Welcome back to my Author Interview series. Today, we are talking with Denise Liebig, another new author I’ve met through Facebook. Denise, let’s get started with some of the basics. Where are you from?
- I grew up in Oregon (USA) and have lived in many states and countries since then. I now live in Nevada.
Has writing always been part of your life?
- I have been writing stories since I can remember; mainly because I was required to in school. But I really enjoyed it, and it became a creative outlet for me. I paint and draw, as well. So, in school, I always enjoyed being asked to write a story and draw a picture to accompany it.
- My interest in writing started in school. My favorite subject was creative writing, and I remember writing stories on newsprint sheets and then adding an illustration to the top. It was the best part of the day.
- I suppose I’ve always considered myself a writer. It’s the “go-to” place I have visited ever since I could string a sentence together.
- After receiving my bachelor’s, I went to work for an engineering firm, where I wrote their marketing materials. I have provided similar services for other companies, as well; including my husband’s business. I now write fiction. My most challenging and rewarding job, however, has been raising three kids.
Have you encountered any difficulties in your writing that you have had to overcome?
- The most difficult part was creating a routine that allowed me the time and location to write every day. Once that was accomplished, the rest fell into place.
- I think the biggest challenge is trying not to think about writing when I’m doing something else. It’s almost impossible, and I find myself constantly running for a piece of paper or my computer to jot down an idea or piece of dialogue.
You say there is a lot to learn about writing then?
- I think the learning process is on-going, because I seem to learn something new every day. I was so excited to first have a book that had a beginning, middle and end; and then publish that book. Little did I know that publication was just the beginning. Creating an online presence and marketing are things that have evolved and continue to change daily. I think what I have learned is to be as accepting of the process as possible.
Has writing become your career then? (Even if you are working another job to pay the bills.)
- Yes, I see myself writing in some form for years to come.
Do you have any, authors past or current, you look up to as a mentor figure, even if you haven’t met them?
- I always like to mention Beatrix Potter’s books. The illustrations and stories they contain sparked my imagination. As a child, I dreamed of writing and illustrating similar works when I grew-up. I haven’t fulfilled that dream yet but hope to some day.
- [However,] this is a difficult question because I think writing is personal, and what works for someone else might not work for me. So, I would have to say that Life is and always will be my mentor-of-choice.
When you say the process is personal, do you mean about drawing from personal experience or history?
- I think all writers draw upon the experiences and events in their lives when writing a book. My characters/events are not based on anyone/thing specific, but they are a product of my life experiences. I would have written a much different novel when I was younger.
- “Dear Maude” and The Dear Maude Trilogy involve real people in circumstances most wouldn’t find themselves encountering. I really don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t read it, but I will say that the situations are historical.
Would you say those experiences, then, were the inspiration for your first book?
- The inspiration for “Dear Maude” came from my interest in all things vintage, including a silent movie festival on television. I wanted to know what it was like to live during the time of silent movies—when things we now take for granted didn’t exist. So, I researched the era and created the character, Emily Stanton, a sociology major who also studied that time frame. The Dear Maude Trilogy evolved from there.
Has the historical research helped you develop a personal flavor to your writing style?
- No, I don’t have a specific writing style other than writing in first-person. In The Dear Maude Trilogy, first-person allows the reader to understand the feelings/emotions of the protagonist, Emily, while she navigates her strange and ever-changing reality.
Looking back from where you are now at your previous works, if you had to retrace the journey with your current knowledge, would you change anything?
- No, because I think everything has been such a learning process that changing any one thing might take away from that.
Did you have a method in mind when you selected your title “Dear Maude”?
- Throughout “Dear Maude,” Emily writes in a journal that she addresses to her deceased aunt, Maude. Each entry begins with “Dear Maude” — thus the title. The journal is an important element throughout the story, allowing Emily a place to divulge her secrets and also keep her family memories alive.
Did the cover evolve the same way, or did you work with someone to make it come together for you?
- Tatiana with Vila Design worked with me to create my book covers and banners for my social networking sites. She is amazing!
What about support while you were writing? Anyone outside the family help out?
- My good friend and first editor, Rocky, was a big support to me throughout the process of my researching, writing and publishing “Dear Maude.” Unfortunately he passed away late last year and his support and friendship are things I miss every day.
I am sorry to hear that. Loosing someone close is always hard. Has this made a difference in your new projects?
- I am working on fine-tuning the remaining books in The Dear Maude Trilogy. I have written all three and have published the first one, “Dear Maude.” My goal is to have the complete trilogy published by the end of 2015.
- In addition to my work on The Dear Maude Trilogy that I mentioned before, I am also researching my next novel.
- The Dear Maude Trilogy is the story of Emily Stanton, who must work for the mysterious company that offered her a college scholarship without first knowing her position, or repay every dime.I enjoy reading books with strong female characters, so it was important to me to have the protagonist in “Dear Maude” be strong, as well. Due to the secrecy of her job position, Emily is put in many challenging situations and must learn to adapt without the benefit of friends and family around her. Her situation might be different than most, but learning to grow outside her comfort zone is a familiar concept; one to which I think many can relate.Most people can’t resist a good secret and the journal Emily addresses to her deceased aunt, Maude, is filled with them. From an early age, Emily formed a deep connection with Maude, a woman who offered Emily words of wisdom and a few secrets of her own throughout Emily’s childhood. The journal becomes Emily’s lifeline; especially when her job placement becomes overwhelming. She uses the journal to vent her frustration and impart information including company secrets that, if revealed, could lead to her demise.
One of the most interesting concepts of the book is the world Emily finds herself living in as her job position evolves. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it is definitely not a life most college graduates find themselves experiencing.
Since you said you like strong female leads in your stories, do you have any favorite authors who do this, or do you prefer to read more about an era?
- I have been in the fortunate positon of not only reading several great books in the recent past but also corresponding with their authors. I can’t name one specifically because there are so many good ones out there.
- I am reading several non-fiction historical books, which I am using to research my next novel.
- In addition to Beatrix Potter, F Scott Fitzgerald is another favorite. I enjoy reading and learning about the 1920s, and he was a good spokesman for the era. I also appreciate a good mystery, and Agatha Christie — her life and her writing — fit that genre well.
When you are writing, do you leave messages hidden in your work for your readers to find?
- I don’t have a message, exactly. It is more of a warning — free is never really free; just ask Emily.
::Grins:: So very true. The phrase “TANSTAAFL” comes to mind when you say that.
And, the big question you have probably been asked too many times already: Any words of wisdom or advice for other up and coming writers?
- Yes, my advice is to write every day in some form. My other advice is to not lose sight of your writing while you’re trying to gain an audience.
Denise, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop by today. I have had a wonderful time talking with you. Any last words before we wrap things up?
- Yes, I would like to thank them for their support and for taking a chance on an indie author. As a reader myself, I have discovered many well-written, imaginative stories that might not have made their way into my hands had their authors not found an independent platform for their work and readers to support them. Thank you, readers, for helping indie authors have their words/voices heard!
Rarely have I heard words of such wisdom! Thank you.
If you enjoyed the interview, and wish to connect with Denise, you can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon and Smashwords. She also has a website, where she is trying to get a blog set up.
If you enjoyed the interview, and wish me to host an author interview for you, please feel free to stop by my Offered Services page, and send me a submission.