On this blog every Tuesday and Friday I write about story techniques, structure, and/or publishing. Comments and questions are welcome. I also have a personal blog, Amy Deardon, on which I write about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy.

I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research.

My book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story, is now available in both hard-copy and e-book formats. I also coach would-be novelists and screenwriters to develop their story. YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Author Interview: JANE LEBAK

It is my great pleasure to introduce to you author Jane Lebak. Jane recently published her second book, The Wrong Enemy.

Jane and I met in 2005 at a writer's conference, and were fellow students in the very first NANGIE course taught by authors Nancy Rue and Angela Hunt. Jane remains the best writer I know, with flawless prose. She's also a good friend. Thanks for visiting, Jane!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY: Jane Lebak is the author of The Wrong Enemy. She has four kids, three cats, two books in print, and one husband. She lives in the Swamp and spends her time either writing books or ejecting stink bugs from the house. At Seven Angels, Four Kids, One Family, she blogs about what happens when a distracted daydreamer and a gamer geek attempt to raise four kids. She is one of the bloggers for QueryTracker.net, a resource for writers searching for an agent or a small press.


Jane, can you write a description of yourself in six words?

Frequently lives in her own head.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Surf the web. Knit. Read. Play violin. Although there's far too much surfing the web. Oh, and raising my kids. For some reason, I'm supposed to be doing that. :-)

You have a super blog describing your family's exploits. Can you tell us a little about your family?

We're a family of geeks, although we're all geeky in different ways. (With the possible exception of Kiddo3, who's the only extravert in a family of introverts.)  We try to have a lot of laughter in the home, but sometimes you get the sense that it's the strained kind of "if-I-don't-laugh-about-this-I'll-scream" kind of laughter. There's a lot of fun when I hear the kids' take on why we do things, though. For example:

Kiddo4: No, don't take off my band-aid. It will come off when it's ready.
Me: You mean it will ripen like a fruit?
Kiddo4: No, when it runs out of stick.

The Kiddos all tend to observe the world in different ways, so I've had to become fluent in four different kinds of world-views ever since they were babies. You run into a room because the kid is crying, and somehow you know just what the kid is crying about, but for four different kids it might be four different things. I can't help but think that makes you a better writer, when you learn to read someone's mind for their own nuances.

Who is your hero, and why?

I've thought about this for a while, and I've concluded there's no one I consciously emulate.  But there are people in my life from whom I've taken inspiration, people who are doing the same things I'm doing and are further ahead of me. Sometimes when I'm stuck, I'll say, "Well, if he can do that, then I can do this."

When my daughter was diagnosed with anencephaly, and we knew she'd die shortly after birth, I joined an online support group. Most of the members were further ahead of me in the journey and had already given birth to their babies and lost their babies, but I could see from how kind they were to each other, how gentle, how strong, that it was possible to do this impossible thing. Not only to do it, but to become better people. So when I was feeling awful, and when the grief was worst, I knew I could keep going because they'd done it before me.

If I had to pick a specific person as a hero, I'd say Teresa of Avila. She had a comfortable life as a nun, but she felt called by God to something greater, so she set about reforming the Catholic Church, starting her own order in an effort to bring the other nuns to a better understanding of Christ. She went before the Spanish Inquisition several times, suffered through several inadequate spiritual directors, and yet all through this remained obedient to God's will for her life. Some people hated her. She'd buy property for her order through assumed names, sneak into town in the middle of the night with several nuns, and the first the town would know about it would be when they started ringing church bells the next day. They'd move into buildings that were practically ruins and then begin their work, quietly supporting themselves, because they knew if they'd made their plans known, people would have stopped them. But she didn't let anyone stop her. She just did everything God wanted her to do. I wish I could do that -- be as uncaring of people's hatred and as single-minded about doing the work God gave me to do.

Tell us about your books.

I've been writing since I was three and finished my first novel when I was thirteen, so I'll just skip to the two currently in print.

