Saturday, September 12, 2009

Leanna Renee Hieber in the Lair

sponsored by Donna MacMeans

It's my great pleasure to welcome Leanna Renee Hieber in the lair. As you see she's already impressed the GR. Read on, as I'm sure she'll impress you too.

Leanna is here to talk about her debut, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker. Here's the back cover blurb:

What fortune awaited sweet, timid Percy Parker at Athens Academy? Considering how few of Queen Victoria’s Londoners knew of it, the great Romanesque fortress was dreadfully imposing, and little could Percy guess what lay inside. She had never met the powerful and mysterious Professor Alexi Rychman, knew nothing of the growing shadow, the Ripper and other supernatural terrors against which his coterie stood guard. She knew simply that she was different, haunted, with her snow-white hair, pearlescent skin and uncanny gifts. But this arched stone doorway offered a portal to a new life, an education far from the convent—and an invitation to an intimate yet dangerous dance at the threshold of life and death….

The Strangely Beautiful Haunted London Blog Tour Day 12!

Tower of London – Tower Hill, EC3 - England’s Most Haunted Building – The ghost of poor Margaret Pole!

Hello Banditas! I’m so excited to be here! Thanks Donna for arranging this and thanks Banditas for having me. For you, I’ve something special, a particular historical treat and one of my personal favourite ghosts I use in the book.

For those of you just joining us, the purpose of this Haunted tour is to celebrate the release of my Gothic Victorian fantasy debut, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker, this Tour will introduce you to some of the real, documented London haunts who “ghost-star” in my book. When Professor Alexi Rychman and his Guard of spectral police make their rounds, it is to any number of London phantasms. Since these characters are familiar to The Guard, I don’t get to tell their full story in the book. But here I can give them their due. Leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of the novel, first in the Strangely Beautiful series!

Today brings us to what is widely regarded as England’s most haunted premises: The Tower of London!

This definite tourist attraction has been infamous since its construction in 1078 by William the Conqueror.

The building hosts many haunts, from King Henry VI (Killed, tradition says, by infamous Richard III) to the poor Edward V and Richard, Duke of York (also dispatched by Richard III) King Henry VIII’s famous victims Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey, to our Ghost-Star of the day, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury.

Henry VIII vengeance is famous, and it extended to the 72 year old Countess, punishing her in the place of her son, Cardinal Pole. The Cardinal was away in France, having rejected the King’s claim as head of the Church of England. Henry VIII brought the Countess to the block instead. On May 27th, 1541 she was scheduled for execution. When the time came and she was commanded to drop to her knees by the executioner, she boldly replied: “So should traitors do and I am none.” The executioner proceeded to then chase the poor woman around the scaffold until she was very literally chopped to death. This grim chase scene has been repeated countless times on the anniversary of the horrid spectacle.

Here’s how she comes up in The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker:

"My God. Not you again …”
Jane was not a weak woman. She trekked down the Minories to the Tower of London on a regular basis to face the local specters. While none of her illustrious group could ever completely confine or expel the tower’s many spirits, with a gentle Celtic admonition she policed its boundaries, keeping the antics of centuries of ghosts inside the ancient, worn stone walls, bade poor Margaret Pole and her brutal, ax-wielding executioner remain within their usual bounds of the Tower Green lest they disrupt the whole of Tower Hill with the gruesome repetition of her death was a daily routine. But this black cloud floating before her was more terrifying than any of the tower’s offerings, were there a hundred Margaret Poles and a thousand chasing executioners and were the flowing silver blood of ghosts to turn red. This blackness was terror itself. It hovered at the threshold, taking up her entire doorway. When last Jane had seen it, she’d had the aid of her companions. Even then, it had almost taken Elijah’s life.
The cloud congealed into the form of a single-headed canine. That head then multiplied, and the beast stalked forward and began to circle her chair. From its feet, which hovered a good six inches from the ground, blood appeared to drip. Blood culled from Whitechapel. Blood drawn from single, unaccompanied women …

I’m indebted to Richard Jones, founder of the fabulous Discovery Walks of London and author of the fantastic compendium “Haunted London” and “Walking Haunted London” published by Barnes & Noble Books, a main resource for my research. Visit him at Come visit me at to find out more about The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker and follow me to History Hoydens for the final stop on the Haunted London Blog tour! I hope you’ll also pick up the book and love it as much as I loved writing it! If you have the book already, then enter my CONTEST! (Details on website)
Hey readers, like poor Margaret Pole, do you have a favourite tragic tale? Or perhaps a ghost story? Be sure to comment here to be entered to win a signed copy of the book!


