Welcome Deborah LeBlanc
I am always thrilled to introduce or reacquaint you with authors of fantastic books. For the month of June we have an auhtor that writes in one of my personal favorites, the horror genre. Award-winning and best-selling author, Deborah LeBlanc, is a business owner, a licensed death scene investigator, and an active member of two national paranormal investigation teams. She is the President of the Horror Writers Association, Mystery Writers of America’s Southwest Chapter, and theWriters’ Guild of Acadiana. Deborah is also the creator of the LeBlanc Literacy Challenge, an annual, national campaign designed to encourage more people to read and Literacy Inc., a non-profit organization with a mission to fight illiteracy in America’s teens. Her latest novel is WATER WITCH. For more information go to www.deborahleblanc.com and www.literacyinc.com.
Deborah, it was so nice talking to you while I was doing the survey for RWA. You were so helpful. As president of your organization you’ve done the group proud. First can you tell my readers about you? What’s your bio looking like nowadays?
Deborah: About me . . .
People often ask if I consider myself to be an author or a writer. My answer is always the same. Neither really. If I consider myself anything at all, it’s a storyteller who happens to write her stories on paper.
My love for storytelling came from my grandmother, who, in my opinion, was the best tale-spinner on the planet. I remember sitting at the foot of her rocker, utterly spellbound as she told story after story, all of them fact, not fiction mind you, of supernatural events that some uncle, aunt, or cousin had encountered ‘back in the day.’ Being Cajun, it was only natural that her entire body played a part in the telling of the tale. Her hand gestures were emphatic, her eyes widening or narrowing for effect, her entire body tensing and leaning forward as she reached the spookiest part of the tale. I remember wishing I could be just like her.
Second to the love of my grandmother’s stories was my fascination with words and their meaning. Even as a kid, I thought it was important to use the perfect words when conveying anything of importance, especially emotions. Little did I know that those two loves would steer me towards writerdom.
Growing up, I didn’t have aspirations of becoming an author. In fact, aside from a few short stories written out of boredom in grade school, the thought of being a writer never crossed my mind. Instead, I dreamed of being an astronaut, Superman, a nun, a bull-rider, a singer, and a teacher. It wasn’t until life had me well in the grips of adulthood that the storytelling urge overtook me, and I started penning tales.
At first the task was frustrating and daunting. Although I saw the story clearly in my head and could have easily told it standing before a million people, writing it without the aid of hand-gestures, facial expressions, or body language seemed impossible. It took a dozen or more false starts before it finally dawned on me…. I could use all those expressions of passion and conviction . . . if I chose just the right words. You’ve got to love how life sets you up sometimes, you know?
Enough about me for now. I want to talk about you—To anyone reading this, know that I’m truly honored that you’ve chosen to spend a little time with me here. Life is short and minutes are precious. The fact that you’ve spared a few for me has not gone unnoticed. And I’m equally honored and humbled every time you shop for a book and choose one of mine from the thousands available to you. Because of you, I’m able to continue a tradition I’ve loved for a lifetime—storytelling. Thank you for giving me that gift.
Dyanne: Deborah, I love the way you included your readers. Now can you tell us about your organization, the name, how others can join, what you do and how you got started? Then tell us about your reign
Deborah: The name of the organization you’re referring to is the Horror Writers Association. HWA is a world-wide organization whose purpose is to promote and protect the careers of professional horror and dark literature writers and those seeking to enter their ranks, while at the same time using its best endeavors to raise the profile of the horror and dark literature genre in the publishing industry and among readers in general. I joined the group in the late ‘90s and jumped right in as its mentor coordinator. Now, all these years later, I’m serving my second two-year term as HWA’s president. I’ve been honored to serve in this capacity, but honestly, had it not been for the wonderful, hardworking HWA board members and other dedicated volunteers, we would have accomplished very little in the last few years.
If anyone is interested in finding out more about the Horror Writers Association, they can visit our website at www.horror.org. For those interested in joining HWA, please visit: http://www.horror.org/application.htm
Dyanne: What gave you the idea for your first book?
Deborah: The idea came to me when a friend told me her brother had recently been diagnosed with schizophrenia. She was very concerned about him because even in modern psychiatry, doctors seemed to know very little about the cause, much less the cure, for the disease. Her brother was to be treated with different psychotropic drugs, and the best anyone could hope for was that one or more of the drugs would work and allow him to live a semi-normal life.
My heart went out to her and her family. I could only imagine the pain everyone was going through. It was then I thought about ‘treateurs.’
A little background if I may… A treateur in the Cajun culture is one who ‘treats’ certain illnesses. The process is similar to the ‘laying on of hands,’ only more reserved. When I was a young girl, my mother would call for my grandmother, a well-known treateur in our small town, or old Mr. Romero, also a treateur, who lived a few houses down from us, whenever I developed a sunstroke or moon-stroke. (Sunstroke is an ailment caused by over exposure to the sun and has symptoms similar to heat stroke. It produces intense headaches and nausea. The head and face of the person who has the ailment is hot to the touch, but their earlobes are cold. The same symptoms apply to a moon-stroke, which, as the elderly believe, is caused when a full or new moon shines directly upon a sleeping child.) Whoever wound up coming to my rescue, grandmother or neighbor, I always found myself physically better within minutes and simultaneously awestruck. How did these people do it? Was there something magical in their hands that caused the heat in my face to follow the path of their fingers as they moved gently over each of my cheeks to the top of my head? And what special incantation were they whispering beneath their breath?
By the beginning of the third treatment (treatments are always done in threes and spaced ten to fifteen minutes apart.) it felt like hot water had pooled on top of my head, as though the fever had been corralled there and awaited dismissal. As the third treatment ended, the sensation of heat disappeared, as did the headache, and I felt better than I had before the sunstroke.
Although treateurs were common in my youth, the one thing I’d never witnessed was someone treating for mental illness. As my friend talked about her brother, I couldn’t help but wonder… “Suppose there was a treateur who could treat mental illness . . . what would he/she look like? What special qualities would he or she possess to make them different from other treateurs? From other people?” Those questions sent my imagination racing, and before I knew it, FAMILY INHERITANCE was born.
Dyanne: I love your answers and explanations. It gives a reader something to think about. Where do you get your ideas? How do you know you have a good tale to tell worthy of becoming a novel?
Deborah: My knee-jerk response to the first question is, “I get my ideas from everyday life.” But to be honest, my everyday life is often out of the ordinary. I’ve worked alongside the funeral service industry for a number of years, and that path has led me into more embalming rooms and autopsy suites than I can count. I’m also an active paranormal investigator, a licensed death scene investigator, a Harley Davidson owner and rider, and own a Luger pistol (not Ruger), and a 9mm Glock, and both get decent workouts at a local firing range. Needless to say, all of those activities provide an endless well for story ideas!
The way I can tell if a story idea is worth developing into a novel is when I suddenly become obsessed with the idea. No matter how hard I try to shake it, that puppy seems to follow me everywhere, demanding my attention until I start putting it down on paper.
Dyanne: You know Deborah, I think one of the reasons I love interviewing other authors is that it reminds me I’m not insane when I tell people about characters taking over my life. (g) Are you devoted to your genre or do you see yourself writing in another genre at some point in the future?
Deborah: I’m not so much committed to a genre as I am to telling a good story. It just so happens that my books get labeled, ‘supernatural mysteries, paranormal thrillers, dark fantasies.” I think they’ve been given every genre title but western and romance! I seem to carry an overabundance of curiosity, which, more times than not, sends me spinning into new adventures. That said, do I see myself writing in another genre in the future? Absolutely. But it wouldn’t be a conscious decision, like, “Ok, now I’m going to start writing romance novels.” It would simply be because a different story found me and demanded to be told.
Dyanne: I totally agree with you. I started out with the intent to write romance and a vampire entered my life and took it over. Is it important to write based on trends or do you write from the heart?
Deborah: Unquestionably from the heart. I’ve never followed trends because they have a tendency to fade almost as quickly as they form.
Dyanne: How do you, as a writer, find your way into the story? Do you use an outline or let the story unfold naturally?
Deborah: The way I wiggle into a story is pretty simple. It always starts with an idea that refuses to shake loose. Once it latches on, I think of a title for the story. For some reason, in my brain anyway, until I have a title, the story development has a tendency to bottleneck. A title almost acts like a plunger, freeing everything up so the story can flow. Next comes main character names. Once those things are in place, I usually do a minimal outline, a couple of sentences per chapter that identify a chapter’s focus. When I’m done, I can scan the outline to see what action, or lack thereof, needs to be added or deleted to keep the story strong.
