Dragons are alive in Cotati
For Cotati resident Elisabeth Anne Leonard, this year’s publication of her first novel was proof that persistence and believing in yourself can pay off.
“Moth and Spark” is a fantasy novel that also is an example of perseverance for the 46-year-old Leonard. While she has been writing since she was a child, this book is her first published novel.
While Leonard has edited a collection of essays, contributed a chapter to “The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction” and has been published in various academic journals, “Moth and Spark” marks a very special accomplishment.
“I had a previous book picked up by an agent, but it didn’t sell,” she said. “However that gave me confidence to pursue being a writer.”
The Chicago born Leonard moved to Cotati 11 years ago with her husband, who is a professor at Sonoma State University. Her education has been expansive. She earned a BA from St. John’s College, an MFA from the University of Pittsburg and a Ph.D. in English from Kent State University.
“I wanted to teach English originally,” said Leonard. However after teaching writing courses all through graduate school and then applying for jobs post graduation at a time when there were typically 600 applicants for every position, Leonard lost interest.
“I worked in a law library after college and decided to go in that direction.”
She enrolled at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, and became an attorney. It was at this time that she penned the first draft of “Moth and Spark.”
“Working with lawyers can be intellectually stimulating,” she said, “and I felt like I was doing something with real consequences, compared to writing literary criticisms.”
Leonard spent five years completing the book, only squeezing in two or three hours of writing each week between working as a lawyer and being a wife and mothering a son who is now in his teens.
Once done, she approached a few agents who were looking for authors and “got a few bites” that gave her more confidence. She noticed that John Grisham thanked the Gernert Company, a New York literary agency, in one of his books and figured, “what the heck. At worst it would be embarrassing and no one would remember six months later.”
She approached the agency and two weeks later was asked to send her entire manuscript. Three weeks after that, she was asked to call them.
“That was the most exciting part,” said Leonard. “They said, ‘Let’s talk.'”
“I framed the cover,” she said with a smile. Now Leonard views her life as an attorney as “my back-up if I need more money.”
“Moth and Spark” was released in hardcover in February, 2014. Since then she had made a bookstore appearances in Santa Rosa, San Francisco and Chico, and last week she was part of a “Writers with Drinks” show in San Francisco.
Charlie Lovett, the bestselling author of “The Bookman’s Tale,” describes it as “fun and beautifully crafted. The novel is something like a Russian nesting doll: it’s a Jane Austen novel inside a Princess Bride type fantasy romp inside a much darker Tolkein-esque story of politics, war, magic, and dragons. An impressive debut.”
With “Moth and Spark” scheduled for a paperback release in December, Leonard is now focused on her next novel, which will be a sequel of sorts.
“It could also be a stand-alone book,” she said. After that she plans a sci-fi book set in an alternate history world.
Leonard is more than happy to share her experiences and talk with people about writing.
“I think you have to be persistent and have a certain amount of ego and confidence that (your work) is good enough to put out there,” she said.
“Moth and Spark” is available at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble, as well as from the publisher through Penguin Books. A limited number of signed copies also are available at Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma.
For more information about Elisabeth Anne Leonard, including why she writes as Anne Leonard, visit Anneleonardbooks.com.