Margaret Lesh is the author of the novels Normalish, Mr. Katz is a Zombie, and Finding a Man For Sylvia, as well as her memoir Let Me Get This Off My Chest: A Breast Cancer Survivor Over-Shares. She believes tacos are magic.
Do you have planned/have you done any projects that took you way out of your comfort zone?
Yes, absolutely. I think if we don’t feel uncomfortable occasionally and have one of those: “I don’t know, can I actually write this?” moments, then we may be playing it too safe. As writers, I think we need to be able to take risks and talk about things that may be outside our comfort zone because those uncomfortable things are often what provoke conversation and bring about emotional and real responses in the readers.
How much do you structure your stories before you write them?
I’m a lazy writer. So much so, that “lazywriter” is part of one of my email addresses. I don’t structure my stories. I have an idea, then a beginning, and maybe an ending. Then I start writing. (I don’t recommend this, by the way. Be better than me! You should outline and stuff!)
What has been the hardest thing about publishing for you?
This seems to be a universal problem among writers–once we’re published, then we spend more and more time on the business side of writing and less on the actual writing. Honestly, I was SO much more productive in the time leading up to the publication of my first book. There are promotional activities, marketing, and many other things like, say, running to the post office to send off a book for review, or emailing prospective reviewers. Not that those things aren’t fun, but they do take away from the actual writing, and I find myself more and more fragmented, running in different directions. The bottom line, for me, is that I need to be much more disciplined. (Update: I’m taking a break from Facebook this summer. In theory, this will help me to be more productive. We’ll see.)
What’s the best part about being a writer?
Who are your writing heroes and why?
I have many writing heroes. Here are a few. I love Jane Austen for writing Pride & Prejudice as well as Emma. Her writing is so witty and intelligent. She was a woman ahead of her time. Erma Bombeck is a sentimental favorite because I grew up reading her column in the newspaper. She wrote in such an accessible way. She knew how to invite the reader in and make them feel as if they were sitting next to her, having a friendly chat. Dav Pilkey is a hero for writing the Captain Underpants series. Captain Underpants is consistently at the top of banned book lists. So subversive! (Not really. He gets kids to read!) J.R.R. Tolkien for The Hobbit; Chaim Potok for My Name is Asher Lev; J.D. Salinger for The Catcher in the Rye; S.E. Hinton for The Outsiders; and most recently, Anthony Doerr for All The Light We Cannot See. Oh, and one more: Doug Adams for creating the greatest character name ever, Slartibartfast.
Now when I read, I have much more of an appreciation for the craft of writing, and I get excited when I come across writing that is so ornate and intricate that I sit there and think: How did they DO that? I was thinking this while reading All The Light We Cannot See. Such beautiful sadness.
What’s the craziest story idea you’ve ever had? And did you write it?
I once met a man who made his living as a cage fighter. Truly. His hands were enormous, but soft, like baseball gloves, and when I shook his hand, he was very gentle. I wondered what it would be like to be married to him, so naturally I went home and wrote my flash fiction “I Married A Cage Fighter,” which was later published in The Brasilia Review.
What project are you looking forward to next?
I have a couple of book projects in the works right now. One is the next book in my middle grade Goethalsburg Ghost Squad series, Martin Barton Might be a Werewolf, due to be released in time for Halloween. The other project is My Friends Are All Strange, a companion book to my young adult novel Normalish.
Thank you so much for inviting me over, Cathleen! It’s been a blast.
Find out more about Margaret Lesh at http://www.margaretlesh.com.