Watts, Leander 1956- (A pseudonym)

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WATTS, Leander 1956- (A pseudonym)


Born September 2, 1956, in Rochester, NY; married Eileen Lavelle Metzger, September 22, 1979. Ethnicity: "White." Education: State University of New York—College at Geneseo, B.A., M.L.S., 1979. Religion: Mennonite. Hobbies and other interests: Shape-note singing, jazz, collecting books, nineteenth-century technology.


Office—Department of English, State University of New York—College at Brockport, Brockport, NY 14420. Agent—Christopher Schelling, Ralph Vicinanza Ltd., 303 West 18th St., New York, NY 10011.


State University of New York—College at Brockport, Brockport, NY, lecturer in English, 1995—; City (newspaper), Rochester, NY, feature writer, 1999—.



Stonecutter, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2002.

Wild Ride to Heaven, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2003.

Ten Thousand Charms, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), in press.


Young adult novelist Leander Watts, who writes under a pseudonym, is the author of gothic stories that have been considered by critics to have the same tone as works written by Edgar Allan Poe. His first novel, Stonecutter, set in 1835 in New York, is told through the diary of Albion Straight, a young apprentice stonecutter whose work on memorials and tomb stones has caught the attention of John Good. Good hires Albion to design a memorial for his late wife, using his daughter Michal, who is the image of her dead mother, as the model. Albion feels that Good's mansion-in-progress is like a prison, and when he discovers that Michal also feels trapped by her father, the two flee the Good mansion, trying to escape from Good's influence. Though some reviewers criticized that the plot was not as strong as the atmosphere and historical setting, others found the work to be a strong first novel for young adults. Mary M. Burns of Horn Book called Stonecutter "a haunting story to discuss and to savor." Todd Morning, writing for School Library Journal praised, "all the elements are here for a classic gothic novel, and the story delivers the goods." Commenting on the novel's archaic style, Kliatt reviewer Claire Rosser noted, "The language sets this tale apart from other YA fiction." Paul Di Filippo of Asimov's Science Fiction called Stonecutter "a period thriller for all ages," while a reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted, "the ominous, claustrophobic tone that Watts sustains marks this writer as one to watch."

Wild Ride to Heaven is also set in nineteenth-century New York. The story is told by Hannah Renner, a girl who is an outcast due to her eyes; one of her eyes is a deep green, the other is milky-white. Her father is a treasure hunter, deeply in debt; in order to free himself of his debts, he "sells" Hannah to the Barrow brothers, two oafs who treat her as a slave. The only escape Hannah has from her drudge work is her relationship with the Barrow brothers' youngest brother, an albino who lives apart from them to avoid the sun and calls himself Brother Boy. When Hannah finds out that the elder Barrow intends to marry her, she enlists Brother Boy to help her escape, and the pair flee into the wilderness, stumbling onto a treasure that may satisfy Hanna's father. But the Barrow brothers hunt for them, and it is only through Hannah's father's help that she manages to escape a violent conclusion. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called Wild Ride to Heaven "as grippingly oppressive as Watts's debut novel," and a critic for Kirkus Reviews noted, "Hannah's voice is both lyrical and straightforward." Though commenting that the book's ending happens too easily, Booklist critic Rebecca Platzner still found Hannah "a strong female character" and thought that the conclusion serves "to highlight the vulnerability of youth."

Watts told CA: "I spend a lot of my time in another century. Through reading, traveling, exploring, singing, and thinking, I try to get myself back to an earlier day. In the nineteenth century, before television and radio, before cars and computers and airplanes to everywhere, people were more connected to each other. I value community, and it seems to me that we've lost that in our present age of speed and convenience. So the books I've written are of another time, when family and religion, home-made music, and passed-on stories were more important.

"Still, I'm a born-and-bred New Yorker. When you read those words, you probably think of skyscrapers and bustling crowds. But there's another New York, hundreds of miles from Manhattan. Indeed, my home is closer to Wheeling, West Virginia, than it is to the Brooklyn Bridge. This place was once called the Burnt-Over District, for all the ordinary folks whose spirits were set on fire by various preachers and prophets. Still, farmers plow and reap here. Still, the beautiful landscape of lakes and rivers and green hills is an inspiration.

"The books I've written go back to a better time, to a place I can still glimpse here and there on my wanderings. My novels allow me to travel back to a world where work had dignity, faith had power, and human voices joined each other in real communion. My hope is that I can take my readers there, too."



Asimov's Science Fiction, June, 2003, Paul Di Filippo, review of Stonecutter.

Booklist, September 15, 2002, Hazel Rochman, review of Stonecutter, p. 224; November 1, 2003, Rebecca Platzner, review of Wild Ride to Heaven, p. 491.

Horn Book, November-December, 2002, Mary M. Burns, review of Stonecutter, p. 765.

Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2002, review of Stonecutter, p. 1239; September 1, 2003, review of Wild Ride to Heaven, p. 1132.

Kliatt, September, 2002, Claire Rosser, review of Stonecutter, p. 14; September, 2003, Claire Rosser, review of Wild Ride to Heaven, p. 14.

Publishers Weekly, July 29, 2002, review of Stonecutter, p. 72; October 27, 2003, review of Wild Ride to Heaven, p. 70.

School Library Journal, December, 2002, Todd Morning, review of Stonecutter, p. 150; November, 2003, Kimberly Monaghan, review of Wild Ride to Heaven, p. 150.


Houghton Mifflin Web Site,http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/ (July 1, 2003), publisher's description of Stonecutter.

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