So, could you introduce yourself please.
I’m Leah Osbourne. I call myself a writer, I figure if I keep telling myself often enough I’ll believe it. I write fantasy and horror and thrillers as Ileandra Young and I write smutty erotic, funny erotica and dramatic erotica as Raven Shadowhawk.
Any reason for the separation between the two?
Yes, I kinda thought they’re completely different genres for starters and I think the separation makes it easier for people to follow what they’re interested in. Some people don’t want the smut, some people don’t want the vampires and killy people. If I separate the pair, it’s easier to brand then but there’s no secret they’re both me. So my blog – they share it, and it’s part of the branding overall. A gimmick that the two names fight with each other over me; Leah, cause they want brain space to get their work done. It’s just become a fun thing.
I know from trying to write myself that you can have so many ideas in your head at once, how do you pick yours with two sets to compete?
You should pick the one that keeps you up at night. Do that first. Before I published anything it used to be what kept me up at night, but now I actually have a pseudo schedule I need to pay attention to. So I try to have something coming out for each name – Ily then Raven, Ily then Raven so I have to try keep to that. And my fantasy stuff is longer so I have to spend more time working on novels than novellas. It means Ily’s are more spread out whereas Raven’s are shorter pieces – they come out a bit faster. I decide it based on what I think I can handle in the year. I decide in January and plan the year.
What’s your favourite way to write – do you have a set space or can you write anywhere?
I’m most productive at home in my study. It’s just a room at the front of the house which the kids aren’t allowed to go in. And that’s where I’ve set up my work station. But if I cannot use that space effectively, I go to a coffee shop. My favourite coffee shop is Bru, they’re independent shop, they’re all lovely. They know me quite well now so when they see me come in they know I’m going to be there for the next four hours. So they ply me with tea and shortbread!
Depending on what the children are doing, that’s how I’m guided. i continue in teh evening if I’m still concious. I’m like TIRED. SLEEPY.
It’s those evenings where you’re still up at 11:30pm staring at the screen going “why am I still here”
Well that’s happening more and more often. Imposter syndrome they call it. “I’m a rubbish writer. Why am I here. Nothing I put on this screen will be any good.” And that’s a question I get a lot. How do you work with that. How do you fight past the imposter syndrome. You just push. You write the droll. And that’s something that I’ve talked about on the podcast I do with a writing friend Wayne Kelly- Joined Up Writing. Because he’s always impressed with my output and I say that’s because I don’t care about the first draft. It’s about getting it on the page so it probably will be complete rubbish, but if it’s on the page I can fix it. If I haven’t written it then I can’t fix it and that makes it harder.
I’m part of a group called the Phoenix Writers. It’s very specifically a critique group so we meet to critique each other and congratulate each other on the good things we’ve done to improve. It’s quite informal and a lot of fun. I’ve learnt a lot from that group and it’s something I would recommend for anybody and everybody who is interested in writing. Because I think writing is quite insular and you can get very lonely, particularly if there’s not creative people around you. Cause they can try and help as much as they can but they don’t understand. So surrounding yourself with other creatives is a good way to not fall into the well of despair. They’re people who get it. They won’t be able to help you all the time but they understand because they’ve either there too, they’ve been there, or they know they’re going there. That’s a really powerful thing. I take away a lot from that group.
How did you get into writing, and why did you decide to self-publish?
If I’d thought about it more at the time, I wouldn’t have done it because I didn’t understand the work involved. I had that “ooh shiny” syndrome and just went and did it. I’d been writing for ages and ages. I started writing when I was in school and then just kept going. But doing the trying to find an agent circus got on my nerves because everything I had was vampires and vampires were done to death because of Twilight. And I was really really upset because I had been writing these since I was 14, 15, 16 years old and it was a story which had evolved as I grew. So it wasn’t like I was hopping on the bandwagon. It was the story I had and nobody wanted it. It didn’t quite have enough to make it different – for starters there was no romance, and that was one of the problems. It wasn’t because it wasn’t different. It was because it was too different.
So I got bored of waiting for someone to accept what I had and take a risk on me so I thought “if I do it myself…maybe…”
But what I actually did instead was say if I practiced publishing the erotica and go the traditional route with the fantasy then I can do both. Except I was getting the same responses from the fantasy . I had this trilogy, Stars Legacy, that I was trying to get interest in and I couldn’t get the interest. Responses ranged from “it’s good but not quite what we’re looking for,” to “it’s not quite different enough,” or “we can’t take anymore vampire stuff right now even though it’s different.” So I thought I have to do this myself.
