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Chance Observation And Comment Lead To Creative Rebirth For Zirconia Novelist

Matt Peiken | BPR News

As you roll up to the five acres Leanna Sain and her husband, Randy, have in Zirconia, you pass a sign at the foot of the long gravel driveway up to the house reading Miracle Hill Farm.

“Because I think it’s a miracle we got the house back,” Sain said of the name. The couple were able to buy back the house at auction six years after first selling it.

“And if you look at the little arrow. There’s a cross in the middle, because we’re Christians,” Sain explained. “The arrow comes back to us. Anyway, I designed that sign.”

Sain regards it another miracle of sorts that, out of the blue, while in her early 40s, she became a writer of romantic suspense novels. Her seventh book, titled “Hush,” was published late last year. Sain is reading and signing her books March 5 at the Clyde Rotary Club and March 10 at the Hendersonville Rotary Club.

“When I was growing up, I never felt I was good in a lot of areas,” she said. “I was Mark and Brian’s sister and then I was Randy’s wife and then I was Ethan and Tyler’s mom. I was never me, me in my own right. Now I’m like, heck, this is pretty cool. (Writing) made me feel good about myself. I never felt I had anything like that in me and it gave me more confidence.”

Sain grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., and moved with her husband to Zirconia almost 20 years ago. She worked for her husband’s furniture businesses, homeschooled her two sons through high school and occasionally painted portraits for people who hired her. Then one day, she was out with a friend and they came across an old, rusty gate, standing on its own without a fence.

“I started thinking ‘Well, there’s gotta be a story there,’ and goofed off and said ‘dun dun dun, the gate to nowhere,’” she recalled. “And she laughed and said that sounds like the name of a book, and I said ‘yeah, it kinda does, doesn’t it?’ And she said ‘Well, why don’t you write it?’”

So she started writing, with little more to guide her than the title and her appreciation for romantic suspense books by authors such as Sue Grafton and Janet Evanovich.

“I don’t know if it was some kind of magic or what,” she said. “But I’m telling you, when I started writing that first book, it’s like the cork had been poped out of a bottle and it just sorta glubbed out onto the page.”

It took Sain about a year to find a publisher. “Gate to Nowhere” proved the first in a trilogy playing on mystery and time travel to pivotal moments of 19th century U.S. history. “Hush” broke new territory for Sain, who wrote the novel during her mother’s waning battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. The mother of the book’s central character, Lacey, is also in the grip of Alzheimer’s.

“I was dealing with a lot of negative emotions at the time, so I thought if I could make Lacey’s mother in the book have Alzheimer’s,” she said. “Even in fiction, it was a mean thing to do, but it would allow Lacey and I to walk this journey together and help each other through it.”

For further help along that journey, Sain for the first time embedded a serial killer into a novel.

“I think maybe it was because I was so angry because this disease has attacked my mother like this,” she said. “I think that’s how I was able to do those scenes so well, because I imagined myself strangling the ever-loving crap out of this disease that was doing this to my mom.”

Despite time she devotes to attending to her grandson and ailing father and helping at her husband’s furniture story, Sain has finished the sequel to “Hush” and has begun the third novel in the series. 

“There’s a lot of irons in the fire and I can’t (write) full-time, but I do it as much as I can,” she said. “Sometimes when I’m busy doing something else, I’m about to die to get back to writing.”


Matt Peiken, BPR’s first full-time arts journalist, has spent his entire career covering arts and culture.
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