Interview with Lara ReznikWhat was unique about the setting of the book and how did it enhance or take away from the story? The two story lines, both past (1970) and present, take place in cities I’ve lived in and know well. When I describe my protagonist Laila Levin’s tumultuous drive through the icy New Mexico Sangre de Christo mountains, or the endless tract homes, strip malls and traffic in Long Island, it creates an ambiance that feels real to the reader. The late author, Tony Hillerman, under whom I was blessed to study under, always said, “Write about what you know.”
What specific themes did the author emphasize throughout the novel? What are you as the author, trying to get across to the reader? I will quote a sentence from my Kirkus Review that nails these questions: “While effective as a page turner, the novel also tells a timeless, universal tale of a woman’s journey toward self-acceptance.”
Do the characters seem real and believable? Can you relate to their predicaments? To what extent do they remind you of yourself or someone you know? Numerous people have told me that the characters, in both the hippie days of the late ‘60s and the corporate world of 2012, seem very believable and real. A few Amazon reviewers are convinced the novel is my autobiography. I’ll take that as a complement that I was able to successfully create a fictive world with a plot and cast of characters that are a composite of people I’ve known throughout my lifetime.
How do characters change or evolve throughout the course of the story? The protagonist, Laila, has a thriving career and successful marriage, yet she can’t shake her lifelong sense of not truly belonging anywhere. It’s not until a dark secret from her past threatens her current world that (like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz), Laila begins to realize “there’s no place like home.” On the other hand, some of the other characters who appear in 1970 then again in 2012 prove the old proverb that leopards never change their spots.
What events trigger such changes? A series of inciting events occur simultaneously during Chapter One as the expatriate Long Island girl feels out of place at her company’s manager conference held in a room full of dead animal heads and Texas good ‘ol boys. First, her boss brags she’s having an affair with the soon-to-be CEO, and then the outgoing CEO announces an impending layoff. As Laila sits stunned with the other three hundred managers, she receives a call from an old friend who confides that her college roommate committed suicide and left a note that could send Laila to prison.
In what ways do the events in the books reveal evidence of the author’s world view? As a baby boomer, I’ve lived through tumultuous political and social times. Laila rejects her conventional Long Island values, then learns that life on the wild side can have serious consequences. She ends up with all the trappings of a yuppie lifestyle and still feels discontented. The novel provides a glimpse of a world where kids were angry over losing their friends in a war that made no sense. It also dramatizes what it was like for young women before Roe vs. Wade during a scene when Laila drives her desperate enemy Ivy to Boston for an illegal abortion. In the contemporary corporate world, it paints a picture where women have risen a long way into management ranks but are still subjected to sexual expectations.
Was there a basis for your story? A previous experience? Something else? This is a great question. I’m at an age when I’ve begun reflecting on different periods of my life and examining what I’ve learned from them. For me, the late sixties was an aberration from the rest of my relatively conservative lifestyle. I wasn’t near as naïve or crazy as Laila, but I was a quintessential hippie, feminist, and anti-war protestor. Evidently, the novel has struck a cord with other baby boomers thinking about the same things.
What research did you have to perform to back up your story? Any research which really opened your eyes or gave you new respect for a topic or profession? I spent a lot of time reading books and doing research on the internet to make sure everything in the 1969-1970 was historically accurate. Still not sure if anyone used the word, “dude” back then, even though it’s on every sixties list of slang words. Another area of research I spent time on was studying pathological behavior. There were at least two or three characters in the story that exhibited such behavior. There are two legal scenes where I took the liberty of literary license but worked closely with a lawyer to make sure they followed protocol and under the extraordinary circumstances might be feasible.
What is your method for writing a book? A certain amount of hours every day? A certain routine? I started the book while I was still working full-time so I usually wrote in the evenings and Sundays, leaving Saturdays for family time. When I retired in December 2011, I stayed on a routine of writing every morning for four or five hours following a workout at the gym five-six days a week.
Are you character/story builder or an outliner or some other method? This is another great question. I begin all my novels and screenplays (I’ve written 3 of each) with a character and an inciting event. For the most part I know exactly how it will end. Then I get all excited and start writing a chapter or two. I’ve learned to stop at this point, and outline the rest of the book. My best friend is the Scrivener software program which makes it so easy. I’ve discovered if you don’t take the time to outline the plot, you’ll waste a lot of time going down rabbit trails. Once I have this done, I run it through my critique group who are all talented authors with outstanding books recently published on Amazon.
How do you get past writers block or distractions like the internet? No denying it’s so easy to get distracted. Quoting from my first writing professor, the award-winning author, Rudulfo Anaya, “A writer writes.” My best advice to aspiring writers is to write every day. Even if it’s crappy stuff, keep it coming.
Favorite book from childhood. When I was five years old, I read the whole series of the Bobbsey Twins, by Laura Lee Hope. At six I wrote my first novel about my fantasy of having a twin. As a teen, hands down, my favorite book was Gone with the Wind. I must have read it five times and saw the movie many more. Scarlett O’Hara remains my favorite heroine of all time.
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