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Please welcome author Lauren B. Davis in BookLikes' Author Talks.
Lauren talks about her writing process and the book inspirations, she reveals when she grabs an e-reader and when she prefers a paper book. She also invites us to her reading & writing spots, and speaks about book love in French.
Lauren B. Davis is an author of The Empty Room, Our Daily Bread, The Radiant City & The Stubborn Season. You can find her on BookLikes, where she confess I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does!
Find and follow her BookLikes blog here: LAUREN B. DAVIS
Have you always dreamt of becoming a writer? How did it all start?
The only thing I’ve ever wanted to be was a writer, and it’s the only thing I’m even reasonably good at. I wrote as a child, wrote APPALLING poetry in my teens and twenties, which was wisely rejected by the best literary magazines and tried to write fiction in my early thirties. Then my writing stalled when I finished up my career as an alcoholic.
Once I got sober in my late thirties I started writing pieces that were actually publishable. I published a collection of short stories first, and have published six other books (soon to be seven in April, 2015), since then.
What books and writers inspired you to become a full-time writer?
Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge, which is perhaps the greatest depiction of the repercussions of untreated alcoholism and the 'dry drunk' I've ever read; James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, with all its moral desperation and linguistic pyrotechnics (okay, I now recognize some of that as being the product of too much booze, but the center still holds), and Gabrielle Roy’s The Tin Flute, which explores poverty, love, war, and Montreal, with enormous emotional impact, but without sentimentality…among hundreds of others.
Now you live in the U.S. but you were born in Canada, and spend over a decade in France. How did this influence your life and your writing?
Well, new experiences always inform one’s writing, as do new cultures and perspectives.
I suspect I went to France thinking my views of the world were fairly well-formed and solid, yet I had my beliefs challenged nearly every day. Why did I believe the things I did? Why did I not know other things? The gaps in my education, in my world-view, became apparent and made me look around me more, made me explore the world with a more observant eye, which is crucial for a writer.
I also got sober the second year we moved to France, after spending the first year at the bottom of a bottle, not writing much of anything. Getting sober changed everything – for the better – including my writing. I’m quite sure not only would I not be writing today (and certainly not publishing) if I hadn’t gotten sober, I probably wouldn’t be alive.
Your most recent work is titled The Empty Room. We can read on your website: I also frequently question what might have happened to me had I not stopped drinking. Writing this novel must have been challenging. Can you tell our readers more about the writing process?
Actually, it was the least challenging book to write of all my books. It is partly autobiographical, although much of it is pure fiction, so it took no research.
The overwhelming emotion during writing was one of gratitude. I was so close to ending up where Colleen, the protagonist of the novel, ended up – in that terrible, hollow place of craving and loneliness and self-loathing.
The titles of your books sound very symbolic. How do you pick the titles for your novels?
I suppose they are. I choose titles from poems, as I did for The Stubborn Season, a novel about the tyranny of living with someone with mental illness, set in the 1930s, which comes from T.S. Eliot’s poem, The Song of Simeon; or from some other work, as with The Radiant City, the ironic title of my second novel, set in Paris, which refers to Corbusier’s unrealized vision of the ideal city.
The Empty Room references what we alcoholics in recovery call “the God-shaped hole” in the center of the alcoholic’s soul. My new novel, coming out in April 2015, is called Against a Darkening Sky. It’s set in the 7th century in Northumbria, England. The title comes directly out of the text, and is a symbol for the forces, both cultural and religious, gathering against a woman who serves the old gods of the wild wood.
How do you say “I love books” in French?
J'aime les livres et c'est vrai dans n'importe quelle langue.
What are you reading right now?
The Summer House, a trilogy by Alice Thomas Ellis; Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas, Teaching Will by Mel Rayne, and The Good Lord Bird by James McBride.
Paper books or e-books? Why?
Depends on what sort of book, and where I am. Paper if it’s short stories – for some reason I can’t read short stories or essays on an e-reader. I do read a lot on an e-reader, and exclusively if I’m traveling, but I find if I really LOVE a book, I then buy a paper copy for my bookshelves.
I don’t retain the total sense of a book unless I have the actual object for some reason, so if a book is important to me, I often end of buying it twice. Sort of a bookseller’s dream reader. Snort.
What's your favorite writing and reading spot?
(our readers would love to see some photos ;-) )
With dog, fire, cup of tea and Best Beloved is best. Here’s are some photos, taken by My Best Beloved, which is why he’s not in any of them.
My library and office
Another view of the office, with Bailey (the Rescuepoo) and my most recent novel.
(He reads, of course.)
Bailey in a living room reading nook.
And at a cabin in Vermont.
The second part of the interview will be full of book recommendations from Lauren. You can't miss it!
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