Monday, December 21, 2009

Lisa Lipkind Leibow's Interview

1.What are you working on now?
I tend to have several projects at once, at various stages of development. Right now, I’m putting the finishing touches on a novel that is a tale of modern feminism in a complex world. It chronicles the life of an Iranian émigré, from her repressed childhood in 1950s Tehran to her eventual liberation over 40 years later. The main character’s saga begins in pre-revolutionary Iran—a land of contradictions, where mini-skirted women with college degrees face arranged marriages. At the same time, I’m in the midst of revising the first draft of a middle grade high fantasy novel that I wrote during moments I needed a break from more serious subject matter. It’s pure fun! I’m also well underway in the first draft of a novel that takes place during the Revolutionary War. It’s turning into a fictional slave narrative. I’m excited about it. While I divide my time among these projects, other ideas are percolating, and I have three or four other concepts in research phase, which means I’m reading everything I can on the subjects, conducting interviews, and visiting locations.

2.What inspired you to be a writer?
It’s difficult to point to one event in my life that gave me inspiration to be a writer. It’s really the cumulative impact of finding a way to incorporate the things I love to do: read, research, write, act, daydream…

As a child, I had a flare for drama. I loved to play pretend. In high school, I played the leading role in the school musical and enjoyed performing in Community Theater, too. In college, I studied radio-television communications where I loved writing, directing, and performing. If a professor offered the option to write a paper instead of take an exam – I jumped on it. My skills at research and writing took me to the next step in my career.

I spent a chapter of my life going to law school and practicing law, drafting legal briefs and memoranda much like the young attorney in my debut novel. However, after being stuck at my office on 9/11, a month-long siege on metro Washington, DC by a sniper, and discovering that the other parents at my twins’ preschool thought my au pair was my sons’ mom, I could hear these words echoing in my ears. "If I knew this was what it was going to be like to have it all, I would have settled for less." (Lily Tomlin: The Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe).

I didn't really settle for less. I settled for different, and traded the billable hour lifestyle for fiction writing. My new career provides fantastic intellectual stimulation, a wonderful creative outlet, and a great excuse to recapture my love of drama and playing make believe.

3.How many rejection letters did you get before you got an acceptance? What advice do you give the writers about dealing with rejection letters?
I could wallpaper a bedroom with rejection letters. As a first-time unknown author, it’s tough to get your foot in the door. But I know I can write, and enough of those rejection letters were personal and encouraging rather than form letters to make me realize I was moving in the right direction – getting closer. I kept honing the manuscript based on feedback and, Voila! Success!

My advice to other writers about dealing with rejection letters is to view every one of them as another step closer to publication. If you receive something other than a form letter, view that as a small success. Savor the feedback of someone in the business who took the time to read your work. Keep yourself occupied with the creative process while you await responses, which in my experience, can take forever (excuse my exaggeration, but responses take a long time). Don’t let a rejection hold you back. Keep circulating your manuscripts and short stories. They will have no chance for publication if they sit in a drawer or fester on your hard drive!

4.How did you celebrate your first contract?
You mean, after I jumped up and down screaming for joy upon reading the offer for contract? Ha! I’m still celebrating! I’m so happy Red Rose Publishing was looking to expand their mainstream fiction line and that the editors loved Double Out and Back!

During that first week or two following my book deal, every time I met a friend we toasted my success (there was much champagne involved…).

5.What's your favorite way to advertise?
I’m not a natural at self-promotion, I have to admit. But I enjoy interacting with readers. I love visiting with book clubs either in person, on-line, or via conference call to participate in discussions of Double Out and Back. If any of your readers are interested in inviting me to their book club, fill out the contact form on my website,

6.What do you do to amuse yourself when not working?
My life is filled with the happy chaos of my husband, children, and a menagerie of pets. They amuse me to no end. But when I have some “me” time, I try to stay active by biking, jogging, and doing yoga. I really need to counteract all of the sitting that crafting good fiction requires.

7.Where do you see your writing going in five years? In ten?
On the creative side, I continue to hone my craft every day. I have so many ideas in my head. Sometimes it’s difficult to rein them to focus on just one. I love the challenge of bringing to life a time and place I haven’t experienced first-hand. It forces me to use my imagination to build a world. I dabbled in this in Double Out and Back. I wove in a vivid past for Chandy in South Africa during the implementation of Apartheid. With my second novel, which is perpetually-almost-finished, I explore pre-revolutionary Iran, in the 1960s, where miniskirted women with college degrees are subject to arranged marriages. Here, too, I bring to life a time and place I did not experience first-hand.

