LeBlanc, Deborah (Family Inheritance, Grave Intent)


Deborah LeBlanc”s brand of horror has been called “Southern Gothic” among other things. But whatever the name, her writing can be summed up by four words: good stories and damned scary. The release of her first novel, Family Inheritance, was a good introduction to the horror scene, garnering a nomination for a coveted “Stoker” award. Her second novel, Grave Intent, cements her place as a force to be reckoned with in the literary world. With another book in the works, readers are left with a single question: What will she come up with next?

Scott Johnson: Grave Intent is a solid follow-up novel to your first, Family Inheritance. How different has the process been, going from your first to your second novel?

Deborah LeBlanc: The writing part of the process for my second novel was easier than my first. It”s similar to putting a swing set together for your kids. Once you”ve constructed one gym set, your confidence grows, which makes putting together a second, third, etc., easier. (Either that, or you KNOW you’ll never put another one together again!) As with building a gym set, though, you occasionally wind up with a leftover screw or bolt when you’re done, but overall, the damn thing works, and that’s what matters. Now the performance anticipation/anxiety level was very different from the first book. I fretted over whether readers who enjoyed Family Inheritance would like Grave Intent as much, more, less, or just downright hate it. Fortunately, the response has been great.

SJ: Give us a brief breakdown of Grave Intent. No spoilers, just your best blurb to give readers a taste of what they”re in for.

DL: In essence, Grave Intent is about a funeral director and his wife, who find themselves responsible for the funeral service of a nineteen-year-old gypsy girl. The entire gypsy clan, hundreds in number, show up for the service and literally take over the funeral home. During the viewing, the father of the deceased girl has a special gold coin placed beneath his daughter’s hands. Just before it’s time to leave for the cemetery, the funeral director realizes that the coin has been stolen, a fact he keeps hidden from the clan. Through a wild twist of events, the funeral home owner and his wife come to realize they now have only forty-eight hours to find the coin and return it to the casket, (which has now been interred), or their own five-year-old daughter will die.

SJ: Both your books have a decidedly Gothic flair to them, keeping the grit of the Louisiana swamp deep in the story. What attracts you to that atmosphere, and why do you think it works particularly well for horror?

DL: I was born, raised, and still live in Louisiana, so the attraction to the atmosphere is similar to the attraction one feels for their home and family. Louisiana is my home…and my family. I was raised fishing in her swamps, hunting in her fields, crawfishing in her bayous, searching for ghosts in her cemeteries and old plantations. Louisiana is what I know. And what better atmosphere for horror than the dark and mysterious?!

SJ: What writers influenced your writing style? Who do you consider the masters of the craft?

DL: So many writers have influenced my style, the primary being, of course, Stephen King. The first book I ever read of his (and Peter Straub) was The Talisman. I”ve been hooked ever since. There are other authors, not in the horror genre, who’ve influenced me as well. For characterization, I consider Jodi Picoult a master, and for literary style, James Lee Burke and many of Dean Koontz’s works. For verbosity and daring in style, though, I’ve yet to read anyone who beats Tom Robbins. He’s hilarious and his work thought-provoking. If you’ve never read Tom’s Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates, you’re definitely missing some serious entertainment. This guy’s about as inhibited as a stripper performing a lap dance in a Catholic confessional — on the Bishop!

SJ: Why, of all genres out there, did you choose horror? Or did it choose you?

DL: The genre chose me. My only interest is to write a good story, a page-turner, with characters the reader will come to care about.

SJ: Your novels have moments of genuine fright for the readers. What is it that causes moments like that for you?

DL: In truth, the only thing that truly frightens me is the thought of one of my children in danger. The rest of what’s usually considered common in horror; blood, gore, the supernatural, etc., is too ingrained into my everyday life to frighten me. I’ve worked in funeral service for over 10 years and have seen everything from old and stiff to young and mashed. I’m also a death scene investigator, which also makes blood and gore commonplace for me. And I’m on two paranormal investigation teams that travel the U.S., searching for the perfect haunt. After all that, what’s left to be afraid of? lol

SJ: Grave Intent involves a great many old customs and superstitions. How did you go about researching them?

DL: I spent a great deal of time with funeral directors from different parts of the country who had either performed a Gypsy funeral service or had taken part in one. The research also included spending time with an actual Gypsy family, combing Gypsy cemeteries and studying the pictures on the elaborate tombs, and studying old Gypsy customs and how they’ve changed over the years.

SJ: How long have you been writing? Was Family Inheritance your first attempt at a novel?

DL: I”ve been writing since second grade, mostly short stories. Family Inheritance was my first attempt at a novel.


SJ: What attracts you to being a writer?

