Author Interview: Deborah LeBlanc on the Horror Writers Association

Deborah LeBlanc is an award-winning author from Lafayette, Louisiana. She is also a business owner, a licensed death-scene investigator, and an active member of two national paranormal investigation teams. Deborah’s unique experiences, enthusiasm, and high-energy level make her a much sought after speaker at writers’ conferences across the nation. She also takes her passion for literacy and a powerful ability to motivate to high schools around the country.

She is the president of the Horror Writers Association, president of the Writers’ Guild of Acadiana, president of Mystery Writers of America’s Southwest Chapter, and an active member of Sisters in Crime, the National Association of Women Writers, and International Thriller Writers Inc.

In 2004, she created the LeBlanc Literacy Challenge, an annual, national campaign designed to encourage more people to read.

Her most recent novels are: Family Inheritance, Grave Intent, A House Divided, and Morbid Curiosity. Deborah’s next release, Water Witch, is scheduled to be on bookstore shelves in December 2008.

Congratulations on the release of Morbid Curiosity (Dorchester, 2007)! Could you tell us about the book and what inspired it?

Morbid Curiosity is about a set of sixteen-year-old twin girls whose lives are turned upside down after their father dies and their mother is committed to a hospital after she attempts suicide. Without parents, the girls are eventually shipped off to Mississippi to live with grandparents they hardly know, and it’s there they decide to take control of their lives by way of Chaos Magic. The one thing they don’t count on conjuring up, though, is their own death sentence.

The inspiration for this story came while I was doing research on shamans for another book. I found a link on a website marked “sigils,” and curiosity sent me clicking away. The information I discovered on sigils and Chaos Magic blew me away. The intense measures that many practitioners (most of them teens) use to “charge” and “feed” their sigils is nothing short of horrifying. Some claim to have gone so far as committing murder. I couldn’t not do a story on that.

If you could go back in time to your beginning writer self, what advice would you give her?

My immediate advice would be, “Run, Forest, run!” LOL…

In all seriousness, from an “outsider’s” perspective, writing looks like the easiest job in the world. In truth, it’s one of the toughest. It requires a lot of self-discipline, determination, and an unrelenting commitment to continuously improving your craft. Aside from that, there are tons of nay-sayers out there waiting to tell you why it’s impossible to get published.

My advice to “her” now would be the same advice I gave “her” back then: “Quit worrying about what everyone says. Just tell a great story in the best way possible. If you do that, the rest will take care of itself…period.”

What advice do you have for fellow writers on the subject of writing horror specifically?

My advice would be to really consider the aspect of fear and what causes it. To me, horror isn’t just about blood, guts, and gore. It’s about getting into a reader/viewer’s psyche and touching their core phobias, their hidden and unspoken fears.

How do you balance your writing life with the responsibilities of being an author?

It’s not that difficult for me to balance writing and all the things that go along with it, like promotions. What gets tough is balancing writing and all that goes along with it along with life in general. You know, like sleeping, making time to put gas in your car, maintaining relationships, going to the bathroom, etc.

You’re the president of the Horror Writers Association. When was the group established, and what is its purpose?

HWA was incorporated in March 1987, and its core purpose is to encourage public interest in Horror and Dark Fantasy literature. Our aim is to foster an appreciation of good Horror and Dark Fantasy literature, both for pleasure and information, thus broadening the intellectual and cultural horizons of the general public and the members of the organization.

Could you describe the membership and who is eligible to join?

There are three classes of membership within HWA; Active, Affiliate, and Associate.

Active members must be professional writers in the field of Horror or Dark Fantasy. The definition of “professional writers” can be found on our website under membership requirements.

Affiliate members include writers in the field of Horror or Dark Fantasy who have not yet met the definition of “professional.” Any person who professes a serious professional interest in horror fiction is eligible to become an affiliate member of HWA. Once again, the definition of “serious professional interest” can be found on HWA’s website under membership requirements.

Associate members include individuals working as professionals other than writers in the field of Horror or Dark Fantasy. Those other professions consist of: illustrators; literary agents; booksellers; and anthologists. Also, any institution with a legitimate interest in Horror or Dark Fantasy literature, such as high schools, colleges, universities, libraries, broadcasting organizations, film producers, publishers, and similar institutions, or an individual associated with such an institution, is eligible to become an associate member of HWA.

What opportunities are available to members?

Whether you’re an aspiring writer working toward your all-important first pro-level sale or a seasoned novelist with a dozen books to your credit, HWA can help further your career through networking, mentoring, information trading, and promotional resources.

If you’re a producer, publisher, editor, or agent, you’ll find our networking resources invaluable for finding dedicated, productive writers to add to your stable. And if you’re a librarian or bookseller, you’ll have an inside track on talented writers, hot new books, and likely award winners.

How do children’s and young adult authors fit into the mix?

They fit into the mix in the same way they do in any national and/or international writing organization. They’re a vital part of the whole. They’re nurturing our future adult readers.

Could you tell us about On Writing Horror: A Handbook of the Horror Writers Association edited by Mort Castle (Writer’s Digest, 2006)?

In the second edition of On Writing Horror, greats like Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Harlan Ellison, Jack Ketchum, and many others tell you everything you need to know to successfully write and publish horror novels and short stories.

It includes exclusive information and guidance from 58 of the biggest names in horror writing, things like:

• The art of crafting visceral violence, from Jack Ketchum;

• Why horror classics like Dracula, The Exorcist, and Hell House are as scary as ever, from Robert Weinberg;

• Tips for avoiding one of the biggest death knells in horror writing–predicable clichés–from Ramsey Campbell;

• How to use character and setting to stretch the limits of credibility, from Mort Castle.

What new directions do you anticipate?

In my opinion, HWA is on a path that will lead to significant growth. We’re constantly looking for ways to improve and increase member benefits, enhance our professionalism, and strengthen our presence in the publishing world.