Aug 25, 2009

Interview and Contest with Author Elizabeth Leiknes

The contest portion is now closed

Today Patricia's Vampire Notes welcomes Elizabeth Leiknes author of The Sinful Life of Lucy Burns, Bancroft Press, 2009

Read Elizabeth's bio. It neatly displays the wonderful sense of humor found in her novel.

"Elizabeth Leiknes grew up in rural Iowa and can make thirty-seven different dishes featuring corn. She attended The University of Iowa as an undergrad, and The University of Nevada, Reno for her Masters. Her most recent accomplishments include publishing an article entitled “Writing Spaces: Expanding the One Story House” in The Quarterly, and completing two other novels, Black-Eyed Susan, and The Understory.

Lucy Burns was “born” somewhere between a third and fourth helping of Captain Crunch in Elizabeth’s sixth month of pregnancy with her first child, but the majority of Lucy’s story was written during her maternity leave somewhere between debilitating bouts of new-mother panic attacks, and squirting milk in various inappropriate locations about town. Elizabeth has a love/hate relationship with great white sharks, and a slight penchant for speaking in hyperbole, which she says she never does. She now lives and teaches English near Lake Tahoe with her husband, two sons, and mentally ill cat."

Welcome, Elizabeth!

PVN: You have created such diverse, interesting characters I would like to know more about them. Tell us about Lucy. What is she like as a person? What is her relationship with the Devil?

Lucy is a lot like all of us—a little bit good and a little bit evil sometimes. Okay, on a bad day she’s a whole lot of evil, but it’s really her circumstance that dictates that. I don’t really believe that anyone is one hundred percent saint or sinner, but often an amalgamation of both. Deep down, Lucy knows right from wrong, which is why she desperately wants out of her contract with the devil. Her relationship with him is strictly business-as-usual for him, and fear-based for her. When she doesn’t do what he wants, her family pays a dear price. What Lucy really wants is to see her family again, and also to create a family, a real family of her own.

PVN: Teddy Nightingale. What's his agenda? Is he based on anyone in particular?

Teddy really has no “agenda” in the book since his dark days are long since over. (I don’t want to give anything away!) Indeed, his character was based on my own 70’s musical icon, Barry Manilow. In the height of the seventies, my sister and I used to listen to Barry Manilow records religiously. Truly. Every Sunday morning. In my first manuscript of LUCY, he was a huge part of the storyline, but the powers that be disallowed the use of his name. After lots of sulking, (I really didn’t think I could write the book without him in it) I decided to give it another go. I think it’s actually funnier without him, and writing the made-up lyrics was quite fun.

PVN: I love dogs. Please talk about Pluto and his role in the story.

Elizabeth: I wanted a powerful dog to accompany the ominous and gothic door to Lucy’s “basement” so I created Pluto—a not-so subtle reference to the god of the underworld with a splash of Disney!

PVN: Tell us about Luke who has what most would consider a handicap, but doesn't slow him down one bit.

Elizabeth: Luke’s blindness allows Luke and Lucy’s relationship to flourish, I think. Lucy is stunningly gorgeous on the outside, but Luke can’t see that, so he is forced to see her for who she really is, a flawed person trying to achieve redemption. I wanted him to be smart and capable despite his handicap, so I chose to focus on what he could see rather than what he couldn’t.

PVN: This book is one of the funniest I have ever read. Would it be fair to say that humor comes easily to you?

 First of all, thank you--what a lovely compliment. I don’t consider myself all that funny, really, but I definitely enjoy making people laugh. I’m the youngest of seven children, and I think I used humor to get attention when I was little, and perhaps I still do. Readers who know me tell me that Lucy acts and talks exactly like me, which is simultaneously flattering and horrifying!

PVN:What attracts you to the paranormal?

Elizabeth: Well, for starters, I’m not a big fan of “normal.” It makes me nervous in an everything’s-perfect-and-average kind of way. I tend to find empathy for and interest in things that aren’t normal. Lucy isn’t normal, her situation certainly isn’t normal, but her courage to eventually do the right thing is exceptional, and I think we like her because of that.

