Novelist Patty Lesser has been a world traveler most of her life. Born in Nova Scotia, she grew up in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, then moved to Israel for five years, where she completed her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature at the Tel Aviv University.
Patty then traveled to the Dominican Republic, England, Holland, and Belgium.
In 2002, she returned to Hamilton where she lives and works today.
Her books have included the non-fiction, Shall We Chat? and multiple works of fiction, including Locker Rooms and That Truthful Place.
Patty Lesser Interview
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Patty Lesser Books
Patty Lesser Interview
Tim: Patty, welcome to the program.
Patty: Thank you, Tim. I’m happy to be here.
Tim: I’m happy having you here. You know, I’m way down in Alabama and you’re way up in Canada and we’ve been fighting our schedules and the weather and everything. And now, it’s finally coming together and here we are you telling me that the leaves are changing up there and about to go into the cold time of year where you’re just going to hibernate and write. Is that correct?
Patty: That’s correct. I’m not much of a winter person anymore after living in Australia and Israel for a number of years and enjoying the heat.
Tim: Wow! Well, we’re going to talk about that because you really have been a world traveler. But before we get started, if you will, give the audience a little background on you.
Patty: Well, I grew up in Ontario, Hamilton to be exact. And as a dream of mine was to live and work a year in every country. And since I had a difficult childhood, escaping and trying something new was my challenge. And at the age of 20, I left Canada and went to live in Israel for six years.
Tim: Now, how did you end up in Israel?
Patty: Well, I’m Jewish or grew up Jewish and it was just some place to go. They offer a special program for visitors to learn the language and live on a kibbutz. And I thought that would be a great way to introduce myself to the country, but I just fell in love and finished my university degree at the Tel Aviv University. And then I worked for a few years before I came home.
Tim: Interesting. So how long did you stay and where did you go next?
Patty: I stayed for six years. I started off in a kibbutz then I lived in the Haifa for a year then I moved to Tel Aviv and as I said, completed my degree and I worked for a few years. And then I returned to Canada. And then went to Toronto. Then after that, went to Europe, came back to Toronto, made some money and went to Australia for a year.
Tim: Now, what led you to Australia?
Patty: I just met somebody who lived there and she said come and visit so i did.
Tim: You just packed up and went.
Patty: Exactly. And the way I travel is a bit bizarre. I buy a one-way ticket because I don’t know how long I’m going to stay and I don’t want to restrict myself so I go for as long as I want and when the money runs out or when i can’t find another job, I leave and come home, make some money and take off again.
Tim: What were you doing for money? What was your career early on before you started writing?
Patty: Well, I’ve done every job in the book. There’s not much I haven’t done. As a kid, I was – we babysat and shoveled snow and raked leaves. And my first job was a short order cook in a restaurant and I was 15 at the time and why in God’s name did they consider a 15-year-old good enough to be the head chef, so that was an interesting situation. But as I traveled, I just apply for any job possible just to make enough money to keep on traveling.
Tim: That’s so interesting. Well, one thing, we are going to talk about your book especially the latest book, Discerning Heart. But with all of these adventures that you’ve had, how are they affected your writing? I guess let’s start at the beginning. Were you always a writer even when you were young?
Patty: Yes. I started out writing poems. And when I was in high school, the writer and residents at U of T, University of Toronto was Irving Layton. And you could obtain audience with him and ask him about your work. So here I was standing in line with a number of other students. I was next to go. There was a guy in the room and all we could hear was Irving Layton say, “I wouldn’t blow my nose in this.” And all of us stood there shocked.
Tim: Oh wow!
Patty: I walked in. I showed him my poetry and he said, “What are your plans?” And I said, “To travel.” And he said, “Yes. Travel. Go away. Learn. Experience. Then come home and write.” And that’s exactly what I did.
Tim: How interesting. Now, how old was the kid that he told that he wouldn’t blow his nose on his work?
Patty: Oh, he was probably 19, 20.
Tim: Do you think he ended up washing dishes somewhere?
Tim: So you started out with poetry. Now, your books, one thing that we are going to talk about is they’re all different, and yet they are all somewhat similar. So, you started off writing poetry. What was your – the process from there when started writing fiction?
