Wendy Laharnar - Of Place and Time
Hello everyone! April Interviews is back from the short pause of yesterday, and today I am delighted to introduce to you the utterly charming Wendy Laharnar!
Tell us a bit about yourself, Wendy!
I’m an Australian author who lives by the sea with my husband and mini Schnauzer. I love visits from my two kids and three grandkids. My favourite place to daydream as a child was my grandparents’ house, on top of the rugged cliffs of Coogee, NSW. The wild waves pounded the rocks and sprayed our windows. Naturally I draw on those memories for some of my stories, especially my latest short story, A Summer Squall, with the beautiful, enigmatic cover by Marion Sipe. My medieval novel, The Unhewn Stone won 3rd place in the Young Adult Fiction of the Preditors and Editors Awards, 2011.
You do a beautiful job of creating pictures with your words, and congratulations for The Unhewn Stone! What was the first book you ever read that really blew your mind, that you couldn’t stop thinking about after you’d finished?
Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree was the first book to grab my imagination. I’ve had several of my own Faraway Trees while growing up. The last one was at our farm. It had a big old hollow trunk I could crawl into and look up to see clouds drifting by. It’s true. Ask my grandkids. We all climbed in and around and up it.
How do you start thinking about a book? Is it the characters that first pop to mind, or the setting, or the plot? Where do you usually start?
Place is very important to me, so I usually begin with a setting. To stand in a meadow, by a stream, in a musty room, any place that stirs my imagination or gives me goose bumps, tells me something interesting happened here. This gives me the Where of the story and raises questions such as, What? To Whom? Why? When? How? e.g I began A Summer Squall by sitting at my desk staring at the blank computer screen, then I raised my eyes to look at the cloudless sky through the big window in front of me and pelicans flew by. I knew something special would happen, but What? A story would materialize. To Whom? Me. Why? I had a deadline to meet. When? Now. How? Well, that’s what A Summer Squall is all about.
What is your absolute favorite sentence--just one sentence--from your book? Why?
This is difficult to answer because there aren’t that many sentences in a story as short as A Summer Squall. However, I must choose only one, and it’s this –
“My thoughts drifted with the lovely swirls my fingers rippled in the water.”
I see movement and colours in the swirls. I feel the cold and damp, smell and taste (the salt) and hear the sound of lapping. The gentle words lull me, so the sentence has an emotional as well as sensory effect on me. Once while swimming I made those swirls and liked the effect so they eventually found their way into a story. Now I wish I’d used ‘lazy’ instead of ‘lovely’. It certainly pays to talk things through, doesn’t it? Too late now.
Hee! Isn't that usual the way? What one scene do you think you spent the most time editing? What was about it that you couldn’t seem to get right?
Because I’ve never seen an emergency flare, I couldn’t imagine how someone could use one. I had to know how to do this safely before I wrote a flare into Pudd’s chubby little hand; the dear little fellow. I spent time watching how-to videos and read instructions on sites which offered flares for sale. I had to make sure I used the correct type, too, so took advice from my friend’s son who has had experience lighting flares at sea. As it turned out, my Pudd already knew how to use one safely. :-)
How do you ‘get into character’? Are their certain characters you find are harder to write than others?
With A Summer Squall, I took the easy way out. I was just me, warts and all.
In general, I find it easiest to get into character when writing villains. It’s payback time
. My villains can be a composite of
offensive people I meet or based on news articles, even the darker side of me.
Heroes, on the other hand, need to be clever to get themselves out of the
predicaments I place them in. Somehow, they don’t always help themselves and
depend on me to make them look good. That often proves quite difficult.
What’s the one thing you wish you were good at, but just can’t seem to master?
I wish I was good at self discipline. The amount of time I waste thinking about stories rather than writing them…I shudder, just thinking about it.
I often imagined a dinner party such as this when I was writing my YA Medieval Time Travel novel, The Unhewn Stone, also from MuseItUp. I chose writers who would mentor me.
Firstly, I’ve ask 14th century English poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, to sit at the head of the table. Not only does he develop wonderfully memorable character in his satires, he also mixes with kings, is a philosopher, an alchemist and an astronomer. My story is set just before his own era and deals with these aspects of life as Chaucer knows it. He is so interesting and a great reference source.
Next to him, opposite me, is 20th century American scientist/author Carl Sagan who knows all about stars and the cosmos. He has explained the workings of a wormhole to me and is now enlightening Chaucer on New Age Science and Cosmology. They are getting along famously.
19th century French writer Guy de Maupassant, ‘father of the short story’, sits beside me. I admire his style and how he uses clever plots and twists to reveal character flaws and social hypocrisies. As he says, stories should “force us to think and understand the deeper, hidden meaning of events".
Opposite him is the 18th century English satirical poet Alexander Pope, who also exposes vanity and social folly but with a delicate pen. I hadn’t realized how much of Pope we quote today e.g. ‘To err is human, to forgive, divine’ and ‘Fools rush in where angels fear to tread’. It’s great listening to him in person. ‘You purchase pain with all that joy can give and die of nothing but a rage to live.’ I wish I’d said that before he did. Pope and Maupassant have much in common. I’d like to be as perceptive and clever and make social statements the way they do.
At the end of the table, where he can hold court, is the 19th Irish wit and sparkling conversationalist, Oscar Wilde. I’m taking notes. With so much wicked humour in varying degrees and scientific knowledge at my table, I’m too excited to eat, but there’s lots of laughter and my guests are enjoying a sumptuous medieval feast.
As much as I loved her books, I didn’t invite Enid Blyton. Sorry, but since she wrote over 800 books in 40 years, she probably didn’t have much life outside of her imagination. I suspect she’d be a bore.
I really love that you put so much thought into that! There are a lot of concepts about what writer are like, what’s the one you hate the most? Like the most?
The concept about writers I dislike the most is the one that has us sitting all day at the computer in pajamas and ugg boots. I never wear ugg boots.
The concept I like most is that published novelists make heaps of money and live in lavish villas on the Mediterranean. This is a great concept for fiction and I’ll write that story one day.
What’s your favorite book title?
My favourite book title has to be She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith. I love the ironic image of that title.
What project are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on a nostalgic novel in which a crime writer goes to her school’s Ruby reunion. Everyone dresses in 50s clothes, watches movies and listens to music from that era. I’ve made it a bit too dark for me to enjoy writing it at the moment, so I might have to lighten the whole thing into a musical – oh wait a minute, I did that using the movie ‘Carousel’ –that’s why it’s so dark. What a difference half a century makes. Maybe I should just set the mystery in 1950s, and forget the reunion. I’d have to delete nine chapters, though. :-(
Is there a writer whose style or talent you envy? What is it about their writing that draws you in?
I don’t envy any writer, but I do admire those with talent – professional or hobbyist. Their original plots, clever turn of phrase, the way they build suspense and create conflict, their shades of light and dark, the way their settings reinforce their characters and situations, the way they make me care about the protagonist and carry me deep inside the story, the sparkling dialogue, these essentials win my vote.
In parting, I’d like to say, There’s nothing I like more than conversing about the process of writing with like-minded people or having a day-long writing marathon to share writing exercises that leave us exhausted, smiling and sated. I remember, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…oops wrong incarnation. For now, I just hope every writer finds a wonderful writers’ group in which to grow and prosper.
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Thanks so much for visiting, Wendy! And readers, you can comment to this post for a chance of winning A Summer Squall!