Leslie grew up barefoot in the hidden urban wilds Chicago, sharpening sticks with a pocket knife, keeping her siblings and her imagination close. She took the role of Storyteller from a young age, continuing a family tradition of oral narration, creating visual arts of all sorts, poetry, and fiction. Growing up was probably the worst thing she ever did, but she survived it, and now tells off-the-cuff, wildly epic bedtime stories to her three amazing children. She writes science fiction, fantasy, romance and more.
1. Will you tell us about your most recent published work?
My story about a far future WOC war vet amputee with flawed, experimental bionics is featured in the Dark Space anthology from Elm Books. The entire collection is science fiction that centers disability, so I highly recommend picking up a copy.
2. What personal challenges do you face as a writer?
I have one of the toughest jobs in the entire world currently: being a full-time single parent to three remarkable and complicated young children. It’s almost the same as admitting that my biggest barrier as a writer is the whole “not writing at all” thing. I’m honestly so fatigued and busy most days, I can’t even afford to feel impostor syndrome. It’s hard to find time to write, and whatever time I do get is often punctuated by more interruptions than sanity can withstand.
3. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Easily the answer to this question is FOLLOW THROUGH, and then REVISION. Namely that the follow through does not happen. And neither does revision, unless I somehow luck into a situation in which I may actually be published, in which case I attempt to follow through AND revise. See the answer to question 2, if you need more details.
4. What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
I could put some wine and gluten free bread pieces out for the sly ones in hopes of gaining a few hundred words per day. If I were to give up something practical that might make me a better writer, it would probably be forced insomnia. I almost wrote “K-dramas” here, but I couldn’t justify it. K-DRAMAS MAKE ME A BETTER WRITER, DAMNIT. *shakes fist*
5. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
I haven’t yet reached this milestone, but having my first story published in a collection really galvanized me, made me proud of myself, and gave me a touchstone of accomplishment to mentally come back to every once in awhile, regardless of how little current progress is being made. I think taking chances and saying yes instead of no can help anyone reach the kind of experiences and accomplishments they remember for the rest of their lives.
6. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? Will you tell us about them?
I have dozens upon dozens. The longest running story, and the most committed I’ve been yet is to a story that melds science fiction and fantasy, but feels like an adult Epic High Fantasy. The Twinborn Saga takes place in a world where magic is real, and it is those who are born as twins who have the highest chance of having any special gifts. There are sword fights, assassinations, mobs in the street, and the taste of political upheaval and acid smoke in the air. I should probably revisit and continue writing!
7. Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I read all of my reviews, and since I’m such small beans, I haven’t even seen a bad review. I’ll pop open a special bottle of wine in celebration when I get my first random bad review. I’ll consider it another milestone.
8. Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Yes. By which I mean, pretty much just me so far. *stares awkwardly into camera blankly*
9. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I’m friends with you, Erin! You’re an inspiration because of how hard you work, and the spark and fire and passion you have for your stories and supporting other writers! I’m friends with so many local authors, and when I see them is pretty much the only time I get to write anymore. Alex, Betsy, Will, Greg, Eliza (and so many more)....I don’t have all their social media links, but I’m sure that I can make their names highlighted in blue as hyperlinks via the magic of computers. They inspire me (you inspire me) every single day.
10. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Keep going. And stop reading Wheel of Time before it dissolves into disappointing goo and you rip your hair out for years. Just re-lax. CHILL OUT. And keep writing. There will always be someone who writes so well you want to quit. Don’t you dare quit. Keep going.
11. What are common traps for aspiring writers?
Probably getting ahead of themselves. Don’t ePublish a book before you’ve had many sets of eyes, lots of red pen chicken scratch, and several rounds of self editing as well as professional (if you can). Try to set up good habits. Allow yourself to set projects aside and come back later.
12. What’s the best way to market your books?
It hurts that this is the truth, but...spending actual money on editor fees, spending actual money on cover design, spending actual money on some marketing help, and the rest is just treating self promotion as AT LEAST a part-time job. But I only know these things from a limited range of experience, so take it with a grain of salt.
13. What is your favorite childhood book?
My favorite childhood book is probably The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Aslan is my dude. And THAT was a weird sentence.