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Author Update: Ed Lehner

Author Ed Lehner is a poet, novelist, and short story writer. His newest release is Grandpa’s Horse and Other Tales (AIA Publishing, March 2022), a collection of twelve short works. You’ll find Ed on Facebook and Twitter, and on his website Read more about Ed and his writing in his SWW 2020 interview.

What do you want readers to know about Grandpa’s Horse and Other Tales?
While some short story collections have a central theme, this anthology is a mix of diverse topics including enhanced memoirs, mystery, and romance along with fanciful flights concerning Covid-19 and climate change.

How did the book come together?
I had all the stories written, and doing a collection had been in the back of my mind for a while. Once I made the decision and the commitment to do it, the book came together fairly quickly. However, I then went back editing and rewriting which took me several months. My publisher then agreed to review it and was eager to work with it. It then went to the editor who had the editing finished very quickly. Of course there was cover design and formatting. I would have to say the whole process took about a year overall.

I discovered AIA Publishing, a small operation headed by Tahlia Newland, when I was looking for an editor/publisher for The Awakening of Russell Henderson. I came across Tahlia’s name on the Alliance for Independent Author’s list of recommended services. She had good reviews as an editor and her costs were very reasonable. After having a great experience working with her on The Awakening, it was a no-brainer to send her Grandpa’s Horse and Other Tales. She sent the manuscript to Barbara Scott-Emmett, who lives in London, for appraisal. Barbara gave it her blessing. From there it went on to Katherine Kirk who lives in Ecuador for line editing. Tahlia’s daughter, Rose, designed the cover and did the formatting. I find it amazing that I had people from all over the world get this book into print (Tahlia lives in New South Wales, Australia.) The process was easy and seamless. Tahlia is amazing. She responds to my emails within twenty-four hours.

Tell us a little about each story in the collection.
“Grandpa’s Horse” ● A memoir piece that grew into an event I over-dramatized. I wrote this about the late John Stewart, his song “Mother Country,” and the crowd that watched a dying blind harness race driver do a last run around the track in his sulky, speaking to me of a time when people gathered for events whether contrived or spur of the moment.

“Library of the Occult” ● My first try at mystery. Once I got into it, it flowed easily to conclusion, totally fun to write. It was interesting to research London and try to emulate British dialogue. Watching a lot of stories on Brit Box helped. My editor was British and South African and found only one wording that wasn’t how an Englishman talks.

“A Man Called Thomas” ● Dystopian stories aren’t something I read, but with climate change in the forefront of our present time, I found this story easy to write. I see the population on this planet either unaware of or not wanting to make the minutest changes in their lifestyle to stem the heating of the planet. There are others who have no choice due to poverty or other circumstances. We seem to be unwilling and unable to solve a global problem that desperately needs fixing. This story is my personal rant.

“The Test” ● This short story came from an assignment in an online writing course…someone gets into a bad situation. What happens?

“The Anchor” ● Written for a contest in which we were given two images: canoes pulled up on a rocky shoreline and a lightning storm down a long, dark road bordered by tall hills. It was tough to get this one going, but in the end, surprisingly, it won second place.

“Katie” ● Part memoir of my childhood wanderings and a neighbor woman along with a fictional ending to the story.

“A Bottle of Dope and Shine” ● Another memoir piece, albeit, somewhat enhanced. I don’t know if the old boys playing cards were actually drinking moonshine. If they were, they didn’t offer me any. But the Coca-Cola part is honest truth.

“Starlight” ● I’ve always been fascinated by the deserts in the Four Corners (New Mexico) area. They have a magical mystique about them, so I wrote this about a damaged veteran suffering from PTSD and guilt who lives alone in the desert and is visited by a strange woman one night.

“Swinging on a Star” ● Written for a short story contest, and the Bing Crosby song jumped into my head. The setting is based on my in-laws’ beautiful home on their farm overlooking the Mississippi River in northeast Iowa.

“Becky and Richard” ● I was sitting on the patio at my favorite coffee shop a few years ago when two young adults sat down nearby. While I couldn’t hear their conversation, I could see them scoping out the tourists and knew they were doing some local criticism. The rest was from my imagination.

“The Ultimate Zoom” ● Having gotten on the Zoom train during Covid, I wondered what might happen if we could magically travel through time and space like on Star Wars or Star Trek…“Beam me up, Scotty.”

“Dana’s Story” ● This novelette came out of my second novel, The Awakening of Russell Henderson. I always felt that Russell’s wife, Dana, had a bigger story. So I gave her one. I thought it would be a short story, but she had a lot more to her tale, thus the novelette length.

Which story was the most challenging to write?
I would have to say that “Starlight” was my most challenging. It was one of the first stories I wrote and it was hard for me to keep it short and focused. Unlike a novel where there can be different situations and an ensemble of characters, I found it difficult to stay with only two and their immediate situation. Also, I found it difficult bringing it to an end without continuing it on into somewhere it didn’t need to go.

