Monday, August 06, 2007

Laura Moriarty, The Rest of Her Life



I’ve only sent off one handwritten letter to an author and that author was Laura Moriarty. I finished The Center of Everything and wanted to let Laura know how good it was, how I was drawn into the story and affected by it. I count the book as one of my all time favorites. It's a coming of age type novel that was so brilliant. You must read it.

Fast forward to recently when I read that her new book was coming out soon. I was so excited, I found her site and jotted off a quick note. I was so luck to receive a review copy of The Rest of Her Life and read it in two days.

The book is emotional and touching and thought provoking. Laura’s talent is on par with my other favorite writers Caroline Leavitt and Jodi Picoult. She characters that you feel sorry for and touched by and want the best outcome for them. You are moved to tears and don’t want the book to end. She is a huge talent to watch!

What types of books are you drawn to as a reader? What is the last book you read?
I tend to like memoirs and fiction about people moving through difficult situations. I say 'moving through' and not 'getting through' because the characters don't need to necessarily emerge victorious, though they often are. I don't go for the light reads, and though levity is great, I don't know that I would read a book for humor alone. My favorite authors are the ones who are telling you about people moving through hard times while making you laugh: David Sedaris, Frank McCourt, etc. But I don't need humor: I just read Amy Bloom's AWAY and loved it.



At what point in your life did you become serious about writing books?
I got my undergraduate degree in social work, and I worked for several years in the field. I wrote stories at night, just because I wanted to, and it slowly became clear to me that I was putting more thought and care into my stories than my day job. I also felt more competent when I was writing. I applied for a writing fellowship and got a nice note telling me I was a runner-up, and that was enough to make me go back to grad school in creative writing.



How long does it take you to write a book, from the moment you sit down and type ‘Chapter 1’ until your editor has gone through it and you are holding a hardback in your hands?
It depends on the book, at least so far. My first book, The Center of Everything, took me ten years to write. But that was partly because I was always working or going to school or both, and I didn't have a lot of time to work on it. The other problem was that I took a lot of wrong turns because of lack of experience. But I wrote my new novel, The Rest of Her Life, in about a year. I think that's because I was writing for a living, with no other distractions. I also had a bit more experience under my belt.



How do you develop your characters? Do you have a sheet of paper with all their physical and emotional qualities written down? I love how the character of Leigh was so sympathetic; she had such a hard childhood.
I'm so glad to hear you feel that way about Leigh. Not all readers find her sympathetic. I do, though. I tend to like characters who are flawed. Leigh is an example of a character who doesn't understand the way she is flawed, and so her good intentions sometimes fall flat.
And yes, I do a lot of thinking and writing about each character before I start writing. I think about their motivations, and the way they see themselves versus the way other people see them.


What are the best and worst parts about living in Kansas ? I’ve never been there; I only know it from the Wizard of Oz.
I read somewhere that Kansas is ranked the fiftieth state for the number of tourists every year. So there's something nice - you never have to worry about tourists. I think it's really beautiful here, and my town, Lawrence, is walkable and quirky and fairly safe. The worst thing about living in Kansas is that is has such a bad reputation. But that's exactly what maintains the two things I just said I liked about it!


What kind of music do you listen to- do you have an ipod? If so, what is on there?
I do have an Ipod, and I have everything on there from Johnny Cash to Snow Patrol to Patty Griffin to Liz Phair. I try to walk a lot of places, and I love to listen to music when I'm walking. I like a lot of guitars and drums, but I also tend to pay a lot of attention to lyrics and the authenticity in a singer's voice.


How did you get your agent?
When I finished my first novel, I knew so little about the business, and I had no idea which agent I should send it to. I'd heard horror stories. I knew a writer, Christina Schwarz, so I asked her if she liked her agent (Jennifer Rudolph Walsh at William Morris) and she said a lot of very positive things about her. So I sent Jennifer a query letter, and then the first few chapters, and then the whole book, and fortunately, she took me on. The thing I don't like about this story is that it might give the impression that you have to have some kind of connection to get an agent, and I really don't think that's accurate.
I think my connection through Christina Schwarz was a case of a writer recommending an agent, rather than a writer recommending another writer. I've since recommended many writers to my agent, but she hasn't been able to take any of them on. I was disappointed, but it makes sense: I don't think an agent can afford to make decisions on whom she'll represent based on whether they have a mutual friend. I think if you write something an agent loves or thinks she can sell, she'll want to find you any way she can.


It’s Friday night, where will I find you and what will you be doing?
I will be at the pool with my daughter, maybe going out for ice cream, and then story time and bed for her, maybe some reading for me before I conk out.


Do you know what your next book will be about? Do you start with an outline or let everything unfold organically?
I do a mix. I definitely have an outline, but I revise the outline again and again based on how the story moves as I write it.



What’s next for you?
I'm hard at work on book #3. I feel as if I have two jobs now - doing publicity and readings for The Rest of Her Life, and trying hard to write the next one. It's a nice mix of communication and solitude.


Go here for Laura's website.


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