A Conversation with: Leora Krygier

Keep her, Leora Krygier, writer interview, YA, love, loss, teenagers, coming of age, writing advice, creative

Yesterday, I posted my review of Leora Krygier’s upcoming YA book, Keep Her. Today, I’ve got a treat – an interview with the author herself!

I was super excited to be able to interview Leora – she seems like such a cool person with so many achievements under her belt. She’s a former LA juvenile court judge, she’s lived in France, she dabbles in photography and she’s a published author. How amazing is that? I knew she was going to come up with some really interesting answers to my questions and I was right. Read on to find out more about Leora and her writing journey and habits!

Tell us about your latest book, Keep Her! What can readers expect from this book?

In Keep Her, a contemporary novel about fate, love and loss, I also wanted to tackle a few other themes. We live in a fast-paced world where technology and climate change are redefining our values and the way we live. With that, comes our mandate to protect our planet, the environment and the other species that inhabit our planet. Although I started writing Keep Her before I, by chance, learned of the 2008 Greenpeace mission to save whales in the Southern Ocean, once I researched the events, I knew that Maddie and Aiden’s story would intersect with this true-life mission. I hope that readers will connect with Maddie and Aiden, and will be inspired to take action in their own lives, in whatever form they choose. And I added extra features on my website wanting to have a continuing dialogue with my readers about photography, writing and taking action.

I love those extra features on your site, including the section that features photos ‘taken’ by Maddie! In Keep Her, Maddie is a keen photographer and artist who wants to go to art school in New York. You’ve mentioned you’re also a photographer and that Maddie is a little bit like you. How did you find yourself identifying with Maddie and how much of an influence did your own photography have on Maddie’s artwork?

Photography and writing have always been strongly interconnected in my creative life. I seem to walk around wanting to put a frame around what I see, to encapsulate life in the small moments we all experience, but often overlook. Writing a novel gives me the same, albeit more lengthy, experience. Each chapter is a moment in time, and the novel becomes a string of moments, woven together, like stills from a film. My love for photography and art surely impacted the way I wrote Maddie’s voice and character. But I’ll let you in on a little secret – unlike Maddie, I’m terrible and absolutely useless at math.

You’re a former LA juvenile court judge. Was this one of the reasons why you were drawn towards writing YA?

Absolutely! I love the teen age. In fact, I’m sure there’s a part of me that will always be coming-of-age. Juvenile Court was the perfect fit for me as a lawyer and judge. The court is different from others as it focuses on rehabilitation rather than punishment and I loved being a part of that rehabilitation process, looking for ways to make a positive impact on someone’s life whether it was through counselling, community service or writing a personal essay.

Tell us about your journey towards becoming a published writer!

Even at a very early age, I always had a sense that life was fleeting and I had a need to leave something behind. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. I wrote my first micro-autobiography when I was ten and gobbled up books from my local library in Philadelphia. Life took me in a different direction for a while. I went to law school, practiced law and then became a judge. But I always found time to write somehow, and carved out a tiny writing spot in my laundry room between the washing machine and the wall where I wrote First the Raven and When She Sleeps.

I really love the fact that you have this tiny writing space in your laundry room – it’s so indicative of writers all over the world working hard wherever and whenever they can in order to pursue their dreams! What was the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far in your writing career and how did you overcome it?

Writing is hard. There’s no straight and easy path to writing and publishing. First, there’s the challenge of the writing itself, putting it down on paper in a first draft, then revisiting it time and time again, until it’s honed and distilled. Then there’s sharing it with friends, family or a writing/critique group, trying to get an agent and/or searching out a publisher. All this takes time, patience and a tough skin. There are multitudes of rejections along the way – whether from an agent, a publisher or later, from a reviewer. And then even if the reviews are great, it sometimes doesn’t translate into sales. The challenge remains, whether you’re a debut or seasoned writer.

A non-writer question – you’ve lived in Paris and St Tropez – which I’m totally jealous about! What was it like living in France?

Living abroad in any new country and learning a new language is a wonderful experience, whether you’re a writer or not. It enlarges your world, your perspective and your ability to connect with all kinds of people. France, especially, is a visual and sensory delight with its architecture, museums and, of course, café life. It was in Paris where I picked up my first ”real” camera and wandered the streets, finding little vignettes to capture on film. There, I set up a mini-darkroom in our tiny apartment and learned how to develop and print black and white photos. Rainy Paris was a perfect backdrop for moody black and white. Later, in the South of France, the sky was softer, bright with color, and I moved on to explore color photography.

Name three of your favourite authors.

There are so many great women authors these days, but I’m still in love with the women writers who were so few and far between at the time that they were writing – Jane Austen, Carson McCullers and Pearl S. Buck.

What’s a regular day like for you?

I prefer to write in the mornings, with the first light of day, then take a walk and find something new to photograph. I love the immediacy of Instagram, so I usually post a new photograph at least once a day. Then there’s the usual life stuff – shopping, errands, phone calls, emails, a techno-glitch, something that breaks down and needs repair, and finding some quiet time with my amazing husband and soul mate, David.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Stay soft when you’re writing. Be open, be pliable and dream big.

And when you’re finished and ready to share it with the world, be strong, be practical and realistic, but don’t give up.

Most important – don’t let the publishing bumps in the road harden you when you go back to your writing.

I think that’s really good advice. I’m going to keep that in mind! Finally, what’s next in the future for you?

Right now, I’m looking forward to finding and falling in love with a new dog to rescue and bring home. Can’t wait to find him or her! Other than that, I have two partially-written projects – one, another YA novel, this time set in New York City and the South of France. The other is a book based on a little postcard I found in a thrift store in Los Angeles. It was written by a British soldier during WWII. It took me on a year-long journey to find the British soldier, and in that year, I also found out a lot about myself.

Thanks so much, Leora, for coming on The Salonniere’s Apartments and letting me pick your brain about your craft! For readers who are interested in finding out more, check out Leora’s official website and also her Instagram page. You can also check her out on Twitter and buy her books on Amazon here. 

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