Helen said...

Is he coming to my place

Have Fun

Helen said...

Well looks like he is coming to my place for the day I hope he is prepared for hot weather it is like summer over here in Oz already great time for relaxing and reading which I am doing and loving Aunty Cindy's TTOV.

Hi Leanna this books sounds great and I am sure the research must have been great fun. I will be adding it to my must get list and look forward to reading it. I am looking forward to getting to know Miss Percy Parker.

One ghost story I really love is an old movie called The Ghost and Mrs Muir a firm favourite of mine.

Have Fun

donnas said...

Another great story and excerpt. Im really going to miss this blog tour when its over. I love ghost stories and some of my favorites are the ones from Chicago during Prohibition and a few others. The site of the St Valentines Massacre, the ghost of Resurrection Mary. There are some great ones.

Lynz Pickles said...

Congrats on the GR, Helen!

So, surprise surprise, my TBR pile just grew AGAIN. Do you notice a pattern here? A guest comes to the lair, my TBR pile grows. A bandita mentions a book, my TBR pile grows. A bandita publishes a book, my TBR pile grows. I am so never going to read all of these books!

That excerpt was creepy! Actually, Margaret Pole is one of my favourite tragic tales. I couldn't believe her story was true the first time I read about it, because it was just so horrible. So, like any good nerd, I did some research and realized that it really did happen! *shudder* I am so glad I'm alive now and not under the reign of Henry VIII.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

CONGRATS Helen! Put the chook to work while you continue reading. And so glad you are enjoying TToV! Please let me know when you finish.

Welcome to the Lair, Leanna! And Big Thanx to Donna for inviting you. We have our own bevy of ghosts around here, though most of them seem to be benevolent. ;-)

Henry VIII was quite a blood-thirsty guy. I LOVE the tale of how the ghost of his 5th wife Katherine Howard still runs along the inside balcony in Hampton Court's main hall, hoping to petition Henry to spare her life.


Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

LOL Lynz!
Don't you know one way to recognize a true BB is by the size of her TBR pile?!?!


mariska said...

I looovee ghost story, paranormal, mystery. Just can't get enough of them.
I'm sure i'm gonna Love this book, Leanna if you give me a chance to have a signed copy :)
Great interview ladies.
One of My favorite Ghost stories so far is 'Don't call them ghosts: The spirit Children of Fontaine Manse'.
cuniquas at gmail dot com

Margay said...

I don't know about having a favorite ghost story, but I do love watching the shows that highlight them, like Ghost Hunters, Most Haunted, etc. It used to drive my younger daughter crazy - she'd always ask me why I had to "watch those ghost shows" - but now she's kind of getting into them, too!


Joan said...

Hey Leanna! Welcome to The Lair! aren't ghosts. Those are cabana boys with tablecloths over their heads. They are such boys :-)

I agree with Lynz...creepy. I have no "official" abilities but my intuitive sense are pretty deep and I don't know that I could handle some place like the Tower of London. I'm very skittish around ghosts imagination gets going TOO much.

In 2006, my friends and I spent a few days in Charleston SC. We stayed in the carriage house of a B&B on The Battery, just down from the park.

We'd been on a ghost tour (yay) and had barely made it back to the house before a really big storm blew in.

I'm telling you, the lightening and howling wind of that storm seemed demonic.

I scurried upstairs to shower and for whatever reason, this shower stall had a window in it. So I'm scrubbing,the ligtening in flashing and all I'm thinking about is all the pirates who'd been hung just a block down the road from us at the park.

