Name: Leah McNaughton Lederman
Latest Release: Cafe Macabre: A Collection of Horror Stories and Art by Women
- Has writing always been a passion of yours? I’m passionate about writing the way some people are passionate about their hometowns. That means sometimes I have hated it, sometimes I have taken it for granted, but it also provides a bevy of memories for me, good and bad–that time I got into trouble for writing notes in class; that time I won $500 in an essay contest; the years I have spent helping people better their craft. Writing is a great comfort to me, like an old friend. At the end of the day, it’s part of who I am.
- At what age did you begin to write seriously? Again, I’ll admit I’ve taken it for granted. Then again, I wrote very seriously in a journal from the age of twelve till I was about seventeen. Then I wrote pretty seriously, in the academic sense, while I was in graduate school. From there I ran concentric circles around writing–teaching it, editing it…Well, now I’m ready to WRITE. So, in terms of writing for myself, I’ve been serious for about five years.
- What is your favorite genre to write and does that differ from the genre you like to read? I enjoy writing horror and sci-fi because I’ve spent so much time editing it. I feel like I’m entering a conversation with other writers and characters I enjoy. That’s the “Cafe” idea I pursued with this particular collection I’m releasing, Cafe Macabre: A Collection of Horror Stories and Art by Women.
The horror and sci-fi that I’ve written come from my fascination with what *could* be, the potential for forces outside of us to affect the things we do and the way we feel. I’m afraid of my own shadow, and never feel alone in the dark. At least, with this collection, I’m *choosing* who I’m in the shadows with!
As for what I read, I really do mean it when I say everything. I have my Master’s in English Lit so I’ve read the classics, starting from Beowulf. I like sci-fi and fantasy, mystery, thriller, memoir, and a lot of non-fiction.
- Where does your inspiration to write come from? I like to have an audience. I am very extroverted, but spend much of my time alone–or well, you know, with kids (which, no matter how you slice it, is very lonely. Yes, kids are great, yada yada. Being a SAHM (or work-from-home Mom) is lonely. Sometimes the only adults I see in a week (aside from my husband) are my grocery store cashiers and the librarians at storytime.) To be fair, I should also note that my children are a pretty decent inspiration, too. I like the way I write about them.
Writing gives me a voice in the void, a chance to explain myself. The other side of that is writing helps me figure out what I think. Sometimes I don’t know where I stand on a topic until I’ve written about it a little bit. In that way, writing is a great tool for self-discovery, and I’m pretty darn self-centered. Of course I want to know more about me! And I think you should know more about me, too!
- How does the generation you belong to impact your writing style, or does it? This is such an interesting question. In the sense of actual, physical writing, I use all sorts of different modes to write, and I think that’s a direct reflection of being an Xenniel–that in-betweeny generation. I grew up with card catalogs at the library and remember the first time I heard “Google” used as a verb (it was Vincent D’onofrio in Law and Order). I like to scrawl out my thoughts by hand in my bullet journal. When I have a story idea, or an idea for a memoir scene, I usually open an email and dictate my thoughts using voice-to-text or even video sometimes. Here and there I go straight to the Word Doc.
In terms of how my generation influences my *style* I’m really sort of stumped. Stumped as in going down a crazy inner-monologue rabbit hole. I’ll try not to bury you there with me. My knee-jerk response is that my writing is more informed by the things I have read than by the year I was born–but wait, isn’t my response to the things I read informed by my culture and my understanding of the world, which would also inherently include my age bracket and thus my generational cooties? Oy. I’ve got to stop.
I think what I’m trying to say is that my style is a result of everything I come into contact with–pieces of news, technology, literature, friends–and some things that are embedded more deeply, like family, education, mythology, Christ.
6.What does your writing schedule look like in a typical week? Haphazard. I try to be “disciplined” but I think it’s more important for someone in my situation to be realistic.I try to do something creatively productive every single day. I don’t have a daily word count I try to meet. Instead, I set what I think are realistic goals every Sunday and do my best to meet them by the end of the week. Sometimes when I look back, I’ve either met the goals or exceeded them, and if I haven’t met them it’s because my writing took a different direction that week–instead of finishing my short story, I wrote two blog posts.
