Tule Author Q&A: Leah Vale shares on happy endings, her pup, and her influencers!

Leah Vale stopped by the Tule blog to do a rapid Q&A for our Tule readers!

With her newest series for Tule, Grit and Grace, coming out in the 2024 release schedule, readers will be thrilled to read more happy endings from her strong cowboys.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You mentioned that you’ve never met an unhappy ending you couldn’t mentally “fix.” Can you share a memorable instance where you reimagined an ending to create a happier outcome?

The easiest and most obvious answer is the movie Titanic. I mean, come on, just get on the door, Jack! There was room for both of them. At the very least take turns! As a child, I mentally rewrote Black Beauty so no horses died. 

As a native of the Pacific Northwest now living in Central Oregon, how do these locations influence the settings and atmosphere in your romance novels?

I have found getting into a cowboy/cowgirl state of mind far easier while living on the high desert of Central Oregon. Plus, the often heavy snow fall in the winter is great inspiration for writing Christmas stories. 

How did your B.A. in Communications from the University of Washington prepare you for a career in writing romance novels?

Learning how to write in all those Journalism classes was a big help. Granted, I’d graduated with the hope of writing advertising copy. The shorter, the better. But it turns out I have a lot more words in me, and fictional stories in my head, than expected. 

Your golden retriever sounds like quite the character. Does your dog inspire any characters or scenes in your books?

I one hundred percent base any dog I write into a book on my dog. Any creature with such a massive capacity for love, loyalty, and all-around happiness deserves to be represented in a book. And despite how creative I try to be, I simply can’t make up some of the goofy things a dog will do. The same is true of horses. The quarter horse mare I grew up on inspires all the horses I write.

Creating “happy endings from scratch” is a dream come true for you. What do you find most rewarding about writing romance novels?

I love conquering the challenge of bringing two people who are in opposition, often bearing wounds from their pasts, together in a deeply satisfying way. Especially when I can find a way for them to help each other grow beyond their past hurts to be the best versions of themselves, together.

With a busy writing schedule, you mentioned that dinner often comes premade from the store. How do you manage your time between writing and daily life responsibilities?

I love me a good meal delivery service. It’s so nice to have either the completed meal or at least all the ingredients left right on my door step. Though, I have to admit that even with the luxury of food delivery, the closer I am to a deadline, the more my house resembles a fraternity, over-flowing with energy drink cans and pizza boxes, and the more in need I am of a consistent exercise routine. I’m working on it.

What is your process for developing characters who resonate with readers and drive the story towards a happy ending?

I have always been a huge fan of character and conflict charts that help me build my characters and the journey they will need to take to find happiness. Whether or not I actually use them is another matter. Also, my long-time critique partner, Terri Reed, has introduced me to Enneagrams. It’s really fun to use the test to discover which of the nine personality types, or what combination of them, the characters in my head fit into. Sometimes, though, nothing beats a good game of “What if?”

Can you share a particularly heartwarming piece of feedback you’ve received from a reader and how it impacted you?

I will never forget one actual letter I received from a reader who shared with me that one of my books had made her laugh and brought her happiness during a particularly low time in her life. I have never felt so honored.

What inspired you to pursue a career in romance writing, and who are some of your biggest influences in the genre?

Like many writers and readers of the genre, I grew up reading romance. Starting with my mom’s Harlequins then moving on to thick historical romances. They are the type of stories I’ve always had in my head. And when life gets hard, I really appreciate a happy ending. 

In the beginning of my writing career, I was influenced by greats such as Johanna Lindsey, Betina Krahn, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Susan Wiggs. All wildly talented authors who crafted characters with such life and depth. Now I want to be Kristin Hannah when I grow up.

What advice would you give to aspiring romance authors who are passionate about creating happy endings in their stories?

The advice I give the most is the one I prescribe to myself—take any opportunity to learn the art of telling stories. Learning how to structure a story that will transport the reader into the world you create is an ongoing process for me. I’ve even delved into screenwriting to help me develop stories that will keep readers turning the page. 

Another piece of advice is simply you’ll never know until you try. Then try again. Each book you write teaches you something and furthers you on your journey.

BONUS: What is one book that you would consider to be your comfort read that you will always reach for?

Anything by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. 

 

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