Dyanne: How many hours a week do you devote to writing, including research?
Deborah: On average, I’d say I spend about 40 hours per week writing, another 5 or so on research. Unless, of course, I have to BE somewhere to get the research done first hand…which I always try to do! Fortunately, with all that needs to get done in a week…business matters, writing, new adventures, I still manage to find time to put gas in my car!
Dyanne: What tips do you have for finding an agent and publisher?
Deborah: Writing the best story you can, then polishing it until it gleams, is the first place to start. Once that’s done, do a little strategic planning. If you write in a particular genre, it only makes sense to target agents and/or editors who are interested in the same genre. There are two sure-fire ways to find those particular agents and/or editors, in my opinion. The first is in The Guide to Literary Agents and Editors, which you should be able to find in your local library, and the second place to find these gems are at writers’ conferences. When you’re scoping out writers’ conferences, pay close attention to the agents and editors who’ll be attending. Target the conferences that bring in heavy hitters, i.e. New York agents and editors from the larger publishing houses, then once you get to the conference, make an effort to introduce yourself to all of them and sign up for as many applicable pitch sessions as possible.
Dyanne: Thanks Deborah. I hope the writers out there reading this are taking notes on your tips. What is the market like for your genre?
Deborah: If the market you’re referring to is horror, the answer is a convoluted one. Oddly enough, because my first novel involved the supernatural and was compared to the works of Stephen King and Dean Koontz, it was pegged ‘horror.’ The challenge is that the definition of horror has significantly changed over the years. Now, when most people hear ‘horror,’ they think of blood, guts, and gore, as is often depicted in the slasher movies. That’s not what I write. Although most of my stories involve the paranormal and/or supernatural, they’re more psychological in nature. What is hiding in that dark closet or under the bed? To me, it is easier to keep a reader at the edge of his or her seat by hinting at what might be hiding in the shadows than to throw gore in their face time and time again.
That said, where slasher horror is concerned, there seems to be a bigger market for it in films than in literature. However, there appears to be quite the interest in almost every genre for anything that has ‘paranormal’ or ‘supernatural’ elements in it.
Dyanne: LOL. What's the most important lesson you've learned in your writing career?
Deborah: That a writer is never ‘finished’ learning the craft. There’s always room to learn more.
Dyanne: Ditto on that. What do you find to be the most difficult part of writing? For instance, character development, scene setting, plot etc. How do you overcome that difficulty?
Deborah: This is an interesting question. I don’t usually have problems with character development or scenes because I see both clearly in my head when I’m writing, so it’s almost like I’m transcribing what I see. What I do have problems with at times, though, are simple things, like moving a character from one room to the other without saying ‘she, or he, walked,’ over and over. After a while, ‘walked’ starts sounding redundant to my reader’s ear, so I might find myself sitting and staring at the computer for a half-hour, trying to find a more creative way to say basically the same thing. I have no idea why something so simple can cause a person to have such a huge brain fart!
Dyanne: What methods of marketing and promotion work best for you?
Deborah: This is not a question easily answered in one short paragraph. In fact, I often do workshops on marketing and promotion at writers’ conferences, and they last an hour or two. There’s a difference between marketing and promotions, and you can cover a lot of territory with either topic.
My background is in marketing, so my approach to the subject is detailed and strategic. However, if I had to boil it down to bare bones, I’d say the most effective promotional work I do . . . is everything I do. I don’t think there’s one magic button you can push to suddenly take your book sales through the roof. It’s doing a lot of little things consistently and correctly that makes it work, in my opinion. Things like, bookmarks, contests, websites, drive-bys, give-aways, postcards, interviews, networking on online communities, etc. But even with all those little things working simultaneously, if we don’t show our appreciation to readers, we’ve not only missed the boat, we’ve missed the entire dock.
Dyanne: What literary organizations or writers groups would you recommend to writers in your genre?
Deborah: My recommendation would be to get involved with as many writing organizations as you have time for. The more writers you interact with, the more you’re apt to learn about the craft and the publishing industry, plus you’re exposing yourself to the possibility of having many more opportunities come your way.
