Here at Tomato Pie, we’re celebrating the release of my biblical historical fiction ebook “Working Mother” by celebrating the working mothers among us. Le’s meet Jane Lebak!
What’s your name?
Tell us a little bit about your family.
My husband and I have been married for 19 years. We have four living children, ages 17 through 6, and one baby who died two hours after birth from a fatal birth defect.
Imagine you’re at a dinner party. Someone asks the question, “So, what do you do?” What’s your answer?
“I’m a freelance writer.” Generally people follow that up with, “What do you write?” so I reply, “Anything they’ll pay me to write,” which leads to some general laughter and sometimes a partial list of the things I’ve written. Lately I’ve been writing for a local newspaper, and that’s the most respectable and familiar thing for them so I talk about that. If you tell people you write books, they get a deer-in-the-headlights look if they don’t read, and if they do read they ask if they’ve read anything you’ve written and you have to tell them no.
Depending on the context, I may talk to people about my publishing company. I formed my own publisher this year just so I could get my work out there after years of Manhattan publishers saying it was good enough but wouldn’t be popular enough to land on the bestseller lists. You don’t want me to start talking about that, though — not if you want to enjoy the rest of the dinner party. I’m sure people would start nervously scanning for exits if I got on a roll about that subject, so I try not to get started.
How do you think God uses your job to help shape you into all He made you to be?
I feel much more alive and closer to God when I’m writing. God gave me a skill with words and the opportunity to develop that skill. When I can leverage that skill on behalf of other people, that’s just an amazing experience. Especially with my newspaper work, I feel as if I’m able to capture everyday successes, joys, and dreams and put them out there for the greater community to experience.
Also, when I’m writing fiction, I feel as if I’m going deeper into myself, learning more about people and experiences and thoughts. Oftentimes in fiction I’m working out the answers to questions I haven’t even gotten a chance yet to ask myself, and when I find the answers, they take me by surprise: this is what I needed to learn all along. If the Holy Spirit is using my characters’ adversity to shape me, that’s awesome.
But one other way God shapes me through my writing is that I begin to get a sense of how God interacts with us. Obviously this is an imperfect model because my characters aren’t alive and never can become self-aware, but on the other hand, I’ve learned about God as not having disposable people or the way God can love even people who are engaged in the most reprehensible actions. I like to think of the Creative side of God kind of as an author, and then writing makes me closer to Him.
What benefits (besides the economical) have you seen to your family that are a direct result of your work away from home?
I’m not quite so much of a grump when I’m able to get into my own head for a while and put my energy into something outside of us. I learn a lot from my research or interviews and can carry those tidbits back into our everyday life. I’m happier when I’m working on a book, and that benefits everyone. Also, I no longer feel incompetent because I have affirmation in my products that I’m absolutely competent. I’m pushing my comfort zone every time I try something new, and that has to make me a better parent and a better advocate for my family.
How do you balance any guilty feelings you might have in the tension between your workplace and your homespace?
I try to keep some time work-free for my children because (as I learned early on ) when you work from home, you could let your work engulf your daily life if you’re not careful, especially if it’s something you love to do. Therefore I keep Sunday work-free, and I try not to be working on my books when my children are home. At this point, I’m still at home all the time when my children are, and my work output is entirely controlled by how much time I want to give it, so I haven’t been prey to guilty feelings. The only time I really felt guilty was when one of my promotions went live unexpectedly and I spent the next two hours trying to get to work on that — and ended up forgetting to pick up my daughter early from school to take her to an appointment. She had to call me, and even then I didn’t realize what time it was.
What is one thing that you would ask the people in your life to do to support you more?
My immediate family has been very supportive, so I can’t ask for more from them. I have time to work and free time when I need to get away for an event or meetings with my local writing group. Overall I’d ask my friends and family to help promote my books, either by buying them, reading them, reviewing them, or giving them to other people. None of my extended family read my books. My biggest supporters have come from real-life friends and online friends, and I’m really thankful for them.
Thank you, Jane!
Are you a working mother? So was (and is) the Blessed Mother! If you enjoyed this interview and would like to celebrate working motherhood some more, please consider getting a copy of my $.99 historical fiction ebook, “Working Mother.”