DL: I think the attraction to writing comes from my love of storytelling. I learned from my grandmother, who could spin a tale so fascinating that when she finished, you’d always feel a bit disoriented because you were sitting near her rocker in the living room instead of the location in her story. As I got older and had my own children, I maintained that storytelling tradition, even making up special fairy tales for each of my daughters.

SJ: You are a member of the Horror Writers Association. How supportive were the other members of the organization?

DL: As in every association, there are members who celebrate the successes of their peers and are an enthusiastic source of support. Then there are members who, for whatever reason, ignore or downplay the successes of their peers. In this respect, HWA is no different than most writing organizations.

SJ: Do you watch many horror movies? Name some of your favorites.

DL: I LOVE horror movies but am drawn more to the supernatural films than the slasher flicks. Two of my favorites are The Exorcist and The Sixth Sense.

SJ: How does your family take to your writing? Do they like the whole “horror lady” persona?

DL: My family is proud of what I do, and I think they see me just as a writer rather than a ‘horror’ writer. I’ve ALWAYS been drawn to and curious about the unknown, the supernatural, so I guess where horror is concerned, my family views it as the genre finding me instead of me finding it. I have to say, though, at times they think I’m a bit whacked in the head when I get carried away with research. For Grave Intent, I had myself locked in a casket. Needless to say, my family wasn’t too excited about that stunt.


SJ: What advice would you give to any aspiring young writer?

DL: Read, read, read—write, write, write—AND NEVER GIVE UP!

SJ: What projects are you working on now?

DL: At the moment, I’m completing an edit on A House Divided, a novel due out by Leisure in June ’06, and I’m also working on two other novels, a psychological thriller and a mystery.

SJ: It”s been said that horror fans are the most passionate out there. Do you agree or disagree? What”s your experience been with fans?

DL: If my work has garnered any success, it”s due to my ”fans”. I’m always in awe of their enthusiasm and humbled by their praise. They are indeed a passionate group! However, I’ve seen the same fervor in fans of science fiction, mystery, and romance. I just think avid readers are passionate in general.

SJ: What was your strangest “surreal fan-moment?”

DL: I was sitting at the front entrance of a bookstore that was located in a mall when I noticed a tall, heavyset woman literally running down one of the mall fairways dragging a man behind her by the hand. She screeched to a halt in front of my table and after gulping down a breath said in that same one breath… “Oh, I was so afraid I”d missed your signing because I’m such a big fan, and I made my husband hurry home after work so he could take me here and see you, and I’m going into the store to buy 15 books so I can give them to my family and friends for Christimas, so can you please not leave until I get them, and would you mind personalizing them to each person, and did I tell you I was a big fan?” Whew!

SJ: What”s your own personal cure for the dreaded “writer”s block?”

DL: I’ve never believed in writer’s block. There are too many ‘stories’ in everyday life for a writer NOT to be able to come up with something! What I do experience, however, is scene stumble. This is when I’m in the middle of a scene (chapter), and the character’s actions or dialogue feels stiff and stifled. When that happens, I might redo the chapter two or three times, and if it still doesn”t work, I get away from the computer, take a walk, get in the car and drive without destination, ride my Harley, anything to clear my head so I can visualize the scene clearly.

SJ: Hollywood has been sorely lacking in original ideas for a while. Let”s say the movie rights to both your novels got picked up. Whom would you cast?

DL: Ah! What an apropos question. When I write, I view each chapter like a movie scene and visualize the characters’ faces, the location, room, etc., then write what I see. In Family Inheritance, I envisioned Eli as a young Morgan Freeman, Jessica a dark-haired Helen Hunt, and Todd was a cross between Sean Penn and one of my cousins. While writing Grave Intent, I saw Ashley Judd as Janet, Ed Harris as her husband, Michael, and Dakota Fanning as Ellie.

SJ: Let”s assume this book sells a billion copies and so do your next two. What then? What would you be doing if you never had to worry about money?

DL: The very same thing I’m doing now. Enjoying my daughters, writing, working, and trying to get as much out of life as I can while I’m allowed time on this planet.

SJ: What one thing would you like fans to know about Deborah LeBlanc, the person?

DL: Oh, just one? Lol …Deborah can’t carry a tune in a bucket, loves reading, writing, children, dogs, horses, and Jelly Bellies, believes a person’s word should be stronger than steel, and thinks that whatever you put your hand to in life deserves a 110% effort. If not, leave it the hell alone. Oh, and one other important thing, that anyone who doesn’t read aloud to their young children should serve a lifetime of Saturday detentions in an un-air conditioned laundrymat filled with bored four-year-olds in the middle of August somewhere in the South.

Deborah”s first book Family Inheritance, arrived in 2004 and was nominated for a “Bram Stoker” award for achievement in the First Novel category. Her second novel, Grave Intent, appeared in 2005, and has already met with high praise. To find out more about Deborah LeBlanc, her current works, and upcoming projects, visit her website.



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