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."
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?
Elizabeth: 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?
Elizabeth: 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!
PVN: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.
PVN: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 http://elizabethleiknes.com/, 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.