Interview with Leigh Saunders

Space might be the final frontier, but the imagination knows no limits. When it comes to science fiction and speculative writing this is especially true. Come meet my friend Leigh Saunders who continually pushes the boundaries of her own imagination with both heart and enviable skill.

Leigh and I are partners in crime in the Utah author scene, often seen tucking ourselves into corners at conferences and planning our next move. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, with authors as friends there is never a dull moment.

On to the interview!

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

Hi Leigh, welcome to my blog! To kick off this interview I’d like to get to know you better. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’ve never been the stereotypical, introverted writer – though I have been known to “lurk” quietly in new situations while I figure out the lay of the land. Growing up in a military family was probably a big part of that. It allowed me to see a fair bit of the world — and also taught me to adapt to different cultures and customs every time we moved. Then I read the phrase “…the things are also people” in a SF story (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I think), and I never looked at the world quite the same way ever again. I’ve been fortunate to have worked as a full-time writer (of various things, not all fiction) for most of my adult life, and love to travel, learn new things, see new places, meet new people – and then weave some version of what I remember into my stories – yeah, I do that – but by the time I’ve dumped so many bits and pieces into the blender, then poured them out and stretched them like taffy, it’s only the essence of the real people or events that make it to the page. The rest is some kind of alchemy that I don’t even pretend to understand. I just accept it for the magic that it is.

What skill have you always wished you were amazing at, but haven’t had the time to learn?

I’ve always been curious about so many things – In college, I studied accounting, architecture, modern dance, and technical theatre (all the backstage/behind-the-scenes stuff), but I never made it into the horse training program at Findlay College, which would have been a lot of work, but also great fun. I’m a competent rider, but some of my characters are truly one with their horses in a way I’ll never be.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever researched for a writing project?

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to bid on a project with the National Center for Human Genome Research (now the National Human Genome Research Institute). Our small project was cancelled due to funding limitations before it got off the ground, but my interaction with the project team led me to further research in the Human Genome Project. Since I came to it with a science fiction author’s world view, my primary focus was “what if…?” Fact and fiction tumbled around in my head for some time as a result, and Brianna Rei, the genetically-engineered heroine of my 2011 novel “Memoirs of a Synth: Gold Record” was the result. I’ve written a handful of short stories featuring Brianna Rei since then, and this year am launching a new series of short, interstellar heists and capers, called “The Misha Kif Chronicles” where Brianna, always on the run from the bounty hunters, has returned to her career as a master thief under the alias, Misha Kif.

“Memoirs of a Synth: Gold Record” is available through all the major ebook retailers

“The Misha Kif Chronicles, Vol 1: Partners in Crime” is available exclusively as part of the Storybundle “Space Traveler” bundle through July 4, 2019 (www.storybundle.com/space), and will hit the major ebook retailers later this summer.

In all the books you’ve read/written/edited, what character has captured your imagination the most?

If I have to pick just one, it would be the Comte de Saint-Germain, the delicious vampire immortalized (pun intended!) by the amazing Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. I’ve always loved well-researched historical novels, and Yarbro wound her meticulous research skills around a character based in part around the very secretive, real-life Count de St. Germain, creating an intelligent, charming, heroic vampire who I have always loved. Yarbro has written nearly thirty stand-alone novels about Saint- Germain the series over the past many years (I believe the first one came out in 1978), together with two spin-off series, and while the style is somewhat old-fashioned and reminiscent of historical and Regency novels, I am a true fan of Saint-Germain. Other vampires may come and go (or sparkle… why?) but I have always thought of Saint-Germain as the vampire whose acquaintance I have been most happy to have made.

I ask this question to everyone – what’s the most interesting item you have in your writing space and what’s the story behind it?

So many interesting things… so many stories!

I have this oddly-shaped, fist-sized blob of blown glass. Sometimes it’s on a bookshelf, right now it’s sitting on the corner of my desk. For the most part, it’s clear, but veins of red, the color of blood, wind through it and if you turn it this way or that in the light, it almost seems alive. I picked it up from a glassblower in Oregon, because it almost perfectly symbolizes a magical talisman I created in my very first (as-yet-unfinished) novel. One of these days, I’ll get back to that book; in the meantime, the heart of the talisman beats on…

What’s next? What are you working on?

