Leigh Conley Interview
The Indie Book Butler Interview.
Indie Book Butler: Let’s start things off with an introduction. Tell us a little about yourself for those not already aware of you and your work.
Leigh Conley: My name is Leigh Conley, and I’m a Teaching Assistant in East Devon. I live in Somerset with my partner and our children but hail from all over – Lincoln and Bridport being 2 of the main places.
I love reading and love encouraging reading in children. Part of my job is to read with children and I think showing them the enjoyment they can get from books is so important.
I’m chairman of the local AmDram society and have acted in and directed many plays around the South West as well as being chairman of the local branch of the National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA).
I love walking and spending time outdoors – living in the rural countryside is definitely a bonus!
IBB: You’ve got twenty words to tempt us to read your book(s). What would you say?
LC: So many things happen that we can’t explain – Mischievous Monsters, that’s why! Read the books to find out more…
IBB: Where do you like to write?
LC: I’ve got to be comfortable and there’s got to be music! Usually, it’s on the sofa while the kids are playing elsewhere with some cheesy 80s songs in the background!
IBB: Is there anything you must have in order to write?
LC: A great idea. I don’t just write and hope for the best. I make sure I’ve got a rough story planned in my head before bulking it out into a great book.
IBB: What books have influenced you most, both as a person and as an author?
LC: As a person, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I love how a seemingly random array of storylines can come together into one incredible plot with curious twists and turns, strange characters and a clearly incredible mind!
Professionally, I’d say the Mr Men books have been a real influence on the Mischievous Monsters series. They span a huge age range with younger children loving the characters, Middle-Grade children enjoying the storylines, and adults feeling the message behind the story. That’s what I hope the Mischievous Monsters stories deliver – fun, inclusive reading for all ages, with a message, told through funny storylines and bright, bold illustrations to help the imagination run wild.
IBB: What is the one thing that has helped you develop most as an author?
LC: The team around me have been a real benefit. I just write the stories but Peter brings them to life with his amazing illustrations and Ellis edits the text, bringing in an almost illustrative essence to words on the page. And of course, Pip, the grammar guru, spots all of my mistakes! We are an amazing team and all work so well together.
IBB: What do you want to achieve most from your writing?
LC: I want all children to be able to enjoy reading, through stories that reach them for different reasons. Whether they associate with a character, love the illustrations, enjoy the style of the text, need a giggle in their life or just love to have stories read to them, I want to instil a passion for reading in every child.
IBB: Have you received a favorite review of your work?
LC: Children are the best critics and we are lucky enough to have some schools that we work with that create focus groups for us. Children are so honest and the feedback we’ve had has been amazing! We’ve had new monsters suggested, colouring pages of our current monsters completed and even salt dough models of new monsters!
The best comment we have received so far has to be: “Everyone has been Xander at some time.”
This refers to Xander the Puddle-Jumper from our second book. Xander is bullied for being different but embraces his differences and changes his life. What a deep thought from a primary school child and what an amazing understanding and relationship they were able to build with a character in just one read of the book!
IBB: Were there any particular parts of the writing/publishing process that you struggled with?
LC: Formatting is an issue every time. Trying to get the pages to look as good as we want them to without looking too busy can sometimes be tricky. We probably spend longer on the editing and formatting than I do on writing the original story!
IBB: Is there something specific you do to improve your writing?
LC: Ask for help. It’s so important not to try to take all the pressure on yourself. We have created a team for a reason so making sure I use them if I need help is vital.
IBB: What is the ideal relationship between editor and author?
LC: I’m very lucky to have a great editor who really understands my work. He comes up with some brilliant ideas that I hadn’t even thought of but is also very happy for me to veto ideas as he understands that these are ultimately my babies! I’m very protective but we are a great team so get some amazing results when we put our heads together!
IBB: If you had a direct line to someone who loves or hates your writing, what would you say?
LC: Why? It’s that simple!
IBB: If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
LC: Don’t give up. The journey is long and tiring at times and there are so many dead ends that you keep coming up against. But for every dead end, every closed door, a new one is just around the corner. Think laterally, think differently. Get lots of feedback from the widest group of people you can as they are the ones who will buy your books. They are the people who you need to give the loudest voice!
IBB: What does your writing future hold for you?
LC: More stories, lots more stories! A publishing contract (hopefully!) and then a TV series and multiple licencing agreements across the world! Blue sky thinking!
IBB: How have you set about the task of creating enticing cover art?
LC: That’s all down to Peter, our illustrator. He works so well with negative space and his illustrations are almost homely!
So many books are full of colour and the covers are so busy. So we’ve decided to be different. Keep white space, allow the reader a chance to see the main character and start to engage with them before they have even opened the book.
IBB: How often do you read? What genre?
LC: I like to read every day, mainly after the kids have gone to bed. I’m a big fan of sci-fi and thrillers but I’m happy to give anything a go. Sometimes a book can surprise you!
IBB: Before we let you escape, it’s your chance to name-drop. Anyone who you feel is deserving of more recognition at present or someone whose writing you have recently enjoyed? Now is your chance to spread the word…
LC: My editor, Ellis Holt, always mentions the author Annaliese Avery, who he met many years ago when he was a teacher and she was a local author. She came into the school and shared her stories with the children. Her enthusiasm really boosted reading the school and that’s what we hope to achieve with these books.
He’s recently re-engaged with her on social media and she’s just as wonderful now as she was back then, with her own, published MG book coming out soon!
Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Best of luck in the future.
For more on Leigh and his work, please visit: