Lisa Lipkind Leibow’s debut novel Double Out and Back is a roller coaster of a read and a fantastic one at that. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Lisa’s novel, I was loathe to put it down, the story captivated me. Thank you, Lisa, for such a great read and for participating in this interview.
DOUBLE OUT AND BACK QUESTIONS
The title Double Out and Back is a great one, it alludes to the roller coaster of life. Can you explain the title a bit for our readers? Are you a fan of roller coasters yourself?
A double out and back roller coaster is one that travels “a circuit which heads out and then returns to the station, progressing over a number of bunny-hops, and then traveling out again and returning finally to the station.” You’re exactly right that it’s symbolic of the ups, downs, and second chances we all encounter as we go through life. I don’t want to spoil the plot for those who haven’t yet read the novel, but there are also some other links to “double out” and then going back for further action.
Who is your favourite character in Double Out and Back and why?
This question is like asking a mother ‘who is your favorite child?’! I can tell you, my favorite character to create was Chandy. I really enjoyed the challenge of bringing her to life and delving into a time and place I didn’t experience first-hand. I liken it to writing historical fiction, except that here, there are still people alive who were there. I had the added benefit of being able to talk to people who were there, rather than merely relying on historical documents and records.
The treatment of infertility is the main focus of the novel – how did you go about researching this?
When my husband and I set out to start a family, I listened carefully to the warnings and advice from my doctors. I have always had an extremely vivid imagination. The information physicians must disclose every time they prescribe a treatment or medication, make my wheels start to turn. Soon, I found myself ruminating over what would it be like if ALL of these remote-chance risks happened? Not only did I find a wealth of information from various support groups like Resolve, and information in libraries, and internet. Also, you would be surprised how every time the subject of my novel-in-progress came up in conversation, women freely shared their own experiences with me.
Amelia believes in superstition. Why did you decide to add this belief to her character?
Aside from the fact that Amelia’s superstitious nature served as a fantastic quirk to build on, I wanted to show one of the ways we try to exert control and order in our lives. Part of the human experience is the search to make sense of the world. Some of our beliefs are rational others are leaps of faith, myth, and superstition. I’ll leave it up to the reader to ponder whether the superstitions ruling Amelia’s life were true, coincidental, or self-fulfilling.
I loved the story of Chandy and Diogo. Are these characters based on real people?
Thank you. I loved writing the story of Chandy and Diogo. These characters aren’t based upon real people, no. Although, when I started to explore Chandy’s upbringing back in South Africa, I realized that my onetime view that Apartheid was all about separation of blacks and whites completely ignored the fact that the country was a cosmopolitan melting pot. I wanted to explore what it might have been like to be among the Jewish communities and mixed-race families whose lives were torn apart by the South African government’s classification and systematic separation by race.
One might call me a historical fiction writer wannabe. But because this was my first novel, I was reluctant to head full-force into the challenges of that genre. Chandy’s story, however, let me dabble in the genre and practice creating a time and place I never experienced first-hand. I hope I succeeded in bringing District Six in Cape Town to life for my readers.
Summer works in a law firm, she’s hoping to climb the ladder. As is quite common in this day and age ambition for the job seems to take over and we keep putting having a family off until we reach the level we desire. Did you write Summer to heighten the reader’s awareness of women’s liberty? What’s your view on that situation?
To me, women’s liberty equals choice. Every woman should be able to choose for herself what the right balance between career and family should be. This is a fluid state, too. As I see it, different shifts in the balance may work for different women (or for the same woman at different times). I can give my own experience by way of example. As a young mother-of-one, I worked full-time and sent my son to day care. As a mother of three, I hired au pairs to live-in for several years and still maintained my professional career. I later decided I’d rather have my au pair’s job and left my job to take a more active role in the day-to-day with my children. This moving from a professional life to a domestic one does not make me feel any less liberated. Please don’t interpret my answer as a belief that woman should stay home. Nor do I think every woman should have a job outside the home. To me being a liberated woman means having the courage to live the life you find the most meaningful and fulfilling.
Control seems quite an issue with the three main characters. Did you add the control issue in consciously? Is it because you think women should take control of their lives or because they feel they have to control their lives too much and perhaps should surrender some control?
Mandy, you have zeroed in on the theme of Double Out and Back. I’m so glad my novel spoke its message to you so clearly. Control and surrender are the essence of the novel. The characters illustrate how we all strive to have power over our lives and do everything we can to achieve our goals. However, we must surrender to that unknown factor of what is beyond our control.
Will we be seeing any characters from Double Out and Back in any future novels?
At this time, I have no plans to spin-off any of the characters from Double Out and Back. If I did, I would likely expand on the stories of the children of Amelia, Summer, and Chandy.
There are quite a few tasty dishes in the novel, I must say some quite mouth-watering descriptions. Did you research these or do you enjoy cooking yourself?
I do love to cook—when I have the time. However, Amelia is more adventurous than I am in the kitchen. Some of the dishes she prepares, I have never cooked. For instance foie gras and shad roe are two items I only order in restaurants. Did I mention, I love to eat more than I love to cook? As I work more and more on crafting fiction, I guess, I have learned writing about the total sensory experience of food brings me pleasure, too. I’m glad you enjoyed the foodie-writing. In the course of promoting this novel, I have shared some of the recipes, including one for Bubba’s magic brownies and another for Amelia’s Favorite Risotto. Perhaps I should put together a recipe booklet to give away at my next booksigning!
Double Out and Back is currently available as an ebook and I understand will be available in paperback in the future. What is your take on ebooks and what are you thoughts on testing the market with an ebook for starters?
I have no problem that I’m initially published in e-book format. E-reader manufacturers like Kindle, Sony, Nook and the new Apple iBooks, show increasing market penetration, and the younger generation already reads on iPhones and other handheld devices.
To me, my publisher’s business plan makes complete sense. The world is going digital, and the distribution of e-books is much more cost-effective than printing books. Think about it. The cost of a ream of paper averages around $6.00. Now, add costs of ink, binding, cover, shipping, shelf space, etc. Red Rose is smart. It’s rolling out distribution of my book in phases. Once the revenue from the e-book sales recoup enough of its up-front investment, Red Rose will release the trade paperback, too.
I adore the complete, sensory experience of holding a print book – the smell of the pages, the way the paper feels between my fingers, and the look of the ink on the page. I love to dog-ear and highlight favorite passages as I lose myself in the fictive dream a good book conjures. I savor, devour, and love print books. Nothing could replace that love.
But e-books offer new ways to love literature. I can adjust font size of print as large or small as I like. I can keep a file of “clippings” of favorite passages. I can perform keyword searches, and gain quick access to material when I’m on deadline. More than that, e-books are great for impatient people, like me. The ability to download a book within seconds of deciding I want to read it is fantastic.
I’m thrilled to make my publishing debut in the best of both worlds!
How long did it take you to write Double Out and Back?
From the time I thought of the idea for centering a plot around embryo donation to the time I felt ready to shop Double Out and Back to publishers, three years of hard work had gone into this novel. I can write a first draft in a couple of months. But it’s a brain-dump only fit for my eyes – a means of getting the story out of my head and onto the page. From there I can refine and revise for years. If left to my own devices, I could probably work on the same novel for my entire life. I can always find a way to enhance a character, weave in a new subplot, or tweak the language. With Double Out and Back, my editor finally had to tell me it was time to let go and let the public have it.
Was it a scary process to get your first book published?
I’m not sure if “scary” is the word that captures how I feel to have my first book published. There are many emotions wrapped up in the experience: excited, proud, excited, and yes, anxious. Working with an editor and getting the first professional read of my work was exhilarating. I take pride in the validation of my ability to craft fiction. Readers sharing their feelings about my work or talking about my characters as if the were real people excites me. The anxiety comes into play when I consider how the skills for crafting good fiction and marketing it are completely different. When it comes to the business side of publishing and book promotion I’m at the low end of the learning curve.
Where is your favourite place to write?
Other than a study carrel in the quiet room at the local library and a couple of favorite coffee shops I haunt, I have some special niches at home in which I love to curl up with my laptop or a pad of paper and pen. In my home office, I have a beautiful antique partner’s desk that serves as a great spot to stack copies of manuscripts, envelopes, stamps, and such. I rarely sit at it. Instead I like to curl up on a fainting sofa – it seems the perfect spot for drama to unfold. I often write there, balancing my computer in my lap and listening to my dog Bosco snoring at my feet.
Another favorite spot for writing is where I sit while writing this interview—at my breakfast table. My breakfast room has a picture window overlooking my backyard garden, which at the moment is covered with a freshly fallen snow.
Are there any books currently in the making?
I have several projects at various phases of development: a second novel in search of a publishing home, a middle grade high-fantasy novel being reviewed by my critique partners (I wrote this for pure fun when I needed a break from the more serious subject matter I usually deal with), a new literary novel I’m in the midst of a first draft, and yet another novel in research phase. Part of my creative process requires letting a manuscript rest to give some distance before revising. I use the time while I’m resting from one project to work on another.
When did you first start to write with the aim of getting published?
I’ve been writing fiction during every possible moment for about six years, and dabbling in it for as long as I can remember before that.
What are you reading now and how are you liking it?
I’m in the middle Alex Haley’s Roots. I’m really enjoying the read. I’m planning to rent the miniseries once I’m done. Lately, I have been on a kick to read books on which movies I love are based. I like to see how the transition from novel to film is done.
How many books would you read in a year roughly?
I just set a goal for 2010 to read at least 50 books. You can follow my progress on Goodreads!
What do you do in your spare time when you’re not working?
My life is filled with the happy chaos of my husband, children, and a menagerie of pets. They amuse me to no end. But when I have some “me” time, I try to stay active by biking, jogging, and doing yoga. I really need to counteract all of the sitting that crafting good fiction requires.
