She enjoys speaking for women’s groups and teaching at writing seminars and conventions. These days, her time is filled with writing, being a grandmother and relishing precious time with her aged mother.
Bonnie and her husband, Greg, live in Southern Oregon. They have three grown children and seven grandchildren.
The following is a March 2013 interview with Bonnie.
I’m just one of God’s kids, doing my best to serve the Lord right where I am with the gifts and talents He’s given. I usually feel like I’m falling short, but I refuse to give up.
I live in Southern Oregon on a five acre property in the Cascade foothills with my husband, a dog, a cat and about twenty chickens. My oldest daughter and her family live next door. We have a small garden where my favorite crop is strawberries—can never get too many.
Greg (my husband) and I raised our family here and it’s hard to imagine living any place else. All three of our children and their families live in Oregon, which I love because they are close enough to easily visit.
I hate to cook, so my poor husband suffers.
I love to fish the high mountain lakes and visit the gorgeous Oregon coast when time allows.
How did you become a novelist, and did you always want to write?
I’ve been an avid reader since my early childhood, but I never imagined myself as a novelist. That changed, however, in 1989 when I was bitten quite unexpected by a writing bug. My mind became cluttered with short stories, personal experiences and poems that I felt compelled to write. I filled up legal pads with my thoughts.
After acquiring a typewriter under extraordinary circumstances (an IBM Selectric waited to be discovered in a dumpster) my writing revved up. I attended a one day writer’s workshop, where I was inspired by the visiting authors and against my better judgment read a short story out loud in a group critique session. I received unexpected encouragement and was later taken aside by one of the visiting authors who told me I was a gifted writer and that she hoped I would continue to write. I drove home on a cloud dreaming about my writing career.
Less than a month later my van was hit by a log truck that tipped over on a curve, dumped its load of huge timber down a bank in front of my van before it slammed into me. My van was left hanging off a ledge. I was alive, but permanently injured. Life as I’d known it came to an end.
In chronic pain, unable to do the things that I’d taken for granted and feeling hopeless I cried out to God, asking Him to give me something to do that mattered. He gave me writing.
Not long after that dismal day I received an invitation and a scholarship for a writing
conference. I went and was launched on a new career. I returned home from the conference and wrote my first novel, The Journey of Eleven Moons (presently being revised). The following year, I returned to the conference where I presented my story to the requisitions editor for Thomas Nelson Publishing. They published The Journey of Eleven Moons, which became a CBA bestseller. I’ve been writing ever since.
I’m crazy about Christian fiction. There is so much “out there” for readers—great stories that speak to the heart. I know I can pick up a book and not only enjoy a good story but be challenged in my faith. And for many readers it offers a “safe” read. They know there will be no profanity or gratuitous sex and that most books can be shared with family and friends.
I also love that as a fiction writer I am doing something Christ did. He shared deep truths through the use of stories. Oftentimes people who will not pick up a theological book for study will gladly read a novel. It’s a great opportunity for Christian writers of fiction to make a positive difference in the world.
How do you hope your readers react to the stories you write?
I want to make readers feel something—to laugh and cry with and care about the people in my stories. And when they have finished a book I pray they will take a nugget of truth with them that will help them on their life’s journey.
I receive so many amazing letters from readers and I’m thankful for each one, but two jump out at me.
Many years ago, one arrived from a man serving a life sentence in prison,(no parole) because he killed a man during a robbery. As a child, he’d placed his trust in Christ, but he’d lost his way as an adult. After reading one of my books he rededicated his life to serving the Lord in prison where he would live out his days. Last year I heard from one of his family members who wrote to tell me he has been faithful and continues to share Christ’s love with his fellow inmates.
Another man wrote to me just last year. He explained that he’d grown up in a religious household, but had never been able to believe that the Bible was true or accurate. After reading one of my books, he is reconsidering and thinks that he might be able to believe one day. I pray for him and hope the day will come when he accepts God’s Word as truth. It would be so amazing to meet him in heaven.