PVN: Do you consider yourself a paranormal writer?

Elizabeth: I never thought about it, but I guess I am drawn to stories that have some sort of supernatural element, even if it’s just a sense of magic or whimsy. Magical realism gets a bad rap sometimes, I think, but I do appreciate stories in which the unexplainable plops itself square in the middle of our predicable, real lives.

PVN: What projects are you working on currently?

Elizabeth: Currently, I have three different stories bouncing around in my head (and chicken-scratched all over crinkled napkins and discarded envelopes in my purse.) One is a non-fiction story about my two sons, one is a young adult novel, and another is a novel about someone who has done something really awful, which seems to be a favorite theme for my protagonists!

Describe your writing environment and your writing day.

Elizabeth: Well, in my head, I’m at a grand, important-looking desk, writing in front of a picture window, which overlooks a quaint pond in a beautiful, but mysterious forest. In real life, I’m sneaking in a few sentences of writing in between being a full-time teacher and full-time mother of two. The only constant I have is coffee. Copious amounts of very strong coffee. I generally write when my children are sleeping. Thank God they still nap.

PVN: Which authors have inspired you?

Elizabeth: I’m a big fan of Stephen King, both his fiction and non-fiction. Switching gears, I love anything Lorrie Moore writes…same thing goes for Aimee Bender and Julia Slavin.

Would you talk a bit about your family life?

Elizabeth: My husband teaches English, and he’s the funniest, most honest person I know. Hardy, my five-year-old son, is interested lately in the “Who would win, Mom?” debate. Yesterday, he asked me, “Who would win, Mom, a triceratops or one-hundred ferrets?” And my son Hatcher is the funniest three-year-old on the planet. He likes to make up really ridiculous numbers like forty-seven-hundred-twelve-twenty. And I love them both so much it hurts my heart.

PVN: Where can readers find you or how can they contact you?

Elizabeth: I love hearing from readers! Check out my website at, click on “Contact me” and leave me a message.

Now for the contest.

One lucky commenter will each win a copy of The Sinful Life of Lucy Burns

To be eligible do one or more of the following:
* Leave a comment
* Ask Elizabeth a question
* Link this interview to your own site or a social network site, and be sure to let me know the URL
If your email is not associated with your ID, please put the address in your response.

Contest ends August 27, 2009 at 11:59 Hawaii Time
The contest portion is now closed Thanks to everyone who participated!

Read a review of The Sinful Life of Lucy Burns.


Mary Ann DeBorde said...

Mary D
zenrei57 (at) hotmail (dot) com

I hope being the first is lucky because I've been really REALLY wanting to win a copy of Lucy Burns since I first heard about it - AND SUPER INTERVIEW PVN!!!

So here is a Q for Elizabeth - if you were give the task to 'rewrite' any famous fictional 'character' - and you got to pick which one - who would you choose ? :) and why ?

Kainani said...

I hope 2nd will be lucky. LOL. I am hooked. Great interview. Now I gotta get this book. This is the first I've heard of it and it sounds great.

Q for Elizabeth. If we were to walk into your home right now and you are sitting on a sofa relaxing and reading a book, what would we catch you reading?

Kainani said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kainani said...

Sorry I forgot to add..I posted a link for the interview & contest:

Maija P. said...

This book sounds great! I love blind/(scarred) etc themes in books, so this is something I'd really enjoy. I haven't read a fun book in a while, so it's nice to know there will be some humor :)


Anonymous said...

Please enter me.. This book looks amazing!


Susan Blexrud said...

I love that you're not a big fan of normal, Elizabeth. I like to say that I'm grounded in fantasy, so I can certainly relate. Lucy Burns sounds like a fantastic read. Thanks for the interview, and I look forward to hearing more from you. Hope I win!

Susan Blexrud said...

