I’d like to give a big welcome to JANE LEBAK to my blog.
rem: Thank you for joining us today, Jane. You have a most delightful quote on your website, “Sometimes sarcasm is the only sane response.” What can you tell us about that?
JANE: When I first started a blog, I had to pick a tagline, so I chose “Sarcasm served up daily.” After a couple of years, one of my frequent readers told me I wasn’t actually sarcastic enough. My readers and I batted around definitions and eventually decided my new tagline should be “Sometimes life is its own satire.” One of the chief aspects of my blog was to look at the ways in which our lives were only barely under control and we were only just minimally competent to be doing the things we were doing (such as raising children, cooking, etc.) When I moved the blog over to my new home, I decided to revert to sarcasm again.
rem: I speak fluent Snark, Satire, Tongue-in-Cheek, and Sarcasm. Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
JANE: I’m a native New Yorker, but my goal for the first twenty years of my life was to get out of New York. I’ve moved to progressively smaller and smaller places, and now I live in what I affectionately call The Swamp, a town so small you actually recognize people when you go to the grocery store.
rem: Never been to New York, but I want to visit! So much to see! At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
JANE: I wrote my first book at age three with a magenta crayon on green-bar computer paper. I know this because my mother saved it. This masterpiece is called The Creechur, in which a magenta monster went around terrorizing a town until someone came in and sent it away.
rem: LOVE IT!! My first story was Pinky the Pink Elephant, written I believe, in first grade. And yes, I still have it. Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read?
JANE: Favorite author is Diana Wynne Jones. The woman was a master at weaving details together so everything gelled right at the end in such a way that you never saw it coming, but once it happened it couldn’t have been any other way. Her books are little works of art. If you’ve never read her before, start with Howl’s Moving Castle and next read all the rest of them.
Right now I’m dividing my reading time between SFF and contemporary fiction. In nonfiction, I tend to read either religion or psych/self-help.
rem: Love reading stories like that! I’ll be sure to get my hands on her books and report back to ya! Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?
JANE: If you watch the sales, you can stock up once or twice a year at Target.
rem: Good to know; there’s a Target not far from my house! What is your Writing Routine?
JANE: My writing routine is that I fit my writing into the little spaces left vacant by my family’s needs. I’ve gotten good at writing with noise, distraction, and in five-minute bursts. Because I’m fitting the writing in around all these other things, I try to be flexible, but I also try to keep goals in mind such as writing 1200 words a day or “I will enter in all my handwritten notes by Tuesday.”
rem: Ah! The “non-routine” routine! How well I know that! What are your Top Writing Tips?
JANE: Take the time to see the story from every character’s perspective. Even the villain is going to be the hero of his own story, so figure out why this character is doing what s/he is doing and really immerse yourself in that character’s world view. No one wakes up and thinks, “I’m going to be bad today.” Instead your villain is probably operating out of what were initially good goals that have gotten twisted around. Every character is. Figure out how they’re picturing themselves so you can provide well-rounded, non-cliched characters.
rem: Great advice! In fact, that’s what my series is doing, telling the stories of my less likeable characters! Tell us a little about your writing journey.
JANE: It involves several hundred hours on the New York subway system and a frenzied attempt at escaping the world around me.
rem: I’m amazed at people who can be productive on a subway – or car or bus! I get too caught up in what’s around me. LOL What do you enjoy most about being a writer? What is the hardest aspect of being a writer?
JANE: In “The Forest For The Trees,” Betsy Lerner says a writer is the kind of person who isn’t exactly living her own life. Instead she’s watching herself live her own life, and rather than feeling her emotions, she’s feeling herself feel her emotions. She describes a certain introspection that is at once freeing but at the same time isolating. I think that’s both the most enjoyable and the hardest aspects of being a writer — that insulation from yourself because you’re analysing what’s happening to you even as it’s happening. In some ways it’s helpful because you get insight into your own pain, and you’re able to shield from the worst of it. But sometimes I think I’m touching the world through latex gloves.
rem: Interesting about the introspection. I’ve done that for years, long before I acknowledged myself as a writer! You have several books out. Is this a series? And if so, will there be more in the series? What can you tell us about angels?
JANE: The four angel books all work together in the same universe, but they’re designed to stand independently. The Seven Archangels series follows the seven Archangels of the Presence at various points of salvation history (through the Old Testament, through the Gospels) and Annihilation takes up the story again in the modern age. I’m probably going to write more stories in between, as well.
The Wrong Enemy is a separate story, although the characters do interact with some of the Seven Archangels team. In The Wrong Enemy, Tabris is a guardian angel who killed the child he’d vowed to protect. But instead of condemning him, God inexplicably gives Tabris a second chance. Stranger still, it’s a second guardianship. But now Tabris needs to figure out why he failed so badly the first time, otherwise he’s going to hurt another child and end up falling forever.
As for angels…they’re fun and awesome, and I love piecing things together about them in the Bible. People like to say angels would all be in harmony and all effortlessly carrying out God’s will, but when you actually break open the text, you find Gabriel talks in the book of Daniel about fighting with the guardian angel of Persia, and in Job you hear God saying He doesn’t even put faith in His angels. There’s a lot of room to theorize around the parts we’ve been revealed, and I enjoy that a lot.
rem: Biblical fiction is my favorite genre of all time, but I don’t recall too many involving angels. Of course, now my interest is now piqued and I need to read all of your stories! Tell us a little about your latest book? What is your current project?
