A Writing Conversation with Lesleigh Nahay
in which we talk about the power of fiction
This week, I chatted with Lesleigh, one of my fellow anthologists, about her writing. Her answers were powerful in their discussion about depicting emotion and consequences through fiction. She is the author of Breath Between Seconds in Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life.
R: Tell us a bit about your writing, what do you usually write about? Where does your inspiration come from?
L: I write about women in seriously challenging situations. I want to show that strong is not about ninja skills, social isolation, or attitude. That sometimes our weakness is our strength.
My inspiration comes from what I see, hear, and fear. I hate when victims are asked how they feel after things like the murder of someone they love, the kidnapping of their child, a hellish, inhuman ordeal they’ve endured. It’s callous and cruel. My answer to that is Here, I can show you exactly what it would feel like. I can imagine it fully for you. That’s the role of writers, I believe. We can not only imagine just about anything, we can also translate it for others to experience.
R: What made you take the first step to share your writing with an audience?
L: I spent a long time on what became my first true novel, and when I finished, I essentially looked up and went Crap, now what do I do with it?Publishing had never occurred to me prior to that. I write because it is part of who I am, from very early on. But publishing was, right then, terrifyingly logical. There is no point in a unread story.
R: What led to your decision to submit to the contest?
L: It was a personal dare. As stated above, I spent a lot of time writing Red. My entire adult life (minus the last three years). I also have five other books all plotted out and half written to follow Red in what’s turned into a series, but I do not want to only write that world. I started to think back about the quantity of things I use to write as a child, how easy it had been for me to write about anything. I read through things I’d written in high school, just before the thought of Red began, and remembered that I wrote some good, varied things. I worried that I had devoted so much of my creative energy to this one thing, that I’d lost story-writing as a whole. So I’ve been daring myself to plot other completely unrelated stories whenever possible.
When I first saw this one…I got nothing. Figured I was beat. That’s ok. I am so far behind with many other projects! Then I saw the prompt again much later and just about at deadline, and there the story was. It was a double dare at that point: not only write a story, but get it written and edited and perfected enough to send out by the end of the week. I tend to rethink and overthink and reread and reread and reread until I’m absolutely completely certain I got it down right. Did not have the time for that with this. I sat down and wrote it all without even thinking and reasoning it through- that’s not how I normally start anything either! My triple dare was reading it aloud to my writers group the very next morning, having no idea what I’d written down the night before. And then I sent Breath out and she was received just about at the midnight hour!
Having her included in the anthology was a much needed pat for a suddenly insecure writer. :) The dragon is right. Dares are good.
R: Have you had any prior experience being in an anthology? What did you like about it? What did you dislike about it?
L: Aside from Red, I have only ever published one short story. The others I just store. Yet, again, there is no point in an unread story. A woman in my writers group has been very successful with getting her shorts accepted into magazines and such, and I’ve been awed by her acceptance letters. I decided that tactically, that was the best support for my larger pieces, and a good way to keep myself in the game in the interim between novels. This was the first such possibility since I made that decision.
I really love the collaboration between such a different yet collective group. All of us have different skill sets surrounding our writing, so I’m learning. There’s also a lot less stress when there’s so much support and so many to help with all the marketing aspects of being a writer! Writing can be a lifestyle of self-inflicted isolation, especially for those of us who tend toward introversion. Not allowed when working with a group, with a timeline of things to accomplish prior to deadlines, and where the entire group’s success- and everyone within as an individual- suddenly overrides your approach when it’s only you to think about.
There’s not much to dislike. I didn’t know anyone prior to this. We’ve had our chaos as our only access to each other is via internet-type means. But everything smoothens out. I think we’ve all found similarities with each other, and many have become people I actually interact with more than people I physically see or know.
R: What are you most excited about being included in this anthology.
L: Oh, see my answers above! Think they say a lot! Plus to have something I’ve written put before a larger reach of audience. Breath is a haunting piece. I hope she resonates with readers.
R: What’s the one thing you want people to take away from your story?
L: That everyone feels. Everyone has experiences, and an emotional reaction to those experiences that leaves a permanent impact. Onlookers love their dramas and tragedies, but more goes on than what we see and how it makes us feel. My boys and I argue all the time. They love stories about the apocalypse, movies with ginormous catastrophes and destruction. I want them to understand the impact of such events, however fictitious. That it is personal and not so distant. There is pain, and loss, and horror for each of those involved in these situations.
Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life comes out May 2017.
Check out the site.