Oops, forgot to leave my e-mail. Here it is:

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No need to enter me, ladies. I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail, Patricia. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you.

Tynga said...

I've had my eyes on this book for a while but haven't bought it yet. I sure would like a shot at a copy =)
Please count me in.

And thanks a lot for stopping by Elizabeth =)

tetewa said...

I've been hearing alot anout this one, sounds good!

Anonymous said...

please enter me in the giveaway,
I've read good reviews for this book.

Fiction Vixen said...

I'd love to have a copy of this book! Looks like it's right up my alley.
Q for Elizabeth: What's on your "I'll be reading that one again" shelf?

I posted about this giveaway on my blog:

I think I'll tweet about it too:

Good luck to everyone who enters

fictionvixen|at|gmail dot com

Fiction Vixen said...

Oh my, perhaps I need another cup of coffee. I entered my own email address wrong. :)

fictionvixenblog at gmail dot com

Shooting Stars Mag said...

This book sounds amazing. I'd love to read it. Great interview. I'm not too big on "normal" either.

My question though...if you had to take a male character from any OTHER book than your own to pair Lucy with, who would you pick?

lauren51990 AT aol DOT com


This book sounds really good! Please enter me :P


wheresmyrain said...

i love the cover of this one, sounds really good


wheresmyrain said... question for elizabeth you store away any ideas/concepts/characters for a book that seems too outragous to acutally undertake right now but you put on hold for later consideration??


Shawna said...

Shawna Lewis

Oh thanks so much for this chance to win this book.

Q. How do you choose the cover and do you have a-lot of say in how it will turn out?

Pam said...

I've been wanting to read this since I first saw the cover and title! Plus I've been reading such good things about it.

I love Captain Crunch myself and although I can resist the temptation most of the time, while pregnant, it became a staple of my diet too!

melacan at hotmail dot com

Margay said...

Elizabeth, this is one of the books at the top of my wish list. I love reading how authors come up with their ideas, so my question is: What was it about the Captain Crunch and pregnancy that helped you to create this particular story? Will we hear any more from Lucy or the others in another story or is this a stand-alone book? (Sorry, that's 2 questions!)

Margay1122 (at) aol (dot) com

kalynnick said...

The book sounds good. Can't wait to read it!

kalynnick AT yahoo DOT com

chey said...

Hi Elizabeth,
You are a new to me author and I'll be looking for your books!
It sounds like you are terribly busy! When you find time to read, do you have a favourite genre?

throuthehaze said...

ive heard great things about this book, count me in please!
throuthehaze at gmail dot com

Jo said...

This sounds like such an awesome book! I'd so like to read it!

Email: joannestapley[at]googlemail[dot]com

Anonymous said...

Keta Diablo said...

This book sounds hilarious. And I love the "blind" factor. Wouldn't it be curious to know if peeps thought we were beautiful on the inside where it really counts, and not just because we are handsome folks?

I'm off to check out your web site now. This sounds like a must read for me. Who couldn't use a little humor?

Great job, Patricia . . . course I'm biased. LOVE her blog and her great interviews.

Mucho success with the book!

My best, Keta Diablo

bridget3420 said...

Count me in.

bridget3420 said...


Kimberly B. said...

I really would have sworn I already entered this contest. Anyway, I've heard really great things about this book. I like that Elizabeth "doesn't do normal" and that her characters aren't all black and white. Moral complexity is a good thing!

Jenny N. said...

I've been wanting to read this book. Thanks for the change to this book.


SciFiGuy said...

I've read a few reviews of Lucy Burns now all of them positive so I went to order it online. Unfortunately it is not available on either of the two main Canadian online sites or Here's hoping for a win :)

Bingo said...

What a great interview! I would love to win...I want in on this VAMPIRE craze and this would be my first! Thanks for a chance!

Anonymous said...

I would love to be entered in your draw. Thanks.
wandanamgreb (at) gmail (dot) com

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth, do you incorporate real people from your past into your stories?
wandanamgreb (at) gmail (dot) com

zipnes said...

