Leann Leyten

All it took was one good English teacher who encouraged us not to edit ourselves and I was on my way to becoming a writer.  Now, a high school English teacher myself, I try to encourage the same in my students.  For years, I only wrote short stories and poetry, but finally started my first novel in 2009.

Soil is the story of a young boy growing up on a farm in southwestern Ontario in the 1960’s. My father is the inspiration for this novel, and my main character, eleven-year-old Owen Vandenkirk is loosely based on him.  My dad’s life has always intrigued me, being so completely different from my own urban upbringing.  This novel is an exploration of what his life might have been like.

I have always been a huge reader and lover of Canadian literature and strongly believe that art is here and now.  Art isn’t just in Paris or New York or Toronto.  Stories and beauty occur everywhere, even in seemingly artless places: a cornfield, a milking parlour, the kitchen table in a farmhouse.

I am also interested in the perspectives of children, in literature and in life – their boundless imaginations and their interpretations of circumstances that are far beyond their understanding.  This is something else I explore in my novel with my protagonist, Owen.  I’ve been influenced by many authors in this vein, some of my favourites include Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, Room by Emma Donoghue, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, and Fruit by Brian Francis.

Click here for an excerpt from Soil.


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