It is sometimes frustrating to be Writing Leah. But I have to go with where my voice is. If I’m feeling conversational and silly, I need to let that side of me come out, so I write some creative nonfic or a blog. If I’m feeling spooky and “officially writey” then I need to work with that, and churn out something along those lines.
The bottom line is I’m writing. And, just so we’re clear, if you give me a deadline, I will go through hell and highwater to meet it–whichever side of me is writing is the one that gets turned in.
- Are you a pantser or a plotter? Given the previous response, and the rabbitholes I keep falling into, it should come as no surprise that I’m a pantser who would be greatly helped by a little outlining!
- Can you name an event in your life that has made the biggest impact on where you are today? Again, so many. So many moments that propelled me along as a writer. The one that sticks out the most is my dad’s death. He was always so proud of me, no matter what I did. He really believed in me. With that sort of affection, I should have turned out more like the fabled Millenial, thinking I could have the world just because I dreamed I could. (My mom evened that out quite a bit, because she is hands-down the hardest working person I have ever met.)
Whenever I would give my dad an update on what I was doing next, he’d say, “That’s good, but when are you going to write that bestseller?” Even when I was in gradschool, even when I was teaching writing, he’d say, “Have you left time for your own writing?” Dammit, Dad, I haven’t. I always put my own writing last. Always. I really don’t believe I’ll ever write a bestseller, but my dad sure did. Now that he’s gone, I figured I might as well give it a try. He was right about so many things. Maybe he’s right about me, too.
I only had one short story published when he passed. When I wrote his obituary, I finished it with a shoutout, “Look Dad, I got published!” Now I have five stories published, a few poems, a blog, and I’m a regular contributor to the Ladies of Horror Flash Project. I’m running a Kickstarter in March to fund an all-female, illustrated horror anthology that I’ve been compiling for the better part of three years. Also, I’ve written my cousin’s memoir about being a quadruple amputee (publication pending). Dad’s the reason I started to include my maiden name on my publications, even if I know he’d roll my eyes at me doing so.
- Do you think writers have better luck going the traditional or the self-publishing route? I still feel like too much of a neophyte to comment but, having been surrounded by writers online and in person for several years now, I’ve seen it both ways; I’ve seen successes and failures, both ways. A writer who seeks traditional publishing for validation may be sorely surprised that 1.) the stakes are high and market-dependent, 2.) being traditionally published isn’t an official marker of your grade of talent.
I will say that I’ve seen breathtaking, life-changing work go through the self-pub pipes. There’s more freedom and risk-taking available there; more autonomy. More room to drown, too, so tread carefully. I’m pretty invested in the Indie community and love to contribute to Kickstarters, podcasts and blogs.
- What are you working on right now? Oops. I keep bringing it up. Almost like I’m super proud of it and want to promote it with every other sentence…I’ve put together Cafe Macabre: A Collection of Horror Stories and Art by Women. This project started as a way for me to capitalize on a unique opportunity. I was editing the work of several different female writers and at night, when I was tired, all of the voices would overlap and run together. It was a brilliant, terrifying cacophony!
I thought to myself, Self, you need to get these characters together into a collection. So I invited these different authors and different women I knew to contribute. My writers include several names from the indie horror and comic circuit, like Kasey Pierce, Stefani Manard, Kari McElroy, Michelle Joy Gallagher, Marianna Pescosta, and K Lynn Smith. I also invited clients and friends I know locally, or from writing groups, like Amy Hunter, Harlow West, and Jennifer Barnett. I wanted it to be like the Algonquin Table, only super scary. It was a salve to the loneliness of motherhood and late-night editing, and I colored the whole thing in by inviting female artists to contribute as well–more voices, these ones singing through a different medium. I’m immensely proud of what these fantastic ladies have come up with.
We’re propping each other up, and that’s a big deal with online marketing via social media. We each bring something unique to the table, just like “The Vicious Circle” at the Algonquin Hotel; like the European Modernists in the early twentieth Century–wouldn’t you want to hang out with Picasso and Stein? Overhear a conversation from the Bloomsbury Group? Don’t you wish you were there at the Vila Diodati in Switzerland? That was the inspiration for Cafe Macabre.
