Interview with Author Leah Cypress

I was lucky enough to be able to interview fantasy author Leah Cypress. I met her back at Baltimore BookCon last September. She is so humble, sweet and talented! i am so grateful for this opportunity to be able to share a little bit about her here!

You can reach her here.


Are you traditionally published or self published? Why did you choose that path?

I’m mostly traditionally published. I did self-publish a collection of my previously-published short fantasy stories, and will probably self-publish another collection and maybe a novella soon.

When I started out, self-publishing wasn’t as viable an option as it is now. I’m also not a business-oriented person, and have a limited amount of time, so I would rather not sacrifice too much of my writing time toward the nuts and bolts of self-publishing. With that said, my eventual goal is to have a hybrid career. Both traditional publishing and self-publishing have their pluses and minuses, and some projects are better suited for one or the other.


When did you first become interested in storytelling?

Always! I wrote my first fiction story in first grade, and by third grade I was working on a “novel.” (It had no paragraph breaks, but it was very adventure-packed!)


What was your first book/story published?

My first short story was published when I was 17 years old, in a magazine called “Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine.” (It’s currently reprinted in my collection, “Changelings & Other Stories.”) My first book, “Mistwood,” was published in 2010, by HarperCollins.


What was the hardest part to write?

Sad scenes are the hardest for me to write. I love my characters and don’t want them to be sad! But as the author, I have to be brutal with them. 😉 That’s just how it goes…


What would your ideal career be if you couldn’t be an author?

Illustrator, probably, so I’d still be making books! Of course, in this hypothetical I’d have to actually possess some artistic talent.


Do you read reviews of you books? If so, do you pay any attention to them, or let them influence your writing?

I do read reviews, but I try to be judicious about it. Five-star reviews make me feel good about myself, and there’s some value to that, but it’s also easy to be taken in by your own good press. One or two star reviews usually means this book wasn’t meant for this reader, so I try to avoid them as much as possible. I try to take the feedback in three and four star reviews seriously, and to use them (cautiously) to assess the strengths and weaknesses in my writing and to think about how I can improve my next book.


What well-known writers do you admire most?

I can’t possibly answer this question — there are too many! To pick a couple at random: I admire Sarah Beth Durst for the variety and quality of her writing, I admire Sarah Rees Brennan for her mix of humor and tension and her skill at pulling off trilogies, and I admire Tana French for her ability to completely immerse herself in so many different types of characters. I also admire Swati Avasthi because I think her debut, Split, is one of the best contemporary YA books I’ve ever read.


Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

  1. Love the writing for the writing; don’t think about publishing until the writing is over. 2. Get a critique group! 3. As the last step in revising, read your entire manuscript out loud.


Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?

Not deliberately, but there are a couple of things I put in for my own amusement and the amusement of the few who will get them.


What are common traps for aspiring writers?

I think the most common trap is taking the advice of established writers too seriously. Everybody in this industry, no matter how successful, really only knows a little slice of what’s going on. If anyone ever says, “THIS is the one way to write a good book/become successful,” they probably don’t know what they’re talking about.


What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

When I was working on Mistwood, my critique partners all told me that the book didn’t have a good sense of place. I was going to Israel for a friend’s wedding, so I arranged for a stopover in England and spent a couple of days running around the country writing descriptions of castles. It was super fun and it paid off! But even if it hadn’t, I think money spent to travel is always money well spent, especially for a writer. It opens your mind to new creative ideas, and broadens your understanding of the kinds of stories there are to tell.


What is your current binge watch?

Speechless. I’m pretty picky with sitcoms, but when I find one I like, I just stream it until there’s literally nothing left to see.


Who is your favorite fictional villain?

Well, I created her, so I have a soft spot for Clarisse in Mistwood.


What is your most interesting fan experience?

I can’t think of any! I must have very well-mannered well-adjusted fans. 🙂



I wrote my first story in first grade. The narrator was an ice-cream cone in the process of being eaten. In fourth grade, I wrote my first book, about a girl who gets shipwrecked on a desert island with her faithful and heroic dog (a rip-off of both The Black Stallionimg_leah_cypess and all the Lassie movies, very impressive).

After selling my first story (Temple of Stone) while in high school, I gave in to my mother’s importuning to be practical and majored in biology at  Brooklyn College. I then went to Columbia Law School and practiced law for almost two years at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, a large law firm in New York City. I kept writing and submitting in my spare time, and finally, a mere 15 years after my first short story acceptance, I sold my first novel to Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins).

I live in Silver Spring, Maryland (right outside of Washington, D.C.) with my husband and four children.

You can check out her books Mistwood and its sequel Nightspell here.

and her books Death Sworn and Death Marked here.




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