In the chair today is my friend Leigh M. Lane from Montana. Hello, Leigh. I first came across Leigh through her book "Finding Poe," being a ghostwriter at times and a big fan of the man's writing the concept of the book, intrigued me.
I found reading Finding Poe was very engrossing and atmospheric. While writing this story, did you get bad dreams? I know I did writing Chronicles book 2 but that could have been because my story was a time of personal cleansing too.
I did not have any nightmares while writing Finding Poe, although there were a couple of scenes that were so creepy to write, I had to step away from the computer for a day or two to decompress. One scene in particular (the man on the railcar) had me shaking as I wrote it, and aspects of that scene continue to haunt me to this day.
As you write about spirits and things of the other world, have you thought of writing Native beliefs into your stories? I am sure readers would love to read that side of the spirit world.
I love the various Native myths I’ve had the chance to read, but I would not want to impose upon any culture in a way that might be misinterpreted as offensive. I know that, for example, the American Indian writing community is composed of mainly Native authors, many of whom do not approve of people outside their culture writing about them. While I have ancestors from a couple of different tribes, I am, for all intents and purposes, “white” and do not share their cultures. I have a huge respect for American Indian authors such as Louise Erdrich and Adrian C. Louis, who write from first-hand experience, and I would not want to take away from such a rich pool of literature by attempting to write about any aspect to their culture from an outside perspective. I respect non-Native authors who are able to pull it off, but I’m not sure I could personally do justice to Native cultures and wouldn’t want to offend anyone in the attempt.
You and I have been chatting a while, but for those new to your work, would you please be kind enough to give us a short resume' of your new book please?
Deep in a hidden valley, there is a ghost town that has experienced a miraculous rebound. It is separated from the rest of the world by a mountain pass, but it's found a dark and deadly lifeline.... Carrie and her husband Grant are moving wayward teenage twins John and Jane across the country for a fresh start. South Bend seems like the perfect place.
Maybe a little too perfect.
When they become aware of the trap that has been set for them, will it already be too late for any of them to escape?
Your biography said you are from Montana. Were you born in the state?
No; I’m originally from California, but I’ve lived all across the western United States. I spent ten years living in the outskirts of Las Vegas, which was an interesting experience to say the least. Montana is lovely (at least during the spring and summer months), but I long to return to the San Francisco Bay Area.
Your new book features ghost towns. Have you been through many?
There are numerous ghost towns in California and Nevada, and I’ve been to a few of them. My favorite is a small, abandoned mining town in Nevada, one that has not been commercialized or refurbished in any way. There are no employees dressed in the old western costumes, visitors’ centers, or fees—just the remains of buildings too worn to enter, quietly sitting on their own in the desert, untouched by anyone or anything but the hands of time.
A lot of your work features the other world. What are your views on spirits?
I’m purely agnostic where it comes to otherworldly concepts. I’d like to believe something of us remains beyond this life, and I’ve experienced phenomena I cannot readily explain with current scientific explanations, but Houdini has yet to contact his grieving wife on Halloween….
As a published author, what part of the trade did you find most frustrating?
I’d have to say promoting is the most frustrating aspect of the trade. People think that finding an agent or a publisher is hard—but once a book is published, you’re basically pitching your book to the rest of the world. Now that’s hard. Readers are inundated with material these days, so convincing them to add your book to their toppling to-be-read piles is no easy feat, no matter how good you are or how many books you’ve published.
I believe your new book is a new type of story, what can you tell the readers about that?
In addition to being a ghost story, The Hidden Valley is an experiment in structure. The reader will find that nearly every chapter is, in itself, a short story. Also, each main character’s story may be read individually for a different effect. Read The Hidden Valley by character, read the short story serial (available in weekly installments at my website), or read The Whole Story.
Did you have to query many publishers before you got accepted?
I have a file cabinet filled with rejection letters, too many to count. I keep them, even the form letters, as trophies.
Are there any genres you would like to try to write but feel you cannot?
My husband keeps telling me I need to write a murder mystery, but every time I try to start one, it turns into a paranormal thriller.
I tend to write cross-genre. Have you any thoughts on moving genre, or will you keep to the area you are writing in now?
