Hello Everyone! I’m glad to have opportunity to interview H.A. Leuschel – Author of Manipulated Lives and even more happy to share it with you all. Know more about author and her book Manipulated Lives in this post.
You can also read my review on this book here ⇒⇒⇒ Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel.
I was born in Brussels of German parents and grew up with two brothers and a twin sister. It was fun being exposed to many different languages and cultures from an early age because I now appreciate the fact that it is a great way to step outside the idea of a common national identity and its many restrictions. Brussels is a fascinating example for a multi-cultural society where I went to school and University and held a fascinating reporter’s job at the National Radio Station BRF. I also worked and lived in London and later in Edinburgh before moving back to Brussels.
I was lucky that my job as a reporter and producer allowed me to travel extensively worldwide … until I met the love of my life and thought it was time to settle down. We lived in Belgium for a few years, then decided to take our two children to live in Southern Portugal where life is so much simpler, healthier and laid back than in a big city. I learnt Portuguese and when both children started attending school, I found more time again to write, pick up the study of philosophy and eventually created my first work of fiction. I’ve loved the written word ever since I started reading as a child, devouring Enid Blyton’s books, writing poems, stories and filling many notebooks and diaries.
Tell readers about your book Manipulated Lives.
When I found out what a deceptive and narcissistic manipulator had done to someone I love, behind closed doors, I was determined to somehow make her voice heard. There are many excellent self-help books on the market giving advice on how to deal with controlling and manipulative individuals but I felt most comfortable taking the idea into fictional territory. By opening up to people about this topic during the initial stages of plotting my ideas, I was stunned about how many people have a story of their own. This was the reason why I decided to explore the impact of psychological manipulation on people of different ages and backgrounds. The five novellas can be read separately yet each aims to take the reader to question the fact that as an outsider, nothing is ever what it seems at first sight and that toxic manipulation happens in a wide variety of human interactions.
Q. When and why did you begin writing?
I was in my early forties, when my children were both in school and I had more time again to think about what to do with myself next. I always had a passion for philosophy and after some research found out about the MA in Philosophy course at the OU. Their distance learning programme was my best option and it was indeed a wonderful journey. It sparked my keen interest for psychology through research in the philosophy of mind and more specifically the human capacity for empathy.
Personal tragic circumstances (mentioned above) and the completion of a couple of creative writing courses with the OU and Oxford University have eventually made me pick up a pen and transfer my ideas into the writing of my first anthology of novellas.
Manipulators are everywhere and to some extent we all do use manipulative tools to reach our goals. It is a survival skill but one that if present in a narcissistic and perverted individual who lacks the capacity for empathy is dangerous for all those who get in contact with them.
I found that once I’d started writing, I couldn’t stop.
Q. What sort of research did you do to write this book?
I spoke extensively to victims of abuse, had discussions with a psychologist who is specialized in the field and also read books and scientific papers related to narcissistic personality disorder.
Q. What draws you to this genre? Do you think your writing will stay in particular genre?
I would say, for now anyway, that I’d like to stick with literary fiction. Maybe sometime in the future I’d like to venture into a PhD in Philosophy, because I also enjoy philosophical writing and the fascinating enquiry in the philosophy of mind!
Q. How many revisions did you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team and their suggestions?
I’m not sure exactly how many revisions my stories went through but I can say for sure that there were many! I had a long list of beta readers of varying backgrounds and ages, one of them also a pre-editor. For the final stage, I worked with Elaine Denning, a highly professional and experienced editor and her suggestions and corrections were invaluable, too.
Q. What was your favorite chapter (or I will say favorite story) of writing this book and why?
I don’t have a favourite story but I notice that my character Holly in Runaway Girl is still on my mind. I’d like to write a follow-up with her as a central character again, just to see what she ends up doing with her life and how she’ll cope with her independence as a young adult.
Q. What was the hardest part (or story) of writing the book? Was there anything that you deleted or altered?
The Narcissist was the hardest story to write. I had to imagine what it was like to be a deceiving, cunning and wicked manipulator and as much as it is uncomfortable reading, it was uncomfortable writing as well. Having said that, the process of writing this story opened my eyes further to the fact that people with narcissistic personality disorder are unable to see the harm they are doing or have done or if they do, it doesn’t affect them or, worse, they always find an excuse or explanation to justify it.
Q. Is there a message in your book that you hope readers will grasp?
Manipulation has many facets and there are differing degrees to it. Of course, ideally, we should all aim to be authentic and truthful, virtuous and kind. However, in real life, that is easier said than done. We do to some degree all mildly manipulate consciously or unconsciously. What is essential though is to stay true to yourself, self-critical and that the right to being respected is mutual. When your emotions, feelings and opinions are consistently being trampled on, dismissed or laughed at, you can probably safely say that you are in the presence of a person lacking that basic duty to respect you as a person. I hope that this message is conveyed in my stories and that working on one’s self-esteem is vital in not becoming the victim of abuse.
Q. If you could spend one day with character from your book/ any other book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?
I would love to invite Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice for a day to chat, sit by the fire, drink a cup of tea and get to know a woman who defied the convention of her time, hear her talk about her favourite books then venture out into the country side and nearby town to discover the environment she lived in with my own eyes.
Q. Do you read book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?
I enjoy reading reviews on Goodreads, book blogs and Amazon. I hope that despite bad comments, I would still choose to read a book simply because I like the sound of it myself or because I’ve read work by the author before and enjoyed it. Personally, I don’t see the point in writing bad reviews, especially when they are scathing and disrespectful or so short that you could argue that they were possibly written by a troll.
Q. What are your future project(s)?
I have just finished editing my second book – a long novella which I’m planning to publish this autumn and I’ve finished the final draft for my first novel.
Q. What book(s) have most influenced your life?
Simone de Beauvoir has had a huge impact on me as a teenager and well into my twenties and thirties. She’s the only author whose books I can read again and again. I’ve read all of her writings – fiction and non-fiction alike but if there is one of them that I’d highly recommend to every reader, it is A very easy death. In this short book, the author tenderly and with shocking clarity recounts the last phase in her mother’s life. It’s so simple yet poignant, moving and very powerful in its message. Simone de Beauvoir shows with great honesty that when facing the death of a parent, emotions can not only take you by surprise but over-ride the urge to rationalize the process of dying.
Q. What is your favorite motivational phrase?
The Portuguese motto – “Vamos a ver! We’ll see!”
Q. Currently reading
I’m currently reading a collection of essays by Doris Lessing. These range from topics about Jane Austen, Sufism, Africa and many other diverse subjects that this fascinating woman has written about in an accessible and fluid manner.
Q. Favorite foods / Colors/ Music/ TV show/ Film
I was born in Belgium where food is a top priority and can be found in many coulours, flavours, forms and shapes. I love sushi, Italian, Thai and anything fresh and vibrant such as salads and soups with different seeds, grains and all types of vegetables.
My favourite colour is pink.
I enjoy any kind of music, from classic to Jazz and pop. It just depends on my mood! My daughter plays the violin, the drums, piano and also sings so our home is filled with wonderful music from all genres.
In terms of TV shows, I try not to miss Master Chef or the Great British Bake Off because it’s simply astounding what some people can produce with their bare hands and their imagination.
My favourite movie is ‘Bridges over Madison County’ – it’s poetic, human, tender and asks a few poignant questions about loyalty, family ties and love in its many guises.
Q. Describe yourself in 5 words.
I’ve asked my family to provide me with those words:
Diligent, sensitive, kind, funny & spontaneous.
Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
First, I’d suggest that you start writing about something you know, have experienced yourself or is at least familiar to you. The authenticity is important I think and that what is conveyed has plausibility and depth. Secondly, I’d say it’s important to set aside time to write, where you dedicate all your attention to the words you get onto paper or the computer screen! Once you find a routine, give yourself a word target, so that no matter what comes to your mind any given day, you end up with something to work on, build on and develop during your next writing session. Thirdly, don’t be scared to discard anything that doesn’t make sense when you re-read the text you have written or move the section into a different part of your narrative. Let go of what is superfluous no matter how hard it has been to write it in the first place. Be sensitive, kind but also ruthless with your own work!
Q. Whom you will recommend your book?
I would say young adults and adult readers are the main reader groups for my book. As such it is an exploration of the manipulative sides of the human minds seen from five different perspectives, so the varying plots, ages of charterers and diverse social circumstances appeal to a wide group of people.
Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
The creation of Manipulated Lives has taught me that, at the end of the day, you sometimes must let go if a situation feels wrong and claim your life back. It’s difficult but hugely rewarding.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
I have written a series of g2uest posts and interviews for book blogs such as your lovely site. Other than that, readers can find articles on my website as well.
Many thanks to H.A. Leuschel taking time for this interview.
Thank you for reading!!
Have you read ‘Manipulated Lives’? If so what did you think about it? What do you think about this interview? Do you have any questions for author? Share your thoughts in the comment-box below.
Happy Reading! 🙂