Friday 11 January 2013

Friday Feature: Interview with Laura Lam

As mentioned when writing the first part of my YA Yeah Yeah Year Ends, I had a difficult decision to make about whether to include 2013 releases I'd already got my hands on. In the end, I decided not to - so Laura Lam's Pantomime didn't feature. I'd expect, though, that it will be all over my awards (and everyone else's) next year, because it's a simply stunning fantasy, one of the very best I've read in the last few years. I can't wait for the February release so others can see how wonderful it is - but until then, I've at least managed to snag an interview to tide you over!

1. When you close your eyes and imagine your readers, who do you see?

It’s hard to say. I think if I could only choose one ideal reader, it’d be a teen who feels a little awkward in their skin and, through reading my book, feels like it’s okay to be different. That would be the dream, anyway! But I would like to have readers of all ages, backgrounds, and dispositions.

2. I loved the world-building in Pantomime! What's your favourite fictional setting?

I really love the world of Camorr in Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard series. It’s so refreshingly different with its pseudo-Italian setting. I remember swearing out loud when I came across Elderglass, because I’d already created Penglass for my world. In Camorr, however, Elderglass is integrated into the infrastructure and used by the people who live there, whereas Penglass in my world is sealed off an no one knows what’s inside. Camorr comes alive with spices and alchemy and dark corners.

3. What are you most looking forward to about being a published author?

Seeing my book on the shelves and hearing that my book affected people and entertained them. Getting a piece of fan mail. One of the greatest feelings is coming across someone who really got my book and what I was trying to do. A couple of reviews have made me cry!

4. Is there anything you're not looking forward to about being a published author? 

All the pressure and worry about sales, critical reviews, wondering if there’s more I could do to market and get my name out there, fear of the next books not living up to the same standard, not selling more books. When I was writing Pantomime, it was a secret little hobby, and no one would know if I crashed and burned. I remember thinking that once I got published, the fear and uncertainty would all go away. Spoiler: it doesn’t—you get a whole new set of fears!

That said, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

5. I think Pantomime is either the first or second fantasy book which I've cried while reading. Have you ever cried at reading a book? If so, what was the last one? 

First, wow. I am touched that my book affected you in that way.

Recently I sobbed my way through The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke, which is coming out at around the same time as Pantomime through the parent imprint of Angry Robot Books. As the tagline says, it’s a tale of love, loss, and robots. It’s very literary and light on the sci fi, and it’s a beautiful book and I recommend picking it up.

Sounds great - will definitely keep an eye out for it!

6. I absolutely loved the extracts from various sources which start off each chapter of Pantomime. (As you can tell, there's a lot I loved about the book!) Were you always planning on writing these parts or did you add them to the narrative after your first draft?

These were almost the last addition before I re-subbed to Strange Chemistry (I received a revise & resubmit to them after subbing an earlier draft to their Open Door Month in 2011). One of the editorial comments was to add more world building, so I took a page out of Robin Hobb’s books. She has little vignettes at the beginning of the chapters in the Farseer & Tawny Man trilogy, and it’s an excellent way to add little insights to the world that's told in first-person without being infodumpy. I focused on different things than Hobb did, since her snippets are from FitzChivalry’s history of the Six Duchies, but I give her full credit for where I had the initial idea.

7. Which YA characters (or authors!) would you most like to see taking part in a circus, and what acts do you think they'd be good at?

Technically the Farseer books aren’t marketed as YA, but I read them as a teen so I’ll say The Fool from the Farseer trilogy would be an amazing additional to the clown troupe or the acrobats. I actually made Drystan, the leader of the clowns, dress in white motley as a little nod to the Fool. Karou from Daughter of Smoke and Bone also had a lot of training so she’d be a great addition to the circus as an aerialist or an acrobat, and her Naga Chimaera friend, Issa, would naturally be the snake charmer. Gemma Doyle from Libba Bray’s books could be the tarot reader or psychic.

Fab picks! I enjoyed Smoke and Bone (and really loved the sequel) and think Gemma Doyle is wonderful - I'd definitely go to any circus with her, Karou and Issa in!

8. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what was the soundtrack to Pantomime?

I don’t actually listen to music that much when I write. Usually I’m writing at Starbucks so I just listen to whatever is there. When I’m writing I tune out and have tunnel vision so it wouldn’t register anyway.

9. Were you deliberately trying to write the most unreviewable book ever just to torture those of us who are trying to explain how wonderful it is without spoiling anything?

I keep having to fight the urge to apologise to all reviewers! When I originally wrote the book, I didn’t think of keeping the twist secret, mainly because I’m usually an open book, if you pardon the pun. When the publisher suggested it, I was initially a little torn, but it has been a great way to create curiosity about the book and to let the reader be surprised. But it does mean that most reviews have had to be vague and skirt around the actual plot and characters. It’s just as hard for me to speak about the book while not giving anything away!

I can imagine - I really appreciate you doing this interview, as I think in your shoes I'd just be hiding away until everyone had read it!

10. What's next for Laura Lam?

I am working away on Pantomime 2, and also another YA piece, which is a ghost story with a twist set in the Bohemian Forest. I have some other ideas bubbling away on the back burner as well, both YA and adult books.

Can't wait to read them - especially Pantomime 2! Thanks again for taking part in this interview, Laura.

Laura Lam can be found online at her website and on Twitter.

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