I cannot stick to one genre, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to. I have stories in sci-fi, horror, erotica, literary, romance, paranormal, comedy, and YA (or combinations thereof). It makes branding myself very difficult, and for that reason I do write under more than one name. Unfortunately, I have no control over what I’ll be writing next. The muses rule my life.
I ask this to all my friends who write, was there a time when you thought, 'This is not going to work!' and thought about giving up.
Even now, with nine published novels and too many novellas and short stories to keep track of, there are times when I question whether I’m just wasting my time or I’ve actually captured enough of an audience to continue in the endeavor. I write because I must; I will write until that final breath escapes my body and there is nothing more of me to share, but I’m not always sure there is a place for me in the professional authors’ world. Then, every once in a while, that glowing review or private message comes in from a reader that fills my spirit and urges me on.
Who would you say was your biggest influence?
Stephen King, hands down.
Would you say you had been influenced by the work of authors, if so who? Or was it the genre that drew you?
I started writing as soon as I could spell, so I would have to say my original influences were Roald Dahl and Caroline Keene; however, every book I read inspires me to a certain degree. I simply love the written word, and it’s been my passion for nearly as long as I can remember.
Have you suffered writers block? Is so how did you get passed it?
Because I have systemic lupus, there are often times when, due to extreme illness, my brain does not function on a level that allows me to piece together complete, coherent thoughts. During those times, I give myself a break and don’t push it. I believe we all have reasons behind our various forms of writers’ block, and I’m not one of those people who believes in forcing oneself past it. Uninspired work, for whatever reason, is of no use to you or anyone else. Write when the time is right. When it’s not, let the ideas simmer until they’re ready. I know many authors will disagree with this, but when the well is empty, it’s empty, and dropping the bucket anyway is a waste of time and energy.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of writing a book?
Write it, but consider it a learning experience. You’re going to have to write a million words before you have a good understanding of all that goes into the craft, and even then, there’s always something to learn. Writing is an art, one that takes much practice to hone. No one, save that rare savant, is going to flesh out that perfect story in the first try. Learning the art of showing, not telling, takes years, and getting a good sense of structure, timing, dialog, and characterization takes just as long. Get a college degree in English. Take grammar courses. Study literature. Even great talent needs direction, and you are most likely not the exception to that rule. Once you finish your first novel, write a couple more. When you revisit that first finished work, you’ll be astounded by how much your craft has progressed (and you’ll likely be mortified if you had submitted the work to agents or publishers—I know I was). Write yet another novel or two, and then redraft your first baby a few more times to really make it shine. Don’t try to rush the process; you’ll only be hurting yourself.
One final question to ponder, Leigh. A big company asks to buy your title but says once they have the title, they will run their own story using it. Would you sell the title, knowing the end product could well have nothing to do with your book of the same name?
If it’s just the title they wanted, there would be nothing I could do to keep them from using it. Titles cannot be copyrighted.
If a publisher intended on buying my work and changing it so dramatically that it would no longer be my work in the end, I would see that as a red flag, thank them for their time, and move on. I allowed a publisher to change my work in the past, and it destroyed the story—but my name remained on the title, so it was my reputation as a writer that suffered. If I cannot ensure full creative control in the final edit, I will not sign the contract.
Before we leave, I must mention a couple of points of interest. Firstly, I eagerly await your new book coming out and a while ago I wrote a series of unpublished stories about a romance, which featured the Kootenai Indians from Montana.
I thank you, for your time in answering the questions Leigh.
Thank you for hosting me, Alan. The best of luck to you in your endeavors.
Please can you add a short sample of your work. A short bio if possible and a photo to help readers know you better.
Leigh M. Lane lives in the beautiful mountains of Montana, where she writes speculative fiction that spans from sci-fi to horror. All of her works contain a gritty realism that hallmarks her unique voice. Her recent full-length releases are The Hidden Valley, Finding Poe, World-Mart, andMyths of Gods.
Leigh's influences include H.G. Wells, Kurt Vonnegut, Isaac Asimov, Clive Barker, Edgar Allan Poe, and Stephen King.
Readers can sample The Hidden Valley: The whole Story at http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0615687008/ref=sib_dp_kd#reader-link
Readers can sample Finding Poe at http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0615626610/ref=sib_dp_pt#reader-link