The Girlfriends Weekend is a weekend of awesome sisterhood among women who love books, and was founded by the amazing, generous, spirited Kathy Patrick–one of my favorite people because she’s combined her hair expertise (she’s a stylist, and you know I love great hair) with her passion for books with her famous Beauty & the Book store, before going on to found the Pulpwood Queen Books Club, which gave birth to the Girlfriend Weekends, and more.
But this blog isn’t about Kathy, its about Leslie, whom I met in Jefferson and promptly adored. The lovely Leslie has a new book out and I’m really excited to introduce Leslie to you all. She’s a star and an angel and a warrior, and I know once you know more about her, you’ll cherish her as much as I do!
Leslie, thank you soooo much for being my featured author this week. Can you tell us what you love most about being a writer?
The hours. That’s also what I hate about being a writer.
Seriously? While I am a horrible typist, I really love the act of putting words on the page, making them come alive. I love playing with this word or that one, to see which is closest to the what I’m trying to express. I love having an idea that grows and grows until there are real people – if only in my head – acting out an entire story. Then I get to share the story and make it real for someone else. It becomes this solid thing, no longer just an idea. It’s magic.
Is there anything that has surprised you about writing or publishing your books?
That each book takes longer to write, because I know more and want it to be better.
Some writers like to let plot ideas percolate and grow for a while before they start writing the story. Would you say this applies to you as well?
Absolutely. When I just write something on a whim, I end up with a great first chapter, then I’m stuck. When I really think about the idea and develop into a solid story, I can write the whole book. Knowing the ending is like knowing where to aim in archery – makes it easier to hit the bullseye.
Do you incorporate any of your own life experiences into your stories? Do you get asked this question very often?
Yes! That’s why I write – to work out the what-if’s of real life. WAMK was inspired by my daughter who was crying at at night, every night, and I felt so helpless that I imagined the worst. I knew I would do anything to protect her. So that’s what my hero, Michelle, does – I get to live through her vicariously. Yes, people ask that all the time. I’ll bet you get that too. But did this really happen? No. By making it up we can control the situation and dig deeper for the emotional truth.
Was there anyone or anything that helped inspire you to be a writer?
Reading. I was a bookworm growing up. My high school friends might be surprised at this, but I came back to it soon after.
Do you have a writing schedule or any writing rituals to help you achieve your daily writing quota?
I don’t have a quota unless I am writing the first draft, then I like to get through a whole scene, whether it’s short or long. I used to do ten pages a day, but my stories were simpler then. There are so many different stages of writing, from research, to working out the story beats, to writing, editing, and then the whole business side. The actual writing process is the most fun, but it’s risky. I’ve been known to spend hours an entire day on one paragraph.
Tell us what your new book is about, in 2 or 3 sentences.
A woman who recovers from a fatal car accident and is accused of murder risks everything to find her missing daughter, the only one who might know the truth of what happened that day. People are calling it contemporary drama or literary suspense, but for me it’s a love story.
What’s your favorite time of the day and place to write?
Late morning at my desk. By then, I’ve exercised and eaten and finished business emails and am starting to get back into the story. I look out over our yard, which has an enormous hundred-year-old tree in the middle, and I can see the blue sky between the branches. The yard is bordered by fruit trees and flower bushes, like a park where something is always blooming. So I take a long look, because once I’m back in the story I don’t see any of it at all.
Name five items sitting on your desk right now.
1. The glass top covering my desk holds dozens of pictures of my daughters, from baby pictures on up.
2. A small sparkly frame holding a wedding photo of my husband and me on the beach in Malibu.
3. One empty Diet Pepsi can.
4. My black patent leather FileO Fax planner. I’m old school
5. Iphone. I’m not totally old school.
What’s your astrological sign?
If you could meet one person who has died, who would it be? What would you want to discuss with him/her?
My great grandfather, Billy Watson. He was vaudevillian who started the Beef Cake Trust – a chorus line of zaftig women. He also gave Gyspy Rose Lee her start. My late grandmother, a beauty, was a dancer, who said her father was the proof of the ‘one day chicken, one day feathers’ side of show business. I never met him, so I ‘d love to hear what it was like to live at that time and be so daring and creative.
Five favorite things to do on a weekend?
1. Hike with a girlfriend to a spot overlooking the ocean
2. See a movie, preferably romantic comedy – but not at a Writers Guild screening, because you can’t have popcorn there
3. Eat take-out that requires chopsticks but is okay with red wine in front of the fire
4. Sleep in until it’s time time for the yoga class with music
5. Shop at the Farmers market and taste everything in sight so there’s no need to cook until Monday.
What’s the one thing you couldn’t live without if you were stuck on a deserted island?
Sunblock. No, wait – my husband, he’s pretty fun. He’d keep me entertained.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
You can’t fail until you quit. Thanks, Dad!
Five things every writer should know?
1.Lock you refrigerator.
2. Love the process, that’s all you have control of.
3. Follow the golden rule and respect other writers.
4. Remember that taste is subjective and so are critics. Sometimes a person will say something mean just because their stomach hurts.
5. Write something good enough to make your children proud, but don’t let the thought of your children stop you from writing something good.
Your favorite desert or snack?
Since going to Italy on my honeymoon, I’m crazy about good parmesan cheese with a slice of tomato and crusty bread as a snack. Cabernet and dark chocolate on a date night. I love big fat blueberries anytime. And every night I crave frozen yogurt with chocolate sprinkles – perfect for watching The Bachelor or Project Runway or The Good Wife. That’s more than one favorite, but I lost my taste buds for a few months going through chemo and now that they are back everything tastes good!
What do you do in your spare time?
Read. Novels and all kinds of magazines.
What does success mean to you?
Gong to bed with a smile on my face.
Rock or country music?
Rock! And since I grew up in Ohio, Southern rock – which is a two-step away from country.
Sweet or savory?
Savory in the day, sweet at night.
Drama or comedy?
I tend to read drama, but watch comedy. Especially romantic comedy. I’ve seen every romantic comedy movie ever made – and if not, I hope to catch up soon.
What A Mother Knows
How Far Will a Mother Go to Find Her Daughter?
Michelle Mason can’t remember that day, that drive, that horrible crash that killed the young man in her car. All she knows is she’s being held responsible, and her daughter is missing.
Despite a shaky marriage, a threatening lawsuit, and troubling flashbacks pressing in on her, Michelle throws herself into searching. Her daughter in the one person who might know what really happened that day, but the deeper Michelle digs, the more she questions the innocence of those closest to her, even herself. As her search hurtles toward a shattering revelation, Michelle must face the biggest challenge of her life.
A poignant story of the unshakable bond between mother and child, What a Mother Knows is about finding the truth that can set love free.
With a B.A. from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University, Leslie Lehr is a popular panelist at literary and film conferences around the country. She is a member of PEN, The Authors Guild, WGA, Women In Film, and The Women’s Leadership Council of L.A. She is a contributor to the Tarcher/Penguin Series “Now Write” and teaches in the world-renowned Writer’s Program at UCLA Extension.
Leslie lives in Southern California, where she continues to explore the dark and light sides of contemporary women.
Find Leslie on Facebook, and as @leslielehr1 on Twitter. For Skype book club visits email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you so very much for being here, Leslie. Readers, be sure to look for Leslie’s book, What a Mother Knows, and check out her website to learn more about her other novels. I’m celebrating Leslie’s visit today by giving away 3 prizes. Each winner will receive a box filled with great reads, sweets, treats and more. Your great reads will include Leslie’s What A Mother Knows, and signed copies of my Bellevue duet, Odd Mom Out and Mrs. Perfect, which are perfect for an early Mother’s Day giveaway. My Leslie Lehr blog contest runs through May 10th, with winners announced May 11th. Want a chance to win? Please comment below, and in honor of Leslie’s book, tell me about your mom, and what she’s taught you either about life, or being a mother.