9 Jun 2013

Author Interview: Judy Leslie

Margaret Sullivan dines with politicians, rebels, and spies. She is an admired journalist with the Chicago Tribune publishing under a male nom de plume. Her unscrupulous husband is a prominent attorney and power broker with aspirations of his own. They are well-connected members of Chicago’s 1880’s Irish elite.

On her trip to Ireland to do research for a book she is writing, Margaret meets a charming one-armed Irish rebel named Michael and finds herself attracted to him and his ideas for liberating Ireland. While traveling through the stone-walled back roads of the island, Margaret sees for herself how the poor are treated. She breaks her vow never to get involved, and soon questions if she can ever go back to her old superficial life in Chicago again. Overcome with her new found emotions and strong desire to help, Margaret finds herself easily convinced by Mrs. Delia Parnell that women can be just as crucial in the fight for Ireland’s independence as men.

Back home in Chicago Margaret publishes articles hoping to gain support in America for Michael’s cause. That is until he is arrested. Desperate, she turns to her jealous, devious husband for help...but he has a hidden agenda of his own.  To learn more go to www.for-the-love-of-ireland.com

      1.   If you could work with any other author, who would it be and why?  
Tony Morrison comes to mind because she is a master at indirect storytelling.  However, I wouldn’t want to emulate her.  My style is very different from hers; I just admire her ability to create mystery.  Many people find her work hard to read because it can be confusing at times, whereas my writing style tends to be more direct and easier to understand.  However, I like to include poetic prose in my protagonist’s introspection.

2.  What would be a typical working day for you? When and where do you write?

I get up at 6:00 am in the morning, pour a cup of coffee and go to my office, sit down in front of the computer and write until 9:00 am.  Then I have breakfast, shower and do my yoga at home, meditate and maybe walk the dog.   I write until lunch, eat at my computer and around 4 pm I think about what to make for dinner.  After dinner, I write until 10 pm.

3.  What is the hardest part of the writing for you?

I enjoy the story world, and that becomes my real world while I’m creating.  I think keeping up my friendships is the hardest part for me.  I don’t want to bore everyone with my latest scene, so I have to find other things to talk about.

4.  When and why did you first start writing?

Like most writers, I started when I was young writing silly stories about imaginary friends.  At the age of 21 I owned an antique shop, and I use to tell stories about the objects in my store.  I think that was when I started developing my interest in historical fiction.  I have written my whole life and have boxes of stories and unfinished novels.  I didn’t get serious until 3 years ago when I decided go to school and learn how to become a better writer. 

5.  How did you come up with the idea for the story in your book?

I was researching the Irish in Chicago for another novel.  I was looking specifically for ties to rebel activities in Ireland.  I found a wealth of information on an assortment of individuals and the deeper I dug the more I became aware that they were connected.   My novel is based on the lives and events of some of these individuals.  In real life, my protagonist Margaret Sullivan was a popular journalist in the 1880s that had to hide her gender so that she could have her articles published.  Margaret also happened to be married to a man with a volatile temper that was the president of a secret Irish-American organization known as the Clan na Gael.  I imagined what it must have been like to be in her shoes balancing her career and her desire to help Ireland while at the same time being in love with someone other than her husband.

6.   Are you a big reader? If so, what are you reading now?

Books are my greatest weakness, and I devour several a month.  I read various books of popular fiction for my book club, but most of the time I read non-fiction.  Right now I am working on my next novel that takes place in Paris at the World’s Fair in 1889.  So, I have books about the fair and various artists along with other books about the lives of some of the flamboyant characters who were in Paris at that time. 

7.   Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?

Buy some good books or take a few classes on the technics of writing and learn how to construct a story.  If you don’t know what a story arch is, you will get stuck perfecting scenes that don’t move the story forward.  Learn the difference between telling and showing.  In the beginning, most new writers tell too much – then they did this and then they did that, and then that happened, - instead of letting the reader discover what is happening by imagining they are there.  Always make the reader curious so they will turn the page.