Q. Will your next book be about Fleur de Leigh? When can we read it?
A. Buckle your seatbelts; I’m compelled to give a long and convoluted answer.
I was working on the novel that would have completed the Fleur de Leigh trilogy just as my mother, Aleen Leslie, the star of my novels as she herself said, began to decline -- mentally more than physically. She was in her nineties.
Like a wind-up toy, she seemed confined to a few repeated phrases. Among them were, “My husband was the first blonde in the family!” She must have had hair on the brain and forgot what was on her head because at this point she refused all trips to the beauty parlor. When I arranged for a hairdresser to coif her tresses at the house, Aleen bit her.
Immediately thereafter she stopped wearing her teeth. Without them her cheeks caved in. My once glamorous mother looked like a walking cadaver.
I was devastated. I felt helpless. I was irritable and chagrined. I lost my sense of humor. I couldn’t write.
Cleaning out a closet one day (what else do you do when you aren’t writing?) I came across “An Abstract Expression,” the manuscript of a novel that I’d written in my youth. Unlike my Fleur books, it was in no way autobiographical and so I found it pleasurable, a real relief, to start work on it.
I’d reached the halfway mark on my revision of “An Abstract Expression” when my mother, aged 102, died. As my day-to-day worries about her ceased I regained my comedic outlook. Low and behold, I suddenly knew how to write the last Fleur de Leigh novel!
Writing two books at the same time proved to be a no-no so I settled on one. I can happily say that in another six months you can expect Fleur III.
Q: What made you want to write?
A: As a child I observed first-hand how aggravating a writing career could be. My mother wrote movies, books, radio and television but almost every day she had a dispute with an agent or producer.
Also, I had the impression that no one could write without simultaneously smoking. I was allergic to smoke.
Eventually I did admit to myself that I am incapable of describing any situation without making a story of it. Not everyone (my family) can hold still while hearing detailed descriptions so the only way to contend with my compulsion is to write.
|Q: Who are your favorite writers?
A: My favorites change from day to day but over the years I’ve continuously loved Balzac, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Evelyn Waugh and an almost forgotten writer named Peter De Vries. With each new book he writes, Philip Roth astounds me.
Q: What are the greatest influences on your writing?
A: While still a teenager I became a story analyst for the television division of Columbia Pictures. And over the last twenty years I’ve led dozens of book groups. This may be an odd thing to say but I’ve probably learned more about writing from the not-so-good novels. When I’m reading a great book I’m so thoroughly engaged, I forget to be analytical.
Q:Are your books autobiographical?
Q: How did your family react to your novels?
A: Since my mother is the comic villain of the Fleur De Leigh novels, I expected repercussions. No, she adores them. “I am their star,” she explains. At my book parties my mother has been known to sign my books!
Q: What advice can you give to aspiring writers?
A: Most of us need life experience and maturity before we can write well. Knowledge of subjects other than literature is immensely helpful. Having a gloomy childhood can be an asset. Never leave home without a book.