Today Deborah Lytton, author of Jane in Bloom, and Class of 2k9 member, is here to tell us more about life as a debut author. Welcome Deborah!
Please describe the inspiration for Jane in Bloom. Was there one moment where you just knew you had to write this story, or did it sneak up on you over time?
I was first inspired to write this story when I saw a segment on the news about forgotten siblings—these were people who had grown up in a family where everything revolved around one child who had a legitimate problem. The family was so concerned about the problem child that the forgotten one was rendered invisible. I wanted to give the forgotten ones a voice—I wanted to tell their story.
What was the biggest challenge, and the greatest surprise, in the process of writing your first novel?
The biggest challenge, I think, is the part I am going through right now, being at peace with the book being out in the public to be judged. And reading reviews. I never thought about this when I was writing and re-writing. I only ever imagined that one girl might read my book and find hope there. The greatest surprise, for me, was the editing process, which was a wonderful experience thanks to my editor, Julie Strauss-Gabel. For years, I have heard stories about how difficult the editing process can be, but my journey of re-writes was a completely positive process that only enhanced the manuscript. I always felt supported and understood—and I think that is rare in this business. I think my experience is a testament to Julie and the way she communicates with a writer.
How has your past work as an actress / singer / attorney / photographer prepared you for writing, and influenced your writing?
I think my background has made me a better writer because I have so much experience to draw from when I write. I use my training as an actress when creating characters. I also see everything like a film, and I hear the dialogue as if I were performing. As a singer and actress, I am comfortable speaking to people, and that helps when you have to promote your work. And as a songwriter, I have learned to tell a story with a minimum of words. You only have a few lines in a song to convey a whole range of emotions. Being a photographer helps me to see the work visually—it has enhanced my skills with color and detail which I use liberally in my writing. And being a lawyer has given me confidence and professionalism. It’s a lot of experience packed into one background, but I think it serves me well. Most of all, it gives me the perspective to appreciate the journey.
Speaking of preparation, how did you prepare yourself, emotionally and in terms of research, for writing a novel that features a character with a fatal eating disorder?
I read a number of books on eating disorders, some were written from a clinical perspective and others were first-hand accounts. It was painful research, but the more I read, the more I was certain that I wanted to tell this story. I did research on the process of grief, and I drew from my own experiences of grief. Emotionally, the book was draining to write, but I could not figure out a way to write this story without embracing the experience along with Jane.
In Jane in Bloom, Jane discovers her talent for photography. For Jane, photography has healing and transformative power, as it helps her to move through her grief and discover her strength. Why did you choose photography as Jane’s creative outlet and why do you think it helped her to grow into herself?
I wanted Jane to have a creative outlet, and I am the world’s worst artist. Even my children know this. I needed to be able to experience Jane’s creativity with her, and I was afraid art would be beyond my abilities and this would ring untrue. I wanted something visual so that the reader could see it in their mind. And I love photography. I have been shooting photographs since I was eight, so I went out and shot the photographs that Jane shoots in the book. I had never photographed flowers before, and it’s not easy. I think photography is a medium that allows you to disappear behind the lens but also share your emotions through the work. That worked for Jane and her journey of self-discovery. By standing behind the camera, you can shape the photograph. You have control over a little piece of the world for that moment. I wanted Jane to see that she could shape her own destiny. By using the camera, she was learning to trust her own vision. Continue reading