Welcome to my writer’s studio. Yeah okay, I’m in my office in the attic, so sue me.
Every fortnight, I’ll be inviting an author over for tea and cakes, although some of them insist on bringing coffee. Never mind, I’m such a genial host, I put up with the foul smell of burnt wood. See what a nice fellow I am?
My wife, Jan, provides the cakes, and then disappears because she can’t stand to hear writers coming to blows. She also hates having to clean up the blood spills.
So, first let me introduce my first
victim guest, Laurie Boris, who lives in the US and writes literary fiction. I’ve put all her contact details at the foot of the interview so you can concentrate on the chat for now, (pay attention at the back, I’ll be asking questions later).
KJD: Welcome Laurie, thanks for coming all this way. Relax, make yourself at home, and take a slice of chocolate cake. I see you’ve brought a thermos of coffee, lovely aroma. (I normally wait until my guest has a mouthful of cake before firing the first question—perhaps I’m not that genial a host after all).
LB: Hi Kerry, glad to be here.
KJD: Okay Laurie, I like to start with a simple question before I delve deep into the author’s psyche. What’s the best thing about your hometown?
LB: Oh wow, so many things! We’re nestled between the Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River. It’s so beautiful here, with stunning autumn colour, postcard views, and a thriving cultural community. If that’s not enough, we’re an hour-and-change train ride to Manhattan.
KJD: Fantastic. I live in the middle of the Brittany countryside too. Aren’t we the lucky ones? Tell me, what you see out of your studio window.
LB: Trees, trees, and more trees. And occasionally, a bird will fly smack into the glass. Occupational hazard, I guess.
KJD: Blimey, that’s uncanny. I had a kamikaze pigeon do the same thing last week. Can’t be the same one, as mine is now buried in the back garden. I gave it a good send off though, spared no expense. Perhaps pigeons are attracted to the written word.
Okay, here’s the first curveball. Now tell me what’s really out there (Mwahahaha).
LB: Sneaky! Actually, there’s more yardwork than I ever want to think about. That’s why I stay inside.
KJD: Tee hee. Know what you mean. It’s great having a large back garden, but some poor schmuck (me) has to mow the blooming grass. Now, let’s get to know you a little better.
You’re shipwrecked on a deserted paradise island. Apart from the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare (yeah, right), what other book must you have and why?
LB: I must have Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. It’s my favourite book. Every time I read it, I find something new to love and think about.
KJD: Interesting. Haven’t read that one, might have to check it out (Darn – showing my ignorance there. Onwards).
Under the same conditions, what’s the one luxury item you’d take with you and why? By the way, no beauty items allowed.
LB: Beauty items? Oh, you’re making me laugh so hard. Assuming that I already have an unlimited supply of notebooks and pens in this paradise, I’d like a comfortable bed. Everything else would be a cherry on my sundae.
KJD: Sorry – that’s two things, I’m mean. Everybody needs a good night’s sleep, but you’ve now forfeited your right to either luxury. You’ll have to write on slates and sleep on the ground. Mwahahaha.
Now let’s skip right to the technical stuff, which I’m sure all your readers are as interested in as I am. What’s the first thing you do when starting a new novel? Do you research and write a detailed plot outline, or are you what they call a pantser (fly by the seat of your pants)?
LB: Aha. Right. I sit down and start writing whatever the characters are telling me. Usually it’s dialogue. I hear them speaking and write down what I hear. Until my last couple of books, I was a dedicated “pantser,” but I’m experimenting with outlines now. So after I get a good start, I’ll rough out “story beats,” a kind of modified outline that’s loose enough to keep it interesting but tight enough to give me some direction. I try not to do any research until after the first draft, relying on my subconscious mind to pull up whatever keeps me going. Often, it’s surprisingly accurate.
KJD: Brilliant, hold on a second while I take notes … great. Thanks. Next question.
What excites you about writing and the writing process?
