It has been a crazy week around here but I have had so much fun with the discussion and the giveaway surrounding our Wordshakers current read, The Wife’s Tale. Author Lori Lansens has been incredibly generous with her time and her books (I have been drooling over that large box of books since it arrived!).
Today I am thrilled to have the opportunity to chat with Lori about her books, her life, and what may be coming up next. Please give a warm welcome to Lori Lansens.
Lori, I am so glad that you are taking the time to be here and chat with me and the readers of Book Journey. My first question is always how do you take your coffee?
Lori: So nice to be here, Sheila! Hello readers! I like my coffee hot and black.
Ahhh… you drink your coffee like I do. What do you like to do for fun?
Lori: I am mother to Max 10, and Natasha (Tashi) 8, so my life revolves around my family. Both children are involved in organized sports and we’re an active bunch. It’s fun for us to kick around the soccer ball in the backyard or shoot hoops in the driveway. Sometimes we take our bikes to the path at the beach in Santa Monica. My husband of nearly thirty years, Milan Cheylov, has a great sense of humor and we still enjoy one another’s company very much. When people ask him the secret to a long marriage he answers, “She makes me laugh.” He makes me laugh too.
You are so busy! You were a screen writer before you broke out into the literary world. How does that compare to what you do now?
Lori: When I was writing screenplays producers would sometimes remark that my scripts read like novels and I knew they didn’t mean that in a good way. The primary difference is that the work of the screenwriter is not meant to be read as a singular piece of art. Instead it must be interpreted by dozens of other artists from wardrobe and set designers to actors and editors before it reaches an audience. The work can be diluted or transformed (for better or worse) from the original vision of the creator. I feel satisfied and gratified by the intense and direct connection with the reader through my novels.
Lori, what is your earliest bookish memory?
Lori: My earliest ‘books are magical’ memory involves Hans Christian Andersen. I loved crawling into my mother’s lap (even if I did have to share her with two brothers) to hear her read The Little Mermaid and The Emperor’s New Clothes. We would discuss the messages contained in the stories and how they made us feel. My mother liked to ask, “What does it mean?”
I also remember the Chatham Public Library and how important it was to me when I was young. My friends and I would ride our bikes there and spend weekend afternoons reading and trading books then cart a half dozen borrowed books home in our bike carriages. In my second novel, The Girls, the conjoined twins have a job in their small town library – an homage to the Chatham Public Library. I love to hear from Librarians who loved The Girls and appreciated the character’s affection for the library.
Do you have an all time favorite book?
Lori: The Grapes of Wrath is my favorite book. Steinbeck’s writing mesmerizes me and the social conscience of the book is pure but not righteous. The characters are flawed heroes, and the final line is spare and stunning. I developed an even greater appreciation for the book when I read the journal (Writing Days) that chronicles his journey from Oklahoma to the Salinas Valley.
Would you believe I have never read that book? I must do that! In The Wife’s Tale, we read about an overweight woman named Mary who has lost all ambition beyond the walk to the refrigerator. How did “Mary” come to be this main character in your mind?
Lori: Writing is a mysterious process and the appearance of character part of the mystery. Mary is a character that in some way or other I’ve known all my life. She is culled from stories I’ve heard and people I know and things that I’ve read about but at her core she is me – or I am her – that gets confusing. My frail humanity may not manifest as a weight problem but I understand her deeply and feel her pain and maybe I wrote about her because I knew she needed to move on – from Gooch, the fridge, her stasis.
As the 24 people who signed on to read this with Wordshakers On Line book club shared their thoughts, many really struggled with Mary in the beginning of the book, finding themselves irritated with her lack of self-worth and inability to make good choices. Is that something you wrote intentionally that way to bring that out of the readers? Do you feel that made the readers appreciate Mary all the more in the end?
Lori: Some readers write to tell me that they were rooting for Mary from the first page on and understood her from the very beginning. Others are frustrated and don’t care for Mary until she ‘finds her fight.’ I suppose our understanding of, and affection for, characters comes out of our own experiences. Mary starts the story at rock bottom – people who’ve been there share her pain. The review post from a reader named Joy left me breathless. It’s a gorgeous and brave bit of writing, as much about her own journey as Mary Gooch’s. I’ve had many such responses from readers but none quite so detailed and poignant. Read it at http://joystory.blogspot.com/2010/10/wifes-tale-by-lori-lansens.html
Lori, I read Joy’s review yesterday morning and I agree with you, it was an amazing and deeply honest review. What do you hope people take away from this read?
Lori: See link above
When I was online I seen a variety of cover for The Wife’s Tale. Is there one that you prefer over the others and why?
Lori: So many different covers! I know! It’s fascinating to see how different publishers in different markets interpret the book for readers. My favorite is the American cover with the legs and the blue dress. The artwork really speaks to the story – a woman poised at the brink – ready to leap.
That is my favorite cover too! I think it shows that she is ready to conquer whatever comes next. Even though it is only her legs that we see, I felt it gave off a vibe of confidence. You currently have three books that you have written. Is there any character more than the others that you are drawn to out of these books? I guess I am asking who would you like to be friends with if you were popped into their world?
Lori: My husband recently reread The Girls and remarked that Rose and Ruby Darlen, the conjoined twin characters who narrate their ‘memoirs’ are equal parts of me. That would explain why my feelings are hurt when readers tell me they liked one twin more than the other. My husband also commented that Mary Gooch and I share similarities that few people (except those closest to me) would understand. I know Addy Shadd and Sharla Cody from Rush Home Road grew out of my personality too. For most authors, I think, characters are horrible and gorgeous little spawn and because I know and love them and understand them so well that there are none I would not befriend, and no one I’d chose over another.
Fantastic answer! I would never ask you to choose a favorite of your books. I mean really, they have to be like children! However, as I am a new reader of your writing which of your other two books would you suggest I read next and why?
Lori: Both (she laughs!) because oddly I see the books as a trilogy that represent something of a whole. The first book Rush Home Road is about going home, The Girls is about being home and The Wife’s Tale is about leaving home. They’re all set in the landscape of Baldoon County and there are recurring references and some recurring characters.
Oooh! Now I am ever more fascinated! I guess I will start at the beginning then. I am on the edge of my seat wondering if there is anything new in the works book wise. Please let us know what could be happening in the future for you as a writer.
Lori: I’m currently working on my fourth book – a family story – but I’ll say no more.
It is tradition that I ask each author I chat with to share one little known fact about themselves.
Lori: I can’t write unless I’m wearing shoes. I used to be an actor. My hands are my favorite physical characteristic even though, or because, they look ancient and always have.
Ahhh! You used to be an actor! You left me with another question! LOL Lori it has been a pleasure to have you here and share so deeply about your books and your writing! You have been incredibly generous to my readers and to me. I wish you all the best and I look forward into reading your other two books.
Lori: Sheila, it’s been my pleasure. Happy reading all!
Readers, please take time to read the Wordshaker group review of The Wife’s Tale as well as sign up to win one of Lori’s books that she so generously signed and sent my way.
You can read more about Lori Lansens at her website