Dyanne: What is your view of epublishing? What opportunities does it provide for you and for other authors? What do you think is the future of epublishing?
Deborah: I think e-publishing will continue to grow, possibly being the norm someday. We’re moving too quickly towards becoming a technologically dependent society for it not to happen. It might be inevitable, but that doesn’t mean I like it. For me, the reading experience includes the smell of the paper as I turn the page of a book, feeling the pages between my fingers, and the overall sense of satisfaction at having completed something when I physically close the book after reading, “The End.”
Dyanne: Deborah, I find a lot of writers struggle with making time for family and friends vs. feeling guilty about taking time from their writing. How do you keep a balance between family, work and writing?
Deborah: If my daughters were answering this question, you’d probably hear a resounding and unanimous, “She doesn’t!” I’m an obsessive writer, which means when I start a novel it’s not unusual for me to spend 16 hours at the computer in one sitting. Fortunately, where business is concerned, I have a great group of managers who make sure the wheels of industry keep turning while I’m clacking away at the computer in my office. As for family, my daughters might grumble about the hours I spend writing when I’m on a deadline, but they know I’ll stop if and when they need me—like if something’s burning or there’s blood involved.
Dyanne: What do you consider success as a writer?
Deborah: Success is a relative term, in my opinion. It all depends on what you want to accomplish. If your goal is to publish a memoir so details on family history can be passed on to your children and grandchildren, then having those memoirs published via a vanity press can be considered a success. You wrote the book + had it published + memories are now recorded on paper for your family = success. If a writer’s goal, however, is to be on the New York Times Best-sellers list, anything short of that might give him or her little sense of accomplishment, no matter the number of books they’ve published. When you look at all of it up close, though, and compare it to the number of folks who say they ‘want to write a book,’ everyone who has completed a manuscript is successful because they’ve already accomplished far more than some ‘wannabe’ writers ever will.
Dyanne: What are your current projects?
Deborah: I’m working on a few things simultaneously right now. The second book in a cozy series, another paranormal suspense, the first book in a thriller series, and a book that is the third in a Nocturne trilogy, one that begins with wonder-writer- woman, Heather Graham.
Dyanne: Congratulations on appearing with wonder-writer woman. (g) Where do you hope to take your writing in the future?
Deborah: My desire is to always write a better story, and my hope is that by getting better at the craft, my stories will touch readers in a deeper way.
Dyanne: For what one accomplishment in regard to your writing would you most like to be remembered?
Deborah: I’d love to be remembered this way…..“Man, she was one hell of a storyteller!”
Dyanne: I can tell you this much. I will say, Man she was one hell of a fantastic interview. I know I’ve asked you a ton of questions and you’ve been most gracious in answering them all fully. I owe you two now. I promise I only have a couple of more questions for you. Deborah, what does it mean, for you, to journey through life as a writer?
Deborah: It means living life much more aware of my surroundings, always observant of what I taste, feel, smell, hear and see. Paying that much attention to your environment and the people in it certainly makes for a colorful life!
Dyanne: Speaking of colorful life, if you could have dinner with one author, who would it be?
Deborah: Probably Tom Robbins. The guy is a master of the English language and writes with such a sardonic wit that I’m certain dinner would be anything but boring.
Dyanne: What three questions are you never asked in interviews but wish you were? Here is your opportunity to answer them!
Deborah: How about one, all encompassing question?
What do you think readers might like to know about Deborah LeBlanc, the person?
Deborah can’t carry a tune in a bucket, loves reading, writing, children, dogs, horses, and Jelly Bellies. Believes a person’s word should be stronger than steel, and thinks that whatever you put your hand to in life deserves a 110% effort. If not, leave it the hell alone. Oh, and one more important thing . . . that anyone who doesn’t read aloud to their young children should serve a lifetime of Saturday detentions in an un-air conditioned laundry mat filled with bored four-year-olds in the middle of August anywhere in the South.
Dyanne: This one doesn’t really count since I said a couple more questions. (g) But I’m sure readers will want to contact you and check out your work. What is your website URL so our readers can learn more about your books and other literary activities?
Deborah: They can get all the scoop at:
Dyanne: Again, Deborah, thank you so much for all the help with my RWA research and most especially for gracing my site with this wonderfully insightful interview.