Q&A With Author Leslie Kain

Amanda K. (BookBuzz)

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Secrets In The Mirror with author Leslie KainBookBuzz

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Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I’ve been writing stuff all my life. As a kid, I had a secret life. I figured out how to read by the age of three and managed to scribble (illegibly, I’m sure) thoughts, ideas, secret plans, etc., graduating to poems, plays, stories, news & editorials, etc as I aged, followed by more plans, essays, research papers, a teacher’s guide on journalism for gifted middle schoolers, then nonfiction in my various careers (professional, scientific, technical). But it wasn’t until a few years ago, when I shifted to a less demanding career, that I began attempting fiction. Short stories at first (some were published in literary journals & anthologies), then novels.

What inspired you to write your first book?
Although this isn’t my first book, it’s the first to be published. I was inspired by two things: First, someone I know has two daughters who were very close in childhood, but in adulthood the older one developed narcissism: manipulating, demeaning & gaslighting the younger one, with devastating effects, causing the younger to cease communication. But the older sister even began a trolling campaign through the mail, which escalated to criminal levels (which inspired one plot twist in my book). Secondly, certain public figures have demonstrated Malignant Narcissistic Personality Disorder, with devastating effects on the public. With my background in psychology, I had seen some of these behaviors professionally, and I wanted to write a story that shows how such dysfunctional behavior can destroy individuals, families, and even the greater community.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
My loyal Critique Partners (whom I met through our membership in WFWA, the Women Fiction Writers Association). We began as a group of five (including me), lost one due to illness, and the four of us (from Mexico, Florida, New York, Canada) met via Zoom every Monday evening, giving feedback & suggestions on the one chapter from each that was shared days before. We all received spot-on, exceptionally helpful inputs, encouragement & support, which propelled me over the finish line on my book.

What genre do you consider your book(s)?
That’s a great question. Genres can be so fluid. At its core, this novel is a dysfunctional Family Saga. That dysfunction gets the characters into trouble, so it escalates to a Psychological Thriller. There are two major stakes in the novel: The main character must overcome the damage done to his self-esteem, his agency, his persona, by his dad’s demeaning bullying & his twin’s narcissistic gaslighting & abuse. That sort of personal emotional journey & transformation is the core definition of Women’s Fiction. The other major stake is the main character’s need to escape the physical danger of the Boston Mob that his twin brings with him, along with the threat to his life & his business from his twin’s stalking. Those threats are the essence of Thrillers.
All my writing is basically psychological, regardless of genre.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
The book spans eleven years between 1994 and 2005, from the twins’ 16th birthday through their 27th. I scrupulously referenced music, slang, movies, clothing and events relevant to those years, in the novel. But I failed to include 9/11/2001! That world-changing event occurred between Devon’s wedding in July and a tragic occurrence in the DiMasi family on Christmas. A scene or chapter between those events, which dealt with 9/11, would have been a great metaphor for the rapidly deteriorating dynamics cascading in the family.

Do you feel like it’s most important to have A) Strong characters B) Mind-blowing Plot twists or C) Epic settings?
Strong characters. By “strong”, I mean real, fully developed, alive (they may in fact be weak or flawed). Then the characters will react, influence & drive the mind-blowing plot twists and epic settings.

What are your current projects?
After I finished Secrets In The Mirror, I thought there wouldn’t be a sequel, given how it ended. But early one pre-down, in that between-sleep-dream-awake state, my character Gavin poked me: “Wait! There are some loose ends that must be tied up. And doing so will introduce more danger and risk. And why do you think I’m fully healed after what you put me through?” And he laid out an amazing plot (but not the ending, which usually emerges ¾ through the writing). I’m working on that now, thanks to Gavin. It will be another psychological fiction, mystery + suspense. I also have a folder on my computer where I frequently dump story ideas. A picture, a quote, a poem, a news article, etc., all annotated with a few notes on how it could contribute to or even launch a story, a novel, or a plot twist. There’s even an entire plot framework for a psychological Sci‑Fi that came to me in a dream! There are so many, I don’t think I’ll ever find the time to write all the stories. I’ve been thinking about putting a few of them out on my blog and asking readers & followers to speculate how they think the story should play out. Sort of a community game!

How do you think being a writer has helped you as a person?
Because of my traumatic childhood, I became expert at repressing my emotions. Which was okay when I wrote nonfiction, but it constrained my ability to make my characters come alive in fiction. Thanks to Donald Maass’ books & workshops related to the Emotional Craft Of Fiction, I learned to dig into deep layers of a character’s emotions, which then opened me to do the same for myself. Which not only improved my fiction immensely, it also opened me to more authentic friendships.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I can’t choose just one!! Barbara Claypole White writes characters with mental illness so accurately & effectively. Wally Lamb’s “voice” in telling stories of characters with inner turmoil, Tana French’s crime mysteries sit on a bedrock of family influences, William Kent Krueger’s voice with descriptions that come alive.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?
Go to my website and subscribe to my newsletter.

Find out more about Leslie and her books on her website at https://lesliekain-psychfiction.com/

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Amanda is a PR manager and book lover from Georgia. When she's not working, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and two doggies.

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