The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe

Happy Haunting! Leanna Renee Hieber Takes Our Pop Quiz Interview

Welcome back to The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe, a recurring series here on Tor.com featuring some of our favorite science fiction and fantasy authors, artists, and others!

Today we’re joined by actress, playwright, and author Leanna Renee Hieber. Leanna is the award-winning, bestselling author of gothic Victorian fantasy novels for adults and teens. Her new gaslamp fantasy series begins with The Eterna Files; available now from Tor Books, you can read an excerpt here on Tor.com!

Join us if you’re creepy, kooky, mysterious or spooky!

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If you could choose your own personal theme song to play every time you enter a room, what would you pick?

The theme song to the original The Addams Family television show. (Proud Goth girl here, with a healthy sense of humour and theatricality.)

Do you have a favorite word?

  • In English: Liminal (of, or relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase or condition).
  • In German: Sicherheitsmassnahme (safety procedures, preferably shouted—nothing better than German compound words for entertainment and absurd emphasis)
  • In Latin: Ex Astris (by the stars)

What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?

The Eterna Files excerptMadeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time and Edgar Allan Poe’s entire body of work, both encountered and adored in my pre-teen years. L’Engle’s mystic, spiritual, resonant stories are the backbone of some of my core themes and my ardent love of Poe brings all my heart and guts and beautiful horror along with every word he writes.

Choose your dream cast for a Hollywood adaptation of your new novel.

My weary, hard-working skeptic Harold Spire would be comprised of either David Tennant or Martin Freeman and my fangirl squee would see no end. His efficient, sharply confident colleague and code breaker Rose Everhart played by Anna Torv (Fringe) or Anne Hathaway. My super-spy Gabriel Brinkman has always been cast as the swoon-worthy Tom Hiddleston (again with the squee).

My New York team: Timothy Dalton would be rather perfect for my enigmatic, mesmerist of a guardian, Senator Rupert Bishop. (And if not me, as I am a trained actress and I would die to play her) My spirited psychically sensitive heroine Clara Templeton could be played by someone like Amanda Seyfried (I liked her in Les Miserables). I am very picky about American actors in period pieces.

Actors like Tom Mison (Sleepy Hollow), Lara Pulver, Vinette Robinson, Andrew Scott (Okay most of the cast of BBC Sherlock) would round out some more of the cast.

Yes, yes, I would try to get American actors for my New York Team and British Actors for my London team but hot damn can those Brits act… so there may be inevitable cross-pond pollination…

Two roads diverge in a yellow wood: one leads toward a mysterious laboratory in which a mad scientist is currently ensconced. The other winds its way toward a tower inhabited by a powerful wizard. You could really use a snack, and it would be nice to have somewhere to crash for the night—which road do you choose?

Um, wizard. Because, WIZARD. Mad scientist doesn’t necessarily guarantee efficient, brilliant or helpful. Wizard = MAGIC. Wins in my world every time. See, this is precisely why my books are classified as Gaslamp Fantasy and not Steampunk.

If you, as a ghost, could regularly haunt one celebrity, author, or literary figure, who would it be?

Edgar Allan Poe. In struggling with my own inner darknesses, I think haunting him would actually bring a certain comfort to us both, and I would bring his poor beleaguered heart the warm news that he is indeed understood and celebrated as so much more than he was able to enjoy in his tragically too-short life.

List three things you’d like our readers to know about you and your work.

1. I have developed a distinct blend of Gothic Victorian Fantasy that has a dramatic, lyrical voice and explores different spiritual and mystical realms within parallel worlds from series to series, turning another facet of a stone. The liminal places between life and death, the expansion of paranormal sense and sensibilities, the quest for purpose and mission, outsiders and freaks finding family, belonging and acceptance, these are some core themes in my work that are woven into what I hope is seen above all as a compelling, creepy tale with characters readers come to care for deeply.

2. I have been obsessed with late 19th century settings ever since I was a child in a way that defies logical sense and is rather mystical in its bent. Writing about the era has continued to be my great love and calling. The Victorian era was one of grit and grandeur, conflict and restraint, invention and repression, imagination and degradation, spirituality and cruelty, vice and virtue, transcendence and confusion. It is a tumultuous, gorgeous, darkly compelling time of theatrical elegance amidst crippling social conditions. As an actress and storyteller from early childhood, this era has had its complicated hooks in me and hasn’t let me go for many books, and many contracted books to come. (And amidst the ghost and mysticism tours I lead as a licensed NYC Tour Guide.)

3. The best way to read Gothic novels or Gothic inspired works (My work ranges from full-blown Gothic in the Strangely Beautiful saga to a more Gothic-tinged Eterna Files) is with a bit of a wink, smile, and to entirely give over to the narrative with the whole of your dramatic heart. Enjoy yourself and stroll along the fine, enigmatic line between horror and beauty. I very much hope you’ll enjoy The Eterna Files, it’s rich, huge cast of characters, and the new ways I explore all the themes and aspects of Gothic Historical Fantasy that I mention here.

As I’m very fond of saying; Happy Haunting!

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