Who is your favorite character in the collection? Did any characters surprise you while you wrote their story?
Thomas from “A Man Called Thomas” would be my favorite character, I suppose because of his mysterious presence and his message. I was surprised at how feisty Emma, from “The Library of the Occult,” turned out to be.

Which story would you love to see play out in a movie?
It would be a toss-up between “A Man Called Thomas” and “Katie.” But I would have to go with “Katie” as it’s a story of coming of age, friendship, bigotry, and love.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Strange as it might sound, going through these stories and doing the editing and rewriting was my favorite part. I liked revisiting what I had written with fresh eyes.

What are you most happy with, and what do you struggle with most, in your writing?
I am most happy when I am involved in a project. I wrote The Awakening of Russell Henderson (a 90,000-word novel) in less than three months. I was fortunate the story seemed to write itself. What I struggle with is when I have a good story going and it suddenly stalls, like a novel I’m 40,000 words into now. I have several avenues towards the end that I have written and am not happy with any of them.

Do you prefer the creating, editing, or research aspect of writing?
Obviously, I like creating the story, the characters, the plot, etc. I also find the editing to be rewarding as it gives me time to review, rewrite and renew as needed. However, it can become a bit tedious after so many edits. That’s when it needs to go to a professional. Research, when needed, is essential. Even though a story is fiction, it’s important to have the essential facts straight such as defining a location, a road, a geographic area. Some things a writer shouldn’t try to make up.

What typically comes first for you: a character, a scene, a story idea?
Any of the above can spur me into a story. I listen to a lot of music, and just a word or a lyric can send me into a story idea. I like to people watch and make up their stories in my mind. I think I have quite a catalog of different characters residing in my head.

Looking back to the beginning of your writing/publishing career, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?
I wish I’d had more guidance in publishing. I decided to self-publish for a number of reasons and I made some big mistakes (and costly ones) with publishing my first book. I wish I had done more research. After that debacle, I discovered the Alliance of Independent Writers which turned out to be a great resource.

Do you have writing rituals or something you absolutely need in order to write?
Being a completely undisciplined person, I have no rituals or set times to write. When I’m in the process of a story, it’s constantly on my mind. When I wake up during the night, I’m lulled back to sleep with thinking about where the story might lead, various dialogue, or situations. I don’t write it down, but I always remember it the next morning. Even during my morning meditation, ideas will come. I’ll sit down during the day and get everything down. Weird, but it’s what I do.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I have several short stories underway as well as the above-mentioned novel. I would like to put together another anthology when I have enough material.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Thanks to SouthWest Writers for their great support for all the writers in our area of the world.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

An Interview with Author Ed Lehner

Retired professor Ed Lehner is a luthier, musician, and Reiki master who also finds time to journal and write poetry and short stories. In 2017, he added novelist to his list of accomplishments with the release of San Juan Sunrise. His second novel, The Awakening of Russell Henderson (2018), explores a journey of failure, depression, self-discovery, and love. You’ll find Ed on Facebook and Twitter, and on his website

What is your elevator pitch for The Awakening of Russell Henderson?
Chicago investment-banker Russell Henderson — newly divorced, suffering from depression, his structured life falling apart — makes a spur-of-the-moment decision to go on a camping trip to explore the Western United States. On the second day of his trip, he picks up a woman hitchhiker in western Iowa. This sets off a chain of events that involve an American Indian sweat lodge, a Tibetan Buddhist Rinpoche, and a road trip through stunning countryside. His relationship with the woman becomes more complex, especially when the dark secret of her past comes into play.

When readers turn the last page of the book, what do you hope they will take away from it?
I hope the reader will feel uplifted. I would hope, along with the story itself, readers might come away with new insights into the struggles in their own lives or those of others.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
This being only my second book, it is hard to pick out any unique challenges. Writing a novel, for me with my lack of experience, was the main challenge. But I would have to say, describing the sweat lodge and creating the Rinpoche (from a number of Tibetan teachers I have had over the years) and giving them both due respect was probably the hardest. Originally, I was not going to include the sweat, but finally felt it was a necessary part of the story.

Tell us how the book came together.
When my wife and I lived in Iowa, we usually spent three weeks of every summer camping out west, visiting national parks, exploring and hiking, mainly in the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. Along the way I met some great folks, some being Ogallala Sioux from the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota where I experienced my first sweat lodge. Also I have studied Buddhism for thirty years.

With teaching relatively small studio labs in design when I was at Iowa State University, I got to know most of my students fairly well along with their struggles, fears, their self-criticism of not being good enough, not creative enough among other things. I kept journals of these encounters along with my teaching experiences, and, for the most part, many of my students created Russell Henderson.