- What do you find are the most effective means of promotion? The truth is, I don’t have a ton of promotion experience. As an editor, I largely promoted myself by doing good work and relying on word of mouth. It definitely helps to have a platform with strong branding. That means being genre strong which I’m horrible at. It’s certainly a help that so many of the writers and artists of Cafe Macabre have sizeable social media followings because they’ve been consistent with their respective crafts. Between all of us we have over a dozen Facebook pages and websites, and hundreds if not thousands of followers–some fall under horror, some under other genres, some under comics, some under graphic design. With this particular collection, we’ve pooled all of our resources. We each bring so much to the table. We’re a machine!
- What advice do you have for someone just beginning his or her journey into writing? Don’t stop. Your writing will surprise you. Let it. Don’t force yourself to do any one specific thing.You might be trying to tell yourself something, so…listen.
- What piece of fiction has made the biggest impact in your writing career and why? One of my brothers paraphrased Ray Bradbury’s “Kaleidoscope” for me before I could even read, and when I finally picked up the well-worn family copy of The Vintage Bradbury, that story blew me away once again–and every time after. A lot of my stories (hope to) contain killer ending lines, and I blame “Kaleidoscope.”
In a more academic sense, I also have to give credit to “Beowulf.” I read a prose translation when I was eight, and still remember laying in bed, terrified that Grendel’s mother was on her way to my house to wreak havoc. When I studied the poem in gradschool, I came to appreciate it as a treatise on the impact of language. Our words and our stories are our weapons and our armor. A story is more than fiction, it’s a stitch in the tapestry of culture; a drop in the well of human civilization.
- What final thoughts would you leave potential readers with? I don’t know, man, I just waxed pretty deep there about the well of human civilization! Maybe I should end with the reminder never to take yourself too seriously.
- What is your favorite story you’ve written/read? Tell us about it. Well shucks, if I go with my favorite story that I’ve written, I might sound like a self-centered shmuck. Fortunately, I’m very comfortable with that. I still have a soft spot for the first story I ever had published, “Dust to Dust” (unfortunately the journal website is defunct, or I’d offer a link. I’ll be releasing it in a collection of stories in the next few years). It’s about a deranged cleaning lady who collects dust from homes she cleans. It was inspired by my need to help when someone’s loved one dies–I’ve cleaned at a lot of family and friend’s homes in the wake of a death. And I think to myself…dust is 80% human skin. I’m taking the last of their loved one away…
- What three things must you have on hand to write? One of three things: my cellphone, my laptop, or my journal. Wine and quiet are helpful, but not necessary.
- Where do you see yourself/your writing in 5 years? My next focus will be a memoir quilt–a collection of vignettes. I’ll keep going with fiction on the side, publishing short stories when the opportunity presents itself, and working towards the release of a collection of my own stories.
- Everyone has a dream mate. What’s yours look like? Do you ever expect to find him/her? I like my husband a lot. So, him. We’ve been together for more than half of my life.
- If you could be anything other than what you are, what occupation would you choose? Lately I’ve entertained dreams of being a librarian. The idea of being surrounded by books and readers is…exquisite. I used to teach college English, and loved it, but if I were ever to return to teaching it would be in a more specialized, workshop form.
20. What do you do to relax? Hide from my children.
About the Author:
Leah Lederman is a freelance editor and author from the Indianapolis area, where she lives with her husband, their three kids, three cats, and dumb dog. Back in 2010, she started her own parenting mal-advice column in The Toledo Free Press, and her short stories have been published by Bloodlotus Online Literary Journal, The Indianapolis indie magazine Snacks, Scout Media’s anthologies A Matter of Words and A Contract of Words, and most recently by Indie Author’s Press in Issues of Tomorrow. Clarendon House published a poem and a flash piece in Cadence and Fireburst, respectively. Several other pieces are awaiting rejection. As an editor, Leah has worked on novels, short story collections, indie comic scripts,children’s books, and dissertations In March she’ll be running her first-ever Kickstarter campaign to fund Cafe Macabre: A Collection of Horror Stories and Art by Women . You can find out more about her work at www.leahlederman.wordpress.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ledermanediting