Today in the Writer Spotlight: BGPS Winner Lala Leo!
Tell us about yourself! How old are you and where are you from?
I’m LaLa Leo, a fairly new indie author on the writing scene. I’m a 35-year-old Leo lady lioness with 3 beautiful legacies to protect and nurture. Nothing comes before that. I’m from Danville, Virginia where I’ve lived most of my life but I’ve lived in many other different places too. Presently, I’m back home raising my young family alongside my significant other and we are trying to build a steady life together in our own little world. I’m a music lover, Fallout fanatic, nostalgic maniac, and an enthusiastic foodie. I’m also a loner recluse in a lot of ways as I’ve become more private as I gracefully age.
What's a fun fact about your hometown?
Danville, VA is known as the city of churches because there are over 100 churches within such a small mile radius. Martin Luther King Jr. marched through Danville with his righteous followers and stopped here to speak where my family’s church apostle and his wife were able to meet and march alongside him. In contrast, it was also formerly known as the last Confederate Capital of the Confederacy as well with the Sutherlin mansion being here. There are lots of historic Victorian homes here rich with history.
Funny fact: No one knows who Dan is. Even funnier fact: There’s a neighboring city called Martinsville and no one knows who Martin is, either! (Unfunny fact: There’s another neighboring city called Lynchburg which coldly reminds us of the senseless historical bloodshed on these tainted lands of the nation’s origin.)
When did you realize you wanted to be a poet? When did your journey begin? I realized I was born to be a poetess at a very young age. Long before I attempted to write a story or fable, I began with journal entries and disconnected words and pieces that described me better than I could ever say audibly. Once I fell in love with literature, linguistics, different dialects and every form of vocabulary, I knew it was time to try it on my own. After 30 years of reading the world’s greatest teachers, I strongly felt I was ready before I actually knew I truly was. To share it with the world and not be afraid of my light or shadow. My grandmother Juanita, my mom, dad, & sis, my bro, my aunt, always used to relay to me that I had a lot to say. The truth is...I have a lot to write! There’s no difference, really. Do you have any previously published work? If so, what? If not, do you have any planned? Absolutely! My first official published work is lost to history in one of those mail-in anthologies back in the day from the UK. Sadly, I never received a copy and I’m too forgetful to remember the name of the poem I submitted nor the title of the work. I was maybe 14 then. I heavily researched online, as many aspiring writers do throughout the years, posting work on platforms for free and all. In searching, I naturally found several writing homes at Wattpad, Medium, Curensea, and Inkitt where I post and add free stories infrequently to give readers a chance to test their preferred taste. Eventually, that bled into me deepening my search by finding other writers in communities all around the virtual world where my questions continue to be answered. The only difference between now and then is...I’m now also answering questions! My first published work was a short story that I didn’t even know was a prequel at the time I was writing it. It is entitled Manifest Destiny. It was featured in an anthology built by Fredric Shernoff (international bestseller), myself, and 3 other very talented women authors who expanded his time travel universe into a fantastical multiverse of mass proportions. Together, we were able to further expand this series into a saga that is now 21 books and running. This massive saga includes my original trilogy, Destiny, that plays right into the events that occur during the original story he wrote for Atlantic Island. My characters are diverse and exist in a world that even in its ending, they are still oppressed. It is an underdog, coming-of-age, unlikely family story that adds a level of mystery to the origin of what transpired on that dead world island. Destiny includes 3 books: Genesis, Revelation, & Micah. The beginning, the ending, and the middle. On our rapid release schedule, as a team we amazingly managed to release 1 book each month over the course of 3 years (2019-2021). In between, I began writing under another pen name and published a short story in an anthology. Additionally, I was featured in Volume 1 of the Black Girl Poetry Scrapbook with many other talented black women authors as well as Diverse Books With Magic’s 1st anthology – Girls of Might & Magic. My short fantasy story Pretty Young Things [PYT] (Portia Yasmin Troi) was featured and tells a dystopian mythological story about the fate of a discarded young human prince when rescued by an Aziza fairy princess who just left home for the very first time, an Underworldling demoness left as the only soul collector in the known universe, and an underwater mermaiden longing for the sacred place of the landwalkers. It is a bite-size treat into an interesting world all its own, devoid of mortal normalcy.