JANE: Right now I’m working on a pair of contemporary novels about a New York woman who acts like a kid, juggles multiple boyfriends, can see her guardian angel…and is also a compulsive liar. But only about one thing. She’s an auto mechanic, and she doesn’t want to tell anyone. The lies keep romance at bay, but when she finally falls for someone, he thinks she’s someone she’s not.
These books could be described as “Chick Lit With An Angel,” and they’re so much fun. The angel and the human trade snark, trade puns, and are just such a good team.
Abruptly Bucky appears, dressed in white and holding a lily. “For behold,” he intones, “I bring you tidings of hot coffee, for unto you this morning in the kitchen is brewed Green Mountain Coffee Roasters cinnamon hazelnut.”
I can only stare at his expectant smile that says I’ll look cute so you won’t hit me.
My groggy brain can’t come up with a good retort. The best I can manage is to make a face. “You’re still bummed that you didn’t get picked for that job?”
His resolve cracks. While he laughs, I add, “I hope your audition was better than that.”
“Hey!” He whaps me on the head with the lily. “This will be a sign to you: you will find a bagel wrapped in a paper bag and lying on the counter.”
“Well then.” I edge my legs out of bed. “Let’s go into the kitchen and see this thing that has happened, which Bucky has told me about.”
rem: Cinnamon hazelnut! That’s my flavor! Ya got me for sure now! LOL Oh, and I love the snarkiness! What do you do as a hobby? I had to ask! How did you get started ? Tell us a little about it.
JANE: I started knitting and crocheting as a hobby back in 2007, and since then my yarn stash has grown to several miles of yarn and I’ve started a knitting ministry in my church, making hats and scarves for the homeless.
rem: Dogs or Cats? Which do you prefer?
JANE: Cats, totally. Although I’m also getting a fish tank for my next birthday.
rem: I totally agree, cats all the way! [I’ve five kitty babies!]
rem: Jane, on your website, you have a link to Emily Rose’s Story. I can’t imagine the nightmare this must have been for you. What can you share with us today about your experience?
JANE: Looking back, I don’t think of Emily’s life as a nightmare. At the time of course losing our baby was nightmarish, but it was also a time of…I don’t know how to explain it. Intensity. Intense wanting. Intense learning. Intense prayer. Intense listening and paying-attention to the movements of a baby who would only live as long as the pregnancy. I learned to bond with someone I couldn’t see. And one day, a few weeks before her birth, I was sitting in the sun and I just had this strength flood through me: it was enough. I had done everything I was supposed to do, and now Emily’s life would accomplish what it should.
I put together Emily’s website to have a memorial for her but also to help other parents who were going through the same thing. And in that way, Emily’s life really did touch so many others. I spent the pregnancy leaning on those who had gone before me and had not only survived but were these amazing women. Strong, perceptive, helpful. Maybe I could survive too. She changed me, and in that way, she lives on.
A few years later after Communion I was praying for a woman who was also pregnant with a baby with anencephaly, and I said to God, “She’s pregnant with a dying baby!” and I And I felt this impulse come to me, that Jesus in a way is also “pregnant” with a dying baby–because there are souls on Earth that will end up in Hell eventually, but they’re still contained in Jesus now, and Jesus loves those souls and is nurturing them, even knowing that at the end, they’re not going to be with Him in Heaven. How often does God give us the privilege of doing something like what He does? How often in our lives will be have the experience of unconditional love from the giving side?
rem: Again, Jane, I am speechless, and my eyes are watering. I am overwhelmed, with pain, but also with the beauty of what you’ve just shared. No words, just no words.
How old is your son now? And how old is Emily Rose? I admire and honor that you kept him in the loop, and allowed him to hold his sister. How does he deal with her absence?
JANE: My oldest is now seventeen. Emily would have been fifteen this year. My younger ones are thirteen, ten and six. They’re aware of her, and we do talk about her. When we do family pictures, we always include a stuffed bunny a relative gave us for her and which I slept with for years.
rem: Again, nothing but respect and admiration for honoring Emily’s memory, and her purpose in this earth.
Jane Lebak talks to angels, cats, and her kids. Only the angels listen to her, but the kids talk back. She lives in the Swamp, writing books and knitting socks, with the occasional foray into violin-playing. You’ll also find her blogging at QueryTracker.net, a resource for writers seeking agents and small publishers. Philangelus Press is the multimedia empire of Jane Lebak, Incorporated. Multimedia because I have an audiobook. And it’s not just any kind of multimedia empire: it’s an international multimedia empire because I’ve sold books in Canada and the UK, and I’ve gotten fan mail from both the Philippines and New Zealand (Hi, Nanette and Chantelle!)
I started Philangelus Press once I realized I could do just about all the things a major publisher can do, only I can do them to my own personal control-freak specifications. It’s a lot of fun, and I’m having a blast. Plus, I get to talk to my readers every so often, and that’s really amazing.
#janelebak, #authorinterview, #EmilyRose, #anencephaly, #bulletproofvestments, #angels