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Interview with YA author Leslie Concepcion

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Leslie Concepcion began writing poetry in high school. Since then, she has continued writing more poetry, as well as fiction and even a musical play which she plans to produce in the near future. She is a self-taught writer who has taken every opportunity to learn via online courses, reading, and researching. She lives in Connecticut with her family. Her debut novel, A Most Memorable Quinceanera, is forthcoming from Floricanto Press. Readers can read more of her stories at lilahthewriter.blogspot.com/

Welcome to the Examiner, Leslie. When did you start writing and what got you into your young adult fiction?

My first artistic expression was through poetry. I recall getting through my teenage angst and first heartbreaks by escaping through poetry. It was therapeutic then, and has continued to be the place where I release my overwhelming emotions. Nothing soothes my tormented soul like picking up a piece of paper, a pen, and writing until there are no words left.

I never considered writing a real book until my 28th birthday. I was watching a movie with my sister, telling her the way I would have portrayed it and she turned to me and said, "You should write your stories in a book." Her confidence in my ability ignited a passion for fiction writing. I have always had the stories and characters floating in my head, I just needed to figure out a way to translate these ideas into a clear story.

I base my stories on ideas generated in my intricate, and a slightly peculiar mind. Or sometimes an idea for a story comes from a vivid dream scene that lingers on my mind for days until I write it down. I'm a strong believer in my muse; I believe she guides me towards extraordinary characters, characters that need, or want their stories told. I don't set out to write for a specific genre, my stories fall upon their own genre as they come to life.

I have also written a dark-comedy/musical play titled House of Dolls, and just recently finished the rough draft to a new story, Reckless People. I would categorize Reckless People as mainstream/multicultural fiction, and I have two unfinished mystery/suspense/romances about halfway done.

What was your inspiration for A Most Memorable Quinceanera?

The idea for this story, A Most Memorable Quinceanera, came from an assignment I did for a fiction course I took with Gotham's Online writing classes. The assignment asked us to begin a story with the beginning Sam question the wisdom of the trip. Thus began my story about Samia (Sam) questioning her quinceanera. I incorporated the line into my story to remind me of how far I have come, "But seriously I am questioning the wisdom of this trip." The details developed out of the love of my heritage and this was the perfect venue to incorporate the rituals of a time honored journey.

George Orwell once wrote: "Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand" Comments?

This is an accurate description of the journey we writers embark on when we decide to write and complete a book. Although I wouldn't say I was driven by a demon, I am driven by something powerful, perhaps it is my muse.

Painful, yes because once I begin a story it consumes me, every part of me. I need to become one with my story in order for it to reveal itself in its entirety to me. I must live it, breathe it, sleep it, and have it on the back of my mind at all times. Therefore it is hard to concentrate on anything else, like real life. Real life that continues with or without me engaged in it. A writer has to sacrifice their social life in order to have a productive writing life.

I say the best cure for this "painful illness" is to write. Only by writing the story in its entirety can you once again engage your real life. I finished the rough-draft to my story Reckless People in two months because I could not stop thinking of my characters and my story, its was like an obsession I had and only when I finished the rough draft was I able to put my perspective back in order and focus on other things.

What do you love most about the writers’ life?

I love the fact that I give life to my characters and their worlds. I am their voice and I share their stories with others to entertain or to teach a lesson, or simply give insight into my Hispanic culture.

Writing gives me control; my stories are my imagination and I have creative control of the outcomes. I choose their world, and their ultimate fate; whether they live or die, or if they fall in love or have their heart broken. Being a writer allows you to lose yourself in a world that you, yourself have created. I can travel back in time or journey into the future. I can right wrongs and give the endings life sometimes denies us. And while the characters take on a life of their own, once the journey begins, my pen must start the process.

What do you do when your muse refuses to collaborate?

I learned the hard way, how important a muse is. About a year ago I began writing a story. I had dreamt of a vivid scene with two characters that lingered on my mind for days. So I picked up my notebook and began to write the scene. Thus began my story, The Night Rider, a tale about revenge gone wrong. Once I began writing this story, I lived, breathed, and slept with the story and the characters on my mind; however, due to stressors in my life, I was unable to finish the story. The characters abandoned, or rather my muse left me once I didn’t devote my time to writing. Till this day I can’t get back to that story. Now I am a slave to my muse, when she comes knocking on my door I open because I am afraid of losing my inspiration again.

If my muse is not collaborating with me for a writing project I act immediately. I once again surround myself with the story and the characters, and seclude myself, to a quiet room with just my notebook, pen and my writing music (instrumental). I prefer a notebook when I am in the creative process as I am too distracted with other things if I work on my laptop, like facebook, email, YouTube, etc. It takes total concentration on my part to draw my muse back and this is no easy task because I am a wife, a mother of three girls (one in college, a pre-teen and a five year old) I have 2 cats, one dog and I work full-time in a state agency. I have to withdraw from all when I feel my muse slipping away. It’s hard to balance keeping the muse happy, with keeping my family happy.

How do you define success?

I define success in two ways. #1. First and foremost is completing a goal. I set out to write a book and to have it published and in that aspect yes I have succeeded. In the future I hope to continue being able to write my stories and finding an audience for them.

#2. To define myself as a successful writer means being able to support myself by doing what I love to do, writing. The stories that live in my head want to be told but it is difficult to devote the hours necessary to complete writing even one chapter when my time has to be divided with full time obligations of work and family life. Having more time to devote to my craft would signify success.

What do you hope readers will get from your book?

If its one thing I want the readers to take away is that life is not a race so there is no need to rush yourself, or in the case of parents rushing your child to grow up. Your childhood is a magical period of your life, one that molds you and guides you toward the person you will become in the future. This is the one time you get to have fun, real fun, wild, imaginative, carefree fun. But once childhood is gone you never get it back. There is a hope that the reader will take a minute to reflect on how fast life is going and slow down to enjoy the current moment they are in.

And a message to the parents is, please lets slow it down. Let our girls gain life experiences and knowledge before we rush them to adulthood.

What is your advice for aspiring authors?

All I can say to aspiring authors is keep at it. No one gets anywhere in life without hard work and drive. Unfortunately rejection is a part of life. If you pursue your dreams whatever they may be, you must continue to believe in yourself despite rejections, and when no one else believes in you. And yes rejection does sting each time but you eventually develop immunity to the poison of rejection. Your success is determined by your efforts and your determination to succeed.

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