My thrilling ongoing novella entitled Trapped is my newest short story. I’ve been experimenting with Amazon’s new Kindle Vella platform. Currently, there are 8 chapters available to read and the first 3 are free! This gem follows Tirai Greene, Ashton, and their twin best friends, Indigo and Violet, as they perform a paranormal investigation within an old, abandoned asylum – Robinwood Manor for the Criminally Insane. It is a psychological thriller that will keep you guessing at every instance. I still can’t believe after 4 years of seriously writing, I will have 10 books by August of this year! It won’t stop here. Do you have any other hobbies besides writing? What do you do for a living? I thoroughly enjoy spending loads of time with my young children of 13, 7, and 4. I have 2 boys and a girl. They are my life and everything in it. With little time outside of work, I enjoy soaking in knowledge, cinema, music, information, anything I can...like a sponge! I’m an avid gamer, enjoy practicing the beginning of my cosplaying journey, painting, traveling, singing, and really trying anything creatively new and interesting. I’d love to urban explore abandoned places someday, ghost hunt, and so much more! I work from home as an online moderator for several different projects in tech support. I enjoy working singularly with limited supervision, distractions, and interruptions. I’ve always found fulfillment in helping others and I do a better job of it from afar after over 15 years of working in customer service, technical support & troubleshooting. I’ve always been pretty tech-savvy since about the bright young age of 10 or 11. Hobbies are now becoming my devoted career! I always say that happiness and success are different for everyone. Maybe my undying passion for the arts will lead me exactly where my heart most desires to be.
I love my family with everything I possess and those who have stuck by me throughout it all. My loyalties lie in love, compassion, spirit, ambition, and trust. I don’t believe that will ever change about me. God is good and I will continue to trust in Him throughout my life’s journey. What's your favorite book? Do you have a least favorite? I cannot name just one favorite of all. I can admit that I prefer to read mostly horror, fantasy, dystopian, poetry, and historical fiction overall. I love almost all of Stephen King’s books. I grew up reading a lot of horror. I also loved The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat. I will throw a few out there because I will never have just one! A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons, The Glass Slipper Project, Fear by L. Ron Hubbard, Tell Me Everything by Carolyn Coman, Z for Zachariah, anything by Edgar Allan Poe, R.L. Stine, Maya Angelou, Emily Dickinson, Ray Bradbury, Alice Walker, Lorraine Hansberry, Sista Souljah, Carl Weber, or Robert Frost. I can’t...it’s too many. Please don’t make me! I’ll break my brain lol. I will say my very least favorite so far is The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. I’ve started that book 5 times and I cannot get through to save my life. Tell us one of your favorite poets and/or poems. The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost is definitely one of my favorite poems and one that I can recite because we had to learn it in school. I also love The Raven because of how rhythmic it is. No matter who reads it, it sounds musically phonetic and is so pleasing to the ears. It could just be the former violinist and singer in me but it sounds like it could have also been a very solemn song adaptation. I feel the same with other poems minus the solemn part. Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou is just as smooth and rhythmic, if not more so. Unpopular opinion: I feel like the cast of Bridgerton (Penelope & Benedict’s references to him) when it comes to those like Lord Byron, I will always respect it, but it just isn’t my cup of milk tea. What do you hope to accomplish in your writing career? I vowed to myself to try my delicate hand at every genre in existence (maybe I will create my own along the way!). Yes, even space fantasy opera. I suppose I will require a clone, twin, robot duplicate, AI copy, and second lifetime.
Nonetheless, I do NOT want to be labeled as a niche writer or limited to one specific genre or target audience. I aspire to be able to touch and connect to everyone with an open mind through and with my writing. I hope to birth a wondrous connecting multiverse of diversely magical stories in the most intricate, memorable worlds imaginable all with distinct characters of substance that we can all somehow relate to. Writers are magicians. Artists are, too. We are all in the same and connected as one by cosmic stardust to be able to produce in a beautiful manifestation for all to perceive. I long to assist a plethora of similar star beings who are out here trying their best to diversify fantasy and other categories that POC didn’t really have a voice in before now. A voice that we can finally control the narrative with much more freedom to do so than ever before. Where can we keep up with you? Share your socials media pages! You can find me virtually everywhere! Amazon – www.amazon.com/author/lalaleo Portfolio website – www.osdio.wordpress.com LinkedIn – www.linkedin.com/in/lalaleo Facebook – www.facebook.com/LaLaLeoAuthor Twitter – @LaLaLeoAuthor IG - @LaLaLeoAuthor @LaLaLeoWriter TikTok - @LaLaLeoAuthor Snapchat – LaLa.Leo Ask around or ask me! I bite sometimes, though. I can’t say I don’t so... If there's anything you'd like to promote, fill us in! My next title as part of Diverse Books With Magic’s 2nd annual anthology project is entitled Kindred Kingdoms. My featured story is called Beauregard. It will publish in August 2022 (almost like a birthday present to me) and is currently available to preorder on Amazon (www.amazon.com/author/lalaleo). I am super excited because it will be my 10th title!
Diverse Books With Magic is a special reading community where my sister authors and I celebrate diverse fiction in the genres of fantasy, sci-fi, speculative fiction, and more. We invite you all to join us on Facebook. For those that have been asking me if I will design a reader group, the answer is: Soon, my pretties, SOON! And I’m out, VA *peace sign 2000s photo GIF emoji that looks like me lol*
You can Check out her winning poem in volume 2 of the Black Girl Poetry Scrapbook! Order Here!