Monday, April 18

Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

Please welcome our fabulously talented guest poster today, M. Leigh Ingles (aka Eliza Knight)

We writers tend to get very comfy inside our little worlds. We hone our craft, we develop skills and research techniques for our specific genres, as well as temper our story-telling voice around that genre.

How hard is it to step outside of the box?

For me, my genre is historical – romance, erotic romance and mainstream fiction. In any case, history is my bag. I love to research it. I write and speak better in historical lingo than I do in contemporary terms. I can answer nearly any question about the medieval era, but ask me about something modern and I might be at a loss.

My oldest daughter is turned ten recently. I’ve been writing since she was born. And since she’s been able to read on her own (about 4-5 years) she’s been asking me to write her a book she can read herself—or read one of my published books. No way, I want her to read the books I have published—they are strictly for the adult crowd! (some for late teens maybe…) As far as writing a book that she could read, my standard answer was always, yes, of course honey. Soon. Maybe this summer… We even started a project together a couple years ago, but then life happened and we never finished.

So, on a day this winter when we were snowed in, and I was in between projects, and she was having me buy her a new Kindle book to read nearly every day, I decided it was time. The girl is a voracious reader, and her birthday was coming up. A perfect gift, I decided, write her a book, publish it on Kindle, upload it to her e-reader and then show her the new book, I got her.

But what to write?

She likes mysteries and ghost stories. I hunkered down with a pad of paper and sketched out an outline. Then started writing. It was a lot easier to write than I thought it would be. Instead of using my “historical” voice, I used my “mom” voice—and it came out sounding too much like me, not like what a 10-year-old would want to read. So, I tried putting myself inside my daughter’s head. I thought, how would she view this scene? How would she view these questions? This dilemma? What would she do? How would she react? How does she talk to her friends? Interact with them? How does she interact with her sisters? With me?

Putting myself inside her head really made the story flow and the words appeared on the pages like magic.

One month later, I had a first draft in hand. Another month of editing, and then a month of formatting, cover design, beta readers, and I was set—The Mystery of the Old Black Diary was ready for publication.

My daughter loved the book! And she was eager to share it with her friends. Her words, “Finally! This is so cool! Thanks! This is the best book I’ve ever read!”

Now, I seriously doubt it’s the best book she’s ever read—hello, she’s read the entire Harry Potter series, the Percy Jackson series, every Nancy Drew book she can find… But I do appreciate and love her enthusiasm!

Will I write more middle-grade fiction? Yes, The Mystery of the Old Black Diary, is the first in the Sister Detective Series. I could never give up my love of historical fiction and romance however, and so will continue penning tales in my favorite genre, that is my focus. But, with three young children, I think writing books they can read is a great way to bond with them, and share what I do for a living.

Have you stepped out of your comfort zone lately? Do tell!

The Mystery of the Old Black Diary, Buy Links: Amazon (print and ebook), Barnes and Noble (ebook)

Visit me: – Middle Grade Fiction – Historical Romance – Historical Fiction – Historical Research Blog


  1. I just love your story, and the cover of that book, too.

    Nice to see you here!

  2. Wow, Eliza! Great interview. I have a deep love of history, but I'm much more comfortable reading about it than talking (or writing!!) it.

    Thanks for visiting WordWranglers today...and good luck with your book!

  3. I'm too much of a scaredy cat to step out of my comfort zone now. Maybe someday that will change. BTW, writing a book for your daughter was sooo cool.

  4. Nice interview! I love the book for your daughter. I would love to do that for my daughter. She's my biggest fan, and hasn't complained about being my beta reader since she was about ten, too.

  5. Wow, I love that you wrote a book for your daughter. That's wonderful.
    Lovely interview. Thanks for sharing yourself.

  6. This is so awesome. I love it!Great title too:) Maybe one day later, the two of you can co-author a novel.

  7. Fabulous story!! just fantastic.
    I never thought to step out of my comfort zone, didn't think my creativity would rise to the ocassion but the other day an idea popped into my head and bam, I'm off with a paranormal. It's just a play thing for now, but who knows, maybe one day it will be pubished....

  8. Great post! My daughter wants me to write her a YA. Must give that serious consideration now. You've inspired me.

    I have stepped outside my comfort zone--actually leaped out. Never thought I'd go outside my historical genre, but last month I amazed myself by writing an Erotic Contemporary Romance. And it was great fun! Comfort zones are highly overrated! LOL

    Thanks, Eliza.

  9. Great post, Eliza. I once was in a crit group that each week, the members posted challenges and I tried out Sci-fi. I actually really enjoyed it. Stepping outside my comfort zone was like a creative rush. I highly recommend it.

  10. @Liz - Thank you :)

    @Kristi - Thank you so much!

    @Shawn - Thank you :) You should try it one day. It was definitely scary, but rewarding in the end!

    @D'Ann - Thats awesome! I would love for my daughter to be my beta reader for my other works one day, but she's got to gain a few years first :)

    @Brenda - Thank you :)

    @Martha - Thanks! I would love to do that. She's writing her own series now, she has like 9 books planned for it. I think maybe this summer we will work on something together as our summer project.

    @Tammy - Thats awesome! I think that's how it starts... just an idea you play around with, and then wow, a story is told!

    @Jenna - congrats on leaping out! That's awesome! And sounds like it was a lot of fun to write too :)

    @Margie - I totally agree! Thanks for commenting!