A big welcome today to Laura Wilkinson, whose third novel, Redemption Song, recently hit the bookshelves. It’s instantly attractive, with one of the loveliest covers I can remember seeing. So what makes Laura tick?
What drew you to writing, Laura – and what don’t you like about being a published author?
I’m a bit of a control freak so it’s brilliant to be the omnipotent, all seeing, all knowing creature, the puppet master of others’ destinies! Seriously, I enjoy stepping into others’ shoes, seeing the world from another perspective and exploring emotions and ideas that I’d never get the chance to in real life. I’ve learnt most of what I know about the world from reading novels.
Promotion is an aspect of the job that I’m less keen on, though I do love interacting with readers, whether that’s online or in the flesh, so to speak. I find reviews difficult to cope with as well. Yup, I’m a chicken. I swore I wouldn’t read them, but I can’t resist. No willpower. Love the good ‘uns, cry at the bad, then get over myself. I’m not a brain surgeon, no one dies if I mess up – at least not in real life.
I have to remind myself that we’re all different, and that different people like reading different books. You will never please everyone. (I just wish if people didn’t like it they wouldn’t leave reviews …!) Tell me, what inspired this book?
Redemption Song is a story about love, forgiveness, how we come to terms with deeds we’re not proud of, and er, redemption!
As imperfect beings we’ve all done things we’re ashamed of and I’m interested in how we come back from this, how we let go of guilt, a desire for revenge; how we repair, forgive ourselves and others. Forgiveness and love are great healers, but secrets and lies are barriers to these forces. So I took three characters who are all running away from truth, two of whom have committed acts they are desperately ashamed of, and threw them into a small, tightly-knit community, where their past creeps up on their present.
Sounds just like my kind of book! Oh dear, yet another one for the To Be Read list! But I’m looking forward to it already. Laura, how do you create your characters? Do you see yourself in any of them?
Not really. Of course, I bring elements of my world view and experience to bear on everything I write – we all do – but my characters are fictional; I’m far too cowardly to base any of them on real people. I would hate to offend. That said, I have borrowed the backstories of one or two minor characters from family members. On the whole, my characters tend to be composites – right old mixtures of qualities I’ve observed in others, myself, and attributes that spring from the characters themselves during the writing process. It’s magical when that happens and as an author I know I’ve truly found my characters when they start misbehaving and acting in ways I didn’t expect or plan for.
Yes, that’s something non writers can’t understand, I think, but I find it happens too. And characters appear from nowhere as well! Do you do research? And if you do, what’s the most interesting research you’ve had to do?
I do. My last novel, Public Battles, Private Wars, a tale of love and toxic female friendships (and cakes) was set against the backdrop of the 1984/85 miners’ strike so research was essential. Because the strike was a real event from recent history and there are plenty of people still around who remember it well, it was extremely important to me that the fiction had a strong sense of authenticity. I read gazillions of articles and reports online and off; I looked at hundreds of photographs; I read a number of books: true accounts and diaries of people involved (men and women), journalistic and analytical books about the strike, the economics and politics surrounding it; and I talked to a number of women who were involved in the action groups and demonstrations and so forth: left wing activists, miners’ wives, girlfriends and daughters. And then I tried to forget it all because in fiction you need to wear your research lightly. [Jenny: I love that phrase!] Readers desire an emotional connection not an essay; I had to let the characters tell their story in their own way.
Even though Redemption Song is contemporary, research had a role. I spoke with a Baptist Minister (one of my leads is a minister and I’m a non-believer with no religious upbringing), an expert on bats, a carpenter, two doctors (my lead, Saffron is training to be a doctor), a criminal lawyer, an undercover policeman … authenticity is very important to me – can you tell?!
I can. And it’s a good thing too! Do you have time to read?
Yes, I do. Lots and lots of fiction (mostly novels, though I do enjoy a short story from time to time) – and some non-fiction too. My reading is eclectic and it’s easier to say what I don’t read much of: sci-fi, procedural crime, fantasy. Authors I’m consistently awed by include: Maggie O’Farrell, Jenn Ashworth, Sarah Rayner, Jojo Moyes, Emma Donoghue, Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, Rose Tremain, Jeanette Winterson … I’d best stop; we’ll be here all day.
Golly, Laura, I’d better let you get back to your reading. Or should I say, writing? Thanks for being my guest today, and good luck with Redemption Song!
Laura has written three novels. Her third, Redemption Song, was published on 28th January 2015 by Accent Press. A fourth, Skin Deep, is scheduled for publication in March 2017.
If you lost everything in one night, what would you do?
Saffron is studying for a promising career in medicine until a horrific accident changes her life for ever. Needing to escape London, she moves to the Welsh coast to live with her mother. Saffron hates the small town existence and feels trapped until she meets Joe, another outsider. Despite initial misgivings, they grow closer to each other as they realise they have a lot in common. Like Saffron, Joe has a complicated past…one that’s creeping up on his present. Can Joe escape his demons for long enough to live a normal life – and can Saffron reveal the truth about what really happened on that fateful night? Love is the one thing they need most, but will they – can they – risk it?
Redemption Song is a captivating, insightful look at what happens when everything goes wrong – and the process of putting the pieces back together again.
To buy the e-book
To buy the paperback
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