Author interview: Leigh Himes

Leigh HimesOver the long weekend I started reading The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes and was quickly swept up by the fun and imaginative storyline and fashion-focused descriptions. I’ve been lucky enough to have the chance to ask Himes a few questions about her debut novel and I’m excited to share the interview with you all! Enjoy!

Congratulations on your debut novel, The One That Got Away! Can you give us an overview of the story?

Thank you, Samantha! ‘The One That Got Away” is the story of a young, married working mother struggling to make ends meet in a blue-collar suburb of Philadelphia. After a fight with her husband and a particularly grueling morning with her kids, she sees a photograph of a man she almost dated in Town & Country magazine, and is filled with regret. But with the help of a magical Marc Jacobs bag, she gets a chance to see what life would be like married to that man: a dashing Kennedy-esque blueblood running for Congress. At first, she is dazzled by this fourteen-karat world of luxury and privilege—not to mention her doting, handsome husband—but soon begins to notice troubling clues about the woman she had become. Ultimately, she must discover which marriage is real, just how much she is willing to sacrifice, and who she really wants to be.

What inspired you to write this story?

Just like Abbey, I saw a photograph in a magazine of a man I almost dated years before. Though I certainly have no regrets, I couldn’t help but wonder about the choices we make in life and how our spouse changes—or doesn’t change—who we become. I remember sitting in my kitchen and showing the photo to my husband, and we talked about how it would be a great set-up for a novel. A few weeks later, I started writing and couldn’t stop.

A pivotal moment occurs in the story that causes Abbey’s life to shift course. What does Abbey learn from this event? 

Abbey learns so much! Not only about herself as a person, but as a wife, daughter, friend, and mother. In many ways, at 37, she finally grows up!

To be more specific, one of Abbey’s flaws is that she a little bit of a “giver upper.” I think that happens to a lot of working parents… you are so exhausted and overwhelmed, you just start shutting down (or blaming others). So Abbey’s experience not only gives her perspective, but it teaches her that no matter what you wear or what family you married into, life is about fighting every day to be your best self… and helping the people you love do the same.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process? What has it been like to write and publish your first book?

Though I wrote every day for fifteen years as a publicist, this was the first fiction I’ve ever written so I can’t say I have a process! And I had nothing to lose, so I didn’t impose any deadlines or rules on myself. However, I did have a rough outline and it was detailed enough to provide a road map but not so detailed that I wasn’t able to discover new twists and turns along the way. That proved to be fortuitous because a lot of my favorite scenes and characters came to me as I was writing.

I’m also a big reviser. I hate looking at a blank page so I would rush through the first draft of every scene or chapter and then go back and revise, sometimes every word. I had a full-time job and small children at home, so it was more important for me to make progress and see the pages fill then have a “perfect” first draft.

As for publishing, the scariest thing is putting something so personal out into the world. Now that publication is finally upon me, I can’t help but feel like I’m standing on stage in my underwear. But as far as the publishing industry, that’s not scary at all, mostly because there are so many dedicated professionals—from designers to editors to marketing experts—who guide first-time novelists. It’s a wonderful industry; it’s made up of book lovers, after all! (So, if you’re thinking of diving in, go for it!)

But what’s been most fun is connecting with readers all over the country and hearing their takes on Abbey, Alex, and Jimmy… and their own stories of “the one that got away.”

What are you currently reading?

I am reading “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah and have found it’s worth all the hype. It’s so tragic, but I still don’t want it to end! I just finished the brilliant but very R-rated “Coup de Foudre” by Ken Kalfus, a fictionalized version of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal. I also loved “The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert, and am hoping she will write more historical fiction. I even dragged my kids to the real life estate outside Philadelphia where the book is supposedly set, and as they played in the frog pond, I walked around the grounds imagining Alma and her mosses.

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