I am so sorry to be so late posting this interview. We've had a major ice storm, and my daughter and son-in-law over 30 miles away were sick and needed my husband and me to help them.
Today, we're welcoming Jeff LeJeune to the blog. Jeff, tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
There is a lot of me in my characters, but it’s more of the “me” that never ends up visible to the outside world. Sure, there are some events in my work that are borrowed from my life, but most of my characters’ actions represent things I could have done or thought about doing but didn’t. It’s like I get to live two separate lives. And it works both ways: Sometimes I have my characters do the right thing when I wish my life had reflected that; sometimes I have my characters do the wrong thing that I didn’t do. Rarely if ever will I put something wrong that I did do because I simply don’t see the need to relive it nor does my soul need the reminder.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
I once hopped around the classroom like a frog stuffing rolled up paper in my mouth to provide a spark to my class for the lesson on Twain’s “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” When I see students from that year now seven years removed, take a guess what they remember :-).
Students always remember the interesting things teachers do to liven their learning. When did you first discover that you were a writer?
I discovered it when I was in high school and people raved about my voice in writing. However, the seeds were being planted along the way even before that. My sister taught me my ABC’s when I was two, I was reading in Kindergarten, and I wrote short stories all the time all the way through my freshman year of high school. The interesting thing is that people I knew in high school noticed my future before I did. Whenever they find out I have two books published, they tell me that they are proud of me and that they are happy my dreams of being a writer were finally coming true; the thing is I have no recollection of ever talking about being a writer in high school. Maybe who we are and what we’re destined to be just leaks out to the people who care enough to notice, even though we might not talk about it.
Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I like to read fiction—short stories and novels—but it’s difficult for me to stay fully immersed in novels, even though I’m a novelist myself. Short stories are good because they’re easy to bring into the classroom to teach; but there have only been a handful of novels that I just couldn’t put down. Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, as long as it is, was like that. What seems to really touch me are memoirs and theological non-fiction reading. I also like to throw in an audio CD when I’m on the road, The Godfather being my favorite. Poetry is also wonderful because it’s short and I often don’t have a lot of time to read, but the genre does not stick with me as do the others. “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe is a marked exception.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
The Final Chase, a novel being marketed as fantasy, but really, it’s more speculative fiction.
Poof, a darkly-comedic novel I am currently working on.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I remember to walk every now and then.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
They’re chosen randomly, but in the old British tradition, I try to come up with last name that will somehow symbolize the character. Not all of them are like this, but I think it’s a neat thing to do because I can play on their names in the narration of the story.
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Being named Mr. HMS my senior year at Hanson Memorial High School may seem like I won a popularity contest, but I really don’t think that’s what it was. I always tried to represent myself, my school, and my family with passion and integrity, and I think my peers recognized that. I am most proud of that because I hadn’t grown up with my classmates; I joined them in seventh grade, stayed at the school six years, and apparently was a good enough person to earn their respect. I was genuinely shocked when my name was announced, and the absence of desire for the award actually made it sweeter.
Cool. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
No question a tiger. It really has nothing to do with species itself; it has more to do with the symbolic nature of the animal in the Rocky series. The “Eye of the Tiger” for me means to live life with passion, focus, and an edge that will not accept defeat as final.
What is your favorite food?
A meal I love and eat a lot of is scrambled eggs, biscuits, grits, and turkey bacon. I eat it at least once a week. However, my favorite is a food I rarely eat because it is so unhealthy—fried chicken. Chinese food and pizza are also fat-piles I indulge in only every so often.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
The art of the trade has become a breeze compared to the business side of it. It is very difficult to get everyone involved—publisher, distributor, and bookstores—on the same page with the vision I as an author have. I am actually dealing with that right now, so I can’t say I’ve overcome it. I don’t know if I ever will, but I just keep waiting for my break to come, and while I wait, I work.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
As far as the artistic side of it goes, I’d advise him or her to make sure the book is in order before it is published. Don’t hold onto things just because it took you a long time to write it. I think it is always difficult to do that, to delete creations the creator has created; but it is a necessary evil in writing. Sometimes, as good as something is, it just doesn’t fit.
I would also advise a new author to be ready for the trials involved in the business side of being an author. There are no promises in this trade, and oftentimes the gratification must be found from within yourself.
What would you like to tell us about the featured book?
A struggling priest. A jilted lover. One letter that changes it all after fifteen years.
Sounds intriguing. How can readers find you on the Internet?
My website is http://www.thefinalchase.com/, and links to where readers can buy the book can be found at the bottom of the home page. I suggest ordering through my publisher to ensure a swifter shipment. I also have a blog site at http://www.postmarkedbaltimore.blogspot.com/. Facebook and Goodreads are two social networks I am a part of. Find me, befriend me, and I’ll be glad to accept!
Thank you, Jeff, for spending this time with us.
Readers, check out Jeff's web site. Also leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of the book.