Leslie Lehr’s Bio:
Leslie Lehr is a prize-winning author whose latest, A Boob’s Life: How America’s Obsession shaped Me… and You was featured in People Magazine, Glamour, Good Morning America, and in Entertainment Tonight’s short list of books by “trailblazing women changing the world.” Salma Hayek is producing a comedy series based on A Boob’s Life for HBO Max. In addition to her novels and nonfiction books, her essays have been in the New York Times Modern Love column (narrated by Katie Couric for NPR). Leslie is the Novel Consultant for Truby Writers Studio.
Here is my interview with Leslie:
What inspired you to write A Boob’s Life?
One night when my husband and were about to celebrate our first home together, I got out of the shower and noticed my breasts didn’t match. I’d just completed breast cancer treatment and was grateful to be alive. But I was also upset. My husband accused me of being obsessed. As a feminist, I was insulted. Then a comedian on TV made a boob joke, proving it wasn’t just me. I couldn’t sleep.
Next to my bed was my favorite picture of my mom and sister and me in matching red bikinis. It makes me laugh because my baby sister couldn’t keep her nipples covered, I was three and I already knew that nipples were taboo. How can this not be a huge influence about how we feel about our bodies?
I went to my computer to find an answer. There were books about breast cancer and breastfeeding and of course lots of porn, but nothing that put it all together. I could track my whole life by my breasts – wanting them as a girl, hiding them to work, showing them to date, breastfeeding, breast implants, breast cancer… I had to investigate further. Turns out that the way we view breasts, the part of a woman that enters the room first, has influenced both men and women in profound ways.
How do you come up with book titles? Do you know them from the beginning, or do they evolve?
Titles are super important, so I always decide at the beginning. It’s the easy part for me, and the most fun. A good title can also remind me of my story goals as I write. When I consult or teach, I suggest that writers brainstorm titles based on character, setting, plot, and theme to come up with options. Sometimes the publisher changes it, but at least I’ve had my version.
As people learned about your book, what unexpected things happened along the way?
The most unexpected was having a producer want to make A Boob’s Life into a TV comedy series. That was before I even got a book deal. It’s in development now with Salma Hayek’s company for HBOMax. I also am always surprised at the letters I get, and the real opportunities I have supporting related causes that help people. From cancer to breastfeeding to parenting, divorce, and domestic violence, I’ve been able to have a voice to attract support and fundraising. Different themes of the book really speak to all kinds of readers. And recently I’ve had one fan sending me her favorite lines – a lot of them! Writing is lonely, so this is a best result.
What is your preferred genre to write in?
I write to explore the lives of contemporary women. I think that’s why reviewers have called me a “bold new voice for feminism.” I use whatever genre works best for the story I want to tell. I usually start with personal essays that evolve into books, from nonfiction (Welcome to Club Mom) to drama (66 Laps, Wife Goes On) to thriller (What A Mother Knows) to this pop culture memoir (A Boob’s Life).
Where do your ideas come from for stories/books?
You know that old saying, write what you know? I write what I want to know, to find ways to understand the divide between sexy and sacred, the way women are challenged and defined and limited when we are truly complex and doing our best. This passion drives all my work. And, of course, I want to have fun and entertain readers while doing it.
What have people most liked or found most meaningful/funny/creative/ challenging about your book?
Readers of all ages are relating to my personal experiences because all of us with boobs get up in the morning and decide what to do with them. We all get judged by them and have feelings about them. I get letters from both women and men, mothers and daughters, teens and seniors, because it’s A Boob’s Life for all of us. That’s why the subtitle is How America’s Obsession Shaped Me… and You. The mix of memoir is woven with anecdotes and songs and fun facts about how our culture was defining women at each stage. This unique combination made it hard to sell. But it’s also what makes the book so popular, especially now, for Women’ History Month. It’s the history of how America has defined women by our breasts for decades.
Why do you write?
I write to have a voice. I started with essays to figure things out and have my opinion on record. I wrote the NYT Modern Love essay to show something that truly surprised me about love. I had no intention of going deeper. Then one day I knew I had to write a book related to it and go much deeper. It’s incredible to start with an idea and make it real, to work hard and create something that can move and delight others. It’s magic.
What’s the hardest part of writing or publishing?
Writing is the fun part for me. Not the first draft but revising. It’s like having a puzzle and playing with the pieces. Publishing is all hard. It’s such a gamble. Writers have no control unless we do it ourselves and publish independently. But that is not my strong skill set. I just want to write!
What are you currently working on or have future plans to write?
I’m currently working on a novel based on real events that I’ve been trying to approach from different angles for decades. It’s a historical novel combining love story and drama. Just recently, I found a notebook from high school saying I needed to write this story before I was 25 and “over the hill.” Ha!
What is your most bizarre talent?
I don’t know of a bizarre talent, but I sure have a bizarre lack of talent: typing. I was forced to take typing in high school because girls needed to have a fallback career as a secretary. I was not interested, so I nearly failed. (I wasn’t planning to be a writer.) I still type with four fingers.