Leslie Welch is the author behind “The Goodbyes”, a novel that is equally heartwarming and heart-wrenching. I caught up with her to find out more about the beautifully moving book.
1) Tell us a bit more about yourself
I’m the person at the grocery store who holds up the checkout line because the cashier is telling me her life story. I’m only half-joking. I’m a listener, a connector, and an intense observer of life. But I’m also a textbook Leo: a little wild, dramatic, and a natural leader. It’s probably a strange combination for an author, but it works for me. I love being on the water–especially in a sailboat. I’m a huge foodie. And I’ll drink coffee until my jaw clenches from caffeine intoxication.
2) How did you come up with the idea for “The Goodbyes”?
I was driving to my childhood home in Pittsburgh. If you don’t live where you grew up, going home can be a surreal experience, at least it is for me. A lot of people that I grew up with still live in the area. Anytime I go back, I end up seeing someone from high school. Sometimes it’s amazing, and other times? Not so much.
It’s a four hour drive from D.C. to my mom’s house. After the first two hours of the drive, I started to get lonely and bored, so I decided to do some creative exercises. I started daydreaming that I was a rock star going home. I made the fantasy a little more interesting. I was going home to see the guy who inspired all my songs. And then, I brought in the big conflict–he was dying. I couldn’t wait to start writing! I decided to write the story from a male perspective to challenge myself.
3) What sort of research did you do while writing “The Goodbyes”?
Some of the situations in the book are inspired by real-life events. Before I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to be a musician. I even dropped out of college for a semester to focus on music.
I’m lucky to know people who do really cool things. I interviewed my friends who have toured with their bands. I went backstage at big shows. I sat in on recording sessions.
I also did a lot of research on celebrated musicians; I watched interviews and read memoirs. And, although I’ve been to Glen Hope and the surrounding coal towns, I spent a lot of time on Google Maps “driving” my little yellow Google guy around.
4) What was the best part of writing “The Goodbyes”? Was there a specific scene or an aspect of writing the book that was particularly memorable?
I loved writing the ending. The original ending was good, but, as Charlotte would say, it didn’t “make my scalp shiver.” The night before I was supposed to turn the manuscript over to my editor, I had a last-minute bolt of inspiration. I stayed up all night rewriting the ending. It’s my favorite part of the book now. I can’t imagine Webb’s story ending any other way.
5) Is there anything about the writing life that you think is misunderstood by the public?
I used to imagine that when writers typed “the end” they were done. In reality, that’s only the beginning. Pristine prose doesn’t flow out of our fingers on the first try. It takes a lot of work to get it right after the first draft.
Writing is a partnership between creators and editors. Most writers are not masters of the English language. We struggle with punctuation (seriously, let’s not talk about my comma issues). We get to take credit in the byline, but we don’t create the magic alone.
6) What sort of books do you usually read?
Right now, collections of short stories are filling up my Kindle. I try to read a lot of different genres. For a while, I was obsessed with biographies about actresses from the golden age of Hollywood. I love Young Adult novels. There’s something comforting about tapping into a time of life that seems full of possibilities–where you’re not assaulted by the mundane details of adulthood like interviewing contractors to replace your roof.
7) Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
I can’t take credit for this wisdom, but here’s some of the best advice I’ve collected over the years:
• Don’t edit until the first draft is done. Make notes if you must. The first draft is supposed to be a disaster. If you get bogged down chasing perfection, you won’t finish. Embrace the mess–fix it later.
• If you’re writing for insta-fame, you’re doing it wrong.
• Write something you want to read. If you think it’s too weird for the world, you’re doing it right.
• Connect with other writers. Follow them on Twitter. Build your community; you’ll need them.
• Eliminate passive voice with a vengeance. Search your document for the verb “to be” in all forms. Analyze each sentence and rewrite as many as you can.
• Read your dialogue out loud.
• Reject the rejection, but consider the criticism. If someone’s telling you there are issues with your story, take a step back and try to see it from their perspective.
• Throw in a 180 degree twist if you don’t know where else to go.
8) The characters in “The Goodbyes” are very real and flawed. Personally I’d love to see more of them. Do you have any plans for a sequel?
(*blushes) I’ve been thinking about writing Charlotte’s story. She’s my favorite character in this book and was so much fun to write. One piece of trivia: TempFive makes a cameo in my next book.
9) What can we expect from you in the future?
I have four books in different stages of chaos. Currently, I’m rewriting my first novel–a YA Urban Fantasy that I wrote with my best friend. The working title is Tandem.
It’s the story of a rebellious auto heiress who discovers she’s half extra-dimensional. When she starts her junior year of high school, her family declares bankruptcy and the guy she loves becomes a monk—literally. On top of that, she has to worry about trying not to blow things up with her emerging powers and it’s really getting in the way of her social life. We’re aiming for a late 2017 release.
As soon as the final draft of Tandem is in the hands of our editor, I’ll tackle another Women’s Fiction project that I started a few months ago about a Congressional staffer who quits her job and leaves her boyfriend of four years (because he can’t commit). I’m really excited to see where her story goes.