My memories of Leisl always begin with her ready smile and infectious enthusiasm for life. Back when I knew her, she had a kindness that was soft and real and free for everyone, friends and strangers alike. She was completely devoid of artifice; a rare quality at that young age where the rest of us were wearing too much makeup, flirting too loudly and had no clue who we really were. But like the Velvateen Rabbit, Leisl had somehow learned what real was and I always sensed that stillness within her; was drawn to it.
It’s funny the things we recall, fifteen years on, like a genuine, real kindness in a person. It sticks with you and subtly changes the direction of your life.
After I purchased her book, The Titanian Chronicals, Journey of Destiny without even realizing it was written by this old acquaintance of mine, I reached out to her, excited to hear about her writing journey. Catching up after a bunch of years, I discovered that Leisl has a big, beautiful family, and has had many adventures since last we met, starting with her move into the Aussie outback then up a hemisphere to Montreal and now British Columbia. The backyard critters have changed somewhat from the occasional deadly snake down unda to a roaming bear or gigantic moose in north america (eeeeek! Way more scary than snakes to me!) She’s switched out her surf board for a snow board, and the Kaberry family adventures continue.
Being a beach baby, like most kids raised in Australia, the contrast to her now landlocked location with winters longer and whiter than any Aussie should be able to genetically bear, is quite striking. And yet, it is precisely these long winters (coupled with her four kids finally being in school full-time) that enabled her to rub her hands together and get to serious work with her writing that had, up until that point, been more a hobby than anything. Like my own writing, her coming-of-age story of a human boy raised by elves has taken years to come together – as it does when fitting a story’s creation around a complex life of motherhood, moving and for her, a degree. The years have been a journey of learning to write, then learning to edit; a student of the Jumping-In-And-Learning-As-You-Go philosophy and lucky for us, that diligence has paid off. Being a published author is no small achievement.
But what I really want to know is, how, as a mother of four and a writer who is also finishing a degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice, she doesn’t have a bum the size of a small Indonesian island!
Tell us Leisl, what are your secrets? What does the start of your day look like?
I’m up about 6am every morning for yoga, (oh, okay, so there we go, secret #1: the use of an alarm clock to awaken oneself before the sun and spawn in order to get some zen exercising time each day) which gets me going for the day and my head in the game. I shower (wait, she finds time to shower too?!) and ready the kids for school, then I walk them to the bus-stop with the dog (another splash of healthy livin’ right there too), then home for my breakfast while I go over emails and really begin my day.
Can you listen to music as you write? (Just curious because I can’t.)
I may be a good multi-tasker, but I can’t listen to music and write… I tend to sing along and I get too distracted, (yeah me too! I always wondered how Stephanie Meyer could do it…) However listening to my tunes while I’m plotting and brainstorming can be quite inspirational. One day I was waiting for my kids to get out of school, listening to the Aussie band Eskimo Joe after having put in a good few hours of writing. The song Setting Sun came on and the thoughts running though my head about my story suddenly gelled beautifully with the words of the song… From then on it became my theme song to the book. (That’s cool, my theme song for How to Save a Life is ‘Incomplete’ by… the Backstreet Boys – don’t laugh! It’s deeply emotive and so deliciously angsty! Gives me tingles every time!)
So what is your go-to recipe after a long day editing?
Garlic and Brown Butter Shrimp Pasta is the way to go… mmm it’s super easy to make, takes no time and tastes delish. Pair it with a light salad and you cant go wrong. It’s my friend’s recipe; she’s an awesome food blogger. (Sooooo, no ordering pizza every other night then? I’m starting to see a few reasons why my butt is thirty six times larger than hers. Secret #2: eat real food with the ‘s’ word in it…. salad… regularly…)
But surely you drink unhealthy, sugar loaded caffeine drinks all day to keep you awake and typing! How much caffeine do you drink in an average writing day?
I actually don’t drink any (!) but I’ve been known to consume a fair bit of chocolate while I work… It’s my vice, and a tasty one at that! (Aha! We have a vice ladies and gentlemen! Although… I have a feeling the definition of a ‘fair bit’ of chocolate for her may differ a teensy weensy insy winsy iddy biddy bit from mine… Recently my mother and sister announced to all of facebook that this baby was me…)
How do you make time to have fun with the fam?