Patty: Well actually, I went to writing short stories for many years. It wasn’t until about 20 years ago, I had a dream. I woke up, started writing. I wrote 12 hours a day for four months until the book was finished. And that was my first experience writing a book. I had it edited. And of course when I found out it wasn’t perfect and going to be a bestseller, I became discouraged and put it in a drawer.
I did other things. I did other jobs. And then I came back to it. Read it over, improved it, and then I thought, “I’m ready to publish.” And like most people, I contacted agents and publishers and got nowhere. And then I was talking to a publisher who said, “I had a book about relationship of chatting online.” And she said, “Why don’t write that?” So I wrote a non-fiction about chatting online and published that.
Then I thought, well, why not go back to Locker Rooms, which was the dream book I just finished writing. And I worked on that and had it published. But there were problems with the book. I should have it edited again. And I was very discouraged. So I took the book back off the shelf, reworked it and then I published it again.
But in the meantime, I started writing other books. I was getting ideas everywhere. And so I sat down and started writing. And now, I’ve got – we’ll have six books published by spring.
Tim: Yeah. Let’s go back to that first book because it was called Locker Rooms. What was it about?
Patty: It’s hard for me to say what it’s about without scaring people off because it’s basically about a woman who suffers from bipolar, who wins the lottery, buys a house, finds a cavern beneath the house. And in the cavern are locker rooms filled with souls of people who were imprisoned by a demon. So she saves the souls, takes them back to different places in Canada and thereby learning some Canadian history. Some of the characters she saves have mental illnesses and how that reflects upon their life and how it changes the main character. And she goes through the novel growing as she is learning from these souls that she is saving. She battles demons. She battles the devil. And I would not tell you the end.
Tim: So this is the book that came out of the dream. Was the plot of the book basically your dream?
Tim: It’s a scary dream, Patty.
Patty: I have bizarre dreams. I have very bizarre dreams. And I’ll be honest. A lot of times I come downstairs in the morning and I think of another topic for a book from a dream I’ve had.
Tim: A lot of writers do that. I have a lot of writers mentioned that the idea for book comes from dreams and they kind of go through the same process that you did. They will quickly write the book but then they’ll set aside and revisit it several times. And talk a little bit about that process because as an author myself, I know how frustrating it can be when people don’t latch on to an idea as much as do.
You actually brought that book out several times. As a writer, what affect did that have on you and how did you go about approaching the story to perhaps make it more marketable?
Patty: Well, what I’ve done, it took me – I wrote – I started writing a mystery as well which is my sixth book to be finished. It’s finished but properly edited. And through one editor I had from Texas, he recommended a woman in Virginia to act as a developmental editor writing coach. And when I met her, I was a little skeptical about what she could do for me. But then I had her edit part of my book. When I saw the comments and the suggestions she made and when I corrected them, I realized how much better my books were.
So from that point on, I took all of my books and went through them with her. And I would not publish a book without Andy seeing it first because she seems to know exactly how I can better the book and I think the outcome of the two books we worked on, Truthful Place and Discerning Heart, both those books I think have improved immensely.
Tim: Now, That Truthful Place is somewhat of a different story. Tell us about that book.
Patty: Well, I’m a big Star Trek fan. And one of my biggest loves was Deanna Troi’s telepathy. So I always want to write a book about people who do have developed telepathy. And then I thought well, why wouldn’t children do it when they turn 13 which is a major time in most children’s lives?
And then I thought I’ve lived all over the world, I’ve known different cultures, I’d like to create a book where people from other countries of other cultures, they all live in the United States and Canada but they come from other cultures and try and achieve utopia.
Tim: Interesting. Now, it’s a little different from the first book because the first book was more scary, I guess horror type. Would this be considered sci-fi?
Patty: Yes, I guess it’s a children sci-fi. Yes, because they develop telepathy. And then in the sequel, that’s the only book I’m writing a sequel with, but in the sequel, they transported to another planet and aliens help them achieve a perfect society.
Tim: Did you enjoy writing this book more than the first?
Patty: I don’t actually remember writing it to be perfectly honest. It’s funny. I’ve been working so hard. I’ve been working on two, three books at a time lately. And so for me is I don’t even remember what I’m writing. I just write it and then I look back and think, “Oh, that’s not bad. Where did I get that idea?”
But I do literally forget that I have what I have written after. I’m so focused on the next book that when I work through a book, it’s pretty incredible when I think I don’t even remember writing any of this.
Tim: Yeah. So you literally would go back and read it and go, “Hey, this is great. I don’t remember writing it.”
Patty: Totally! And as I said, I go through each book with Andy, sending her a chapter at a time. She edits, returns it, and then I improve. Send the next chapter. We go through the whole book this way. And then I send the book to another editor who proofreads it. And then after that, I send it three friends to check for any errors that we might have missed. So it’s long process now. I really learned my lesson that I can’t write a book and publish it right away. It needs to go through at least two editors.
Tim: Do you find it interesting that a lot of authors resist the editing process altogether?
Patty: I just shake my head because you can’t – a book cannot survive without being with at least two or three editors because there are just so many things you can do wrong but can be corrected easily. And it may not be the problem with your story or the characterization of your main characters or the plot, but just basic simple sentences that can change the whole outlook of the book. And only a fresh pair of eyes, professional eyes can see that.
I don’t send my books to my friends to edit. I just send them to look for the typos or little mistakes that may have been missed.
Tim: Right. When you’re writing a book like this, do you do it on a schedule? Are you very rigid author or do you do it when the muse hits?
Patty: Well, I try to keep it like a job. I start working at 9:00 or 10:00 in the morning and I finished at 4:00 or 5:00. I try and work hard all day and put everything together. But then when i get to a point that I can’t do anymore then I just stop and go on. And I don’t work nights. So I try and keep it pretty rigid only because I enjoy writing so much. I love being immersed in my books. I love creating a new paragraph that works well with the novel and pleases me no end. So I try and work quite hard. I don’t have a full time. This is my full-time job.
Tim: Let’s talk a little bit about characters because that’s one thing that I find that the more successful authors are the ones that of course, create characters that the audience can connect with and wants to read, how do you go about developing characters?: Do they come as an offshoot of the story idea or do you think of characters first then the story?
Patty: I think of both the same time. I think of what topic I want to write about and what I want to write. And then I consider what kind of characters would most suit that place in my book. It comes very natural with me that I can think of – because all my characters I call my children. They’re totally fictitious. They represent no one. They’re exactly who I want to be if I were in that position in the book. So they all are really me but because I have met so many people in my life, I can give them characteristics that I know will make them shine in the story.
Tim: Let’s talk a little bit about how you have taken your past travels and your experiences and that sort of thing and brought them into the writing. Have you been influenced about where you’ve lived and some of the things you’ve done?
Patty: I think they’ve only influenced me and have given me maturity and experience because as I said my characters are fictitious and I can’t write real people. Real people never cease to astound me and I truly don’t understand them so that’s why I prefer a character who does what I would like them to do or be – I mean example for A Discerning Heart, the main character has flaws. Now, he has no flaws that I have. But if I were him, these are the flaws I would have.
And also, I’ve always loved Thomas Hardy. He was my favorite author growing up and I always want to write a book similar to his. So Discerning Heart has a character who has major flaws that he has to deal within the novel.
Tim: And don’t you think it’s the flaws though that sometimes make the character so powerful?
Patty: Well, that’s what I thought with him because you can’t identify with his anger or his problems but you can learn from them and understand that’s not the way I’d want to be.
Tim: Right. Well, let’s about A Discerning Heart. Is it out now?
Patty: It’s available on Amazon.
Tim: All right. Tell us about that book.
Patty: Well, it’s really quite funny. I was chatting online with a friend and he said I should marry a rich fisherman. And I said, “Oh, a rich fisherman would never be interested in me but a poor one would.” And his name, the friend’s name was Jim. And I said – I call him Dim Jim, and that’s how that book got started.