These kinds of letters fill me with wonder. It’s hard to imagine that God has used me in peoples’ lives in this way. It is an honor.
How has being a novelist impacted your relationship with Christ?
In more ways than I have time or space to write here so I will focus on one specifically.
Writing for publication takes a lot of time and dedication. However, the results of hundreds of hours of hard work do not always produce what I had hoped for. When a book “flops” I’ve got to hang on to God and remember His calling for me. Disappointments as well as joys keep me on my knees. There are deep valleys and high mountain tops in this writing experience. I’ve learned that God is with me in all places and that what might appear to be a failure may well be exactly the result God had in mind all along. He uses the highs and lows of life to our benefit and for the benefit of others. We just need to allow His work to be fulfilled.
My desire may seem small to some, but it is big to me. I pray that one day I will be absolutely content exactly where I am. Since becoming disabled, I battle with a longing to do more. I miss my old life, which was filled with activity. I have yet to be completely satisfied. If I can obtain contentment I will have reached my highest goal.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Spare time? What is that? It is like searching for treasure.
I am a wife, mother, grandmother, part-time caretaker for my mother and a writer. My days are overflowing with responsibilities.
Time with my grandchildren is golden. They are amazingly creative and fun. They make me laugh, and I believe they are one of the most beautiful gifts God has given me.
A Saturday morning spent in my PJ’s with a cup of coffee watching a movie is one of my favorite leisure activities. And I’m almost always in the middle of a book. On the rare occasion, during the summer, I always hope to find time for fishing a high mountain lake—the gentle rocking of the boat, warm sun and a line in the water—what could be better?
My most recent series, the Alaskan Skies, takes place during the 1930’s in the Alaskan territory. It’s the story of a woman who fights to break into the man’s world of bush piloting. There were few career women in the 1930’s and even fewer who piloted planes. When love finds my heroine, life becomes more complicated. Is there a way to maintain a career and a marriage?
The three book series is filled with adventure, danger and the beauty and intrigue of Alaska.
Touching the Clouds
[Purchase: Amazon.com |Amazon Kindle]
Wings of Promise
[Purchase: Amazon.com | Amazon Kindle]
Joy Takes Flight
[Purchase: Amazon.com | Amazon Kindle]
What stories can your fans expect from you in the days ahead?
I recently completed a memoir for a Native American woman who grew up in an Athabaskan village in Alaska during the 1940’s and 1950’s. The setting is spectacular because it is Alaska, but even more so because it reveals a lifestyle few know exists. It is a heart gripping story filled with the beauty of Alaska and its hardships. When you finish reading you’ll know how to hunt caribou and you’ll also be overwhelmed by the wonder of God who can raise up even the most wounded among us.
What would you like to say to your fans in New Zealand, and others worldwide?
I have family who live in New Zealand, but I have not yet been able to visit. It is a dream of mine to someday travel to the magical, dazzling world of New Zealand, a truly extraordinary place. I think it would make a fabulous backdrop for a story—what do you think?
I’ve written about many places in this world and I love to discover new places and people. It’s always an adventure. I travel when I can, but with my physical challenges it’s difficult. I do a lot of traveling via books, videos and personal accounts. It’s not as good as actually being there, but it’s pretty good. Maybe one day soon I will be able to make an unforgettable journey to an unforgettable place. And of course, a book will be the result.
I’d love to hear from you. Stop by my site on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BonnieLeonAuthor and say hello or you can contact me at www.bonnieleon.com.
Do you have any parting words?
To writers – keep writing. We are a diverse bunch and the world needs to hear our colorful voices that, like a flower garden, offer surprises and beauty.
Readers—Thank you! It is because of you that I am able to write. Keep on reading and sharing the books you love with your friends and family. And make sure to contact the authors you enjoy. We love to hear from you.
If you’d like to know me better, check out my blog at http://bonnieleon.blogspot.com where I share my heart on topics like God, life and books.
Grace and peace to you from God.