Okay, contain your excitement, Kate. Breathe in, breathe out, and keep your shrieking to a minimum.
Heya, guys! I’ve been excited for this to happen since a few weeks ago when I contacted the author. For one thing, I’ve interviewed two authors now! (Not that anyone’s counting. Heh.) For another, this is Suanne Laqueur! I’ve become a fan ever since I finished reading The Man I Love and then she became one of my favorite New Adult author after reading Give Me Your Answers True. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.
The Man I Love, Laqueur’s debut novel, won gold medal for the 2015 Reader’s Favorite Book Awards and Suanne Laqueur won gold medal for the 2015 Best Debut Author for Feathered Quill Book Awards.
When did your love for storytelling and reading/writing books start?
I’ve been an avid reader since I was a child, and started writing little stories when I was in fourth or fifth grade. When I was in high school, a friend and I tried writing a book together and it was really then I realized how much I enjoyed it: telling a story and connecting to emotions and creating characters out of nothing. And it was something I continued to do all through my college years and adulthood, but never with any intent of publishing. It was something I did for fun and only shared with a few close friends and family.
When did you realize that you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always identified with being a writer. Same way I identified with being a gardener and a reader. It was something I did that was a vital part of me. But it wasn’t until November of 2013 that I looked at a manuscript I’d been tinkering around with for more than 20 years and thought, “what are you waiting for?” It was a very sudden decision and I can’t really say where it came from. Sounds corny to say I woke up one morning and it was time but really that’s how it happened! And I seemed to be in the right place at the right time because through social media, I was meeting a lot of other writers and learning about self-publishing and realizing I could finish my book and publish it on my terms. I made that the goal: to finish it, work with an editor to make it the best it could be, and publish it for the pure accomplishment. Have the bound book in my hands, sleep with it under my pillow, and be able to say, “I did this.”
What was the first story you ever wrote?
Ever? LOL, that would’ve been in first grade and it was something like “The Trapped Girl” about a little girl who got into a stranger’s car and wound up in a cage. It had a real cliffhanger ending, if I remember correctly.
In high school, my friend and I wrote this dystopian tale called “The Children of England” which was so god-awful, it was kind of great. Then I have a dozen manilla envelopes full of various romantic tales, I guess you’d call them New Adult. I can barely look at them now, they’re just so bad.
Before The Fish Tales, my biggest works-in-progress were All the Running You Can Do and Bury My Heart in Cashmere. Both those manuscripts were the “laboratory” for The Fish Tales: Erik, Daisy, Will and Lucky were born in those pages and I talk about that in my upcoming book, The Ones That Got Away.
Who are your favorite authors and how did they influence your writing?
I can’t pick one favorite but I do have my gurus and certain books of theirs that are my bibles. I love Rumer Godden, in particular her novel In This House of Brede. That and Laurie Colwin’s book Family Happiness helped me discover what kind of writer I wanted to be: taking ordinary people and putting them into extraordinary circumstances. Stephen King’s Eyes of the Dragon taught me about storytelling. Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland series showed me how to make everything in a story come alive. I also love Philip Pullman, Neil Gaiman, Ann Patchett and Joanne Harris.
In Emma Scott’s review of The Man I Love in Goodreads, she pointed out the novel’s interiority and how brilliantly you’ve done it. I couldn’t agree with her more. I’m still stuck in Erik and Daisy’s world, about a week after reading it. Can you describe your writing process?
That “interiority” observation was quite the compliment. I think that comes from finding the emotion of a scene first and building on top of it. It’s not only what happens, but how the characters feel about it. And not shying away from some of the uglier feelings we all experience.
I’m an inside-out writer to begin with. A lot of authors come up with a storyline and then make up characters to fit within it. I do the reverse: I think up characters and play around with them for a long time until they start to tell me their story. For months, I’ll just write little vignettes and scenes and conversations. I put the characters into situations and watch what happens. I don’t think about where it will fit in the book—a lot of times it doesn’t, it’s just character-building. It’s almost like those photo booths at a party where there’s a big box of props and you just pull things out of the box and pose. I let my characters try on all kinds of personalities, let them change race, gender, profession, sexual orientation, thinking, feeling. I keep turning the page and asking, “Well, what if…” And then I follow them around. Little by little, as they interact with each other and the world, a story starts to emerge.
You know, I’m really starting to love reading about authors describing their writing process. Maybe it’s just me but it feels like another kind of therapy.
Is there a kind of scene that you like to write about more than others? Is it harder for you to write about them?
I like to write dialogue most. Every chapter I’ve ever written starts with a dialogue. If I can write a conversation about something, I can then write it any way I need to.
