About S.W. Leicher:
S.W. LEICHER grew up in the Bronx in a bi-cultural (Latina and Jewish) home. She moved to Manhattan after earning her Master’s degree in Public Policy and raised her family on the Upper West Side, where she still lives with her husband and two black cats. When not dreaming up fiction, she writes about social justice issues for nonprofit organizations.
What inspires you to write?
It varies—and I never know what it will be in advance. An overheard conversation, something I’ve noticed in my public policy work, something in my personal experience. The idea for my first novel was sparked by a newspaper article about a battle between then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Haredi Jewish community. That idea then quickly evolved to incorporate what I knew from my own bi-cultural family and what I was learning from my advocacy efforts with young women across New York City’s ethnic, racial, and religious communities. My second novel drew on all the same sources, plus the research I was doing on reforming the criminal justice system, my non-profit fundraising experience, and the few facts about sneaker culture that I’ve picked up from my son-in-law. Fiction writers are dangerous creatures—whatever you reveal to them becomes fodder for their work.
What authors do you read when you aren’t writing?
I love Amos Oz for illuminating Israel’s complicated historical facts and relationships in gorgeous language—both in his fiction and (even more so) in his nonfiction. And I love James Baldwin for doing the same for America. Baldwin’s acid wit—coupled with his unexpected bursts of tenderness and his forthright views on injustice—leave me in awe. Elena Ferrante has an unerring understanding of women’s friendships and ambitions—and she knows exactly what to say and what to leave unsaid. Frank McCourt makes me laugh like no one else, and he expresses what is wonderful about reading and writing better than anyone I’ve ever read. Recently, I’ve become enamored of Sigrid Nunez. I don’t know how she so seamlessly gets away with mixing the most erudite with the most casually tossed-off of observations, but—however she manages it—the effect is magic. I confess a deep attraction to the novels of the popular 1970’s author, Judith Krantz. Her depictions of the dilemmas and rewards of being a powerful, talented woman of a certain epoch are classic. And her books are such fun.
Tell us about your writing process.
That also varies. My first novel, Acts of Assumption, grew in an almost organic fashion. No planning. No outline. Every plot turn—every new character—evolved as I wrote. My second novel, Acts of Atonement, was an entirely different matter. Almost its entire complicated story line—and all its many characters—came to me in a single fell swoop. I grabbed a notebook and pen and scribbled down all those plot points in bulleted outline form before I could forget them. And then (over the course of the following year) I fleshed it all out—bullet by bullet. The only consistency between those two writing experiences was the re-writing process. In both cases, as soon as I had a first draft, I began shipping it out to a wide range of readers (friends, relations, people in the book business and people who are not) for comments and reactions. I sifted through their responses and re-wrote (and re-wrote and re-wrote) till I was satisfied that I’d addressed the valid issues that they’d raised, and that it was a cohesive whole.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Constantly. I am forced awake in the middle of the night by their voices. I scramble out of bed and write down what they tell me on scraps of paper which I then stick to my front door with magnets and turn into dialogue in the morning when I am more awake. I find them perching by my shoulder as I type, clarifying their motivations, correcting the way they would say things, revealing things that I hadn’t known about them. During the entire period that I was writing Acts of Atonement, my characters were (in the immortal words of Eloise of Eloise at the Plaza) “my mostly companions.” One night at dinner, when I was testing out a plot sequence on my poor beleaguered husband, he said to me: “You do realize that you invented Shmuely—that he doesn’t really exist… don’t you?” “He doesn’t?” I replied.
What advice would you give other writers?
If there is a voice in your head and a story that you need to tell, go where it leads you! Don’t worry about anything else. And once it is written, don’t be afraid to share it with others. You can aways discard what those initial readers may say about it, but you do need to be open to hearing their thoughts. Writing is, after all—ultimately and inevitably—an interactive process between writer and reader. Readers have important things to say. They may even lead you into your next book.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
“Decide” is not exactly how I would characterize what I did. Once I’d gotten the manuscript of my first novel into as good a shape as I could, I sent out seventy-five agent queries. And received seventy-five rejections. Just as I was ready to give up, I serendipitously discovered the magazine Poets and Writers and realized that there were routes to publication that by-passed the agent bottleneck—i.e., through indie presses and competitions. I nearly won three competitions, caught the attention of a couple of indie publishers, and received one solid acceptance from Joan Leggitt, the founder of Twisted Road Publications. I wrote back to her immediately and said: “Let’s do it!” And I’ve never looked back. Joan proved to have flawless editorial and artistic instincts, has been a pleasure to work with, and… she agreed to work with me on my second book almost as soon as she’d read the manuscript. What more can an author ask?
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
The economics of that industry are beyond me. I do, however, hold on to the hope that publishers of all sizes and shapes will continue to flourish—and that bookstores, large and small, will continue to grace our neighborhoods. There is nothing more wonderful than wandering around in a bookstore. Except (perhaps) curling up in a comfortable chair with a printed book. Of course, there is also much to be said for the ease and benefits of Kindle reading—especially when traveling. And for the pleasures of a well-narrated audiobook—shades of what the lucky among us enjoyed as children, when we had someone willing to read aloud to us. The main thing is just to keep sharing the gifts of good stories, in whatever way that we can.
What genres do you write?: fiction, literary fiction, women's fiction, LGBT, Judaism
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print, Audiobook
S.W. Leicher Home Page Link
Your Social Media Links
All information in this post is presented “as is” supplied by the author. We don’t edit to allow you the reader to hear the author in their own voice.