Shadow Leitner started storytelling early on spending over a decade in the performing arts but left the stage for the page and now writes Dark Fiction for Teens and Adults.

Besides torturing her imaginary characters with love and other peculiar things, she creates beautifully haunting art with her iPhone, consumes absurd amounts of coffee and is enchanted by all things vintage, old world and macabre.

Shadow haunts from Maryland, USA, with her husband, two spawn and a menagerie of mostly domesticated creatures.

1) First, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me! When did you know that writing was what you wanted to do with your life, particularly because you spent over a decade in the performing? What do you love most about being a writer?

I’ve always been a storyteller, whether it was art, performing, or writing. Though it wasn’t until after I had children that my life shifted and I took my writing more seriously. Stories have always driven me.

2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you? What drew you into writing within the Paranormal, Gothic, and Fantasy genres? Do you ever see yourself writing in a different genre later on down the line?

I write in the genres I love to read. So, I haven’t actively thought about writing in other genres. I enjoy writing fantastical things because everything is possible. I don’t have to follow the rules of this work I get to create my own realities. But then again, I would never say never. I’ve written poetry and screenplays so anything is possible. I’ll let inspiration be my guide. Currently, I’ve published the first in a YA paranormal romance series about tree spirit descendants of the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge. I’ve also published a contemporary fantasy novella about mermaids who come up from the puddles in a city to find men to take back with them. And I have a ghostly gothic romance coming out in October as part of The Common Element Romance Project. You can find out more on my website and get my free gothic short story Death and The Maiden if you sign up for my newsletter.

3) Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel? What projects are you currently working on?

I’m a night person. But with juggling a job and family I’ve had to adjust my schedule and write early in the morning for an hour or so before the day gets started. I may steal bits of time throughout my days and weekends but the bulk of it gets done in those early hours before anyone is awake. I free write my ideas out in a brain dump fashion then try and organize it into a scene list or outline before diving in to the first draft. It gives me an idea of where I’m going though I often take side trips through out the process of writing. Like children each book is different. I’ve written books in three months and others took me three years to write. I’m always refining my process but I’ve never found one that fits all. I am currently writing a gothic, editing a paranormal and querying a futuristic novel.

4) What’s the first book you ever read that really touched you emotionally and moved you? Who is your all time favorite author? What book are you currently reading?

The first book that had the greatest impact on me as a child was Shadow Castle a fantasy by Marian Cockrell. It helped shape my love for the fantastical. All time favorite authors are hard for me to define as I’m more into the stories and how they affect me emotionally. And there are many books that I love and have re-read many times, like Dracula, Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights. But I can say that one of my all time favorite books is The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, and I will pretty much read anything she writes, as well as anything written by Neil Gaiman. His The Graveyard Book, Coraline, and Nevermore are also a few of my all time favorite books. But there are so many. I’m currently reading Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone series.

5) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?

My greatest achievement is writing a novel and seeing it through to publication. It is not for the faint of heart, but getting through the challenges and learning has been extremely rewarding. I’ve since completed five books and two novellas as well as a few short stories. So there is no stopping now. I hope in five years to also be traditionally published and have a completed series out in the world.

6) Have you had to deal with rejection a lot in your writing career so far and if so how did you mange to cope with it and did it strengthen you in any way?

There is a lot of rejection, it sort of comes with the territory. I have a thick skin from being in film and theatre where there is also a lot of rejection. But I don’t take it personally, I value honest feedback and I also know a lot is subjective and/or market based. I deal with it by continuing to write. I feel if you genuinely have a story to tell there will be someone who genuinely wants to read it.

7) Do you have any strong feelings, one way or another, about the changes that have happened within the publishing industry over the years in terms of traditional publishing and self-publishing?

I’m not in one camp or the other and hope to be a hybrid author. Both have their pros and cons. I think it depends on the author and the novel. But I can say it is great to have choices.

8) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?

It’s never too late. I truly believe that. If you are passionate about your work it will be the fuel you need in order to get it out there. Passion trumps age every time. Quoting Neil Gaiman, “You’re alive. That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything.” Every stage of life comes with its own challenges. Don’t let age stop you.

9) So many writers say that they hate reading their own work? Other than to edit, do you ever read your own work? If so, does your inner critic take over or do you enjoy reading your work back once it’s done and it’s out there?

I don’t usually go back and read my work as a whole, not because I hate reading it, but mostly because I lack the time. I have a large TBR list, so many books to read and other stories begging to be written. While I’m sure I’d find things that I’d wished I’d wrote differently, I don’t necessarily feel that is keeping me from going back.

10) I feel like writing is a remarkable tool to help people not only express themselves, but also to cope emotionally and mentally. I know for me I write to be and feel more authentic. What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity? How does writing help you to be more empowered in your purpose?

I like to juxtapose things a lot and weave in my love for symbology, gothic motifs and folklore like a secret language. There is always more than meets the eye. I also embrace my character’s demons. The thing about them that is seen as the most undesirable is usually the thing that ends up saving them or humanity. Virginia Woolf is quoted as saying “Books are mirrors of the soul”, and I feel that is the fundamental thing about stories, both writing and reading them.