Thursday, March 21, 2013

Author Interview: Dina Leacock

Today, I'm interviewing veteran author Dina Leacock, aka Diane Arrelle, who contributed Paradox Lost to "The Temporal Element."  Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed, Dina.

MTI:  Starting off, could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

LEACOCK:  I’ve lived my entire life in New Jersey and am in love with the South Jersey Shore.  I am the director of a municipal senior citizen center. Before that I was a reporter and a freelance writer and before that I was a teacher for 10 years and …well, I can go on and on, let’s just say I seem to have a short attention span when it comes to careers.   I have been writing and selling fiction for about 25 years and for that my attention span never wavers. I have 2 sons, one living home and the other finishing college in England, and a wonderfully tolerant husband and of course the obligatory writer’s cat.

MTI:  Yes, I have several writer's cats, myself.  Now, getting down to business; what first compelled you to weave fiction, and what's your favorite type of story to write?

LEACOCK:  It’s funny but I never thought about being a writer growing up.  I loved reading so much and my brother had a huge collection of paperbacks and I’d sneak up to his room and read them. Of course they were mostly science fiction and horror.  I actually started writing fiction in some of my really boring college classes just to keep sane, and I suddenly realized that I wanted to be a writer.  I enjoy stories that are tinged with humor and right now I am into writing flash fiction. I really enjoy writing drabbles, 100 word stories. They are so much fun to create and an exciting challenge.

MTI:  Tell me, if you had to pick just one author who has influenced or inspired you, who would it be?

LEACOCK:  That’s too tough a question. I discovered science fiction by reading Asimov.  I loved the intensity of Harlan Ellison when I was in school. I really enjoyed reading the short stories written by Ray Bradbury, and I loved all the books of William Tenn.

MTI:  Your story, Paradox Lost, appears in The Temporal Element, a Martinus Publishing anthology devoted entirely to time travel adventures.  These fictional accounts are fascinating, of course, but do you ever believe that humanity will discover a viable way to travel backwards and forwards through time?

LEACOCK:  In a way I hope not.  I don’t have enough faith in the human race to not make a mess of it.  It would be wonderful to go back and actually see history and find out what really happened but boy would that destroy a lot of belief systems.   Like the line from the movie, I don’t think we can handle the truth.

 MTI:  If you could go back to any point in history, when would you visit?
LEACOCK:  This question really stopped me for a while, I immediately thought about seeing the pyramids being built or ancient Greece. Then I realized that I love history but I wouldn’t want to see how awful conditions were. I don’t really like dirt and squalor and so I decided that I want to keep my history clean and untainted by reality. I guess that I’d like to go back to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon and put all those conspiracy theories of it being staged to rest.

MTI:  Looking forward now, what futuristic piece of technology would you like to own, or have for your personal use?

LEACOCK:  Oh that’s easy, I want that little gizmo that would keep me youthful, active and healthy and increase my lifespan by many many decades.

MTI:  Yea, another vote for vitality!  Shifting back to your writing, can you tell us a little about what you're working on right now?

LEACOCK:  I’m always working on short stories.  I never have a problem finding something to write about and I really enjoy finding all these themed collections on-line with deadlines.  They inspire me to write and I am definitely a dead-line writer.  I love creating short pieces and I think way too narrow to be a novelist.  Novels today are so complicated, so many plots and subplots, so many twists and turns. I’m just not that clever. I’d be able to write a novel if I lived back in the 1950’s when they told simpler stories for the pulps. 

MTI:  Other than Paradox Lost appearing in The Temporal Element, do you have any other stories coming out in the near future?

LEACOCK:  I have my story The Last Page appearing in Morpheus Tales
My story Lost In The Cold coming out in Fresh Ground
My story Saturday Night at The CatTail Bar coming out in Contrary Cats
My story Spiders Touch coming out in Strange Mysteries 5
My story There Will Always Be Hell to Pay in Sins Of The Seven
My Story Weaving Tangled Webs in Mistresses OF The Macabre
and my drabble, A Small Misunderstanding in the Special Gourmet Issue of The Drabbler

MTI:  Quite an impressive collection there!  According to your bio, you live on the edge of the Pine Barrens in Southern New Jersey.  That's an area that holds some personal interest for me, in particular, as I have ancestral ties further south, most notably in Cumberland County.  What's life like in your neck of the woods these days, and how deep are your roots there?

