Monday, March 25, 2019

Leanna Renee Hieber's "Miss Violet and the Great War"

Leanna Renee Hieber is an actress, playwright, ghost tour guide and award-winning, bestselling author.

Here she dreamcasts the lead for an adaptation of her new book, Miss Violet and the Great War.
Acting and writing were always entwined for me, growing up. I wrote plays for my high school while performing leading roles, then I earned a collegiate performance degree and began a career in classical theatre. All the while I was writing novels, beginning the long road towards eventual publication. One can imagine, then, how important it is to me that I feel a character within me strongly or I cast someone in the role to help envision their portrayal. I find, writing my 13th novel, I only need to cast one or two anchor characters; presences I need to leap onto my pages. For my debut series, one anchor of an actor led all the rest.

It isn’t any surprise to anyone who has followed my Strangely Beautiful saga in all it’s complications since the debut of The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker in 2009 that the hero of the saga, Professor Alexi Rychman was inspired by the actor Alan Rickman, may he rest in peace.

It’s blatant, I left absolutely no doubt in the far-too-on-the-nose character name and the descriptions of a rich, sonorous voice. But I’m an author who loves homage. Once Alexi named himself and his character was formed from many different Alan Rickman performances, from Snape to Mesmer to Colonel Brandon, he couldn’t be renamed. I kept writing and my Alexi began to take on the unique qualities that make him one of my most remarked-upon heroes. (For those keeping particular score there is a dash of Richard Armitage as Mr. Thornton in the fantastic BBC Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South that flavors Alexi’s burning stoicism.)

Ten years after my debut and several reissues later, renamed Strangely Beautiful thanks to Tor Books, Alexi and his family live again in Miss Violet and the Great War. This fourth and final book in the saga was never released due to the initial publisher’s closure, so it has been a bittersweet number of years waiting for this book to take shape, and losing Alan Rickman in the process was devastating.

I wish his brilliance was still with us to mark the occasion. When he died, I hadn’t heard the news, it was an explosion of texts, messages and emails all offering ‘condolences for my loss’ and I went into a panic because I thought the world knew something I didn’t about one of my real-life loved ones, not just my celebrity inspiration. But when I found out what the fuss was about, I was gutted. My hero. I was honored that friends and readers thought of me, and Alexi, as I’ve always been vocal about this inspiration.

What I loved about writing Alexi in Miss Violet and the Great War was writing him well into his ‘retirement’ years. He rallies like the hero he is in order to protect his wife and daughter, at all costs. Watching and admiring Alan Rickman all my life, he grew older as Alexi did. I had the privilege of seeing him on stage at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, dressed in the exact attire I’d costumed my Alexi in, in this case Rickman was performing a Henrik Ibsen play. It was like watching Alexi from afar for just a bit.

It has been hard to wrap up the Strangely Beautiful saga. Quite an emotional journey. But in the end, this series is about love, hope, light, art, beauty, friendship and family pulling through in dark times. I hope it creates as moving an atmospheric, lyrical and brilliantly acted movie in your mind as it’s been playing in mine all these years.
Visit Leanna Renee Hieber's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue