The Private Sector – a Guest Blog by Leigh M. Lane
The world of corporate greed runs rampant after the government collapses, leaving police, fire, and social services in the hands of the wealthy. Debtor prisons for the lower and middle classes overflow and quarantine camps have filled to capacity, turning the streets into a personal battleground for terrorists fighting against a world headed toward ruin as resources run dry and civilization becomes ruled by The Private Sector.
“In the tradition of 1984, Leigh M. Lane delivers a terrifying vision of the future—a horrific future that may not be so distant after all….” —Lisa Mannetti, Stoker Award-Winning author of The Gentling Box and Deathwatch
"A versatile literary maestro, Lane's characters breathe, her language sings, and her plotting is nothing short of remarkable. You owe it to yourself to give her a read, no matter what kind of fiction you like. You'll love her work. I promise." —Trent Zelazny, Nightmare Award-winning author of Fractal Despondency and Butterfly Potion
Say hello to Leigh M. Lane, today's guest blogger. Under various pseudonyms, Leigh has had 10 novels and dozens of short stories published, in a variety of sub-genres. Today she'll be talking about her latest novel, The Private Sector. But before we get to that, we're doing a little Q&A with Ms. Lane.
1. You write under different names. This novel and another Leigh M. Lane novel, World-Mart, are similar in that they both deal with dystopian futures where America is run by corporations. Under another name, you do a lot of horror and supernatural writing. Yet sometimes there is crossover. Is there a reason you don't stick to a specific sub-genre for each name?
My decision to use the two names—Leigh M. Lane and Lisa Lane—has more to do with stylistic differences than genre. I use Leigh M. Lane for speculative and literary works and reserve Lisa Lane for more mainstream writing and erotica. I really don’t like the idea of unwanted surprises when someone who’s enjoyed my work decides to read a new title, but I also like to be transparent about what I write. For that reason, I decided not to make up a pseudonym but rather use my given name and nickname to delineate my work.
2. What is it about corporations ruling the world that attracts you as a writer?
It terrifies me. I see how much political pull corporations already have via high-paid lobbyists, how complacent people are about the inequities in pay between CEOs and “associates” (for example, shopping regularly at Wal-Mart because items are cheaper despite how poorly most of its low-level employees are treated), and how many laws (such as environmental ones) they are able to get away with breaking simply because they know how to line the right pockets. Having managed in a corporate setting, I feel desperate to do something about democracy’s slow shift into a corporatocracy. Corporations might make a handful of people a lot of money, but they also breed generations of workers who feel apathetic about their jobs, they increase the underclass with their low wages (and thus contribute to poverty levels), and they sacrifice efficiency and quality for the bottom line. This is the world we’ve allowed others to create, and this is the legacy we’re passing on to the next generation. That scares the hell out of me.
3. You're very active in social media. Do you find that the benefits – promotion, building an audience, keeping up on the publishing business – outweigh the drawbacks (lost time!), or are you able to not get drawn into the time-suck of posting and commenting?
I’ve found social media isn’t what it used to be as far as promoting books goes, but I do think having an online presence is still important. I know some people find it helpful in their sales, but I don’t see a direct correlation between time spent on Facebook or Twitter and higher figures. Promotional events such as online release parties and Goodreads giveaways offer a little bump here and there, but nothing sustainable. Keeping up to date on publishers, paid anthology calls, and trends is the biggest benefit I see beyond the personal one. I enjoy interacting with other writers, like minds. Offline, I’m usually rather shy and guarded, and I think a big part of that is I’m also a bit eccentric and socially awkward. I can feel more comfortable just being me when I’m around other artistic types and word nerds.
4. Who are some of your favorite authors today, and why?
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. has been my favorite author since I read Cat’s Cradle and “Harrison Bergeron” over twenty-five years ago. I love his style, and I feel his work, along with Richard Matheson’s, George Orwell’s, and H.G. Wells’, has had the biggest impact on my writing. I adore Poe and the different styles he wrote. Something about his use of language, especially in his Gothic works, captivates me in a way few other authors can. I will always have a place in my heart for Stephen King and Dean Koontz, as their books were my first tastes of horror and definitely were responsible for my love of horror today. Louise Erdritch, who writes American Indian magical realism, is also at the top of my list, as are Lisa Mannetti, Trent Zelazny, Chantal Noordeloos, Dana Fredsti, and Linda D. Addison, whom I only recently discovered. I enjoy a number of indie authors as well, but I dare not attempt to list them all lest I forget at least one or two of them.
5. Why do you think the dystopian future sub-genre is so popular right now, with both adults and YA readers?
I think the popular contemporary dystopian works are more subgenres of a subgenre, more mainstream and less traditional. Really, they branch off into two directions: 1) romances, complete with the happily-ever-after ending, disguised as dystopias and 2) post-apocalyptic works that contain dystopian elements. I think people are hungry for social commentary, but most are also more interested in reading escapism than works that force them to face head-on the issues such stories raise. This, I believe, is part of that complacency I mentioned earlier. I don’t blame people for conforming to such a mindset; it’s the result of living far too long in a society conditioned to believe that we’re powerless to effect any meaningful change. Naturally, people escape into books and films that make them feel better about it all rather than even more powerless.
