Leigh Marsden is a prolific fiction writer, yet she’s not exactly a household name. For over a decade Leigh has been writing what she calls ‘relationship dramas with a spicy twist,’ from her home in Geraldine. I discovered they’re a bit steamier than your average Mills & Boon!

I checked her out online in anticipation of our meeting, so I think I know what to expect, but a small town magazine writer talking to a well-published author – it could be slightly intimidating.

Leigh welcomes me in and makes tea as daughter Penny plays happily nearby. She’s the image of a typical working mother, juggling writing in between pre-school pick-ups, doctors’ visits and nap times. She breezes through it. “I enjoy the challenge,” she says.

Three of Leigh’s numerous titles have been published under her own name; her first, Beauty was a self-published “social commentary with a bit of a relationship drama,’ based on her own personal experience working as a stewardess on a superyacht. This was followed by Scarlet and Crush, which were a two-book contract with Penguin NZ. “They’re what I call relationship dramas with a spicy twist,” she smiles. “They were pretty ‘out there’ for a Penguin publication.”

More recent titles (of which there are many) are written to an outline, which Leigh then ‘fleshes out.’   “I started writing for an amazon.com publishing business aiming for the American mass market. It’s not trashy writing, but it’s not Shakespeare either. If you’ve got a good looking man on the cover it will sell,” she laughs.

Currently writing for a Detroit-based business, Leigh writes under two pseudonyms; Willow Brooks and Leah Black. “Selling my soul to the devil,” she smiles. “Paranormal romance is the genre, involving vampires, werewolves and shape shifters.” It’s a blend of fiction, fantasy and romance and it’s currently receiving great reviews.

“It’s all about fast turn-around. “I set myself a word count every day, and complete one book every four weeks, selling the completed manuscript, so if it turns into a best seller I’m out of luck!” she says wryly. “It’s no luxury, but it keeps me writing, and keeps me dreaming the dream.”

The dream, unsurprisingly, is to make a full time career writing in her own name. “The average NZ fiction book sells only 1200 copies, with the exception of Richie McCaw’s biography which sold around 60,000. Kiwis just aren’t buying fiction, and it’s rare for Penguin US to buy NZ books, so I’m unlikely to become an internationally recognised name any time soon,” she says. “People do make it, but they’re the exception, not the rule.”

Her books may not be international best sellers (yet), they may not even have her name on the cover, but if passion and perseverance have anything to do with it, don’t be surprised if Leigh Marsden’s name DOES one day soon appear on the bookshelves.

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Judy McAuliffe is a writer, and publisher Essence Mid Canterbury. Her experience in media is extensive and includes approximately 15 years as Creative Director for The Radio Network, writing, and managing the writing of radio advertising, mainly in Invercargill and Greymouth. In the late 1990’s she transferred to Christchurch, moving into an Account Management role with 91ZM. In 2007 she and a business partner set up Essence Mid Canterbury, very quickly adapting her radio-writing skills to print media. Judy became sole owner of Essence Mid Canterbury in June 2014. Judy is a ‘people person’ and has found her niche writing feature stories about the community she lives in and the people who live there. She is also available for freelance writing assignments.