Monday, April 9, 2012
INTERVIEW WITH LEIGH M. LANE
Introduce yourself and your credits.
I’m a speculative fiction author with nine published books and several short stories in multiple genres (dystopia, allegory, horror, erotic horror, and space opera). I have a Bachelor’s degree in English, having graduated Magna Cum Laude in UNLV’s largest graduating class to date.
When did you start writing and how long was it before you were published?
I started writing at the tender age of eight, making numerous failed attempts at publication throughout my youth. I wrote my first novel when I was in my early teens, although that manuscript has long been lost. I finally made my small-press publishing debut in 2008 with a couple of anthology short stories, and sold my first novel soon thereafter.
Tell us about your latest book and what inspired it.
Finding Poe is the result of a couple of factors that came into play at just the right time. I had recently finished reading Foe, by J. M. Coetzee, which is a retelling of a famous novel through the point of view of a character who never made it into the original book. I had also finished reading several Edgar Allan Poe works and had done some research on Poe’s mysterious death and “The Lighthouse,” the short story he never had the chance to finish, when the muses suddenly hit me with the question: What if an unwritten character from “The Lighthouse” retold the story from her point of view?
What genre do you write in, if any? How do you feel about the genre, the future of it, and the authors in it?
I write a wide range of speculative fiction, my favorites being dystopia and horror. I think the future looks positive for both. While dystopia has suffered a lull over the past decades, with some authors even attempting to reinvent the genre (with happy endings—ugh!), I do think the time has come for it to find its place back—in its original form—in the forefront. The success of dystopia comes about when enough of the population is ready to address the social and political issues that have been weighing them down for far too long, and I think people are ready to pull their heads out of the sand and face their current issues head-on. As far as horror is concerned, I think it’s been going strong for decades and, based on some of the most recent works I’ve read, the genre is being upheld by some really great talent.
What/who do you read for pleasure?
I do all of my reading for review these days, so pleasure reading only comes when I’m fortunate enough to be reviewing a talented author. With that said, I’ve been fortunate enough to come across some amazing works.
Is writing pleasure or work for you?
Both. Writing is like air to me; without it, I think I’d die. At the same time, it’s not always a cakewalk and sometimes it takes a good amount of motivation and discipline to get through a given scene or draft. Editing is the hardest, and it’s definitely the most tedious part of the process. Luckily, I’m a perfectionist, so there is that drive to continue pushing through that part of it even if it isn’t so pleasant.
If you had to exchange your writing life with another writer, who would that writer be and why?
I wouldn’t trade any aspect of my life for anyone else’s, no matter how successful they were. I’ve been through enough to know that no one’s life is perfect, and even with my minimal success, I love being me and I love the books I’ve written. I wouldn’t trade any of that for all the success in the world.
How do your friends and family cope knowing you have such dark or unusual thoughts?
My husband knows it’s just a part of my being a writer, and he’s gotten to the point where nothing I write surprises him anymore. He has come to understand that being haunted by muses, sometimes very dark and disturbing muses, is part of what I do—part of who I am—and he is very encouraging of my need and desire to release what those muses demand through the written word. Most of the rest of my family would rather not know just how dark my thoughts can get.
How supportive is your spouse and/or your family?
My husband is the most supportive person I’ve ever known—and he’s probably also my biggest fan. I have a few family members who are supportive of what I do, but most of them are awful, awful people who would rather see me fail than succeed, regardless of my endeavors. I jokingly call myself the Meg (Family Guy) of my family; there’s really no rhyme or reason to my family’s seeming need to a) single me out and b) be the antithesis of support, but I’ve gotten to the point where it just doesn’t matter anymore. Some people are just a**holes, and I happen to be related to several of them. On the positive, they helped me to develop a very thick skin, and for that, I’m grateful.
What inspires you? Or triggers a story idea?
A story can come from anywhere. It can come from a word, the envisioning of a character, or even an ambiance. Muses nearly always surround me, each of them fighting over the others to get their story told. Life inspires me, as do dreams, nightmares, and even personal fantasies. The key is finding a balance between all of those and moving between enough projects at any given time to keep the ideas fresh and exciting enough to see them each through to completion.
What has been the most difficult/painful/surreal story to write, and why?
