Interview with Cassia Leo, author of The Heiress
25 Sep 2017
What can you tell us about your new release, The Heiress?
This book is my first release in more than a year, and was heavily influenced by the experience of taking care of my mother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago. Taking care of a parent is a journey so many of us have made, or will make in the future. It’s a journey that requires community or it can become very isolating. There’s definitely a bit of me in Kristin, my main character.
What or who inspired you to become an author?
I don’t think there was just one influence. I had a great number of teachers who encouraged me. My kindergarten teacher Mrs. Slattery made me stay after school every day for extra reading lessons. My first grade teacher Mr. Bushong who taught me to read at an eighth-grade level. My fourth and sixth-grade teacher Miss Elliott who helped me create my first hardcover book, which I still have to this day. Then, there were the authors I read as a child and as an adult, who inspired me by transporting me with their words. Ultimately, it was my former employer, who laid me off after our company was hit hard by the recession. The experience inspired me to take a chance on a lifelong dream.
Which books would we be surprised to find on your shelves?
Probably Letters from a Stoic by Seneca or Wise Thoughts for Every Day by Tolstoy. I also have a lot of autographed books from authors, my favorite being my signed copy of Gone Girl.
What’s your favorite thing about writing?
The idea that I continue to learn every day, whether through research or through epiphanies that come during the writing process.
Where is your happy place? Why does it bring you joy?
Curled up on the sofa with a strong cup of black coffee next to me, a good book in my hand, and a sleeping dog at my feet. I don’t think anything could ever be quite so perfect.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I’ve received so much advice over the years. But I think the pervasive cliché my parents planted in my head, that I could be anything I wanted to be if I set my mind to it, is probably still the best advice I’ve received. My dad used to love telling me and my sisters that he didn’t care what we became—a writer, janitor, or prostitute—as long as we did our best. Like me, my dad had an air for drama.
What scene in The Heiress was your favorite to write?
The epilogue. It’s always the epilogue.
Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?
Actually, I put my motto in The Heiress, word for word, in Chapter 23, so it might be a bit of a spoiler to write it here. But I have plenty of favorite quotes I try to live by, one of which is from the book Illusions by Richard Bach, “Argue for your limitations and, sure enough, they are yours.”
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