RD: You choose to show both the good and bad sides of life in the Deep South. How do you find this balance in your fiction? Do you feel as if your novels make any statements about the South?
LB: For every racist or bigoted person I’ve ever encountered, I’ve met an open-minded, loving individual. For every sweltering humid day when a cockroach ran across my foot, I’ve had a day deep in the shade of the woods with my feet in a cool creek and tadpoles swimming around my toes. I believe that good writing is about showing both. As far as making a statement about the South…if anything, my novels observe a South saturated in tradition where at some point someone in a family doesn’t fit the mold. That’s what makes a good story.
RD: Both your white and your black characters feel well-rounded and believable. How do you achieve this?
LB: All of us, black or white, have quirks and warts that make us who we are. None of us are immune to some kind of bias or prejudice. So, for me, making characters believable is about showing their humanity, and that’s often best portrayed in the little things—the small ways in which each person’s own insecurities surface.
RD: Alligator Lake is told in a unique fashion—switching between the first person viewpoints of three female narrators. Did you find this difficult? Why did you select this method to tell the story?
LB: Once each voice was clearly established in my mind, then switching among the narrators felt natural and necessary to the story. I chose this method because each woman’s history helped us understand her responses in present day. In my opinion, the best way to understand the racial issues in Mississippi is to look back and see what’s been brought forward. It helps to see the crossroads in people’s lives when maybe they had a choice to see things differently, or treat someone differently.
RD: You pull from your medical knowledge to help the readers understand sickle-cell disease. Are there other conditions/diseases you feel strongly about and plan to include in your fiction? If so, why?
LB: I haven’t stumbled across anything in particular, but you never know!
RD: Share a bit of your creative process with us. Are you a structured type of writer—with diagrams, outlines, detailed notes—or do you create “on the fly?”
LB: I am a structured writer, particularly in the rewriting phase. Alligator Lake required a lot of structure for me because of the three story lines, with multiple flashbacks. I tried every trick in the book to get it all straight! The most helpful process ended up being a timeline with years and major events for each character. I also relied heavily on a family tree that I created in the beginning of writing the story. I even had to make a map for myself so that I could remember where everything was situated around Alligator Lake.
RD: How do you manage both a family and your busy professional life, and carve out time to write and promote? Has this venture changed your life for the better, and how?
LB: The only way I’ve been able to get novels written is to be disciplined–setting myself goals, writing every day, and remembering that even if I only get a few words done, it ultimately all adds up.
Promotion is challenging. For example, I blogged for a little over a year and then realized that I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with it. My Grandma always said “start out like you can hold out.” I’m always searching for promotion strategies that I can sustain over the long haul. For example, I do well with social media that requires short, frequent contact—like Facebook. And I love doing book clubs on Skype. What fun that is!
The thing about writing that’s made my life better is the sense of accomplishment that it gives me. It’s amazing how putting some words to paper or to the screen can help make a day feel purposeful. I have had to let some of my other interests go when I’m deep into finishing a novel. My garden wasn’t near as full this past summer, and the dust bunnies are taking over my house like Night of the Lepus.
RD: Are you working on another novel? Anything you might like to share with your readers? Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?
LB: I have a couple of other ideas in the works, but they’re not far along enough yet to share. After two novels, I feel that I’m at a crossroads with my writing. I definitely want to write another novel; but I find myself wondering about other settings, maybe other genres…there’s that magical realism story percolating on the shelf…