Off and on, I have worked on my own narrative nonfiction, which is a painful retelling of my childhood and young adult life. It is a work that I will not likely publish for many years, as revisiting many parts of my past has been difficult and I don’t think I’ll be able to find the eloquence necessary to tell it right until a few more of my scars have healed. I grew up with an absent adopted father, a sociopathic mother, and a family that punished me for . . . well, for being me. In my young adult life, I went from one bad relationship to the next, one of which left me with a cracked skull, head-to-toe bruises, and many emotional scars. It is a story that I do feel the need to share, but it has been painful to revisit the misery that led up to the joy that is my current life.
How do you see the story in your mind as it's created? Is it like making a plan, seeing a mental movie, or do you just write down what the voices in your head tell you?
It definitely comes as a movie that plays within my mind’s eye. I see every detail, and sometimes it is all I can do to keep up with the visuals given to me by the muses as I attempt to relay them in simple words.
Now that traditional publishing vs. digital publishing have taken really different turns lately, how do you feel about authors going the small press or traditional publishing route over the digital route? Indie or Traditional for you or both and why?
I’m all for the Indie route. While I got my start in (and am very supportive of) small press, I think there are so many talented authors who have self-published that I can’t help but see them as the future in publishing. I’ve personally found an amazing support network within the Indie community, incredibly talented people who know what they’re doing and have decided to take complete charge of their publishing future. These people are willing to peer edit, recommend cover artists, and do everything in their power to assist their fellow Indie writer in his or her road to success. They have taken the power away from the gatekeepers of generations past, and I’m very proud to be a part of that.
What's the best book you ever read?
This is a tough one, as I’ve read many amazing books that deserve mention; however, while it’s completely out of my preferred genre, the best book I’ve ever read has likely been The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse, by Louise Erdrich. It’s just brilliant.
Who are your influences in literature?
Stephen King, Kurt Vonnegut, H.G. Wells, George Orwell, Isaac Asimov, Olaf Stapledon, Ray Bradbury, Edgar Allan Poe, Anne Rice, Dean Koontz, Virginia Woolf, Joseph Conrad, Franz Kafka, and Roald Dahl immediately come to mind, although I know there are many others I wish I had room to mention.
Do you feel traditional publishing may become a niche?
I do. With so many options available to authors these days, I really do believe that the Big Six will be a phantom of the past, and that their books will have no notable advantage over the many amazing books now being published by the best of the best Indie authors.
Do you ever, like Truman Capote confessed doing, take from real life, friends, and family situations or characters to use in your fiction? If so, do you tell them or keep it secret?
While I don’t think any author can keep from incorporating some aspects to his or her collective experiences into the fictional realm, I do try to refrain from meshing personal history with my fiction. Someday, I will finish my autobiography. . . .
Do you think networking on social sites has helped your career and sales?
Social networking may not have had a significant impact on my sales, but it has had a definite impact on my sense of community. For once in my life, I feel as though I belong somewhere. It is an amazing feeling.
Writing fiction is important to all authors, but how much does it mean to you? If there were no outlets for fiction of any kind, how would that feel? If for some reason you could not write anymore, what would you do instead?
I would wither away and die. While I do find some creative outlet in singing, drawing, and painting, writing is what keeps me going. It is my reason for getting up in the morning, for reviewing others, and for staying connected to the rest of the world. Without my writing, I would eventually cease to exist.
What three things should our world have that would make it a better place?
Empathy across the board would solve just about every ill in our world. If others could find it in themselves just to care about their fellow human being—and their fellow animal—our world might be nearly perfect. It pains me that there are so many people in this world, even in my own country, who are starving, abused, and alone; it is just as upsetting to me that there are countless animals who must suffer, or even die an early and unnecessary death, just as much because not enough people care about their plight. Better education would improve our world dramatically. There are plenty of smart people out there, but without the direction and critical thinking that comes with formal education, that intelligence goes to waste. Finally, greater religious tolerance would make an incredible difference in our world. Far too many people allow themselves to view the world though the narrow lens of their particular religious beliefs, which encourages segregation, judgment, and ignorance. If humanity could see the similarities between us all rather than focus on our differences, we might actually see something that resembles peace.
What is the question you wish an interviewer would ask you? What is it you'd like to say that no one has asked about?
Q. What is something you’ve never before shared in an author interview?
A. Ever since my ex cracked my skull, I have had a condition called synesthesia. In my case, I “see” loud and unexpected sounds. Most sounds take on the appearance of a sudden flash of light, typically black and white and similar in appearance to a checkerboard, but every sound has its own unique pattern—and it appears on the side I most dominantly hear it. Some sounds show in color, and some show in unusual patterns, but they all come and go as quickly as the sound itself presents. At this point in my life, I have become accustomed this strange mesh of sight and sound and would feel somewhat lost without it.