Who would you most like to meet (dead or alive) and why?
Not surprisingly, I would love to have had the chance to meet William Shakespeare. I wonder what he would think of how the plays he wrote are timeless. The themes, foibles, thirst for love, power all still relevant today. We may set the plot in modern era as in turning Taming of the Shrew into Kiss Me Kate, or Romeo and Juliet into West Side Story, but the plots ring true. Would he be proud that we’re still drawn in, or would he be sad we don’t seem to learn from his cautionary tales.
I understand you had an experience relating to 9/11 – are you able to explain what happened and how you felt?
Even after all of these years, I have been reluctant to put my feelings into words when it comes to the events of 9/11. I have mentioned this event as one of the major influences in forcing me to re-evaluate the way I balanced my life as an attorney and mother. I’m still not sure I can delve into the deep emotions that the tragic events of the day stir for me. However, Mandy, I will share a little about where I was that day.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I arrived at 7:00 a.m. work at my law office in downtown DC, like any other day. The news of the planes hitting the World Trade Center spread through the office and soon we all gathered in the conference room around a television, watching in horror. News reports were filled with information that would later prove wrong. When a third plane hit the Pentagon, further reports of an explosion at the State Department and a raging fire on the National Mall fueled panic around the office. Nobody wanted to get on the Metro to go home, for fear of the underground rail being a next target by a then-unknown enemy. We looked out the window to find gridlock on the streets outside, as panicked people tried to flee the city. Our office was next to CBS News (and I worried that the media might also be a next target), I decided it was probably safer to stay inside the office building than to be sitting in a traffic jam in my car or walking out on the street.
The telephone lines were jammed, but when I finally reached my husband, who worked in Virginia, he had already retrieved our kids from school and had headed home with them. We were in the midst of transitioning Au pairs, so at home with them were one woman in her last week with us, and a new Au Pair from Latvia, who had a pretty rude welcome party to the U.S. I found some comfort in knowing they were at home. But I still had no idea if/when it would be safe to head out on the streets.
One of the paralegals in the office was a Vietnamese immigrant. She spent much of the day crying in my office, saying things like, “I never thought I would feel safer in my country than here.”
Late in the afternoon, the head partner and I looked out the window, and saw the streets had finally cleared out. We rode home together in a daze, smoke still rising from the Pentagon in the distance. The skyways loomed eerily still but for an occasional helicopter transporting wounded from the Pentagon to hospitals or fighter jet patrolling the area. I arrived home to find my family safe, but to find my neighbors caring for a boy from their son’s daycare whose mother was also stuck in D.C. like I was, and whose father had flown to NY that morning for a meeting at the World Trade Center. He never came home. Another father of a pre-school classmate of my twins lost his life in the Pentagon attack.
If this were fiction, I might delve deeper into the complex emotional response—the pain, the relief to have my family safe, the guilt over feeling relief, the sorrow for so many lives lost, the anger over what hate can accomplish. But this was real. And even after almost a decade, I’m not ready. For now, all I can do is share where I was, what I perceived, who was with me.
Who/what is your favourite:
I always have a tough time choosing just one. I’ve provided only one answer. However, if you asked me tomorrow, I might answer a completely different way!
Author? John Irving. I love his quirky characters. His latest is novel of the next on my to-be-read list!
Book? The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Character in a book? Celie from The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Genre to read? Literary Fiction
Quote? Write drunk. Revise sober.
Movie? Young Frankenstein
Film star? Meryl Streep. She can be ANYONE!
TV show? Saturday Night Live.
Holiday destination? Coastal Maine – or any beach, alone with my husband and a good book.
Animal? My dog, Bosco. He’s a clumber spaniel.
Band? The Beatles
Song? Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen
Meal to cook? Grilled cumin-rubbed Scallops, Zucchini, and Scallions with White Beans in a cilantro mustard sauce – it’s easier than it sounds, and delicious! Serve it with a nice Riesling. Yum. I’m tempted to shovel the snow off of my grill so I can make this tonight!
Drink? Grey Goose Martini, straight up with olives.
And last but not least, what one question would you ask yourself in an interview and what would the answer be?
Hmmm… I guess if I only had one question, it would be, “Where can readers find out more information about you and your book, including links to purchase Double Out and Back?”
My answer: Visit my website [click here for Lisa’s website] You’ll find links to my blogs, information about upcoming events and appearances, buy links, links to follow me on twitter, facebook, goodreads, and more!
Thank you very much, Lisa, for providing me with such a fantastic read and also participating in this interview!
Mandy, the pleasure was all mine! I enjoyed answering your thoughtful questions. I can’t thank you enough.
Click here to go to Lisa’s profile on my website where you will find links to the blurb of Double Out and Back, my review of Double Out and Back, Lisa’s website, her Goodreads profile and a link to purchase Double Out and Back.