I’m usually working on multiple projects simultaneously, almost always in distinctly different genres. Right now, I’m deep into the first few volumes of “The Misha Kif Chronicles,” which I like to call “the t.v. series ‘Leverage’ in space.” On the other side of the desk are the books and outlines for a fantasy series-in-progress, which is loosely based on the Mongol invasion of Eastern Europe… but with magic. I’m in early stages with that one. And, of course, tucked in around the edges of my schedule are short stories – I’m a fan of the form, and love to explore new worlds and new ideas in short fiction whenever I can.

The enigmatic and mysterious Leigh Saunders

About Today’s Guest:

Leigh Saunders grew up as a “military brat.” And while she’s long-since settled in her Rocky Mountain home with her husband and a large fluffy cat, her life-long wanderlust regularly inspires her to write about the people and places that spark her imagination. When not writing speculative fiction for a living (her day job is writing computer software manuals), Leigh enjoys writing “practical magic” and  “social science fiction” – stories that focus on people (or “things” that are also people) in distant places, and how everyday magic, futuristic events, or advances in technology impact their lives. A 1993 Writers of the Future finalist, her recent short fiction can be found in multiple Fiction River anthologies, BundleRabbit short story collections, and more. She has won awards from the League of Utah Writers for both long and short fiction, and her short story, “Tendrils,” was listed on the 2018 Tangent Recommended Reading List. To learn more about Leigh and sign up for her occasional newsletter, visit her online at www.leighsaunders.com

Connect with Leigh

More about Leigh’s book – Memoirs of a Synth: Gold Record

Tour guide, emissary, diplomat, thief — and a long-lived, genetically engineered Synth — Brianna Rei travels the Hundred Worlds, hiding in plain sight. She knows her survival depends on staying one step ahead of the bounty hunters who have nearly exterminated her kind.

All that changes when she teams up with fellow-thief, Jerrold McKell, and he discovers her true identity. Now Brianna must choose between trust and survival, and what it means to be truly human.

Excerpt from Memoirs of a Synth: Gold Record, Chapter 1 (first page)

I have never analyzed the thought processes that caused me to spend my three hundred seventeenth birthday on Earth, in the relative obscurity of a noisy, dimly lit, backstreet bar in Old Milan, and I don’t intend to do so now.

For whatever reason, that’s where I was – dancing on the table with a couple of newly-met, long-lost loves, in a skimpy black silk jumpsuit that showed off a lot of leg and left little else to the imagination – when I first saw Jerrold.

Actually it was the Antarean I saw first.

There weren’t many aliens in the bar, and her short, bluish fur stood out in the crowd. It was Sisal. I knew her by reputation as a top fence, though I’d personally never had occasion to utilize her services.

She was sitting with two men, both human: one a roguish-looking sort with a rough-trimmed beard and long dark hair pulled back in a ponytail at the nape of his neck; and the second, a big, brawny Thug, who, from my vantage point, I could tell hadn’t quite checked all his weapons at the door.

Sisal’s fur was on end, her claws tapping a staccato rhythm on the small table around which the three of them sat.

That she was here, obviously negotiating a deal, I considered nothing short of serendipitous – the deal she was negotiating would be worth a lot of money, and I was between lifestyles at the time.

I was curious. I was more than a little drunk.

I wanted in on the action.

I jumped down off the table, much to the dismay of the long-losts, who called after me, begging me not to desert them. I laughed and waved them away, scooping up a couple of bottles off the bar as I made my way over to the table.

I dropped the bottles on the table between the Thug and Sisal, narrowly missing her paw, and leaned across the table to speak to the rogue, whom I would later come to know as Jerrold McKell.

“I feel very left out,” I said petulantly. “You didn’t even save me a chair.”

“You’re drunk,” he said.

I laughed. “You always have had a gift for understatement, my dear,” I said, flipping my hair back over my shoulder as I stood. It was long and black and rough-cut, as was the style on Riga at that time, with its thousands of tiny ends tipped in silver. “Of course I’m drunk. That’s the point of coming to a bar. Or at least, half the point.”

