Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Getting To Know... Barbra Leslie

Today on Life Of A Nerdish Mum I am happy to welcome author Barbra Leslie to Getting To Know... Barbra is the author of the Cracked trilogy.

When you are writing, do you have a set routine or schedule that you like to follow?

Well, when I’m a roll, I tend to pretty much write 24/7, with breaks for sleep (not enough) and some slapped-together meals.  Of course, work and other commitments – life, in other words – gets in the way, so unfortunately I don’t get nearly enough time and freedom to do that!  So I pretty much grab time when I can – usually early morning rather than late at night.  I am cursed with not having a regular body clock – my circadian rhythms have always been a bit screwy – so I refer to ‘early morning’ when I mean, when I first get out of bed, whatever time that is.

Ideally, however, I like to live in the world of what I’m writing, for concentrated periods of time.  I pace, I talk to myself, I bake bread, but I like to stay in the book, in my head.

I have a quote by Doris Lessing printed in a huge font, on a bulletin board in my room: “Whatever you’re meant to do, do it.  The conditions are always impossible.”  When I’m a bit overwhelmed by the juggling act that my life tends to be, I find that a good bucking-up mantra.  If I waited until everything was in place and ideal to write, I’d never get anything done!

When you're not writing what would we find you doing?

I have a day job in the criminal justice system, which I love.  And fortunately it’s more part-time than full-time, and fairly flexible.  Plus, I do some other freelance work to pay the bills.  

Otherwise?  I read, a ridiculous amount.  I have friends over for dinner every couple of weeks, and experiment on them with my crazy kitchen suppers – I just make stuff up from what I have lying around in the fridge and cupboards.  I live in hard-core downtown Toronto, and I walk everywhere I go; it clears my head and helps keep me (somewhat!) sane.

Oh, and Netflix.  I don’t know what I did before Netflix came along!

Do you have a favourite character that you have written so far?

The obvious answer is Danny Cleary, the protagonist of Cracked, Rehab Run, and the final book in the series, which I’m working on now.  Danny is in my bloodstream; while she and I are almost nothing alike, I know her so well it’s like hanging out with a friend – albeit a violent, unpredictable friend!  But I also really loved writing Lawrence, Danny’s brother.  

Do you have a favourite thing about being an author?

I love writing dialogue.  I’ve been a film nerd since I can remember, and I can hear the voices of the characters as I’m writing them.  

But it’s so amazing to me, when someone sends me a note or lets me know that they liked something I’ve written.  The fact that strangers out there enjoy and appreciate what I’ve cooked up in my wee brain is a source of such joy and surprise to me!  I love getting notes from readers.

The covers of both Cracked and Rehab Run are very distinctive, did you have a lot of input into how they looked?

Good question!  And the answer is pretty much, no.  When the crack team (whoops!  See what I did there?) at Titan asked me if I had anything specific in mind for the cover of Cracked, I believe I just told them to go for it.  I know my strengths and weaknesses, and while I’m hugely interested in design, I know that it’s not my forte.  So when they send me the cover for the first book, I loved it so much I believe I actually sort of semi-screamed with joy.

You have been very honest about dealing with addiction in your past, how important was it for you to portray addiction as realistically as you can in your books?

The only part of either book that is autobiographical is Danny’s addiction to crack cocaine, particularly at the beginning of Cracked.  I didn’t want to write a book about addiction, but it was important to me that the drug use and the nuts and bolts of how it feels to be an active addict – to this drug, at any rate – was realistic.  That being said, that was my own personal and subjective experience.  For other drugs and other addicts, things can be very different.

As you've led such an interesting life, have you considered writing a biography?

Before I started working on Cracked, I began a memoir.  I wrote a chapter or two at my agent’s behest, but it wasn’t flowing.  While I chose to be open about my own past addiction when Cracked was released, it’s very difficult for me to imagine writing about myself in that way.  I love reading memoirs, though, and who knows?  Never say never.  It may happen.

Do you have a favourite author?

No!  I have so many that choosing one would be like someone choosing their favourite child.  Top of my head, stream-of-consciousness (and based on what I’ve been reading lately), I would say that Megan Abbott can write about the inner lives of women and girls better than anyone since Alice Munro, Ben H. Winters’ work is poignant, sad and brilliant, Dennis Lehane can do noir like nobody else, and I wish I could read Justin Cronin’s The Passage trilogy again for the first time.  I also really love with Karin Slaughter has done with her mysteries, and Nicola Griffith, Octavia Butler and James Lee Burke have been huge influences on me.

If you could give younger you any advice about your writing journey, what would it be?

Write.  Don’t give up.  Don’t let life get in the way too much.  Don’t let the negative, self-doubting voices take over.  Just do what you were meant to do.

Plus – and this is advice I need to take now, as I still haven’t – get help with the non-writing aspects of the writing life.  Social media isn’t my forte, and I have a sadly neglected blog I need to give some attention to.

Rehab Run (Cracked #2) has only recently been published, but what can we look forward to next from you?

The third and final book in the Cracked series will be released in November of 2017.  I’m still playing with titles, but let’s just say it’s going to be a doozy!
After that, I’ve had a mystery/science fiction kind of thing I’ve been thinking about for yonks.  And I might turn my head to another screenplay.

Thank you so much to Barbra for taking the time to answer my questions, as always I'm oncredibly grateful.

To Connect With Barbra Leslie

Twitter - @barbrajleslie


After her stormy marriage ends, Danny Cleary jumps down the rabbit hole into a world of crack cocaine – delivered to her door by a polite but slightly deranged dealer. But when Danny’s twin sister Ginger is murdered, Danny and her rock musician brother fly to California to find their nephews – and the people who killed their sister. Fighting her addiction, nosy cops and crazy drug dealers, she kicks ass and takes names, embracing her inner vigilante in a quest to avenge her sister and save her family.

Cracked is a darkly comic roller-coaster ride to redemption as Danny struggles with bad guys and her own demons to find out who killed her twin.

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