A Little about Me
I was asked to contribute an article to a fellow author’s blog. At first I panicked. I didn’t know what to write about. I’m a listener. I listen to other people’s stories. I’m a good listener. I don’t like speaking about myself. Therefore, I don’t like to write about myself. But now that I’m a writer, I have to move into the spotlight.
I’ve done a few interviews on fellow authors’ blogs. Their questions helped to serve as guidelines. Now I have a blank page to deal with. Should I write about why I had decided to become a writer? I don’t think so. It has been done to death by writers. I believe I will write about what had inspired me to pursue my career in Finance. It wasn’t a ‘what’ but a ‘who;’ the person who I had looked up to and then had lost too early in life. This was my brother, Neil Leist.
Neil was the type of person who lit up a room when he entered it. He was 6’2”, but it wasn’t his height that drew others’ eyes. It was his dynamic personality and his intelligence. Those grey eyes mirrored his great intellect and capacity for greatness. He acted as my father when my father wasn’t home but working long days and nights driving a taxi. He took care of my blind mother until I was old enough to help out. He sheltered me as much as he could from life and responsibilities. He shouldered these burdens himself.
He did well in college but he flourished in the business world. He traded on the Commodity Exchange until he had enough money to take over a Fortune 500 company. With a majority share in its stock, he took over American Bakeries. Taystee Bread was never going to be the same. He took me along on his ride to stardom. I worked for him on the Exchange and in his offices on Madison Ave. in Manhattan. I majored in Finance at New York University, preparing to join him. All was going well for once in my life and in my brother’s life. My parents were proud. He helped them out. All was perfect until that awful phone call in the middle of the night.
My lights went out. All the light in the world was gone for me. I was stuck in darkness as dark and deep as the one my mother lived in. My brother had been in a car accident in the Hamptons. His fancy, red Porsche had hydroplaned on the wet roads. Neil was a great driver with quick reflexes. He drove the car off the road and onto the grass. Luck wasn’t with him. A truck was parked in his path and the Porsche crashed beneath it.
Neil was in a coma for two years before he passed away. Meanwhile, his so-called friends at American Bakeries were undermining his position at the company causing the stock price to drastically plummet. We had to sell off his investment in one big chunk at a big loss. Most of his money was tied up with this company. I spent eight years dealing with all the vermin or finance people and lawyers before his estate could be settled.
I lost my taste for high Finance. I did get an M.B.A. in Finance but it soon lost its appeal to me. I wasn’t cutthroat. I wasn’t a back stabber. I wanted an interesting job that was challenging. I did enjoy working at The Office of Management and Budget at City Hall. I wasn’t able to work the overtime hours on Saturdays because of my Sabbath, so I left.
I worked at different companies, such as: E.F. Hutton & Co., McCall Pattern Company, and at local brokerage firms on Long Island where I now live. None of these jobs appealed to me. I was married with two beautiful daughters. I devoted myself to them. I took on part-time jobs, but I was always available if they needed me.
The big 50 was approaching and I was beginning to feel that I had lost out on life. My brother and then both my parents had passed away. My daughters were beginning their own lives. I needed a focus, a reason for my life. I was helping my daughter write an essay for college. I read it over and was surprised that I had written it. It related to my mother being blind with dementia in a nursing home. I began to think about writing.
My mid-life crisis book, The Dead Game, took me ten years to write. I hadn’t realized that writing was so hard. Characters have to move around and speak at the same time. They can’t sound the same. Through all the rewrites, the plot and story remained the same. Only the dialogue and grammar changed. I believe I could edit for the rest of my life and still not be satisfied.
I found a self-publisher, who offered to print and edit the book for a set price. Anything else costs extra. If I made any changes to the book after it was published, it would cost hundreds of dollars for them to take care of it. They even charged to send the changes to Amazon and Nook, even though these companies don’t charge for this.
One day, the publisher informed me that my book was published. I thought that this meant it was printed. Not only was it printed, it was sitting on Amazon and Nook without a description or bio. It looked sad. I panicked. I had to learn how to use Google so I could ask it how to describe a book. I learned about the log line and synopsis. I bought books on grammar and editing. I opened blogs. I found Facebook and Twitter. Luckily, I found some nice authors who helped me with my countless questions.
My book looked nice on the sites, but it didn’t have reviews. I soon learned that without reviews there are no sales. I joined Goodreads.com to find reviewers. I was placed in review groups, where the members randomly reviewed other members’ books but not each other’s books. Some authors gave nice reviews with constructive criticism. Others took apart my book, piece by piece, and in detail described what was wrong with it. They even used excerpts. These hurt, but I used the reviews to fix any weak spots in my book. After a year of this, I put out a new edition of my book. I tried to address everyone’s concerns. But you just can’t please everyone.
My book is now sitting comfortably in its sections: Vampire Suspense on Amazon and Paranormal Suspense on Nook. I will continue to promote it online while I begin to work on book 2 of The Dead Game series.