I’m in the fortunate position where all my kids are now at school so I try to make sure all my writing, study and cleaning is done while they’re away. (Oh man, she cleans too… I’m not going to admit to her that it’s been six weeks since I touched the vacuum cleaner…) That way when they return home I can focus my attention on them. We have lots of activities we like to do together – we ski, go see movies or just play games.
What is your outlet; your me-time?
Well, writing is my me-time… it’s a release and I love it. I also find yoga in the morning a good release. However, for complete and utter relaxation, I like to hit the hot-tub. It’s the one place I am unable to do anything else but relax…
What are you reading at the moment?
Plod On Sleepless Giant by M.P McVey.
He’s an author friend of mine from Fantasy Sci-fi Network, a book club I am heavily involved with.
How do you handle the stress of deadlines?
I’ve come to realize the best way to handle stress is preparation. The more prepared and organized I am, the better I can deal with whatever comes my way. I try my best to have an optimistic attitude too, the moment I lose that… things fall apart at the seams.
How do you feed your soul?
…Doing something good for someone else is a great way to feed my soul.
Being able to help someone in some (even small) way makes my day completely.
What are your top three, all-time favorite novels?
Three very different types of books but each one pulled me in and held me on so many different levels.
(My husband’s doing the happy nerd dance right now, are you sure you weren’t a Dungeon Master in a former life?)
There’s nothing like sinking your teeth into a good mystery… I enjoy a good thriller. I’m a fan of crime (in the written form, that is) and I can’t go past a good true story. Give me a puzzle to solve, take me on a thrill ride, allow me to enter the psyche of a villain or show me another world and I’m there.
Dr Seuss made me fall in love with books as a child, as did Uderzo and Goscinny with their Asterix comics of which I still collect today. C.S Lewis and Enid Blyton opened my eyes up to the possibilities of other worlds hidden beyond aging wardrobes and treetops. I love Dan Brown’s style and learnt some good writing skills from reading his books and Agatha Christie first influenced my interest in Criminology. They all inspire me to continue onward in my own world; to create and be me.
What is the secret to being a super-mum award-winning author?
I’m not sure I’m a super mum exactly, but for me it is about priorities. My family is what’s most important to me and I try my best to put their needs first… I am, after all, a mum and wife first, author second. However I am also well aware that I am a much better mum if my needs are also taken care of. (Here, here!) So time for myself each day is of vital importance. When the kids were little that time was less – (usually during nap time) – and now that they go to school it varies depending on what I need to get done. But I always take it one way or the other. Also, kids can make great helpers (at times) and when everyone does their part, things work much nicer.
Please share some words of wisdom that you’ve learned as a direct result of your writing journey.
It is quite a scary thing to put your work out there for others to read… it opens you up to all sorts of criticism. You’re not even sure if you’re really any good until you allow people to scrutinize your manuscript and delve into the recesses of your imagination.
That is frightening!
I have learned to really listen and evaluate what people tell me about my writing and not to take it personally. I am grateful to have honest and open people who help me with my books, who guide me with how to improve them, and part of the reason they feel they can be honest in their feedback is because I don’t freak out when they tell me what I don’t want to hear. Ultimately, this part of the process makes me a better writer.
(So what I’ve learned from Leisl is that yes, she is beautiful and awesome, and b) I need to shower more. And eat less pizza. And chocolate. And maybe do more exercise than just clicking my computer keys…)
In a recent interview on CFTK TV, Leisl revealed that she’d never harbored secret dreams of becoming a writer, it just sort of happened one day. Inspiration beckoned and she heeded the call. A screensaver triggered an idea in her mind which then became a chapter, and by the end of that chapter the Titanian trilogy had galvanized.
She knew then that she simply had to get this story out of her; she had to tell it; that even if she were to be the only one who ever read it, she must finish this story and get it published some day.
When she held her published book for the first time it was an “…amazing feeling. To be able to physically hold it and turn its pages was… amazing.”
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