I might be because I keep going over and over my material. Deadlines and critique groups help, but I’m not sure I have overcome this obstacle.
What advice would you give to a beginning author?
Write what you are passionate about even if it isn’t what is selling in the CBA market right now. You will do your best writing when you care deeply about your subject and your characters.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished Veiled Rose by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. Fascinating fantasy that breaks all the rules of traditional fairy tales. I couldn’t put it down.
What is your current work in progress?
Lena, you recently featured Honddu Vale, the second in my Glastonbury Grail series set in sixteenth-century
I am hard at work on book 3, which promises to be the best so far. Yes, England is one
of the places I have lived. These books bring history alive rather than
illuminate current social realities, but their primary goal is a vision of the
What would be your dream vacation?
My dream vacation involves staying in one place for several days and not living out of a suitcase (the main advantage of cruising as far as I’m concerned). It means getting up close and personal with God’s creation whether that is hiking in the Rocky Mountains or game watching in
Africa. Good food in an interesting setting is a plus. I
recently ate cuttlefish seasoned with its own ink at a tiny place under the
wall of Roman Emperor Diocletian’s Palace in . Split, Croatia
If you could spend an evening with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?
Right now I think I would choose to spend an evening with President Obama, to pray with him and listen to his heart, and encourage him to seek God as he attempts to lead our country through challenging times.
What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?
Figure skating! It started as research for what eventually became Crossovers, and I was soon as addicted as my protagonist. I have taken classes and private lessons and even competed—while taking notes to better understand my characters. Skating is the first exercise I have had to discipline myself NOT to do as much as I would like. My featured book, Keeping Secrets, is not about figure skating despite the beautiful cover by Katy Popa and Kathy Haasdyk. Sindi’s skating represents all that she stands to lose when HIV invades her family.
Tell us about the featured book.
Fifteen-year-old Sindiswe Khumalo is the most promising figure skater the South African Skating Federation has ever had. But at the rink Sindi can’t talk about what’s making her father ill. Even her best friends can’t be trusted. Her friend Mboti lost his job when people found out he had HIV. A girl in her class dropped out of school when the bullies accused her of being infected. Sindi has dreams—Olympic-size dreams. Keeping the secret could cost her everything, but the truth might cost her more.
At the end of 2011, 5.6 million people in
were infected with HIV—as much as forty per cent of fifteen- to
forty-nine-year-olds in some regions of the country. Families suffer
emotionally because of stigma. Whole communities suffer economically as wage
earners sicken and die, afraid to seek treatment. But Keeping Secrets is not
just about HIV. It’s about how we all cut ourselves off from support when we
are afraid that people will learn the truth about us. It’s about how the needs to become a safe
place where we can tell the truth about where we hurt and know that we will
find grace. My character Sindi is fifteen, but this is not just a YA book; it’s
a book for all of us. church of Jesus Christ
Please give us the first page of the book.
I remember what it was like Before. I flew over the ice like a swallow on the wind. Music filled my whole body, and I soared like a bird above the city of
of gold. I dreamed of gold medals and going to the Olympics someday.
But that was Before.
I was too young to know that life can collapse as fast as a skater can lose an edge and tumble to the ice. It hurts to fall, but you get up; you keep skating. You smile for the judges, and you don’t let them see the pain. That’s what winners do.
But sometimes, the hurt is too much, and you can’t get up. You can’t keep skating.
Then you lose.
The pounding pulse in my ears threatened to drown the announcer’s voice on the loudspeaker. “Please welcome our next skater, representing the Skating Federation of South Africa—Sindiswa Khumalo!”
“You’ll do great, Sindi,” my American coach, Trevor MacDonald, murmured beside me. “Just relax and have fun.”
Relax? Not likely with all those people watching. If they knew the truth, would they still cheer? I shook the tight, beaded braids that covered my head and tried to absorb the calm in Mac’s eyes.
Breathe, Sindi. Breathe. Don’t think about home. Forget your parents. Focus.
I pushed away from the gate. My arms spread wide to receive the cascading applause as I skated a broad arc toward center ice. Mac’s voice sounded in my mind. Smile for the judges. Even he didn’t know my secret. I stretched my lips into an expression intended to sparkle.
How can readers find you on the Internet?
Bio and book information are on www.leannehardy.net
YouTube channel for book trailers and a few old skating videos.
Here are links to the books:
Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/keeping-secrets-leanne-hardy/1117531391?ean=2940148953449&itm=1&usri=2940148953449#
Thank you, LeAnne, for sharing this new book with us.
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