Find Memoirs of a Synth: Gold Record on Amazon and other online book retailers.


Thank you Leigh for coming and joining me here on the blog, this was a wonderful interview! I’m excited to see the fruits of all the amazing projects you’re working on!


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Interview with C Michelle Jefferies

Creatives attract other creatives like the last cheerios in a bowl of milk. Today’s creative, C. Michelle Jefferies, redefines what it means to incorporate creativity into her own life by pursuing everything that sparks her interest – from writing assassin fiction to hand dying meditation wraps.

Michelle and I met at a writing retreat years ago and became fast friends over talk of yoga and the best ways to kill people in fiction. While we don’t see each other often, it’s a real treat to spend time together. Nowadays, we tend to cross paths while teaching at different writing conferences.

Michelle’s dream – Owning a creative space with room for all her creative outlets and yoga. (Photo by Dmitry Kotov on Unsplash)

On to the interview!

First, a getting to know you question. If you had one million dollars and 24 hours to enjoy it, what would you do with it? (and why?)

I would buy a piece of land, with lots of room for gardens, trees and a pond to do paddle board yoga in. And hire someone to build my dream house, with a dye/workroom and retreat space for people to come and do conferences and retreats. I would love a place that I could dye and make stuff in that could be cleaned with a hose and mop. Instead of my kitchen. 🙂

You are perhaps one of the most chaotically creative people I’ve ever met. What are three creative things you do that most people don’t know about?

Hehehehehehe, how appropriate that title is.(chaotically creative) Can I use it for my business cards? [Yes! Go for it.] Well, I have a lot of passions. And I imagine most everyone knows I love dye, soap making, and book binding. But probably not that I have been looking at making shoes for a while. Or that I have sewn clothes and knitted for years. And I love hand building ceramics since high school. Or that I have become obsessed with growing certain plants in my flower bed.

I think the best way to describe me is that I am a maker. I see things and either want to make them for myself, or I get this desire to deconstruct the process to understand it and do it myself. I spent last fall studying what plants in my area I can make paper from, and how to make paper and cotton thread. Or that I’ve researched how to take an animal hide and make rawhide and leather. Or to use the hooves to make glue. This week is ink making week. Next week is paper making. I’m fascinated with process. (You should see my office! It’s like the (craft supply) room of requirement in Harry Potter!)

My goal this summer is to make a book from scratch. From the paper inside to the leather and rawhide thread for binding it. I’ve even researched making my own needles for sewing it. As well as the ink and dip pens to write in it. (and charcoal pencils, oil paints, water color paints, paintbrushes, etc.)

What has been your favorite project/series to work on and why?

Project wise my favorite non writing thing is dye work. I love taking blank white fabric and making it colorful. I just finished gathering all the supplies I need to do Shibori and Indigo dying like the Japanese artists do.

Writing wise I have to say my first series (Chrysalis series, Latent, Ascension, Interlude, Convergence, and Catalyst) is my favorite. It was my first real project and the first time I ever experienced those writing milestones, creating characters, finishing a draft, getting published and then finishing the series. I love all of my work, but Noble’s story is my favorite.

I have a few non-fiction books that I have produced that I am quite happy with as well. I have two how-to write books, one on structure and master chapter outline, one on writing series. I am working on a third how-to book on series bibles.

And I have two books written for middle grade age children 8-12 that teach manners in a fun way. They’re called Enchanted Etiquette, and Dragon Decorum.

During the course of all your writing and teaching what’s the funniest/most amazing/inspirational experience you’ve encountered?

I’ll have to go with amazing, I was teaching my structure class at a conference and as I started to teach the head editor of a big Utah publishing house came in and sat on the front row. I noticed them and kept teaching even though my heart rate had probably doubled. After that class they stopped me in the hallway and, in front of some of the conference organizers told me how much they enjoyed my class and wanted a copy of the slides to show their authors who struggle with structure. I was definitely flattered. That was the day I learned that I knew my “stuff” and that I was worthy of teaching it.

What’s the most interesting item you keep in your writing space?