LEACOCK:  My roots are very deep there, my grandparents moved from Europe to New York to Cape May County (the southernmost county in NJ)  during the first 2 decades of the 20th century.  I grew up in a tiny rural town, Woodbine, deep in the pines but close to the shore.  The town was so small that we were bussed to Millville in Cumberland County for High School (25 miles each way).  It was a great place to be as a kid, but not so great when I started to want a social life. After going to college in Central Jersey, I came back to South Jersey and lived in the suburbs near Philadelphia for a long time.  Somehow, my husband got me to move back to the Pine Barrens, but on the other side from where I started.  I love it here, it is peaceful, I have a great yard, we are rural, yet still close to Philadelphia and an hour from the shore.  The pines are sometimes very frightening on dark nights but I’ve spent so much of my life living in them that I use them for inspiration for many of my stories. We have our resident monster, the Jersey Devil, which many have claimed to see, and although I’ve gone looking for him, we’ve never met.

MTI:  On a lighter note, have you watched any good tv lately?

LEACOCK:  I love Doctor Who and watch the reruns in BBC America all the time.  I tend to SNL.

MTI:  Excellent, a fellow Whovian.  What sort of music do you enjoy?

LEACOCK:  I really enjoy an eclectic mix but I guess when I seek out stations, I like Adult Contempory music. I really like FUN and Train right now and I love the Trans Siberian Orchestra.

MTI:  As we near the end of our interview, is there anything special you'd like to say?  Perhaps some words of encouragement for other writers, or a sales pitch for potential readers?

LEACOCK:  To writers I have to say, never give up. Rejection is part of writing, is part of life. Take it in stride, if you get rejected, go on and send your writing out again and again and again. If you get feedback on your writing, read it and then make changes if they are really needed.  Here’s my sales pitch: buy my collection of short stories, Just A Drop In The Cup by Diane Arrelle!  And catch some of my stories listed above.  If you read one, be sure to like it someplace for me or make a nice comment.

MTI:  I'm sure our readers are curious about your work.  Before we go, do you have a few fresh paragraphs you'd like to share, perhaps something new that nobody else has seen before?

LEACOCK:  Here is the newest story I am working on and I am having a lot of fun writing it.

                            By Diane Arrelle

My name is Suzie.
You are living in my house, sleeping in my bed.

And someday, hopefully you will go through those boxes in the attic and save me.

I know the place is a rental and I know you are the fourth person to take up residence here since my disappearance. I bet you don’t even know about me, about the woman who disappeared one night without a trace.  Sure they suspected foul play or maybe suicide, but that’s not the case at all.  Nope, not at all.  It doesn’t matter.  All you have to do is go through those boxes in the attic. 

I tried to tell my story to the others before you, but it didn’t work. They slept too soundly, didn’t have enterable dreams. I hope you are different.  I hope you hear me.

I’ve lived all my life in Arkansas. Never saw the ocean, never saw an ice berg, never saw anything but Arkansas.  Not a bad place to live, but I’m a Pisces, I needed to be near the sea. 

I went to the mall one day and after throwing a wishing penny or ten into the fountain, I turned and saw the calendar store. I was drawn to it like a fish to a worm on a hook, suckered in by the calendar in the window, Seascapes To Live By.  I was shopping for Christmas presents for my friends and the only family I have, my stepsister and I thought, wow, a calendar what a great gift idea. 

I couldn’t believe the prices, shocking! But I didn’t care because I was charging it all and I wasn’t worried about the bill. I figured I’d pay it off when I could, a little bit at a time.  I wonder if my debt has been forgiven or forgotten after two years of being one of the missing?  Oh well, I’m drifting off course.

I looked at all the selection, there were hundreds of varieties, styles and sizes, but I couldn’t take my eyes off that one with the pictures of the ocean.

MTI:  Wonderful.  Well, thank you, Dina, for a great interview.  I'm sure our readers will go hunting for more of your other work, but for those who are after your time travel short, they can pick up The Temporal Element.

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