Interview with Black Bear Lake Author Leslie Liautaud @labtoad

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I welcome Leslie Liautaud to my blog today. A Kansas City native, Leslie is the author of several full-length stage plays and the recent novel, Black Bear Lake. She currently splits her time between Champaign, IL and Key Largo, FL with her husband, three children and three dogs.

Do you outline your books or wing it? Describe your process.

I’ve done both. With Black Bear Lake I completely winged it. However, I knew the story inside and out in my head. It was already mapped out mentally beginning to end; I just never put it to paper. With the book I’m currently working on, I outlined the entire thing. Then I went back and broke down that outline even further. For me, outlining is the way to go. It keeps me moving forward even when I’m not “feeling it”.
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What is your favorite part of writing?
I can honestly say I truly love it ALL! I love thinking about it for hours on end before I ever put my pen to paper. I love walking along when suddenly, out of nowhere, a piece of dialogue pops in my head. I love when a scene comes together so magically that is gives me goose bumps. Or better yet, makes me cry. And believe it or not, I actually LOVE editing. I love revision; I love seeing what I can slash out to make the story better as a whole.

What inspired your latest release?
Black Bear Lake was inspired by true events. The location is based on a family compound our extended family shares in northern Wisconsin. The WWII references were based on stories I’ve heard from friends and family of my mother in law who was a war refugee from Lithuania. She lived in a DP camp with her family for a few years and then finally came to the States when she was 12. The large extended family and the love and bond they all share are based on my husband’s band of many many many relatives. The cabin explosion and all of the chaos that followed also was a true event that happened at the compound while a large group of us were present vacationing. I doubt the details of that tragedy will ever be erased from my mind. The book was definitely cathartic, though, in expressing some of the emotions we all felt while it was happening.
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What is your latest book, in the works or just published?

I’m currently working on a new novel about a small group of college friends. I’m exploring the complexity of female friendships; the jealousy, possessiveness, and competitiveness all rolled into one. I find it fascinating! Because women are such emotional creatures by nature, we also treat our friendships with high emotion. I think this is especially true when we’re in our early 20’s because it’s not just about the friendship. That’s when we’re figuring our own selves out as well, so those relationships are even MORE important and layered. Talk about a lot of onion peel!

What else have you written already?
Until Black Bear Lake, I’ve written exclusively for the stage. I grew up working in theatre and it’s simply second nature for me to write for it. I love dialogue! I’ve written several full-length dramas and a few one acts. In theatre, I love dark stories, uncomfortable dialogue and shocking twists. It’s such an intimate setting in a theatre that it gives the writer the chance to be right in the audience’s face to tell the story. That’s a powerful tool if you know how to use it. My plays tend to go that route…dark, secretive and lots of skeletons in the closet!

Have you had other careers before becoming a writer?

I’ve worked since I was a kid in theatre and dance. From acting on the stage to acting in commercials to choreography in dance. My mother was an actress and I was basically born into it…it’s all I ever knew! As an adult, I spend the majority of my time holding down the fort. My husband is founder/owner of Jimmy John’s Sandwiches and that tends to take up the bulk of our time together. So, while he runs the company, I run the family!

Do you have a view in your writing space? What does your space look like
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My main windows in my office look out over my backyard and my flower gardens. The space is off of the rest of the house, very quiet and very isolated. I keep a desk, couch, coffee table and overstuffed chair in the room. However, because I don’t use it just for writing (it’s where I pay bills, figure out scheduling, work on other projects), it will sometimes feel overwhelming to me. That’s the beauty of laptops! I just pick it up and move. Then suddenly I have a new space that isn’t cluttered by papers or to-do lists!

What do you read? Do you read different genres when you’re writing versus not writing?

I read everything! Anything I can get my hands on, really. I love a good YA and I easily fall in love with deeply layered literary fiction. I adore historical fiction and the occasional dystopian. My favorite, by far, is a good thriller or horror. I don’t tend to connect what I’m reading with what I’m writing. In fact, I’d say it’s probably better that it remains diverse. Reading a variety of genres keeps my brain moving in all different direction.

What books are on your nightstand or by your chair?

I keep copies of Stephen King’s On Writing everywhere. I probably have 20 copies of it! And it definitely have one on my nightstand. It’s one of the most practical and motivating books on writing that I’ve ever read.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

I’ve been hit by lightening. Literally! I was standing in a camp kitchen during an intense summer storm in Wisconsin. Lightening hit a flagpole right outside of the lodge. The lightening jumped from the pole to the roof of the kitchen, went through all the wiring and zapped all metal and appliances. I just happened to have my hand of the refrigerator door at the time. The jolt was powerful enough that it went straight through me, lifting me up off the ground and throwing me back several feet. We had a doctor as a neighbor at the time and he came to check me out. I was a little shaken but no worse for wear!

For more about Leslie Liautaud, visit her on Goodreads and Twitter!

Black Bear Lake: Adam Craig, a forty year-old stock trader in Chicago, finds his marriage teetering on the rocks and his life at a standstill. Desperate and on the edge of personal collapse, Adam takes the advice of a therapist and travels to his childhood family compound on Black Bear Lake with hopes of making peace with his past. Stepping onto the northern Wisconsin property, he relives the painful memories of the summer of 1983, his last summer at the lake. In August 1983, a self-conscious fifteen year-old Adam carries a world of worry on his shoulders as he arrives at Black Bear Lake for a month long family reunion. Between anger and fear of mother’s declining health as she quietly battles a quickly spreading cancer and his cherished cousin’s depression over her parents’ bitter divorce, Adam is swept up in smothering familial love among the multiple generations and heartbreaking misunderstanding and betrayal. The arrival of a sensual but troublesome babysitter throws the delicate balance of his family into a tailspin. Blinded by his attraction to the newcomer, Adam fails to see his cousin’s desperate cries for help and the charged electrical current running through his family’s hierarchy. Crushed in the middle of it all, Adam is forced to learn that there’s a fine line between self-preservation and the strength of family blood, all the while unaware of the impending tragedy that will ultimately change his life forever.

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