My life has taken many unexpected twists and turns. I wonder what the young me would have thought if she had heard that she was going to write vampire stories in the future. Would she have laughed? Would she have been surprised? Knowing me so well, I wouldn’t have laughed or wouldn’t have been surprised. And I might have even been happy. I don’t believe I was so happy with Finance, even in the beginning. I did it as more of a challenge. I wanted to do well in a male-dominated field—just to prove that I could do it. And now I have a new mission. I want to prove to myself that I could be a good author. And I believe I’m well on my way.
Thank you for listening,
Thanks so much for interviewing me!
Susanne Leist is a good friend and mutual supporter whose Dead Game is an innovative addition to the indie horror genre. A fellow native Brooklynite, Susanne brings her unique insights and lively personality to Center Stage for our interview…
The town of Oasis was the home of an upscale community in your novel. Did your current hometown of Woodmere, New York provide an inspiration for your story? Did you envision the same kind of people and places when describing Oasis?
The town of Oasis is the polar opposite of Woodmere, Long Island. In Woodmere, no one ever walks. People take their cars everywhere, even to the corner store. Most people don’t bother to say hello when they pass you on the street. Strollers aren’t pushed by mothers but by their housekeepers or maids.
In Oasis, Linda loves to walk each morning through town, waving hello to everyone she meets. Only Charles Wolf refuses to wave back, but that leads to another part of the story. Oasis is a friendly town, except for the supernatural element, but I’m getting ahead of myself again.
Dead Game was an innovative contribution to the vampire genre in incorporating the surrealistic hallucination angle. Was this your original game plan, or did you add the vampire to the concept of End House?
My books was originally going to be a simple murder mystery. A murder mystery in small town. It was to begin with End House and the mysterious party. Two of the young residents were to be murdered. The rest of the book was supposed to be the journey to find the murderer.
Instead, End House became alive to me with trap doors and deadly saws. This turned out to be only the beginning of the whole story. Dead bodies turn up on the beach. The reclusive residents don’t come out at night. The story snowballed into a supernatural thriller with a surprise ending.
Charles Wolf was undoubtedly the bad guy in this novel, but it seemed he took a back seat to Todd Morrison as the more sympathetic figure. Are we going to see more of Morrison, or are you planning a Dead Game II?
The Dead Game is the first book of two books. The first book resolves the murder mystery, but at the same time, opens a Pandora box of new mysteries. Its surprise ending will lead to more surprises.
I have just begun to work on the sequel. My outline and notes are ready. My writing often leads me in unknown directions, so I won’t know how the book will end until it does.
Todd Morrison will play an important role in the next book as his relationship with Linda becomes more complicated. That’s all I’m going to say for now.
The novel seemed to portray the guests at End House as being upwardly-mobile professionals who would be considered somewhat materialistic. Could the hallucinations at End House be perceived as an allegory of their self-delusuons and conceits?
No, please no. I left the world of finance to escape into the world of my imagination. My imagination doesn’t include allegories or self-righteousness.
This would be an extenuation of the last question. Could it be argued that the vampires were a further metaphor symbolizing what many feel is upper-class society, feeding on the working class, having the tables turned on them?
Vampires are the upper class. They’re the upper class of all creatures. That’s why they’re bad and have to be stopped. And now we’ve brought politics into my imagination.
Readers could be excused for perceiving a homosexual relationship between Mike and David. It seemed as if David played a feminine role throughout the novel.
If women are silly and scared all the time, then David played a feminine role. But not all women are silly and easily frightened. And not all men are heroes and act brave. And who wins the woman at the end? Not Mike.
Father John seems as if the stereotypical religious figure in the novel. Were you just going with the generic flow in the horror category, or was there a reason you didn’t choose an evangelical preacher or a rabbi?
I used a priest because that’s who I’ve usually seen in horror movies and read about in books. I can’t picture one of my rabbis running after a vampire or chanting spells.
The church and devil worship have a long-standing relationship. I was just continuing the myth.
Most of your Facebook friends would describe you as a religious person. Does it play an important part in your daily life? Do you feel that writing provides a platform for believers?
My religion guides me on all matters. It has taught me to be kind to others and never to embarrass anyone—ever. My religion has a lot of rules so it definitely affects my everyday life. I usually miss out on a lot of things. The Sabbath, each week, keeps me grounded.
Writing could be a very important platform if used properly. However, I’m not using my writing for this purpose. I’m writing to bring adventure and enjoyment to my readers, and a little escape from the humdrum of day to day living.
You moved from Brooklyn to Woodmere. As a fellow Brooklynite, I’ve seen it change enormously in my time. Do you still have family and friends in Brooklyn, and do you see it evolving when you visit?
After my parents passed away, I had no one left in Brooklyn to visit. All their friends are gone. Everyone my age has left the neighborhood behind. I do go back to see Sheepshead Bay. It was and still is a very beautiful area.
Check out Susanne’s Amazon page!!!