Suanne Laqueur used to choreograph music - now she enjoys choreographing words, weaving intricate tales about life and love that stay with readers long after finishing the book. As our Author of the Day, Laqueur reveals how one of her main characters started out as a parole officer and ended up a male escort and gives us some insights in her writing process.
1. Please give us a short introduction to what An Exaltation of Larks is about.
Larks is a book about the business of sex and the price of love. Across three decades, the lives of a passionately-devoted couple—Alex and Val Lark—and a male escort—Javier Landes—cross and intersect. The book explores what it means to be married and stay married. What it means to be an amateur lover and a professional lover. How family ties are forged, torn and mended, and how second chances are given or made
2. What brought you to the idea of making the paths of a married couple and a male escort cross?
It wasn’t the original idea. Javier Landes started out as a junior parole officer and one of his cases was a teenage runaway boy who was turning tricks to survive. Then Jav morphed into a public defender, then a social worker, but always working with this boy who saw his own looks and body as his best currency. Little by little, I realized the teenager was really Jav. I was fascinated by how this young man, who considered love not to be a friend of his, would interact with the intensely loving and passionate marriage of Alex and Val.
3. How different is choreographing words from choreographing music?
Not that much different. You have to pay attention to detail, but you also have to step back and see the big picture. You have to know where a dozen different parts are located and be conscious of how they fit together. There has to be flow. A rhythm to the scene and a rhythm to the chapters. I want my writing to appeal to both eyes and ears, I’m always conscious of how it looks and sounds.
4. How do you manage to make your characters so realistic?
Some writers have a storyline in their head and make up characters to fit it. I go the opposite way: I think up characters first and I spend months playing around with them, letting them tell me their stories. I use the analogy of a costume trunk and an improv group—I let the characters try on all kinds of things and interact. I don’t worry if any of it is going to make it into the book or if it’s usable or good or bad. I just throw it all down, writing history and backstories, dialogue and weird situations. I keep turning the page and thinking, “Well, what if…?”
6. Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
These aren’t so secret but I’m an avid reader, gardener and cook. Before I published, I had a blog called EatsReadsThinks where I wrote about stuff I was cooking, books I was reading, and other weird thoughts from my head and the garden bed and parenting.
7. Tell us more about Alejandro Penda - what makes him tick?
I’m actually going to let his wife, Valerie, answer that one:
“Alex is like bread. Not Wonder bread. I mean a well-crafted, artisanal loaf of really good bread. He’s simple, but he’s finely made. His experiences have crafted him. He has a moral compass that only points one way, which makes him a lousy liar. No poker face whatsoever. But he’s good to have in a crisis. He does we. He always says things like, ‘We’ll get through it.’ Even if he knows he can’t do a damn thing, he’s there at your side, taking an oar to row through the problem. ‘We’ll work it out.’”
8. Is there an underlying message you wish to relay about basic human nature through your characters?
Everyone wants. Wanting is the human condition. Wanting isn’t having and sometimes wanting can be enough.
9. Readers say that this is a book that made them think - long after finishing it. Was this intentional?
Yes. It’s always been my goal to write a book that resonated. A book that stuck around your head for a long time. A book you wanted to give to a friend and say, “Here, read this, because I need to talk about it.” A book you found yourself quoting at odd times. “Well you know parenthood…it ain’t for sissies.” A book you could connect with on a bunch of different levels and think, “Wow, I feel like that,” or “Wow, I know someone who feels like that…”
10. Do you have a favorite line from the book, and can you explain what that line means to you?
“I will do this and you will give me…nothing. This does not come at a price.” To me, it means that the greatest acts of love are done with nothing expected in return.
11. Do you consider yourself a disciplined writer? Do you have a schedule that you stick to, or is it more in the moment?
I am nothing close to a disciplined writer. I have no schedule, it’s totally in the moment.
12. Did you work out the entire plot of your book before you started to write?
No. For about three months I wrote by hand in a notebook, messing around and figuring out who these people were and what their relationships were to each other. “Well, what if…?” Turn the page. “Well, what if…?” Turn the page. Eventually, I move all those chunks of writing onto the computer, then I start shuffling them around into some kind of chronological order and dividing them into “Part One,” “Part Two,” etc. I’ll also keep an Excel spreadsheet which is a timeline of where every character is, year by year. With a three-decade plot like Larks, I need to know everyone’s lifetime arc.
13. What are you working on right now?
Nothing. Literally. The follow-up to Larks, A Charm of Finches, releases on November 1st. It is, I feel, the most important book I’ve written. It deals with some serious, intense subject matter and both the research and the writing have left me drained. Not to be dramatic, but I never felt this wiped-out with any of my other books. So I’m just listening to my spirit and resting and not worrying what’s next. Something will come. It always does.
14. Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
You see the inspiration board for Larks on Pinterest here: http://bit.ly/29CYaCd
You can visit my website for news about my books, my old EatsReadsThinks blog posts and other little flash fiction pieces: http://suannelaqueurwrites.com
My Facebook author page is https://www.facebook.com/suannelaqueur, but I also have a reader group which is a fabulous gathering of like-minded people who like discussing Larks and Finches and Fish Tales: http://bit.ly/SLQR_ReaderGroup
My twitter handle is @suannelqr
My instagram handle is @swainblqr
All feels welcome. And I always have coffee!