I’d figured out how to do it with the erotica books – there was no way I was going to try find an agent for erotica. Again, I missed the Fifty Shades wave. I was three books into the first erotica series when I noticed the fuss about Fifty Shades. That put me off trying because everyone would expect Fifty Shades and that’s not what I was producing. So it just made sense to do it myself. Because it wasn’t going to happen any other way. And I’m not a patient person., so the thought of having to wait for the magic combination of right place, right time, right person, right story etc which all brings together to get you an agent. I didn’t want to wait for it.
It’s certainly a lot of work to take on.
It is a lot of work, and like I said, if I had known what it entailed I wouldn’t have done it. With a traditional publishing deal or even a small press, you have an editor given you to work with you. You’ve got a cover artists and a proof reader and a formatter. All that stuff I’ve either had to do myself or hire out. It’s expensive and hard.
But I’ve had experience in both now. I did submit a novella to a small press in Canada and they took it on and that was lovely! I got a real editor I didn’t have to pay for and an amazing cover artist, which I didn’t have to pay for. And the backing of this well established, well known label.
Do you think this process puts off new writers?
It depends on the sort of person they are. Some new writers I have met have been so shiny eyed. Like “I’ve written the best thing ever and everyone is going to love it and I just need and agent and the first person I send it to will be the one!” And that shine hasn’t rubbed off because they don’t realise how competitive it is. So they’re not put off but they are shocked when things take a while.
People who have been at it a while understand the magic combination that is required. And they are either happy with that or they’ll go another route or they’ll stop. But in terms of new writers just producing words, I don’t think it puts them off exactly. I think if they’ve got the burn to write, they’ll write. And that is what is important. It all depends on what you are writing for as well. If you are writing for publication then that’s something you need to keep in mind as you write. But if you are writing for the love of writing, then it doesn’t matter what happens at the other end and you can produce as much as you like, as often as you like forever and ever. If you want to write, you will find a way.
So why erotica? I know that with kindles and audio books etc it’s certainly easier to read without people knowing.
Cause sex is cool.
It’s easier to hide what you’re reading, so people read it more. People have attributed that (kindle reading) to Fifty Shades. Because once it became known what it was about, people didn’t want to be seen reading it. But you wanted to read it. Amazon’s timing or rather E.L James’s timing matching up so neatly with the release of the kindle and the ease of reading off an electronic device helped her. It’s that luck thing again – right place, right time. I also think that there is still a stigma against it. People like sex. But they don’t want it to be known that they like sex, so e-readers and electronic reading has just made it very easy to get around that, which is great for people like me. And now because E.L James has normalised it, it’s easier producing it too. Which is great even if I’m not a fan of the books.
For me personally though, it’s and exploration thing. I didn’t want to write romance but I had thoughts and feelings that I didn’t understand. And writing it down helped me understand them. Then I thought “Oh, these aren’t just thoughts and feelings, these are stories. Oh, these are erotic stories!” It was kinda like DING. I though well, somebody will want to read them because of all the free sites offering erotica.
The biggest thing for me right now is that I’m finishing off a trilogy – Stars Legacy. It’s come back from beta readers,and I have a big stream of comments to go through. Some decisions to make about one of the primary relationships and the opening of the book itself and then I can release it. And it’s done. That’s my biggest fantasy project which will be finished. Then I can concentrate on my other stuff.
So what’s next?
Well I have a serial that’s already running – Paranormal Thriller. More vampires again, because I like those but the idea is to get maybe four seasons of that down in it’s episodic format and then see which of of the three characters people like so I can give them novels. It’s two vampires and a human, and they’re all connected by various different things that keep them bumping into each other and trying to hurt each other. There is an underlying story about the underworld of vampires and demons and other sorts of nasty creatures fighting against a religious organisation called The Assassins. So that runs all the way through. And because I don’t know exactly where I want it to go I’m doing it season by season so I can get a feel for it as I go. So Season One is out barring episode six which is the last one. Season Two is written but not edited and Season three is outlined. I’m hoping to have Season Two out by the end of this year. And then I have a really big idea going all the way back to traditional fantasy. So I’m going to have some elves, some pixie things, some dwarves and vampires again because I can’t help myself.
It’s part of the gimmick thing – Ileandra Young writes about vampires but none of the vampires are the same. The Stars Legacy vampires have a very specific creation story. they’re Egyptian and they don’t called themselves vampires. They call themselves god-touched because that is how they got their power. Set gave it to them.
Readers – if you like a book then review it! It’s so important. Authors would chew off their arm for a review. Personally I would rather give you a book for free and have you review it publicly then have you pay for it.
Writers- Don’t be afraid of offering your book for free. Giving things away is a viable marketing tactic – if you do it properly. Don’t just give things away will nilly though. There are so many courses and tutorials to help you though – use them!
And be patient.