My imagination whirred faster than my soap and I started feeling creeped out that they'd be staring in at me.

Then I could just hear them say

"Nah. We haven't been dead THAT long"


Susan Sey said...

Good morning, Leanna! It's a good day for ghost stories here in the Lair. I'm a scaredy cat, myself, & rarely indulge in scary stories, as they stick with me waaaaay too long & I have to go down into the scary basement all by myself to do the laundry. But I love them in the safety of the lair. And yours sound really intriguing! That haunted London tour sounds fabulous! Can't wait to put Percy Parker on my TBR pile!

A quick question--do you ever scare yourself with your research? Come across something so hair raising that you think, "I"m not touching that one." Or do you take your super-natural with a pinch of salt? Do you come at your research as a believer, or a skeptic? I think both are great--kind of a Scully vs. Mulder, if that reference isn't too dated--but I'd be interested to know where you place yourself on that scale.

Beth said...

Welcome to the lair, Leanna! And thank you for posting your excerpt - fantastic! Looks like a fabulous book *g*

I've never heard the story of Margaret Pole! Very interesting. I don't mind a tragic/gruesome/scary tale but like Susan, they stay with me waaaayyy too long. (That is to say the tale stays with me too long, Susan could stay with me for as long as she wished *g*) I have to read/watch them in moderation :-)

Congrats on your debut book! Is there anything about being published that's surprised you?

Minna said...

I love ghost stories -and anything paranormal! There are many ghost stories I like. And the castles here in Finland have their own ghosts, too. I even remember hearing about a ghost who -for some reason- moved from one castle to another!

Ray Parker Jr - Ghostbusters

jo robertson said...

Hi, Leanna, welcome to the Lair! TSBTOMPP (and wow, what a title!) sounds intriguing and delicious. I love stories like this and will certainly put the book in my Amazon basket.

Can you tell us a little more about the story without revealing and secrets? Something about the hero, maybe?

jo robertson said...

Whoa, Helen, good on you. Hope the rooster's up to the hot weather in Oz. We're finishing summer here, but it's still been quite hot.

Glad you're enjoying AC's TToV; it's great, isn't it?

Good point about the research, Helen.

Leanna, how long did the research aspect of the story take you? How did you go about it?

jo robertson said...

Donna, how interesting! My daughter lives several hours from Chicago, but I've never heard her talk about ghosts during Prohibition. What a great setting that would make for a story!

jo robertson said...

LOL, Lynz, I think TBR piles proliferate like single-cell amoebas. They multiply and multiply and . . . Some readers have entire rooms dedicated to TBR books.

I'm ashamed to say that I'd never heard of Margaret Pole. What a fascinating story.

Leanna, how did you decide which "ghosts" to incorporate into your book and which to abandon?

jo robertson said...

Mariska, I'm with you. I've loved "spooky tales" since I was a child. Something so fun about being scared LOL!

Ah, Margay, you've corrupted your daughter! Way to go!

I don't know as this is my favorite story, but I've always been fascinated by the story of The Lost Colony which disappeared without a trace in Virginia during the late sixteenth century.

jo robertson said...

Minna, how interesting. Can you tell us more about the "traveling ghost" of the Finnish castle? That sounds fascinating. Like why did he move from castle to castle? Was he looking for something or someone? Ooooooh, spooky.

Minna said...

Let's see if I can find that story...

MIchael Jackson - Ghosts

catslady said...

I love ghost stories - espcially the ones based on fact. I was lucky enough to visit London once and the history and atmosphere is just fantastic. I wish I had a ghost story to tell but alas I don't - yet lol.

Minna said...

Ok, I just can't find it. I find plenty of other stories, but not the one I'm trying to find. If I ever find it, I'll let you know.

Cherie J said...

Great post. Mentioning ghosts makes me think of when hubby and I toured some of the plantations in St Francisville,Louisiana. I remember one in particular that was reported to be haunted. I remember feeling cold as I toured it even though it was summer and having a creepy feeling inside. I don't think I could have stayed in that place overnight. I probably would have been a wreck by the next day.