I really do wish the traditional dystopia would make a comeback, however. I’d like to think society is ready for something a little less formulaic and hopeful, to read more works that make people think about the social injustices we’ve learned to turn a blind eye to, and to care enough to stand up against complacency and fix our broken system.
6. Do you attend conventions? Which ones?
I’ve attended two KillerCons, but financial and health-related roadblocks have kept me from travelling these past few years. I’m hoping to change that. I come to life when surrounded by my “tribe,” and I’d love to hang out with all the people I’ve grown to love and respect through social media. Next year’s StokerCon will take place in Las Vegas, a fifteen- to twenty-minute drive from where I live, and I’m elated at the possibility of being a part of what will undoubtedly be the beginning of a great new convention.
7. Tell us a little about your writing habits. Music or not? Mornings? Afternoons? Word limits?
I used to listen to music while writing, and then there was a period in which I couldn’t write unless I had complete silence. These days, I prefer to have the television on as background noise (usually Criminal Minds, Forensic Files, or Cops). It also helps me to clear my head for a minute or two when I get stuck on a word or sentence, and I’ve found I can tune it out when I’m actively writing and don’t want the distraction. I don’t place any specific word counts for the day, as that varies depending on the types of projects I have on my plate. I do tend to start my writing/editing day around 10:00 or 11:00, after I’ve visited social media, and there are a number of variables that will determine just how long I end up working on a given day.
8. Do you use beta readers and/or editors for your work?
Always. I have a handful of trusted peers who go through all my work, people who are picky enough to point out every little detail that doesn’t work. One of them is an editor, and he’s always the one to point out my particular bad habits in a given book. My husband is also an editor, the best I know, and he gets the final pass before I start submitting.
9. Name one thing about this book – or your writing in general – that you think would surprise readers.
I think anyone familiar with only one of either name I write under would be surprised with the style and content in my other works, especially those who are only familiar with my Leigh M. Lane books. I’m very outspoken about my passion for literary fiction, and I think many people mistake that passion for literary snobbery, which simply isn’t the case. I see literary prose as a specific art form, but I do also appreciate (and sometimes write) more mainstream styles. I also, on occasion, write extreme horror: I had a torture porn piece, “The Great American Sock Puppet Show,” published last year at Servante of Darkness (now backlisted); my Jane the Hippie Vampire novella series, although technically drama with horror and humor elements, contains some of the most twisted subject matter I’ve ever taken on; and my most recently completed novel, Agoraphobia, has a few scenes that even made me squeamish. I’m not a one-trick pony—far from it.
10. What's next for Leigh M. Lane?
Eldritch Press, the publisher for The Private Sector, will be releasing a second edition of World-Mart and World-Mart’s unpublished sequel, Aftermath, both of which The Private Sector prequels. I’m especially excited about Aftermath, as it really hits the traditional dystopian roots with a feel that crosses between 1984 and The Time Machine. Hopefully, I’ll have more to say about Agoraphobia this year too. I’m also part of a super-secret group project I’m not allowed to talk about yet, but I can tell you it’s very mainstream and will be published under Lisa Lane.
About The Private Sector:
At the tail-end of 2012, I was on the phone with one of my sisters discussing the presidential election and all of the rhetoric making its rounds on social media. We began to talk about the extreme right-wing’s views, specifically proposed cuts to taxes and government, and took some time to explore and entertain those ideas. My husband brought up the fact that many of the social services we currently take for granted did once belong to the private sector. Most notable were firefighting brigades for which building owners had to pay a form of insurance if they wanted to guarantee services in times of need. When business got slow, firefighters themselves would commit arson in order to secure more work. Scary, right?
Then it hit me: There is a book in this, and the type of world I would have to fashion around it would make a perfect prequel to World-Mart.
Dystopias typically take contemporary issues to their extremes, speculating what could happen if we were to see them to their bitter ends. Thus, The Private Sector needed to paint a world in which there were no social services, public works, or free education. It needed to be a story about the effects this would have on the middle and lower classes. It needed to show what might be were various services such as police and fire rescue to exist strictly as private businesses.
As a couple of reviewers have described it: The Private Sector is a cautionary tale that ultimately warns: Be careful what you wish for.
The typical horror story doesn’t scare me. I’m immune to paranormal creatures that go bump in the night, zombie survival tales, and even splatterpunk, but reality … now that terrifies me. The acts people are capable of committing against one another are at the base of my nightmares. The possibility of living in a corrupt society too far gone to fix keeps me up at night. The Private Sector, World-Mart, and Aftermath are labors of love, an expression of my desire to influence others into making society a better place for everyone. I wrote them not because I wanted to, but because I needed to. At my core, I’m a bleeding heart, a real humanitarian, and I only wish I had the means to change the world for the better with more than just the books I write. Still, I hope they make at least some kind of difference.
World-Mart has been made unavailable until the second edition publication, which does not yet have a release date, although a handful of vendors on Amazon have second-hand first-edition copies available. For updates, or for more information about The Private Sector and other works, visit Leigh’s website and blog at http://www.cerebralwriter.com.
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