And for some reason, I was able to work through the whole plot in my mind and it just flowed into a wonderful story about a man who has been disheartened and embarrassed by his community, treated poorly, who has to somehow become the most popular man in town and he decided that he would go and catch this illusive fish to bring fame and fortune. But he ends up almost drowning, being saved by a mermaid and taken to a deserted island where he lives for a few years, coming to terms to the fact that he will never be anyone.
But then he locates a pirate’s journal and as he reads the journal, he assumes his identity. His character improves. His confidence improves. And then one day, he finds an abandoned ship, abandoned boat. He escapes the island and takes treasure that had been accumulated by the mermaid, returns to his village as the pirate captain and becomes rich and famous.
Tim: Wow! This is really – it’s kind of a fantasy, there’s some romance there, a bit of a cautionary tale. The lead character there, did you name him Dim Jim?
Patty: Yes, I did.
Tim: And how did your friend take that?
Patty: Well, he loves it. I dedicated the book to him because he was my inspiration for it even though it was just a little bit of an inspiration. But no, he exists and he loves the book.
Tim: Do you enjoy writing in the fantasy genre because it really does kind of give you a license to kill, doesn’t it?
Patty: Exactly. I think I’m more fantasy writer. I mean all my books have elements of fantasy in them because I don’t want to deal with reality. I don’t want another book about a couple who marries and divorces and fights, child dies or some tragedy that happens in real life. I want people to escape. I want people to be able to read my books and say, “That has taken me to a different realm. It has taken me out of my daily grind and given me something to hope for.”
Tim: Right. And is there always a happy ending in a Patty Lesser’s story?
Patty: Yes. Yes.
Tim: Good to hear. Well, let’s talk a little bit about the publishing process because you know, the audience for this show by and large are authors who are looking to do what you are doing, to write, to publish. You mentioned early on that you had tried to get an agent and worked with publishers. Are you doing – are you self-publishing everything now?
Patty: Yes, I am. I tried for a couple of years that avenue but I got tired of writing agents and writing publishers and then never hearing back or hearing back six months later that they’re not interested. When you self-publish, you can publish immediately. A traditional publisher will probably take a year to get your book out there whereas I can do it in months. And at least I’m out there. I don’t have the assistance of a large publishing firm but I found that marketing is even – has to be done by everyone whether you’re self-published or traditionally published.
I publish – originally, I published Locker Rooms through an American company called iUniverse. After spending a lot of money and going through a lot of hell, I realized it just wasn’t for me. And then my editor advised that I could cancel with them and I did realize this. So I cancelled with them right away, took my book back and had it edited again.
Tim: Are you doing everything I guess on Kindle? Are you doing CreateSpace for your paperbacks?
Patty: Yes. I love CreateSpace. It’s very – I mean it’s simple procedures. It’s straightforward. It’s direct. It’s simple to use. And you can publish a book quite well. I think my books look great and people comment that they like the cover, they like the style. You have to spend a lot of time practicing and getting used to things with it but it’s quite simple and it’s free.
Tim: One thing you hit on there and something that I hear from a lot of authors is when you are a self-published author, you are doing everything yourself.
Tim: Because basically, you are in business. You are the entrepreneur. Your books are your products and it’s up to you to not only create the product but to do the quality assurance with the editing, to do the publishing, the marketing. How much of that is taking up your time? Because one of the complaints that I hear from self-published writers is, “I don’t have as much time to write because I have to do all this other stuff.”
Patty: Well, that’s just it. When after I published Locker Rooms, I did some marketing and I found tweeting doesn’t work. My Facebook is poor and I must admit I don’t keep it up and I’m having trouble with it and I’m looking for someone to help me with it. But I wanted to get books out.
I haven’t been doing – talking to you was – this is my first marketing ploy since I’ve published. I’ve generally been spending the last year just getting books finished, getting them published and getting them out. And once I finished with my sixth book which is what I call my art book, it’s a mystery about a historic Canadian family who are embroiled in the art world await the delivery of a mysterious package from their ancestor in England. And it deals with art and its many facets.
And when I finished this book then I’m going to start actively looking for marketing. But to be perfectly honest, my funds are low and most marketing cost money.
Tim: You had mentioned your website. Your thoughts on social media as a means of marketing for authors because I see an awful lot of authors out there on Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn and even with my books, that’s primarily how I market. How are those things work for you?
Patty: They haven’t.
Tim: Is it because you haven’t pursued them as much or they just haven’t been responsive?
Patty: Both I think. Facebook is not something I enjoy and I have trouble with it and I’m not really sure how to work it to my advantage. As I said, that’s why I’m actively seeking someone to help me with it. I’m not really sure what else is available to me. I do a lot of signing in the cities between Hamilton and Toronto. I’ve done maybe 15 signings so far in the last two years. So that has been my strongest marketing experience.
What I’m going to do next, I don’t know. I’m hoping this interview with you will lead to new avenues that will encourage me to get myself out there and get myself known and my books recognized.
Tim: Do you enjoy the book signings?
Tim: Patty, the one thing I love about you is your honesty.
Patty: Well, to be honest, I’m not a sales person. But to be an author, you have to be a sales person. And to sit there for three, four hours propelling yourself on to other people who are really not interested and have just come in, they get a candle, and I’ve had so many people tell me, “I’m not here to get or buy any books.” I mean you’re in a bookstore. But I enjoy meeting people. i enjoy talking to people about my work and I love it when people buy it.
So there have been some very nice people who say to me, “I just like to support local authors so I’ll buy your book.” And it’s people like that I love. But some people are really interested. That Truthful Place has been quite popular with kids at the book signings. So I’ve sold quite a few of those.
Tim: Yeah. I can remember being at a book signing once and a guy coming to the table and I said, “You want me to sign up your book?” And he said, “No. Do you know where the bathroom is?” I think that was probably the last book signing I did.
So what is on the horizon? What are you working on now?
Patty: Well right now, my fifth book, that Perfect Hand, about five poker buddies who uncover a conspiracy is with the proofreading editor right now. I get it back November 13th. And from there, I correct all the problems he has found. When that has been completed, it goes as I said to my three friends for proofreading and then I’ll be publishing it on Amazon hopefully December, January sometime.
Tim: I thought it was interesting that you wrote this book because you are an online poker player, aren’t you?
Patty: Yes, I am. I play in poker tournaments almost every day for money. I spend maybe $8 on a tournament so it doesn’t break the bank. But I’ve been quite lucky recently and have over $400 in my poker account to play with. But I always want to write a book about poker but I’m not a professional world poker player.
So, I wanted – so the book has references to poker throughout the novel and they play poker periodically and they learned from playing poker as change in their lives.
Tim: So Patty, before we close off here, I always like to ask, what advice do you have for other authors? Again, a lot of the people listening to the show are either just starting out or they’ve been doing it a while but they’re all wanting to get a book successfully published either traditionally or self-published.
What are your thoughts and advice for these folks?
Patty: Just write. Forget about the marketing. Forget about everything. Write. Get as many books as you can out there. Find two good, at least two good editors that you trust, that will help you improve your novel. But the best thing to do is write.
Tim: Just put your butt in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard.
Patty: Exactly. And it doesn’t matter what you write. Just write it. You don’t know if it’s good. Your mother doesn’t if it’s good. She’s going to say it’s good. And your friends are going to say it’s good. But you need a professional to tell you that.
Tim: Patty Lesser, the author of That Truthful Place, Locker Rooms, A Discerning Heart, and the upcoming book, that Perfect Hand. How can folks find out more about you and about your books?
Patty: I have a website, PattyLesser.com, P-A-T-T-Y-L-E-S-S-E-R.COM and you can go to Amazon and just type in Patty Lesser. Feel free to Google me and I’m easily found.
Tim: All right, Patty. Hey, we appreciate your time. Good luck on all the books and keep us posted especially if you start winning big at poker.
Patty: Thank you. And thank you very much, Tim, for all of this. I really appreciate it.
Tim: That’s my pleasure. I’ll talk to you soon.
Patty: OK. You take care.
- Patty’s website: www.pattylesser.com
- Patty’s blog: www.pattylesser.blogspot.ca
- Patty on Twitter: @PattyLesser