One of my missions as a writer isn’t just writing what I want to read and indulging the odd, quirky, often horrifically spooky, strangely beautiful visions and characters in my mind, but also writing just a little something of what the world needs. I love for art to be a conversation. With this in mind, I asked the Daily Geekette staff what they’d like me to write about. One of the topics is why it is important to write about women with disabilities.
I think it’s vital to write about the entire spectrum of humanity in as many iterations as possible. Why I have focused on female characters in my series that have some kind of condition or perceived “otherness” is not only because of the relatable human quality that every single person, at some point, feels alone and apart, different and disconnected, but to lift up “otherness” as a quality to champion, not ostracize.
Whether it’s the prejudice against albinism that my heroine in the Strangely Beautiful saga deals with, the selective mutism that the heroine in the Magic Most Foul saga battles, or the epilepsy that the heroine of my Eterna Files suffers, each woman deals with her own conditions as well as the societal constraints of the restrictive 19th century. Not only does this heighten the conflicts within the world of each character, it provides an opportunity for each woman not to be defined by that condition, any more than I want to be defined by some of the physical and neurological limitations I have had to deal with in my life.
Anyone dealing with disabilities and/or physical differences of any kind has faced discrimination in every era, and this one is no different. Even if not outright discrimination, there is the general discomfort of society in terms of ‘how to deal with them’ that is an inescapable, additional source of pain. A great deal of my writing comes from the urge to write stories that build friends and family out of the lonely and purpose-filled; those who seek to find their own beloved communities and live into their fullest destinies. This is an important quest for all of us, but especially those with an extra level and layer of obstacles in their lives. If you don’t have some kind of disability, reading about someone who suffers from one enhances empathy and understanding of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. Understanding builds bridges and heals hurts.
One of the great things about writing Gaslamp Fantasy is that it allows for supernatural elements to help my female characters circumvent the societal constraints that have been imposed on them, allowing for additional agency to help them save the day. In an era where women didn’t have the range of careers, livelihoods, autonomy, and possibilities for self-determination that are available to women today, I allow certain paranormal circumstances to step in and fill a void of societal failing and limitation. The unique paranormal and fantastical circumstances in which my characters find themselves empower them as the only ones destined to take up the mantle of agency and self-determination presented to them, often in life or death terms.
I love writing stories set in New York as much as I enjoy my London-set work because both cities provide contrasting but wholly vibrant historical contexts, class structures, determinism conflicts, societal pressures, fascinating details of early urbanization, and an endless supply of ghost stories (most of which I’m quite conversant on from leading ghost tours in the city for Boroughs of the Dead). New York becomes one of the centers of the world in the late 19th century and writing about the city as it comes truly into its own adds a thrill and momentum to the narrative.
Another one of my missions in writing fiction is to provide reminders that history is entirely alive – dare I say undead – and from the lessons of history we can continue to learn about our lives today and hopefully create a better, more diverse and inclusive present and future for all people across all spectrums.
I hope you’ll enjoy my latest saga, The Eterna Files, my debut with Tor/Forge, and please visit my sites: http://facebook.com/lrhieber – http://twitter.com/leannarenee – http://leannareneebooks.blogspot.com and I hope you’ll join my mailing list and find out about all my books at: http://leannareneehieber.com
Cheers, peace, blessings, and… Happy haunting!
About Leanna Renee Hieber:
Leanna Renee Hieber is an actress, playwright and the award-winning, bestselling author of Gothic Victorian Fantasy novels such as the Strangely Beautiful saga, the Magic Most Foul saga and the forthcoming Eterna Files saga from Tor/Forge. The Strangely Beautiful saga will re-issue in new, revised editions from Tor/Forge and is being adapted into a musical theatre production. Leanna began her professional acting career at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company and her plays and fiction have received national recognition. She is a 4 time Prism Award winner for excellence in Fantasy and Romance fiction. Her work has appeared in acclaimed anthologies such as Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells, Willful Impropriety, and numerous “Mammoth Book” anthologies, her books have been chosen for multiple book club editions and translated in to many languages. A proud member of performers unions Actors Equity and SAG-AFTRA, Leanna works often in film and television on shows like Boardwalk Empire. An unabashed Goth girl with more corsets than is reasonable, Leanna gives ghost tours for Boroughs of the Dead tour company and lives in New York City with her husband and their beloved rescued lab rabbit.
About THE ETERNA FILES:
London, 1882: Queen Victoria appoints Harold Spire of the Metropolitan Police to Special Branch Division Omega. Omega is to secretly investigate paranormal and supernatural events and persons. Spire, a skeptic driven to protect the helpless and see justice done, is the perfect man to lead the department, which employs scholars and scientists, assassins and con men, and a traveling circus. Spire’s chief researcher is Rose Everhart, who believes fervently that there is more to the world than can be seen by mortal eyes.
Their first mission: find the Eterna Compound, which grants immortality. Catastrophe destroyed the hidden laboratory in New York City where Eterna was developed, but the Queen is convinced someone escaped—and has a sample of Eterna. Also searching for Eterna is an American, Clara Templeton, who helped start the project after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln nearly destroyed her nation. Haunted by the ghost of her beloved, she is determined that the Eterna Compound—and the immortality it will convey—will be controlled by the United States, not Great Britain. - ADVANCED PRAISE FOR THE ETERNA FILES:
“Hieber’s formidable imagination is given free reign in this smart, boundlessly creative Gaslamp fantasy. She blends historical fact and paranormal fiction with ease, creating a world that is lush and fascinatingly strange, and reveals her secrets sparingly, keeping fans on edge for more information about these intriguingly powerful characters and the ties that bind them together. Patient readers will be well rewarded for letting this haunting novel unfold around them and savoring the expansive world and complex plot that Hieber has constructed.” – Bridget Keown for RT Bookreviews Magazine
Buy The Eterna Files HERE
Or get a signed copy HERE