Also, the first book I wrote, San Juan Sunrise, dealt with childhood abuse and recovery. I found digging into abused and damaged individuals, and their subsequent recovery, rewarding. For The Awakening, I wanted to write a road-trip book to include some of my adventures and the places I had visited. I added a spiritual growth aspect, and it all fell together. I first had the idea to write the book in 2016 and fooled around with it, but didn’t begin to seriously write it until January of 2018. I sent the manuscript to the editor at the end of July 2018, and it was published by the end of November that year.

Who is your main character, and why will readers connect with him?
Russell Henderson might be anyone…anyone who is feeling trapped and wants to break free of the influences of their upbringing, their familial and societal expectations. Somebody who is suddenly confronted by the confines of their present life and is facing the necessity to have to change, especially when they realize there are no roadmaps.

When did you know you had taken the manuscript as far as it could go?
I felt Russell’s relationship with Hanna, the hitchhiker, was fully developed, but it wasn’t until he had complete closure with his family secrets which were revealed after an event that called him back to his family home in Iowa.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
It was fun to share some of my own experiences. I am a closet romantic, so I had to include a love interest and found the opposite personalities of uptight Russell and free-spirited Hanna interesting to develop and work with.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I never knew exactly if or when I really wanted to be a writer. I’ve written quite a bit about my struggles with creativity on my blog. I began to write poetry after discovering Robert Frost in a literature class in junior college. I always had an urge to create but was drawn to the visual arts and ended up as a professor of graphic design. Also, I journaled and continued to intermittently write poetry for many years. Around 2012, I began writing poetry more regularly and attempted some short stories about the same time. Prose was a different animal to me, however, and thoughts about me ever writing a novel never entered my mind. San Juan Sunrise came quite unexpectedly when I was recovering from pneumonia in 2015. The book started as a poem which morphed into a short story and just kept going and growing until I had to bring it to a close around 90,000 words. I was quite surprised. The Awakening of Russell Henderson was intentional as a novel. Once I started, it was a great road trip.

Your writing takes several forms – poetry, short stories, novels. Is there one form you’re drawn to the most when you write or read?
Poetry and short stories are my favorites to write. They are obviously quite different, mainly much faster and more immediate from doing a full-blown novel but, nonetheless, have their own challenges of creating a full story, or a feeling, with only a few words.

How has the creativity and discipline you employ as a musician (or music itself) helped you in your writing journey?
I must say I have never been a dedicated or disciplined musician. But I find rhythm in poetry as well as prose to be the same as music in many ways. I see rhythms in the sentence, paragraph, chapter, the rise and fall of the plot or the protagonist that can be inherent in either a folk song or a symphony.

What are your hobbies or creative outlets?
I am a luthier and repair stringed instruments, mainly for the B Frank Foundation in Bayfield, Colorado that has around 500 instruments they put into the hands of any child who wants to learn music, along with offering lessons and orchestra. I also like being in the mountains, four-wheeling or hiking. I do still hang out with my guitar and mandolin quite a bit. Also, of late, I have been messing around with doing some photography again. Being a designer, I look for patterns and the interactions, anomalies, and details that sometimes occur that may be easily overlooked. I try to capture these images that I consider to be abstractions of our common visual sense. I think I also see these same concepts in my writing to some degree.

Who are your favorite authors, and what do you admire most about their writing?
Renée Vivian for her beautiful poetry. Henry Miller for his writing style. Ernest Hemingway for his writing style, characters, and stories. Marc Levy for his gentle and sometimes surrealistic stories. Nina George for her delightful stories set mostly in Paris, my most favorite city. Anne Hillerman for continuing her father’s legacy of stories about the Navajo people in and around the area where I live. Kerry Greenwood for her Miss Fisher series on which I am totally hooked. I am also reading SouthWest Writers authors and have liked a number of the books I have read. There are so many other great authors that have influenced both the vocabulary of my visual world as well as my writing world.

Do you have a message or a theme that recurs in your writing?
I hope I project the idea of hope and possibilities of personal growth and/or healing, despite the real or perceived roadblocks that can be frightening and overwhelming.

What is the best encouragement or advice you’ve received in your writing journey?
The first encouragement came from my wife after she read my first draft of San Juan Sunrise. She thought it was a good story and that I should try to get it published. I had several other readers look at the manuscript who also thought it was a worthy story that should be out there. The same held true with The Awakening. Then my short story “The Anchor” was awarded second place in the Support Indie Authors contest, which gave me some nice validation for my efforts.

What writing projects are you working on now?
I have been writing short stories. I also have the sequel to San Juan Sunrise in the works and am working to bring it (slowly) to fruition.

Is there anything else you would like readers to know?
I have struggled most of my life with creative expression, and it wasn’t until I had some aha moments of self-discovery that I could finally feel the freedom to both design and write. My twenty-part memoir of my road to creative freedom is on my blog, Just go to August 2020 and scroll down to the beginning.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

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