Marc Liebman is constantly on the go. When he was a partner in a consulting firm, he was on the road at least four days a week and averaged 200,000 air miles annually. It’s an experience he doesn’t miss.
Liebman also has traveled via RV with his family and dog. His dream trip is to watch a baseball game in every ballpark in the country. He’s already seen games in about twenty venues, but some of the stadiums have since been razed.
When not writing or traveling, Liebman skis 30 to 40 days annually, volunteers as a docent at an aviation museum, work on the museum’s aircraft restoration team and gives rides as a demo pilot.
Liebman is the author of Moscow Airlift. He is the next author to be featured in my new interview series focusing on historical fiction and historical romance authors.
Marc Liebman on Writing
How long have you been writing?
Liebman: Decades as in six plus…. I was a correspondent for two magazines in college; wrote magazine articles while in the Navy, was an associate editor of a national magazine and the industry pubs; penned white papers as a consultant and finally, decided at age sixtyish, to write the novel I always wanted to write. Big Mother 40 came out in September 2012 and was an Amazon best seller. Five more followed at roughly one/year, one more is coming out in the next few months and I’ve got 11 more in various stages of completion on my laptop.
Oh, BTW, I’m 37 because I am dyslexic about my age!!!
What is your writing process like?
Liebman: Its pretty disciplined… So, here are the major steps:
Step 1 – Kernel – one to two paragraphs about the book, its plot and timing and preliminary name of the book
Step 2 – Synopsis – two to four pages that lay out the timing, major characters, locations, and details of the plot.
Step 3 – Rough chapter outline – two – six or more bullets that get translated into passages along with preliminary chapter titles
Step 4 – write the first draft of the manuscript. Note that the characters and their behavior dictate the manuscript, not the outline. Chapter titles change as does the plot.
Step 5 – Set the draft aside for at least 30 days. During this period, write notes to the author of “things” that need to be added, changed or researched, or re-organized.
Step 6 – First major edit. Read through the document, editing as I go and making the changes noted in step five as well as many more
Step 7 – set aside for 30 days
Step 8 – start polishing, assuming that I am happy with the manuscript
Traditional publishing, self publishing, or a combo? Why did you take the route you did?
Liebman: I started down the agent route, but it is a quirky, unpredictable process. Five agents actually wanted the whole manuscript and one actually wanted to represent it to a publisher. He sat on it for six months and nothing happened, so I started looking at small independent presses who were willing to invest in a first time novelist. The rest is history.
Pay to publish was out because of the cost and after interviewing several who really wanted Big Mother 40, I decided they were more interested in collecting fees and shipping 2,500 copies to my house than helping me sell books.
Self-publishing was ruled out because I didn’t want to be in the publishing business. I’m an author.
Plus, I review books for several magazines and the writing/production value of many of the selfpublished books left something to be desired.
However, last spring, I dabbled in the “find an agent” game for a new series and lo and behold, I found one willing to represent a new series. We’ll see what happens.
What was your biggest publishing struggle or lesson learned?
Liebman: Two, marketing and proofreading…. Marketing is much harder than I thought! Small publishers don’t have the resources to do much more than put the book on their web site and get it into distribution. The rest is up to the author. So, to build a brand, I started setting up speaking engagements, some paid, most free at which I can share my experiences in the military and at the end, sell some books. I feel about 1,000 books a year through speaking engagements. I write a blog every week, put out a newsletter to 3,000+ subscribers every month and one of these days, I’ll start tweeting. I also go to targeted events where my books would appeal to the attendees.
The biggest lesson learned is proofreading and it is in two parts. One, I am a lousy proofreader and two, a publisher’s sometimes are not much better. I had to pull a book off the market and have it re-proofread and re-released. Two, the proofreader better know your genre or topic or you will have to back and undo their incorrect changes.
Tell me about your latest release.
Liebman: Moscow Airlift came out in April, 2018. The Soviet Union is broke and coming apart. Gorbachev signs a record sized grain deal with the U.S. in January, 1991 and doesn’t have the money to pay for the grain and the country is on the verge of a major famine. Desert Shield happens in January/February. In March, Soviet citizens overwhelmingly vote to dissolve the Soviet Union. Hardliners want to overthrow Gorbachev (failed coup in August 1991) because they want to put an end to perestroika and glasnost and stop the dissolution of the country. In August, the Warsaw Pact officially ends and in December, the Soviet Union dies and is replaced by the Russian Federation.
In this context, Soviet generals are trying to sell tactical nukes to the Iranians to fund their retirement because they are convinced the country will fall apart soon. The hero, Josh Haman, is sent to Moscow in June 1991 to gather intelligence on what is happening. Scope creep happens when the Israeli’s tip off the U.S. that Iran is trying to buy tactical nuclear weapons.
And, oh BTW, the head of the KGB ordered the killing of Josh’s father-in-law and now wants him dead. To make matters worse, he meets an old flame from his days in Vietnam in the 70’s who works for French intelligence and spent three years in a Laotian re-education camp.
To find out what really happens, you’ll have to read the book!
What was its inspiration?
Liebman: The plight of Soviet Jewry. For hundreds of years, anti-Semitism was public policy of the Tsars. The Communists carried it forward even though many of the early leaders of the Bolsheviks – Trotsky, Kamenev, Zinoviev, Litvanov and others were Jews. Having “of Jewish ancestry” in your KGB dossier was career and even life threatening.
Even before Gorbachev started letting Jews emigrate freely, Soviet Jews were trying to get out. My father-in-law escaped and later “ransomed” his brothers by paying the outlandish emigration fees charged by the Soviet Union. Today, the Jewish population in Russia is under 200,000, down from several million in the post WWII Soviet Union.
So in this book, there’s an escape of a group of Russian/Bukharan Jews. Its one of the two “airlifts.”
What’s next for you?
Liebman: My agent is actually representing a non-fiction work called Gold & Silver Wings – Tales from Three Generations of Military Pilots. It is a collection of stories that don’t appear in official reports from my Dad’s, my and my son’s flying careers in the military.
She is also repping the first novel in a four book series called Flight of the Pawnee. Book two in the series – Manpads – is already written and the last two are outlined, but not written.
Sitting on my laptop are two books that are almost ready to go to either a publisher or an agent. The working tiles are Red Star of Death and Retribution.
My publisher has asked me to write a series with a Revolutionary War naval theme and I’m in the process of writing it. Its fun and a bit out of my sweet spot but having grown up reading C.S. Forester, Patrich O’Bryan and Alexander Kent, I’m loving working on it.
What advice would you give aspiring writers or novelists?
Liebman: 1. Patience – you will get published some day
2. Discipline – you have to work at writing every day or at least five to six days a week, several hours a day
3. Have a thick skin. You are going to hear the word “no” a lot in the form of rejections and corrections. Learn from it, separate the good from the bad and move on. Don’t get emotional.
4. Every great writer needs a great editor.
Marc Liebman on History
What is your favorite historical era and why?
Liebman: While I write about Vietnam and more contemporary periods, I think the age of sail, roughly mid 1700s to the end of Napoleon in 1815 is my favorite.
What historical figure would you like to spend a day with and why?
Liebman: Teddy Roosevelt. He was a man of vision, action, bravery and full of contradictions.
Name three historical events you’d like to witness if you had a time machine?
Liebman: 1. The Battle of Midway because so much was riding on the U.S. Navy’s gamble that we could take on the Japanese Navy and win.
2. Constitution taking of the HMS Guerriere. It was proof that the U.S. Navy had arrived.
3. Signing of the Declaration of Independence.