Pat Cochran said...

My story is not a scary story. We lost one of my younger sisters to
breast cancer in 1975. Her 3 1/2
y/o daughter came to live with us.
Some years later, it became known
to us that we had a visitor. Audry
spoke to eldest son one morning. I
would be at the computer and find
myself surrounded by her favorite
Nina Ricci scent. The visits have
continued throughout the years.
We feel she just wanted to keep
an eye on her daughter and now,
her grandsons. She alternates the
visits between her daughter's and
our homes.

Pat Cochran

limecello said...

Favorite tragic tale? Well I find any of the myths from classical mythology fitting. Pyramus and Thisbe, Orpheus and Eurydice... You know, the 300 Spartans (yes the movie was on last night).

Tragedy is such a downer :X But those stories do stick with you, huh? I mean - Romeo and Juliet was based on P&T.

Congrats on the GR, Helen!

Becke Davis said...

I read about this book when Leanna was visiting another blog. At my romance writer's chapter meeing today, Linda Keller from Barnes & Noble in Cincinnati mentioned Leanna's upcoming booksigning. It caused quite a stir - everyone was raving about how great this book is. I have it in my TBR pile, and I'm soooo looking forward to reading it!

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

Hey Banditas and friends!

Reply post #1

Thanks so much for coming out today, I'm so glad you're enjoying the tour and congrats Helen on the GR!

Thanks for your interest everyone - this story is the 'book of my heart' and I'm just having the time of my life with the release.

I'll miss you too! But I've decided that in the spirit of the Haunted London Blog Tour I'm going to continue telling ghost stories, once a month, on my blog. So stay with me and we'll have a haunted tour year round. :)

And might I say I heartily appreciate TBR piles growing here. :)

Lynz - thanks for backing me up - poor Margaret's fate is just so terrible.

Loucinda - indeed, thanks to Henry's bloodthirst, there's a bevy of ghosts eternally pestering all sorts of English sites!

I'll have to check out that ghost story recommendation of yours - sounds interesting!

LOL - isn't our imagination something? Now sexy pirate ghosts? That could make for an interesting tale indeed!

Susan -

what a fantastic question. And yes, serious creeps.
My most terrifying moment was once I'd already decided about one of my 'monsters' in the book, a hell-hound like dog, I read about the Black Dog of Newgate who tore prisoners limb from limb after they'd cannibalized a prisoner who'd been locked up for sorcery. The spirit mongrel got its revenge and was seen annually slinking about the executioner's row. So when I'd already decided on a gruesome black dog and then I READ about it... that took some getting used to, as if I'd been led right to that story.

I've always loved horror, Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe were two early literary loves of mine. But I could never write it straight, I've always had too many nightmares to want to live in them in my work. But my work will always have a bit of a dark side, it's part of my style. But I try to steer clear of the really gruesome stuff - because yes, I'll terrify myself.

As for what I believe? I've had paranormal experiences, shadows that couldn't be real shadows, sudden drastic changes in temperatures that aren't possible, odd occurrences with animal omens.

So I'm a believer in the fact that there's so much we'll never exactly know. I'm okay with the 'divine mystery' of things. I don't need to know all the answers, I like playing in the paranormal world and seeing what I come up with, just shy of playing with anything truly demonic (don't want to touch that.) X-files is one of my all time favourite shows, by the way!

Yes, a lot about publishing has really been trial by fire for me. I think what's been the hardest for me to get used to is that there's always something more to do, especially in trying to promote yourself - it's really easy to get overwhelmed so I'm trying to bite off as much as I can chew between writing and doing a lot of self promotion - (I'm blessed that Dorchester has been a teriffically supportive publisher - but authors do need to put in so much PR facetime/work too). That being said, there's nothing more I'd rather be focusing on than this series, it's very beloved to me.

A travelling castle ghost? How neat!!