However, in both of these instances, I was able to interview people who have been there to obtain first-hand accounts. I see my interests in historical fiction deepening.

Lately, I have been crafting a novel that takes place in colonial America. It will be my first, truly, historical fiction in that nobody alive today was there. I must rely on historical documents, museums, and the like to build a realistic portrayal of my characters and setting.

As for the business side of my writing career, I’m hoping that in five to ten years I will finally become an overnight success. I stole that line from my publisher, Wendi Felter of Red Rose Publishing, but it sums up what I hope will be. So, I urge you, if you like my work, spread the word!

8.What is your favorite "comfort food"?
All of these tough questions about my writing process and intellectual opinions about the future of the publishing industry, and this is the question that stumps me? Hmmm…I have to pick just one? It might be easier to tell you what foods I don’t care for…

Some of my favorites: I love a bowl of hot chili on a cold winter day. In the summer, I could live on fresh blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. I’m a big fan of Japanese, Chinese, and Thai food, too. I can’t turn down tuna sashimi or those sesame balls on the Dim Sum dessert tray. And, of course, chocolate has incredible healing powers. Join me in the movement to make chocolate count toward a daily allowance of vegetables – It’s made from BEANS, after all.

9.Do you prefer ebooks or print for your reading pleasure?

Warning: noncommittal answer below.

I adore the complete, sensory experience of holding a print book – the smell of the pages, the way the paper feels between my fingers, and the look of the ink on the page. I love to dog-ear and highlight my favorite passages as I get lost in the fictive dream a good book brings to me. I savor, I devour, and I love print books. Nothing could completely replace that love.

Now that I’ve spoken my undying devotion to print books, I hope you won’t think me unfaithful when I tell you that I’ve been loving some e-book on the side!

E-books offer new ways to love literature. I can adjust the font size of the print as large or small as I like. I can keep a file of “clippings” of my favorite passages. I can perform keyword searches, and gain quick access to material when I’m on deadline.

More than that, e-books are great for impatient people, like me. I agree with Carrie Fisher when she said, “That’s the problem with instant gratification – it’s just not fast enough!” The ability to download a book within seconds of deciding I want to read it is fantastic.

10.Who are your favorite authors?
I have diverse taste in reading. I enjoy reading fiction with a strong voice and unique perspective. I love quality women’s fiction, mainstream fiction, historical, and literary fiction. I read and love so many authors. It’s difficult to narrow it down. However, here are some of those I consider the masters. I’m in awe of Alice Munro’s ability to sum up an entire lifetime in a sentence. I love the quirky characters of John Irving, the vivid, detailed descriptions of Ayn Rand, and the strong, pithy dialogue of Ernest Hemingway. I admire the character driven fiction of Julia Glass and the expertly plotted tales of Steven King. I admire the boldness of Barbara Kingsolver to tackle multiple, first-person points-of-view in one novel, and Amy Tan’s ability to carry me to a time and place I’ve never been and make it seem real to me.

11.It’s plug time. Where can people find out more about your books? Got an excerpt you’d like to share?
Visit me at There you’ll find more about me and my writing, along with links to my twitter, goodreads, facebook, as well as links to my blog, and my group blog, The Roses of Prose.

I can’t leave without saying thank you to Honoria! I loved answering these thoughtful and fun questions. You’re a great host. Thank you very much for letting me share your blog, today.

I’ll leave you with an excerpt from Double Out and Back. Enjoy!

Chandy’s parents were both Jewish, of Eastern European descent. Diogo embodied the great melting pot of Cape Town, South Africa. His mother – Tessie’s daughter – had married a half-Portuguese and half-black man, the son of a native tribal woman who had married a fisherman who came to port.

One day, while Bubba was baking and Diogo and Chandy were playing, Chandy asked Bubba, “What was it like here in the olden days?”

“Tell us, Bubba,” Diogo urged.

Bubba wiped her hands on her apron and sat at the table to answer their


“When I first came to Cape Town, we moved to a small flat on the same street as the Garden Shul.”

“Garden Shul? You mean the Great Synagogue?” Chandy asked.