LB: I love meeting new characters; I love digging into their motivations and their lives. I love the escape of writing. The house could be burning down and I’d barely notice. In fact, I’ve ruined several pots of soup this way.
KJD: Most non-writers reading that would worry about your sanity, hearing voices and allowing your imaginary friends to ‘lead’ the way, but truth be told, I do exactly the same thing myself. Perhaps writing is a single step away from madness and I’ll see you again in the asylum.
When did you begin writing creative fiction?
LB: I started in middle school, when a wonderful teacher gave us an assignment to start keeping a journal. In the margins of one of my entries, he encouraged me to try fiction and to write for the school literary magazine.
KJD: That’s a great teacher. I didn’t start writing fiction seriously until 2011, I had no encouragement from my teachers, bunch of useless, aggressive, b*!*!* (expletives deleted). Ahem, sorry ‘bout that. I hated school, ended up being expelled in the days before they used the term ‘excluded’, but that’s another story. On to brighter things, let’s talk about your latest work.
Where did you find the inspiration? What’s it about? When can we expect to see it on the bookshelves? How about a sneak preview? Come on, spill the beans, I want to know it all!
LB: Part of my inspiration was from readers, who met the hero, Charlie, in one of my earlier novels and wanted to know more about him. I kept pushing the thought to the back of my mind. I had other stories to write and I’d never written a sequel before. Then Charlie popped into my room. He wanted me to tell his side of the story. It ended up dovetailing the original novel: a prequel AND a sequel. Yikes. We had some work to do and listened to a LOT of Frank Sinatra.
The prequel novella, The Picture of Cool, is the story of how Charlie Trager and Adam Joshua Goldberg meet, and how they struggle with what even a potential friendship could cost them and their loved ones. Playing Charlie Cool continues their narrative—the challenges that result when Charlie is all in and Joshua is not ready to commit. To complicate their relationship further, Joshua’s spurned ex-wife tries to keep him from their two children … and maybe Charlie. Afraid he might be losing Josh, Charlie connives a way they can be together, at the risk of destroying everything the two have worked so hard to build.
KJD: Wow, powerful stuff. Sounds like a real potboiler, full of emotion and character driven, and makes a real change from car chases, gunfights, and vampire gore. I see why you call it literary fiction.
Back to you now, if there were a single thing you’d like to change about yourself, what would it be? (Cosmetic surgery is out of bounds).
LB: I’m pretty grateful for the whole package, considering how some things could have gone, but the horrid little voice that tries to edit while I’m writing first drafts? Yeah, I’d like that to go away.
KJD: I know the feeling. That same voice plagues me too. I wonder if it has anything to do with those kamikaze pigeons.
What’s next in your life?
LB: I made a promise to myself to complete the first draft of my next novel by the end of January. No, I’m not telling you what it’s about.
KJD: Aw, c’mon. Pretty please?
LB: Nope. I’m bound by the sacred laws of author confidentiality.
KJD: Darn it, give me back that cake! Tee hee, kidding.
Okay, to make up for it, tell me something about yourself you wouldn’t want you partner/parents to know. Don’t worry; it’ll be our little secret. 😉
LB: Oh, you’re so tricky.
KJD: I try.
LB: Here’s one – there are way too many empty jars of Nutella in my writing room. I think it’s my drug of choice.
KJD: Okay – you’re forgiven. Anyone who likes and eats that stuff, which to me looks like doggy doo-doo, deserves all our sympathy.
And finally, to wrap up, is there anything I’ve forgotten to ask that you’re desperately, desperately keen that readers should know?
LB: I really love hearing from readers! Without you guys, I’d probably be in nursing school like my mother always wanted. Drop me a line, would you?
KJD: It’s been fantastic chatting with you Laurie, a true pleasure. All that’s left is for me to say, thanks millions for your time and candour, and to wish you the very best of luck with your writing. As for me, I hope to play Kerry Cool for as long as I can still walk upright.