Who is the author?
Patricia Leavy earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from Boston College. After earning her Ph.D., she taught at Stonehill College for ten years while also serving as the Department Chairperson and even the Founding Director of the Gender Studies Program. Shortly after her tenth year of teaching and conducting research at Stonehill, Patricia decided to leave the academic world and pursue a career as a full time writer. Not only is she a full time published writer now, but she is also a Book Series Editor, Commentator, Speaker, Blogger for the Huffington Post, and Co-Author. She has appeared on television and radio including The Glenn Beck Show, and Lou Dobbs Tonight.
What is your book about?
PL: Fiction as Research Practice is about how researchers and writers can take can research they have conducted and write it up as fiction. The book includes a discussion of genres of writing that blur fiction and nonfiction (such as historical novels), the strengths of using fiction to communicate with audiences, and how you can approach writing up your research (the different components of a work of fiction and how one might develop a project). There are also lengthy examples of published work that I think represents some of the best fiction-based research out there. The book also includes appendices with tips, resources and even activities for students if professors use the book in their classes.
What made you decide to write this book?
PL: This book seems like an inevitable thing for me to have written but there was a long road to getting to it. Here is some background to how this book came to be. I am a proponent of arts-based research (ABR) which is when researchers in any field (sociology, psychology, health studies, education) use the creative arts in their research projects, often as a way to represent their findings. ABR makes research findings much more engaging and it can make research accessible to the public, whereas normally research is written up in academic journals that very few people read. I wrote a book about this called Method Meets Art: Arts-Based Research Practice (Guilford Press) which came out in 2008. Then in 2011 I launched the Social Fictions series (Sense Publishers) which publishes books written by professors in literary forms (novels, short story collections, plays) that have been informed by research or teaching experiences. This is the first book series of its kind to be published by an academic press. The first book in the series was my novel, Low-Fat Love (2011) which was loosely based on many years of interview research as well as teaching and personal experiences. When that book came out, Mitch Allen, the owner of Left Coast Press, who is someone I had previously worked with, saw what I was trying to achieve and he asked me if I wanted to write a book about fiction as a research practice. I said yes.
What were any obstacles you faced while writing this book?
PL: When Mitch Allen approached me with the idea of writing this book, I did not hesitate but I thought it was a tall order. Those of us in the arts-based research community sometimes have to fight to get our work published so I knew this was a real opportunity and I took it very seriously as a chance to advance the work of many in the arts-based and fiction communities. There is so much out there that could possibly be included and so many different ways one could approach the writing. Obviously you can’t include everything or come at it the way everyone might like. I had to make a lot of choices. I was fortunate to have the faith of my publisher as well as his guidance. I was also writing my novel, American Circumstance (Sense Publishers, 2013) at the same time I was writing this book. That was challenging and much to my surprise the books were released within days of each other, so it has been a real whirlwind.
Why should readers read your book? How is it unique?
PL: I think this book will be useful to both researchers and fiction writers. The book offers a lot of writing guidance but the content goes deeper, delving into the unique capabilities of fiction and how researchers and writers can tap into those possibilities. I think the addition of the 5 lengthy exemplars (two complete stories and several chapters from a novella and two novels) gives readers a lot of content in one book. I think anyone interested in writing or in the blurring of fact and fiction will find this book of value.
Are you working on any new books right now? If so when do they come out? What are they about?
PL: I have a few projects right now. Guilford recently asked me to write a second edition of Method Meets Art which is an honor. I also signed on with Guilford to write a second research methods book for them. It’s a major undertaking but something I have been hoping to do for a long time. I am humbled to say that my novel, Low-Fat Love, was Sense’s #1 selling book in 2012 so we decided to do something special for readers. We are releasing an anniversary edition of the book with some additions including my responses to the questions I have been asked the most about the book. At the same time I will be writing a nonfiction version of the book called Low-Fat Love Stories which is based on the real interviews I did with women about their dissatisfying relationships. The two books are sort of a love project for readers and I’m looking forward to those coming out simultaneously in 2016.
Do you have any favorite authors?
PL: I have a lot of authors I really like and I am always weary of naming them because some inevitably get left out but it’s no secret that two of my favorite authors are Carolyn Ellis and Laurel Richardson. They are both academics who really pushed on the borders of what nonfiction writing can look like-- merging the personal with the social, the creative with the factual, the contemporary with the historical. I've long been inspired by their work. They're also gorgeous writers with a real sense of craft, language and storytelling and admire that deeply.
Any advice for writers wanting to turn authors out there?
PL: The impression you make on those in the business is important and you need to demonstrate that you are professional. When you’re approaching publishers, editors or agents follow their guidelines. It sounds simple but I am the editor for four book series and I amazed by how often people don’t follow submission instructions. So if they ask you for the first 10 pages of your book, refrain from sending the whole thing. They won’t read it and you have shown them that you can’t follow directions well.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Where can we find you?
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