The Queen City lends itself well to thoughts of time travel. It’s easy to imagine another era, back when Central Parkway was the Miami and Erie Canal and Music Hall was a potter’s field. Shaped by some of the greatest artistic movements of previous centuries and polished by floods, Cincinnati has, in turn, shaped many young artists. One such artist is author/actress/playwright Leanna Renee Hieber.
Growing up near Hamilton, Hieber’s passion for history sprouted from local roots. When she wasn’t writing in notebooks and putting on plays, she was falling in love with the cave exhibit at the Natural History Museum at Cincinnati Museum Center and dreaming of Music Hall’s antique splendor. She knows Spring Grove Cemetery well enough to lead tours. Most importantly, she understands Cincinnati as a functional piece of history as well as a living city, and fiction gives her opportunities to pull readers back in time.
Hieber uses her love of history in her latest Dark Nest Adventures trilogy. The first installment, Time Immemorial, hits digital bookshelves this week on Scribd. The story takes readers aboard “Nests,” spaceships launched from the Homeworld, where humans have evolved new and extraordinary “gifts.” The second story, Time Inescapable, is set for release on June 29, and Time Indivisible, the third story, has a pending release in mid-July.
The series builds on Hieber’s Dark Nest novellas, a series of futuristic paranormal dramas. There’s romance, intrigue, assassination, and revenge, and every character-driven novella pushes out the world’s borders a little bit more, dealing simultaneously with themes of genocide, power, and the essence of leadership. The new trilogy expands on the world introduced in the earlier novellas, but the three stories bring something—or rather someone—new to the table.
“Some time ago, my business partner, Thom Truelove, and I were drafting a timeslip/science fiction TV pilot script featuring Captain Liz Marlowe, a force of nature who has a unique relationship with time,” she explains. “Captain Liz lives in four concurrent timelines, slipping from Iron Age Britain to 1882 to WWII to commanding a spaceship in the 24th century. That original project didn’t end up materializing, but Thom and I cared too much about Captain Liz not to include her in future work. When I began writing The Eterna Files trilogy for Tor, I knew one of Captain Liz’s timelines was present there and that she already had to exist in my Dark Nest universe as well.”
After graduating from Miami University and training with the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Hieber moved to New York City to pursue her mixed ambitions. Her collaboration with Scribd brings all her talents to bear with not only written stories but also audiobook narration.
“I was at a Broadway callback when all I could think about was the book that became my debut novel, Strangely Beautiful,” Hieber says. “I stopped auditioning regularly in order to focus on writing, but I never entirely gave up the stage or screen. Narrating these novellas allows everything I’ve trained in to come together.”
This return to the Dark Nest universe is a kind of time travel for Hieber, too. The initial collection of novellas became her first published fiction. Since then, she’s published dozens of stories and multiple series, including Strangely Beautiful, Spectral City, Magic Most Foul, and The Eterna Files. Her short stories appear in The Mammoth Book of Futuristic Romance and Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy. Her range is only limited by time and experience, so it’s always growing.
“Being a writer is a life-long study in humanity,” she notes. “And as long as I’m always listening and learning, I’ll always have something fresh and exciting to bring to my next project.”
Hieber returns to the area often, and she’s already planning next year’s appearances. Barnes & Noble in West Chester will hold a book signing in 2022 for the release of her nonfiction book, A Haunted History of Invisible Women, which she hints features a few local tales of the macabre. She also plans to attend local conventions, including the Steampunk Symposium in Eastgate. Fans interested in signings and meet-and-greets can find more information on dates as it becomes available on her website, LeannaReneeHieber.com.