In a state of rebellion, at aged 17, native New Yorker, Lara Reznik, literally jump-started her way to New Mexico in a broken-down Karman Ghia. She studied creative writing under esteemed authors, Rudulfo Anaya and the late Tony Hilleman but ended up working in IT for 25 years while raising a family. In 2012 after the break out success of her psychological thriller, The Girl From Long Guyland, Lara quit her day job to write full time.
With over 200k downloads, Guyland clearly struck a chord with baby boomers as a ride down memory lane. Reznik’ second novel, The M&M Boys, published in 2015, is about a troubled little leaguer from Queens Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle move next door to him during the home run race of 1961. As our Author of the Day, Reznik talks aobut the book, her life and much more.
Please give us a short introduction to what The Girl from Long Guyland is about.
Set against a 1969 psychedelic love-in backdrop, The Girl From Long Guyland is shared through the eyes of Laila Levin when decades later, an unsolved murder pulls her reluctantly into her past. An exciting tale of past crimes and dangerous friendships.
What inspired you to write a memoir/thriller?
This is a great question. My all-time favorite genre is psychological suspense. Most importantly, I’m at an age when I’ve begun reflecting on different periods of my life and examining what I’ve learned from them. Placing myself back to the wildest and craziest time period of my life, hands down it was the early 70s. Then I asked the question: What if a dark secret from my past came back to haunt me now? I developed a cast of characters based on a composite of real people I knew then, and created a fictive dream that slowly unravels my protagonist’s current day life. The chapters alternate between 1969 and 2012.
In which way is this book also a memoir?
As I just mentioned, Guyland alternates chapters set in 1969 and 2012. Many of my Amazon fans told me that Laila’s husband, Eduardo, was their favorite character even though he played a relatively small role in Guyland. So, I gutted an earlier screenplay I’d written, utilized the same cast of characters from The Girl From Long Guyland, and created a romantic suspense novel set in 1977.
Tell us a bit more about Laila - who is she and what makes her so special?
Laila starts off as a naïve seventeen-year-old who gets involved with older townies in the New England factory town where she starts college. She feels like an outcast in Long Island and is searching for a place where she belongs. In her quest to belong, she gets involved in a potent love triangle that nearly destroys her life. Only after a tragedy, does she finally escape and realize a true sense of morality. Fast forward thirty+ years when Laila is forced to revisit her past resulting in a dramatic collision of then and now entwining family, marriage, profession and ethics.
Why do you think the 60s and 70s work so well as a backdrop for your story?
The late 60s and 70s were a very colourful time period and an aberration from the rest of my relatively conservative life. I definitely did some wild and crazy things. While I wasn’t as naïve or crazy as Laila, I was a stereotypical hippie, feminist, and anti-war protestor. Evidently, the novel has struck a chord with other baby boomers who are looking to take a ride down memory lane to a time when we “lived for today,” and “loved the ones we were with.”
You are ambidextrous. How do you think has this ability affected your life?
It’s been a definite advantage in sports for sure. As a kid, I pitched leftie in softball which often threw off right-handed hitters. Currently in tennis, I often switch to my left forehand to augment my weak right-handed backhand. Also, after developing a herniated disk on the right side of my neck from too much computer use, I seamlessly switched the mouse to my left hand. FYI: Every mouse does not have this ability but it sure helped alleviate much of the pain in my case.
How important do you think it is to be true to yourself?
It’s everything. If you’re not true to yourself you will never find happiness, nor will you be able to make anyone else happy.
You have written screenplays before, but this is your debut novel. What has the experience been like, so far?
Honestly, it’s been amazing. I’ve wanted to be a writer my whole life and I’ve finally found a degree of success with my novels and am blessed to be able to write full time. It doesn’t get better than that for me.
You keep your readers guessing throughout the book. How did you pull that off?
Writing a thriller is like doing a challenging jigsaw puzzle. I use a software program called Scrivener that emulates creating index cards for each chapter. On each card, I write a brief synopsis for each scene and chapter then move them around a gazillion times until the pieces all fit together.
Did you have a specific audience in mind when you wrote The Girl from Long Guyland?
Since the book is about the lives of baby boomers in the early 70s interspersed with chapters in the 21stcentury, it’s a natural that boomers have been my main audience.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is your favorite writing spot, what time of the day do you write?
My favorite time to write is after my morning workout when I’m at my physical and mental best. Generally, I commence a new novel by ploting out a summary of scenes including the key elements of what writing guru, Dwight Swain, says are crucial for success: goal, conflict, disaster followed with a sequel that includes the character reaction, dilemma and decision. I also write lengthy life sketches for all major and minor characters in the book. That way I understand what makes them tick. My favorite thing is getting in the heads of my villains.
Once I’m absorbed in writing a new book, it takes over my life. I plot a lot when I’m driving or during a body pump class at the gym. Once, I plotted out a chapter in my head while having an MRI. It was a great escape from the paranoia of thirty minutes locked up in a tube.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Chess, photography, tennis, bowling.
What are you working on right now?
I am writing a suspense/thriller based on a real life murder mystery in Albuquerque, NM. Truth is stranger than fiction and I couldn’t make up a more fascinating plot or create more devious characters than the true story of a Manson-like con man; his jealous mistress, a professed alien queen; and a salt-of the-earth soccer dad, surrounding the mysterious disappearance of a beautiful Japanese bank teller. Coincidentally, the soccer coach lived next door to us.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I love to hear from readers at any of my social media. Best on e-mail.
EMAIL: [email protected]