After standing in my office for at least 15 minutes, (I have a lot of strange things in there) I would have to say my musical instruments especially because I am not musical at all. Yeah, definitely my drums and pentatonic flutes. Not traditional western drum set but hand- made drums of wood and rawhide. Hand carved wooden flutes tied with leather. (and a very cool western made “ocean drum” that I found at a thrift store.)

What’s next? What are you working on?

I am working on two series. I switch between them when I get blocked or need a break.

One is Storm Compass, a YA coming of age adventure about a boy who is born a nobody and how he just happens to save the world.

The other is my Trinity Operations series, It is about a group of people who organize and fight the powers that be, facing amazing odds against them to do so.

I am hoping to get these done by the end of this year to release this next year and the next.


About today’s guest:

C. Michelle Jefferies is a writer who believes that the way to examine our souls is to explore the deep and dark as well as the shallow. To manipulate words in a way that makes a person think and maybe even second guess. Her worlds include suspense, urban fantasy, and an occasional twist of steampunk. When she is not writing, she can be found on the yoga mat, hand binding journals, dyeing cloth, and serving ginger tea. The author and creator divides her time between stories, projects, and mothering four of her seven children on the wild and windy plains of Wyoming.

Connect with Michelle:

Check out Michelle’s Ashes Series –

Description of Descending, book #1 in the Ashes series:

All he wants is to fly.

Ashby Standing has it all planned out. Prove his ability to captain a starship in the simulator. Then enter the Star Captain Academy a year early skipping another hellish year of being bullied at school.

When a new street drug proves fatal, taking the life of Elija’s son Nicolai. Noble has no choice but to step back into his role as an agent for Trinity. In spite of his age and his other duties. Including coordinating a twenty year celebration for the colonization of Caledonia.

After losing Arial, Lyris is hyper focused on making sure all of her children are safe nd protected. Even if it skirts what is legal or moral.

Everything converges into a complicated mess as moral obligations, desires, and ego’s battle for dominance and for some, descending into the depths of dark is the option seems the best choice. .

Buy Descending Here!


Need more convincing? Here’s a sneak peek!

Someone slammed hard into Ashby Standing’s shoulder, forcing his chest into the cold metal of his locker as his cheek smashed into the chevron shaped vents at the top.

“Nice balance, four eyes, maybe you should get your ears checked as well,” Ashby’s personal bully, Mitchell, said. Laughter erupted from the students within hearing range. Ashby adjusted his glasses, more annoyed with their constant presence than the other student’s antics. The bully continued down the hall toward the science labs.

“What a freak,” another student whispered as they passed.

Ashby pushed himself away from the door and brushed his fingertip over the sensor to open his locker, then proceeded to place his books on the shelf and exchange his morning class notebooks for the afternoon ones. He was glad that Mitchell had moved on instead of making a bigger deal out of something.

“Ash!” Doran’s voice echoed off the metal. Ashby cringed at the nickname. He hated the burned and fire jokes that often came with it. Still, his eyebrow raised as his triplet brother, Doran, bolted down the hall toward him, followed by a few people in the far distance. Doran almost never called him Ash. Unless it was important.
“Ash!” Doran pulled some object from his satchel.

Ashby sighed. Doran never learned. It seemed Ashby was forever doomed to be dragged into all sorts of problems by his brother.

“Oh no, absolutely not,” Ashby countered. “Dad said I didn’t have to help you.”

Doran panted as he shoved a black ball into Ashby’s hands. “Remember when I said that I thought the coaches were altering the dantu puck weight?”

“I think—”

“This is the proof.” Doran met Ashby’s gaze with a certain pleading. “Please. Ash. I need your help.”

“What do you want?”

“Hide it. Put it in your pack, no one is ever going to suspect you.” Doran begged.

Ashby put the ball on the shelf in his locker behind the large physics workbook, then set his English book on the top to hide it from sight.

“Mr. Doran Standing, what do you think you’re doing?”

Doran looked over his shoulder then ran.

“Wait, hold on,” the principal said as he slowed to a stop next to Ashby. One of the other teachers continued to follow his brother.

Ashby turned and raised an eyebrow. “Me?” He looked over his shoulder. Doran was gone from sight.

Excerpt from Descending, available on Amazon

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