Sorry it took me so long to respond! Mary Ann, I hesitate to give this answer,(because I AM NOT AND NEVER WILL BE HARPER LEE!) but I have to say Atticus Finch (from on of my all-time favorites, To Kill A Mockingbird.) I've always wanted him to be more aggressive. I know he's the turn-the-other-cheek guy, and that makes him such a great character, yet I wish he would've shown Bob Ewell who was boss when Mr. Ewell spit in his face. (I don't think the Finch children would've been attacked if Atticus would've been more assertive with him. Anyway, that's my gut answer!

Okay, now for Kainani. If you saw my couch right now (I gasp in horror) you would see a giant, messy pile of books. On the bottom is The Lorax, which I read at night to my children. Next, are two books by my new favorite author--Elizabeth McCracken. One is The Giant's House, and the other is a short story collection called Where's My Hat, What's Your Hurry. I think she's an amazing writer. And I'm also dabbling in a non-fiction book called Physics of the Impossible, because I'm trying to explore the scientific side of time travel for a young adult novel I'm working on. And then there's also Cooking Light magazine, which I look at for the pictures, because there's not enough fat in any of the recipes!

zipnes said...

Fiction Vixen, I usually don't reread anything, but I have read Julia Slavin's short story collection (The Woman Who Cut Off Her Leg at the Maidstone Club) several times because I love it so much. Every time I read those stories, I'm so damn jealous that I didn't think of them first!

Shooting Stars Mag, I think it'd be interesting to see Lucy Burns with Mark Darcy from Bridget Jones's Diary. (This might be because I have a horrid crush on Colin Firth!)

zipnes said...

Where's My Rain, I definitely put ideas on the back burner. I'm currently working on two very different stories, one is a YA novel and the other came from an event (more like a feeling, really) that I experienced two years ago. I thought I'd done something really horrible, and although it turned out that I hadn't, the guilt stuck with me, and I knew I'd someday have to write about it. The idea seemed absurd at the time, but now it's turned into a full-length novel.

Shawna, my lovely publisher actually let me have quite a say in the cover. The first one they created for Lucy was not what I had in mind, so I had my brother-in-law (a graphic designer) give it a whirl. I think what he came up with (and what we ultimately went with) is AMAZING and I just fell in love with it.

zipnes said...

Margay, if you've ever eaten more than two bowls (in a row) of Captain Crunch, than you know how inspiring it is! I think it was the pregnancy, however, that truly prodded me on to write Lucy. For the first time in my life I was feeling very protective of my future family, and I knew I needed to write about a character who went to great lengths to protect someone she loved. For the second question, I'd never thought about a sequel for Lucy until recently. It's been five years since I wrote that story, and I miss her. I'd love to continue her journey.

zipnes said...

Chey, my favorite genre is definitely short story collections. Julia Slavin, Lorrie Moore, & Elizabeth McCracken are some of my favorites. But in terms of novels, I really respect Alice Hoffman--and always enjoy a bit of magical realism.

Wanda, I definitely change all of the names, but yes, I have a fair share of real-life drama that ends up in my fiction. In Lucy, the flashbacks in particular are loaded with quite a bit of factual stuff. Weird P.E. locker room drama, scary bosses I've had, a sadly, animals that have perished under my watch!

donnas said...

Great interview. I have been wanting to read this since I first heard about it.

If they turned it into a movie who would you want to star?

Also posted on the sidebar here:

bacchus76 at myself dot com

Llehn said...

My question is how did you celebrate when you sold your first book?


Jake Lsewhere said...

I somehow had missed hearing about this book, but after reading through the interview it looks good, please enter me into this drawing.

Thanks for hosting this giveaway.

ddurance said...

Hi Elizabeth! Obviously, we are all familiar with Stephen King, but I don't think I've even heard of those other authors that you like to read. Could you tell us more about them?

deidre_durance at hotmail dot com