“Oy, yes. They built the original building, the Garden Shul in nineteen-oh-five. I was a kinder in Lithuania back then. When we moved to Cape Town, we were welcomed by none other than Rabbi Alfred Bender. A Friday morning, and he showed up at the door with some candles, a bottle of wine, and a beautifully braided challah, so Zayda and I could welcome the Sabbath.

“He served as Rabbi for more than forty years, may he rest in peace. Back in ’twenty-five, when I moved here, he had already been here for thirty years. He was the glue that held this community together. We all just loved him, even Diogo’s other grandma, his Papa’s mama, a gentile. She loved that rabbi.”

Just then, Ita Leah’s daughter, Miriam, walked into the flat with an armful of bundles.

“Chandy, have you finished with your lessons?” Miriam asked.

“Yes, Mama,” she answered.

“I only had to help her a little,” Diogo said, giggling.

“Oh, Diogo, I’m glad you’re here. I have something for your mother.” Miriam put the bundles down on the table in front of them. She wiped her brow with the back of her hand after releasing the heavy bags.

“The days are getting shorter. I saw old Mr. Phillips making his way down the street, lighting all of the street lamps,” she said as she took out a long, narrow, newsprint-wrapped package. “It’s a good thing too, because, I needed the extra light to find my way to the fishmonger. I picked up this Cape Salmon to make lox.”

“Yum,” Chandy said.

“I stopped by the new dress shop, the one Zodwa, just opened. I saw a beautiful skirt for your mother and brought it home for her. Will you give it to her for me?”

“Yes, ma’am. I need to go home for supper soon,” Diogo answered.

Miriam stood taller than expected, having squat Bubba for her mother. Her height allowed her to tower over Bubba. Next to Bubba’s round shape, Miriam looked rectangular – broad shoulders, thickened waist, narrow hips, and elongated torso. If Zayda were triangular, they could have had a real mélange of geometric characters in the family – a whole new meaning to the adage, people come in all shapes and sizes.

Miriam finished putting away the packages and sat at the kitchen table to go through the post. Bubba could tell something was wrong, because her daughter’s chin scrunched up, her upper lip tightly pressing down onto a protruding, but tense lower lip. Under stress, the whole lower half of Miriam’s face creased the same way many people’s brows furrowed.

Bubba stood even in height with her seated daughter. She touched Miriam’s hair, which was colored darkest brown. It fell in short ringlets, with perfect sections in front of each ear that curled upward like crescent moons illuminating each of her cheeks.

Bubba looked equally rattled as she read over Miriam’s shoulder.

“This is a nightmare. It’s the next step, isn’t it?”

Miriam shook the paper.

“They can’t do this!” The skin on her chin puckered as her lips tightened to near disappearance.

“Let me see,” Bubba requested. Miriam passed her the paper. It held the official seal of the South African government.

“They can, and they are.” Miriam’s voice trailed off.

Bubba’s eyes traveled from top of page to bottom absorbing the official letter’s contents. As of that date, under Population Registration Act No. 30, passed by the nation’s legislature, Bubba would be required to register all babies she delivered under one of four distinct races: Black, White-Afrikaans, White-Other, or Colored or mixed race.

###end of excerpt###

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Also available at Kindle, Mobipocket, All Romance Ebooks, My Bookstores & More, BookStrand, and other fine e-book outlets.

Short Bio: Lisa Lipkind Leibow is the author of Double Out and Back (Red Rose Publishing), which takes the reader on the roller-coaster ride of infertility treatments as seen through the eyes of three women. Originally working as a lawyer, Lisa decided to trade the billable hour lifestyle for fiction writing. Lisa’s work has also appeared in Pisgah Review. She lives and writes in Northern Virginia with her husband, three sons, a clumber spaniel, and two red-eared sliders. You can learn more about Lisa and her writing at


Pat McDermott said...

Honoria, thanks for bringing us this in depth interview. Lisa, I enjoyed learning more about you, and I admire your positive attitude toward the pitfalls aspiring writers face. Best of luck with expanding your writing horizons, and continued success with Double Out and Back. Happy Holidays, ladies!

Lisa L. Leibow said...

Thank you for stopping by, Pat! I really enjoyed answering Honoria's questions.She made me think about my writing life in a whole new way!

Lisa L. Leibow said...

Honoria, Thank you, again for having me as a guest on your fantastic blog!