I tend to write out of order, and I tend to write the “dessert” first—all the fun things: action, conversation, sex, intense interaction, etc. Then I have to go back and write what I call the “broccoli” chapters: the scenes that pass time, bridge gaps, give information or move the action forward. They’re not as sexy or exhilerating, but when a broccoli chapter you’ve been dreading to write comes out well and does what you want it to do invisibly, it’s satisfying in its own way. See, within a book, there are chapters that seek the limelight and chapters that hold the light in place 🙂
Your books contain so many quotable lines and, unlike in some other books, they don’t feel forced or cliché. I find non-cliché quotes rare in any genre, but particularly in contemporary romance. Do you generally write more by logic or intuition, or is it a combination of both?
Total intuition. Sometimes I write a line and just stare at it like, “Holy cow, where did that come from?” When I hear someone quote a line to me, or say that they used a quote in a real life situation, it just blows my mind.
Can you share an experience you had while researching about ballet or technical theater for The Man I Love?
I didn’t have to do a lot of research there because I grew up in the dance/theater world and went on to major in that field in college. It’s my home base. In The Man I Love, I did have to research the medical aspects of Daisy’s injuries. I consulted with a friend who worked as an EMT for eight years before going to med school and becoming a surgeon. I described to him what I needed to have happen to her: an injury that wasn’t life-threatening, but still scary. Not career-destroying, but would require a lot of rehab. I had one really funny call with him where he had a colleague, a vascular surgeon, on the line and the two of them were rubbing their hands and cackling about what they were going to put Daisy through. They were like gleeful about it. “Fasciotomy! Oh yeah, she’s gonna freak out!!”
When I was writing Give Me Your Answer True, I contacted several dancers from the Metropolitan Opera Ballet and asked if they’d share details about their work. Next thing I knew they were sending me pictures and videos from backstage, documenting their day and showing me rehearsals and costumes and funny anecdotes. It was amazing. Experts love to be consulted. You tell them you’re writing a book and they will bend over backwards to help you get the details right. Those little touches make a book gritty and real.
I’ve always had this impression that surgeons are scary in a good way but, man, those two surgeons Ms. Laqueur mentioned are in a whole new level. XD
What do you do when you experience writer’s block?
I get off the computer and go back to the notebook and pen. I find writing by hand often opens up the “faucet” again. Mostly I try to trust that a block is nothing new, I’ve been here before and I always think of something.
Can you tell us about your latest work, An Exaltation of Larks?
This has been quite an experience because after being so immersed in the cast of The Fish Tales for over twenty years, I was creating a whole new universe of characters. And from these people, plus one tiny little idea, a story has taken shape and really started to bloom and unfold and develop.
An Exaltation of Larks follows the lives of two men. Alejandro Penda was eleven when he fled Chile during Pinochet’s coup. Arriving alone in America, he was fostered by the Larks: a prominent family in the town of Guelisten. Though burdened by grief for his murdered parents, and haunted by the memory of Pinochet’s atrocities, Alex builds a successful and satisfying life. Two things drive him: love for his wife and daughter, and loyalty to the Larks.
Javier Landes is also a self-made man. Cut off from his family at eighteen, he makes his way in the world by selling his greatest asset: himself. As one of the top-paid male escorts in New York City, he never lacks for company and has no need for love or loyalty until he is named guardian for an orphaned nephew in Guelisten.
Alex and Jav meet first in their twenties, setting an invisible chain of events into motion. When they meet again in their forties, love and loyalty threaten the carefully-guarded worlds both men have built, and they discover their families are connected by more than just chance.
Do you have any current non-writing projects?
I’m always outside in my garden this time of year. We had some trees taken down which has created space for some new sunny beds so I’m working on those. I love flowers and I come up with a lot of ideas about my stories when I’m outside digging in the dirt.
Any advice to give for aspiring writers?
Read. Keep reading. If your craft is words, you have to feed the beast. Read everything you love and then write what you love to read. Tell your story as it happened, tell it the best you can. Set realistic goals and celebrate when you meet them. Be prepared to work hard and for amazing things to happen.
Last thoughts to our readers?
I’m a writer, but readers are what make me an author. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share a bit of myself and get to know you better. Thanks so much for having me!
Awww. Thank you, too, to Ms. Suanne Laqueur for sharing a bit of yourself! I hope you guys enjoyed this interview as much as I did. And it’s official: reading about authors describing their writing process is now a new Kate therapy. 🙂 If I ever get the chance to interview another author, this question will certainly be part of it.
If you haven’t read any of Ms. Laqueur’s published work, below are the images with links to their respective Amazon page.