Sunday, May 10, 2009

Chatting with Kathy-Diane Leveille

Last week I posted my review for Let the Shadows Fall Behind You. Well today I am pleased to bring you my interview with the author of the book, Kathy-Diane Leveille.



BIO:

Kathy-Diane Leveille is a former broadcast journalist with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation who discovered the only thing more thrilling than reading a wonderful story is harnessing the power of the imagination to write one. Her short story collection Roads Unravelling was published to critical acclaim after a selection from its pages Learning to Spin was adapted to radio drama for CBC’s Summer Drama Festival. The tale Showdown at the Four Corner’s Corral was revised for the stage and performed by New City Theater in Saint John.

Kathy-Diane’s prose has been published in a number of literary journals including Grain, Room of One's Own, The Oklahoma Review, Pottersfield Portfolio, The Cormorant; as well as various anthologies such as Water Studies: New Voices in Maritime Fiction (Pottersfield Press) and New Brunswick Short Stories (Neptune).

She is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, Kiss of Death RWA and Crimewriters of Canada.

Synopsis of Let the Shadows Fall Behind You:

On a grey morning in Northern Ontario in 1978, when the first fat snowflakes drifted down erasing all the familiar landmarks, Nikolai Mirsky headed out the door of the haunted cabin he shared with his lover, Brannagh Maloney. And disappeared…


Brannagh, a Natural Science Illustrator, struggled to collate the data from their bird count through the long winter. By the time the icicles began to melt, she was filled with a growing dread that the infamous wilderness preservationist wasn’t returning.When Brannagh left New Brunswick, ten years ago, she swore it was for good. But now her best friend, Annie, won’t stop worrying about her, and won’t stop hounding her to come back for a reunion of their childhood all-girls club The Tuatha-de-Dannans. Brannagh finally relents, but she refuses to go to her childhood home and face her irascible Grandfather. Instead, she hides out at her Grandmother’s summer cottage, even though it is far too close to the woods where her mother was murdered. As Brannagh struggles to put to rest the questions surrounding Nikki’s disappearance, she finds it impossible to ignore the family secrets circling the most tragic disappearance of all. Brannagh learns that nothing magical will ever change her past, but the fierce love of friends holds the power to transform the future.



I want to thank you for letting me interview you.




How do you start your day out each morning?

I have a large chair that could fit 3 people in its lap. It allows me to keep lots of books, pads of paper and pens by my side. Directly across from the chair is a large picture window three-quarters sky and one-quarter river that is constantly shifting in light and color.

I usually start with a pen and pad for the inspiration stage, then move to the computer for the perspiration stage. When I get to a place where I’m uncertain as to how to proceed, I always go back to pen and paper. I think there’s some mechanism in that tactile exercise that frees the right brain to soar.

Please share with me and the rest of the readers a little about yourself.

I’m a former broadcast journalist with CBC radio. Seventeen years ago, when I was home on maternity leave with my youngest son, I dug out an old file of story ideas and started scribbling. By the time the date arrived when I was supposed to return to work, I had already decided that I didn’t want to keep putting my dream of writing fiction on the back burner. Since then I’ve done different jobs, including being a janitor and typing medical transcription, to give me the time and energy to pursue my passion. My first book Roads Unravelling, a collection of short stories set on the Kennebecasis River where I live, was published a few years ago. Let the Shadows Fall Behind You released this spring is my first novel.

Did you experience much of a change from being a boardcast journalist with CBS radio to being an book author?


Working in the field of journalism offers valuable training in discipline. You’re working to a deadline to produce stories whether you like it or not. There were many times I sat down at the computer with absolutely no idea of where to go. You learn in journalism to have faith in the process, that you can start with nothing and eventually something will take shape and grow. It was a tremendous mentorship in the art of research, fact checking and honing the 5 W’s.


Do you have any special rituals that you do while you write or do you prefer the silence?


I thrive in emptiness that accompanies silence. I can’t work if there’s lots of noise. However, inspiration can strike anywhere. Often I have to start scribbling on anything handy: coasters, serviettes, my arm. This happens when I’m people watching, passively sitting in the mall as life streams past. I love riding in the car or on a train and gazing out the window. There’s always something in the landscape to twig my imagination. Once it was a chair in the middle of a field. I started wondering who put it there and why. The short story The Chair in my first book Roads Unravelling was born.


Who were your favorite authors growing up?


C. S. Lewis, Margaret Laurence, Nancy Drew and the Bronte sisters.


If you could meet anyone either died or alive, who would it be and why?


I would love to meet Margaret Laurence. It would be great to share a glass of wine, and get to know what kind of person she was, how her life infused her creativity. I’d be fascinated to uncover how the writing process worked for her, what she struggled with and how she triumphed. I’m also curious to know what it was like for a female novelist during the era she emerged. It must have been lonely and tough.


Which came first... the plot or the characters?

I usually begin by simultaneously visualizing a situation that causes an upheaval in life, and hearing a character’s voice emote their reaction to it. It’s a very strange process and definitely has my husband worried some days; especially when he dusts the books on my research shelf: Handbook of Poisons and Crime Scene Investigation.

Northumberland Straight Jacket was my first attempt at a suspense novel. It wasn’t published because my plot was a disaster. I had no idea how to plot period, so I kept going off on one tangent after another, and ended up nowhere. The good news is that while writing that novel I learned a lot about character development and setting, so when I tackled my second novel, I could focus my energy on plot alone and finally begin to dissect its mechanics. I had to write three or four in order to learn the many elements involved, and I’m still learning. I can remember that feeling of breaking through, however, when I knew that I was finally juggling all the balls of character, setting, plot, theme, pacing and not dropping any. It was, and is, tremendously satisfying.


Who came up with the cover design?


It was a collaborative effort between my publisher and me. I absolutely love the feather motive because, besides representing the obvious bird count Brannagh and Nikki are participating in when he disappears into thin air, it is also a symbol of healing in many first nation cultures and mythologies.


Which is harder to write... short stories or a full novel?


I started off writing short stories because it was the best place to start to learn the craft of fiction: characterization, setting, pacing, theme and plot. But I always had a difficult time harnessing my creativity into such a tight space. I fall in love with my characters. They feel like family and I want to tell their whole stories. So I am enthralled with novel writing. It’s like having a whole wall to throw a bucket of pain onto, rather than being confined to tiny framed canvas.


Why should readers check out your book Let the Shadows Fall Behind You?


This book is Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood meets Wuthering Heights. I loved writing it because I was able to combine the ingredients I crave in fiction: a dark hero, a broken and brave heroine, loyal sidekicks; and the shifting, persistent threat of evil that must be conquered. It’s a multi-layered plot, sharpened by elements of romance, suspense, poetry and comedy. I love anything Irish and grew extremely fond of these women--Brannagh, Annie, Tish and Diane— and was sad to write the last page. I hope you enjoy them every bit as much!


What book are you currently reading now?


The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. This is also a story that extols the divine power of female friendship. I love it!

Thank you so much for inviting me to be your guest and meeting all your readers. Please let me know what you think of Let the Shadows Fall Behind You at shadowsfall@kathy-dianeleveille.com. I’d love to hear from you.

Happy Reading!

Kathy-Diane

http://kathy-dianeleveille.com

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