The Boys Upstairs (MuseItUp Publishing, http://tinyurl.com/jlebak) is a Christmas novella about a cop who's struggling to save three homeless kids. It's three days before Christmas and the temperatures are below zero and still falling, but the kids refuse to stay in any foster family because they don't want to risk being split up. The only one the cop can turn to is his brother, a disabled priest who's got a reputation for helping homeless kids and gang members, but they've been estranged for years and in order to help the kids, they're going to have to resolve their own differences first.

The Wrong Enemy (MuseItUp Publishing, http://tinyurl.com/jlebakt) tells the story of Tabris, a guardian angel who vowed to protect a child and then broke that vow. The child has died, and Tabris expects to be tossed out of Heaven, but instead God gives him a second chance -- a second child. None of the other angels want him around, least of all the child's primary guardian, but there is someone who wants Tabris: a demon who used to be a friend, and who's making a full-court press to also end this assignment in tragedy, a tragedy of the eternal kind.

Your books are about epic battles between angels and demons. What fascinates you about the spiritual world?

It has everything I love about fantasy and SF (the super powers, the alternate ways of thinking, the eternal stakes) with the benefit that it's all actually happening around us. I fell in love with angels when I was sixteen, and it was life-changing for me. I just found it amazing to comprehend that there was a spiritual world right here in what we laughingly refer to as reality, and in all of this, we just don't see it, don't perceive it. We get only the merest glimpses of it, and yet it's in some ways realer than the material world.

Yes, I'm writing the angels from a Christian worldview. I've heard from my readers that a non-Christian has no problem getting into the story, though, because I'm not preaching. I'm just setting out the rules of the universe the same way you would set out the rules of a SF or fantasy universe, and they happen to coincide with the Christian Bible.

Do you write with a plan, or just explore the terrain in your mind as your story unfolds? How do you get all those words down?

I do a lot of planning in my head, but I leave a lot of terrain unexplored. I know the major plot points, but I don't always know how I'm going to get from one to the next. My characters will generally take me from one to the next, though, because whenever I'm not sure what I'd like to do, I ask myself what this character would do in this circumstance. And at that point, it works.

Since you are an agented, multi-published writer, and you write a blog to help writers (Publishing Pulse/QueryTracker), can you give some advice to those who are still trying to reach that magical "published" status?

Love what you're writing. It's only going to be love that keeps you sitting in the seat, that keeps you submitting after rejections, and that keeps you revising even when you think it's as good as you can get. It's love that keeps you working rather than giving up.

Also, write and submit smaller pieces. It's a lot easier to get published in a magazine than to get a book published. Moreover, it's a lot easier to publish non-fiction magazine articles than magazine-length fiction, so diversify yourself and write smaller pieces to sustain you while you're on the long haul of seeking a book publisher. Then, when you're ready to submit your novel, you'll already have several publication credits to your name, and that will give your submission some credibility.

What is your next project?

I just blogged it, actually! http://wp.me/p8I00-1vM 
"Amber Brickman never realized she was separated at birth from her twin, but even worse, neither did her mother."

Anything else you'd like to tell us?

The main character of The Wrong Enemy is named Tabris, and by the time I first started getting active online, the first edition of the novel had gone out of print. This was back in 1995. Well, I loved it enough that I adopted the handle Tabris as my online name, and this was even before Neon Genesis Evangelion had a character of the same name. I've been Tabris online ever since, so it's a little awkward nowadays when people want to talk about the character, only they also know me as Tabris.  I'd highly recommend a writer not name herself for one of her characters.


  1. Waving to you both, Amy and Jane, from my desk down here in NC. I agree with you, Amy. Jane's stories sparkle. They also provoke thought--and what better recommendation than that can I give?

  2. Amy, Jane looks like a gentle and sweet person. Good one on Jane's part and yours. The intreview, I mean.
    I have to check out her books. Always looking for a good read.

  3. Thanks so much for having me, Amy! It's much appreciated. :#)

    TY, Normandie -- you're an awesome crit partner. And Bill, I hope you enjoy the stories. They're so much fun to write, and I hope just as much fun to read.

    Thanks again!