Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Interview with Laura Resau

I'm happy to share my interview with Laura Resau, author of The Indigo Notebook, Red Glass, and What the Moon Saw. Her newest book, The Indigo Notebook, releases on October 13, 2009. My review can be found here.

Can you share with us a little bit about your background and your journey towards becoming a published author?

When I was young, I loved writing stories for fun, but it never occurred to me that writing stories could be an actual job. I'd never met a real, live author before. My favorite authors—Madeleine L'Engle, Mary Stewart, Natalie Babbit—were mythical figures to me— way beyond movie stars. So… I decided to study anthropology, because I loved traveling and learning about other cultures. I became especially interested in indigenous rights issues and healing practices, and kept writing stories and poems on the side.

After college, I lived in the Mixtec region of southern Mexico for two years, first as an English teacher, and later as an anthropologist. During that time I filled up dozens of notebooks, writing about experiences I had, stories I heard, people I met, places I visited, and healing rituals I participated in. The writing in these notebooks eventually led to my first book, What the Moon Saw. Six years passed from the time I started writing the book to the publication date… years filled with writers group meetings, writers conferences, revisions, and rejections from agents and editors. By the time the manuscript was in good enough shape for an editor at Delacorte to offer me a contract, I'd written much of my second book, Red Glass. It is mind-bogglingly amazing to me that writing stories is indeed my actual job now!

Does writing become easier with each book published, or does each book present a new challenge or two?

I've found that new challenges and anxieties come with each new book. As I was writing What the Moon Saw, I constantly fretted that I was wasting my time and would never get published. Again and again, I had to convince myself that writing was a worthwhile task. (Anyway, I get headaches if I don't write, so that was good motivation to forge ahead!) As I was finishing up my second book, Red Glass, I worried it wouldn't be as well-received as my first. (Thankfully, it was.) With The Indigo Notebook, I got the contract after I'd written only the first few chapters of the manuscript. I feared that my editor wouldn't like the final product. (Thankfully, she did.) Now, with The Ruby Notebook, I'm in the midst of worrying I can't meet the tight deadline for this sequel. (Check back with me in a few months to see if I did!)

I've learned that for me, there will always be fears and worries surrounding writing, so I just try to do deal with them the best I can. I plaster the walls of my writing trailer with inspirational quotes. I give myself regular pep talks in my journal when things seem bleak. I remind myself of the many times I've fretted I couldn't do something… and one way or another, I always ended up doing it. I remind myself that I write because it makes me feel alive, because it makes me see beauty in the world. And of course, it's the best medicine for my headaches… ;-)

What do you love about writing?

I think that the act of creating is a mysterious and beautiful and magical process. I have a pretty spiritual perspective on writing… I see storytellers as having one foot in this world, and one in another. I think our job is to bring back treasures from the "other world" to make people's lives in this world deeper and richer. I continually feel surprised and grateful that I'm able to do this and be appreciated for it. (And my "bridging worlds" theory also explains my frequent spaciness…)

Writing is magical, an alchemy of sorts. I love how you can arrange words in a way that they have the power to make a reader smile or cry or laugh or sit on the edge of her seat or feel that she's in a desert or in a cloud forest or in a cozy kitchen filled with cinnamon and chocolate smells. I love when readers tell me that a story I wrote changed the way they see the world.

What inspired you to write The Indigo Notebook?

Traveling is a passion of mine, and there's a part of me that wishes I could spend a lifetime wandering the globe-- exploring other cultures and learning new languages. There's another part of me that loves feeling comfortable in my community, hanging out with old friends, spending years making my home a cozy nest. The Indigo Notebook explores the wandering life, so in a way, I can experience it through my characters-- teenage Zeeta and her flighty mom, who live in a different country every year.

I was in Ecuador a few years ago during research for another book—The Queen of Water-- which will come out in spring 2011. It's a memoir about my friend Maria Virginia Farinango's girlhood in the Andes. I ended up spending time with her relatives and friends in indigenous communities around Otavalo, and started getting ideas for a fictional story with this gorgeous and fascinating setting. When an Otavaleno friend told me the story of discovering his biological half-brother-- who had been adopted by foreigners and was searching for his birth parents— I thought it would make a wonderful subplot for Zeeta's love interest, Wendell. Adoption was on my mind a lot as I wrote the book—I was in the midst of adopting my own baby from Guatemala at the time, and often wondered how he might feel about his adoption throughout his life. 

Do you have a favorite character? A favorite scene?

I love the scenes where Mamita Luz is baking bread in a wood fire oven and feeding it to the guests in her adobe house, while outside it's chilly and rainy. Her home feels so cozy to me—I love the bread smells and the warmth—it reminds me of eating and drinking with my friend Maria's relatives in a village near Otavalo. I love Mamita Luz's character— despite the sadness she's gone through, she's so generous and open-hearted… I'd like to be more like her! (If you want to surround yourself with yummy Ecuadorian food smells as you read the book, check out Maria's recipes--I'll be posting them on my blog this week.)

How do you find time to keep reading? Do you have any favorites of the year?

Reading makes me happy, reminds me of the joys of experiencing a good story that touches you to the core. It reminds me what a privilege it is to have books out there in the wide world to touch other people. I'm actually pretty picky about what I read, so I often bring home ten books at a time from the library and end up completing only two.

My favorites this year have been futuristic speculative fiction -- The Hunger Games and The Adoration of Jenna Fox—both completely engaging, suspenseful novels with great character development. If I were a teacher, I'd have my students read those books along with Feed and the classics like Brave New World, 1984, etc. What amazing discussions you could have about bioethics and social control!

If you had twenty-four hours, a time machine, and a limitless supply of money, what would you want to do?

I'd love to go to places I've lived (Maryland, Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Provence, Oaxaca) a couple thousand years ago and just hang out with the people there. It would be fascinating to see how the landscape has changed, and I'd get to experience tiny glimpses of everyday life in ancient Mixtec, Celtic, and Native American cultures. While I was in southern Mexico, I'd definitely swing by a Mayan village and have a foamy chocolate drink in the birthplace of chocolate.

Thanks for the great interview, Becky!

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

1 comment:

Suko said...

Fresh bread and a chocolate drink sound so good on this chilly morning!

Becky, you did a great job with this interview. I enjoyed reading your questions as well as Laura Resau's wonderful, interesting answers. I especially enjoyed her line, "Writing is magical, an alchemy of sorts".