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

Reply post #2

Helen, Jo,
Indeed - the research was great fun! For the ghosts, I used "Haunted London" by Richard Jones like a bible. The ghosts inside Athens Academy I made up (because Athens is made up) to suit the story and plot devices. But everything outside in London is real, and I just layered in the ones that worked with the general "goings on" I'd already developed. They were a later layer that gave me the delicious specifics that you sometimes layer in after you've gotten the main arc settled in.

As for Victorian research, I focused on the era in college, surrounded myself with a lot of books and films, but mainly a lot of my sense of the period, vernacular and setting came from my Anglophile tendencies and lifelong obsession with 19th Century literature - Gothic novels were my first great love affair. I adapted 19th century literature for the stage in a few professional instances, which gave me a working comfort level with the style of language that I would adapt and use flavours of in my work.

I've ALWAYS wanted to know about the lost colony too!

Oh, and about my hero, Alexi Rychman. He's been described by reviewers (who have loved the book) as a brooding Mr. Darcy meets Alan Rickman's Severus Snape, and throw in a healthy dose of Richard Armitage's John Thornton from North and South. Alexi is dark, brooding, overbearing, intense and I'm utterly in love with him. He is very much a traditional Gothic hero and yet I try to make sure he's always dimensional within his circmstances. When his extremely stern and stoic nature begins to show cracks in its facade and his care for Percy begins to shine through, it fills and breaks my heart all at once. I doubt I'll care for another hero as much as I care for him, because he is the culmination of all my literary love affairs into one character.

hello! I'm so glad you've mentioned Myths! This book is also steeped in Greek Mythology, one of my other love affairs. :) I couldn't agree more with how captivating myths can be!

*blush* wow, a stir! Thanks! Yes, I'm coming home as of tomorrow! I live in NYC but was raised between Hamilton and Middletown. I hope to see you at the signing! Linda Keller is such a wonderful person and such an incredible bookseller, I'm very grateful for her setting up my event.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

I've been to some of those plantations in St. Francisville too! They were great fun to visit and yes, I could easily imagine the place having lots of ghosts haunting those places.


Louisa Cornell said...

Leanna, so good to see you in the Lair! I am really looking forward to reading Miss Percy's story! I LOVE to read and write anything Gothic - though mine are set in Regency England.

I live in the South and ghosts are just a way of life down here. I think because so many Southerners believe in ghosts that is why so many hang out down here.

Everyone in the Lair has heard my story about my baby brother's imaginary friend when we lived in England. He was three when we moved there into a lovely house in a small village in Suffolk. My other brother and I were in school and Brian was home alone with Mom. He spent a lot of time playing in his room and my Mom often heard him talking to someone. When she asked him who it was he simply said John. Well, John did a lot of interesting things. At night my parents would shout up the stairs for us to get in bed and stop moving things around. Trouble was we WERE in bed fast asleep. Then one night my Mom sent my Dad up to put an extra blanket on each of our beds as she forgot to do it when she tucked us in. When he got up to our rooms the extra blankets had already been removed from the wardrobes and put on the beds. When we got ready to leave England we were invited to our landlords home for tea. We had a lovely time and as we were leaving we walked through the dining room. There was a lovely sideboard with dozens of framed photos on it. My brother then six pointed at a photo of a man and said "There's John." We were stunned but not so much as our landlord. The photo was of his brother, the man who owned the house we lived in and who had died in the house twenty years before we moved into it.

Keira Soleore said...

Good evening, Banditas, and hello after a few weeks. School's in session, and Keira's one happy camper.

Helen, congratulations on nabbing him before heading off to work.

Leanna, a huge welcome to you in The Lair. I've been following your ghostly adventures around the web. While I haven't always commented, I couldn't resist doing so here.

Miss Percy! Miss Percy! Miss Percy! Ahem.

Got my book in San Diego the day it came out. Returned here next day and went out to make sure that my Target had put out the books as promised earlier. Swe-eet! They had! Ended up reading your story on the flight to Munich and giving it away to a friend who looked interested in the premise, the cover, and back-cover copy. (My oohing may have had something to do with it.)

