Thursday, June 08, 2006

Girlfriends Cyber Circuit Presents Deborah LeBlanc

Today I'll shut up about market research and talk about books. That's because it's time for another Girlfriends Cyber Circuit visit (something several of you mentioned as a way you've discovered new authors). My guest this time around is Deborah LeBlanc, author of A House Divided, a spooky new supernatural thriller.

Keith Lafleur thinks he's cut the deal of a lifetime. The huge old, two-story house is his for the taking as long as he can move it to a new location. It's too big to move as is, but Lafleur's solution is simple: cut it in half. He has no idea, though, that by splitting the house he'll be dividing a family, a family long dead, a family that still exists in the house . . .

(Am I the only one shivering already?)

Deborah's own background is as interesting as anything in her books. She's a trained treateur (Cajun Healer), has worked in funeral service, is a licensed death scene investigator and an active member of two national paranormal investigation teams. Deborah also created the LeBlanc Literacy Challenge, an annual, national campaign to encourage more people to read.

(Now I REALLY feel like I need to get a life so I can pump up my author bio a bit.)

Here's my interview with Deborah:

What inspired you to write this book?
A friend, who claimed he lived in a haunted house when he was a kid. I’ve always been fascinated with a good ghost story and was even more thrilled with this one because the house was not that far from my own home. My friend took me to see it, and while visiting the small, abandoned house, I found out the structure was only half of a larger home.

As the story goes, an oil company, who purchased the property the home was originally built upon years ago, offered a local contractor the house. All he had to do to own it free and clear was move the house off the property. The contractor, knowing he would not be able to get the rent he needed for such a large house, decided to cut the house in half, move it to residential lots in another town, remodel the halves, then rent each structure separately. He accomplished his goal, for both halves were rented the moment he finished the renovations. However, strange things began to happen to the families who moved into each structure. According to my friend, cabinet doors opened and closed on their own, utensil drawers flew open, lights in the kitchen turned on and off, the sound of children and a woman crying late at night. Chairs rocking on their own.

I didn't see or feel anything in the abandoned home of my friend and took his accountings of the paranormal events with a grain of salt. Still curious, however, I searched out the other half of the home, found it across town, and had the opportunity to speak to the single mother who lived there with her three children. When I told her why I was there, she actually seemed relieved and invited me inside. For over an hour, she recounted all the weird things that had been happening in the house since she'd moved in a year ago. Many of those events mirrored the ones my friend had told me about.

Although I didn't experience any paranormal phenomenon in either half of the house first hand, the stories generated enough fuel to set my imagination in motion, which eventually led to my latest novel.

Describe your creative process.
My process is pretty simple. I get a story idea and start scribbling notes to see if I can build a strong central plot as well as subplots around the idea. If something does develop out of that scribbling, usually the main character’s name and face will have already come to mind. From there, I doodle with secondary character possibilities. If it all falls together, I might immediately head for my computer and begin … Chapter One. If the plot and subplots begin to twist and loop and more than two main characters are demanding to tell the story, I may do a short chapter outline to make sure I have all the voices in the right places so the story line is sequential. If none of the above works, I stick the idea and its accompanying notes into an accordion folder labeled, “Ideas,” and move on to something else.

Do you have any writing habits or rituals?
I write better in the morning, although I have been known to burn the midnight oil when I’m on a deadline. I prefer quiet to music, and a mug of coffee and a bottle of water are constant fixtures on my desk.

How much, if anything, do you have in common with your heroine?
Hmm, probably her determination and loyalty to friends.

How have your varied real-life experiences (crime scene investigator, funeral service, paranormal investigator, etc.) influenced your work?
I think they’ve significantly influenced my work. Each offers me an insider’s view to some pretty intense situations. I don’t have to imagine what a gun shot wound to the head looks like or look on the Internet to figure out how an autopsy was done to locate the bullet. I get to see, smell, feel, and hear it first hand. To me, these real life experiences bring depth and a ring of truth to my stories.

Since you do a lot of work toward encouraging people to read, what's one thing that ordinary readers can do to help further that cause?
Read to your children—often. Set up some kind of reward system that will encourage your children to seek out books on their own. When holidays and birthdays come around, buy books as gifts. If you belong to a book club, encourage a friend who doesn’t read to join. If you don’t belong to a book club, start one!

Chocolate: dark or milk?
Milk chocolate and lots of it!

What are you working on now?

I’m putting the finishing touches on, MORBID CURIOSITY, a psychological suspense that will be released in June ’07. I’m also working on a mystery series and a fifth psychological suspense novel.

To find out more about Deborah and the literacy challenge, visit her web site.

Now I have some errands to run, and then I'm kicking off my "staff retreat" to get myself geared up to plunge into the next book.

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