'Course now I need to get another copy. Perhaps I'll reward my Target for being good. Or perhaps I should head off to my fave bookseller at Borders. Who should I give my custom to? Hm.

Nancy said...

Helen, congrats on bringing home hte rooster!

Leanna, welcome. I love this London tour. Your book sounds like great fun.

Nancy said...

Lynz, I've noticed a similar pattern with guests and the TBR pile. The book sounds great, I go get it, picking up anything else that looks interesting at the same time, and the pile teeters just a bit more.

Nancy said...

Donnas, I just taught a unit on Prohibition. The student reading included the St. Valentine's Day massacre, but I'd bet not everyone had done it yet. An interesting period.

Nancy said...

Leanna, I have no ghost stories. It may be that I'm just unobservant. I love hearing historical ones, though, like the one AC mentioned about Katherine Howard.

Nancy said...

Pat, that's a very sweet story. As you said, not scary at all.

Nancy said...

Louisa, that's an amazing story. What was it Hamlet said? "Stranger things in Heaven and Hell, Horation, than are dreamt of in your philosophy?"

Pissenlit said...

Congrats on nabbing the GR today, Helen!

Can't wait to get my hands on Strangely Beautiful! And oooooooh, I've never heard the story of Margaret Pole.

I don't think I have a favourite ghost story(or at least nothing comes to mind at the moment) but I think my favourite tragic tale is The Little Match Girl.

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

Oh, that's lovely. I am not scared by ghosts in general, I think most of them mean us no harm. I'm so very fond of ghosts as a general rule.

Which is why in Miss Percy Parker there are plenty of examples of ghosts that are friends to Percy and the Guard.

There are malevolent presences in this world but the positive, almost 'guardian spirits' far, far outweigh them. And I think my examples of 'good' ghosts far outweight the bad ones too.

Wow, I love your ghost story - how incredible, thanks for sharing!

hello beautiful!
You're so good to me! I can't wait to return the favour when it's your turn! :)

Nancy - kudos on the Shakespeare, I couldn't agree more. I use a ton of Shakespeare references in the book, I was working full time as an actor for the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company when I first started working on this book, so The Bard is close to my heart!

I love the Match Girl!

Morning Glow said...

Another amazing excerpt. I love a good ghost story, whether it be scary or one with a happy ending!

Morning Glow

jo robertson said...

Welcome back, Keira! Your high praise of Strangely Beautiful puts it high on my list.

Oh, and about the Lost Colony, Leanna, Bandita Nancy corrected my misremembering. The Lost Colony apparently was a North Carolina story, not a Virginia one, although I'm sure my 5th grade teacher told us wrong LOL! I refuse to admit to a bad memory!

jo robertson said...

Not scary at all, Pat, and must be a great comfort to your family.

MsHellion said...

I'm sorry I'm here to this late, but I can't resist adding--

In my hometown, it's a college town, and one of the colleges is the oldest women's college west of Mississippi. There is a story about the Gray Lady. She was a beautiful young woman in love with a confederate solder during the War of Northern Aggression. He would sneak away to meet with her, while his army was camped nearby. Of course, the Northern army was also camped nearby.

One twilight (that's when they met) she was watching out the top story window of her dormitory for him--and he came around the tree where he always was--and he was killed (right in front of her) by a group of Union soldiers, who'd been waiting for him.

In her grief, she threw herself out of the third story window and died.

Now she is supposed to haunt the third floor of old building in the college. The tree is supposed to still be there, I believe.

Leanna Renee Hieber said...

Morning Glow

That's okay, I didn't remember which state, thanks for the clarificiation.

Ms Hellion,
wow what a sad story - incredible - thanks for sharing.

Thanks for this lovely time, Banditas and guests!

ddurance said...

I've been admiring this one, looks different and interesting.


Leanna Renee Hieber said...

And the winner of the signed copy of the book is... MORNING GLOW!

Email me at with your address and I'll get it right to you!

Congrats to the winner and thanks everyone for participating!