Spend enough time in publishing and you start to notice patterns. Sometimes it’s a popular genre. Other times it’s a trend in book covers. And I’ve learned that when multiple patterns converge I need to pay attention. So when two debut authors started making waves this summer I started taking notes. They are both attorneys, women, mothers, literary novelists, and residents of northern states (don’t tell me that doesn”t influence their writing because I’m certain it does). They both had big first novels release in the last couple months. And most importantly (to me at any rate) they both agreed to interview one another right here on She Reads. So today we have the first in a two part interview series between Julie Lawson Timmer, author of FIVE DAYS LEFT, and Carrie La Seur, author of THE HOME PLACE. Our second installment will go live on Thursday. But for now, Julie Lawson Timmer interviews Carrie La Seur.
We’ve got a copy of THE HOME PLACE up for grabs today. See entry for below for details. And you can read my review of THE HOME PLACE here. Hint: I absolutely loved it.
Julie: It’s always nice to meet another writer who juggles a demanding career, a family and writing. And now, you have publicity for The Home Place to add to your juggle. How did you fit writing your debut into your work/family balance when you were initially working on the drafts and rewrites? Do you think that whatever write/work/parent schedule you used to draft your first book will work going forward, or do you anticipate having to make some tweaks? I imagine that having a book out makes the juggle harder in many ways, from a pure busy-ness standpoint. Are there any ways in which it’s made life easier?
Carrie: The way I did the first one was by taking ten years at it, although the later stages involved late nights and weekends. I just gave my editor the manuscript for the second book, after revising with my agent, so I can testify that writing this one was an entirely different trip to the circus. I took a few weeks’ leave from work a couple of times over the winter and spring as I was trying to put together big chunks. During August I was on tour for The Home Place while trying to revise the new book – temporarily called Bert, because nobody can agree on a title – so it came together in places including the following: beside my cousin’s pool in Orange County, CA; on my front porch; in my law office; in hotel rooms and restaurants around the west coast and intermountain west; in bookstore coffee shops while waiting for my event to start; and in airports, airplanes, and other forms of transportation. The big thing that’s easier is that I have the motivation of knowing people want to read what I’m writing. That helps the mental game hugely.
Julie: I love the Willa Cather quote you’ve referred to in some interviews, about how “a novel is cremated youth.” You have said that in writing The Home Place, you drew on everything and everyone you know. You’ve had quite an interesting life, and not all of it in Montana, or in the legal field. Do you think your future books will all draw on more of who and what you know in Montana, and the law? Or do you see on the horizon a book about the people and things you know in Australia and England or the eastern part of the United States, all places where you have spent some time? Maybe something about academia or the writing life, rather than the law?
Carrie: One reason why I started publishing a little older than the average debut author seems to be is, I think, that I needed to figure out which stories I really care about telling. So far, those are the stories I’m writing, about the forces that threaten the places I love, the people who live here and their unique dramas. Maybe I’ll lose interest in that at some point, but consider for example Louise Erdrich, who’s spent most of her writing career chronicling her reservation in North Dakota over the long arc of time. Those stories will never be over, and they’ll always be fascinating.
Julie: The Home Place has been out for almost two months now. How has your life changed, now that you have a book in the world? In terms of your legal career, are people at the firm always asking if you’re going to retire from the law to become a full-time novelist? Are they eyeing you through your office door, wondering if the notes you’re writing on your legal pad are about your work in progress, rather than legal matters? What about life as a Montanan? Is there pressure for you to keep writing about Montana, to keep showing the rest of the world what life is like there?
Carrie: I won’t lie, my partners would like me to be able to predict the future better than I currently can. Writing and publicity are taking more of my time, so if things go well on that front, the day may be on the horizon when I no longer have time to practice law. But people tell me that you need to have as many as five books in print before you can be sure that you can make a living this way, and I’ve never been the sort of woman who’s comfortable not making her own living. Call it my working class roots. The community of Montana writers is much larger and more welcoming than I had imagined. Well, I hadn’t imagined. It’s easy to feel isolated when you’re writing a novel. You don’t imagine who else is out there living the same struggles, and it feels like a little miracle to find them. So far, though, the only pressure to write about Montana comes from people who want to hear more about my Montana characters, who are in the second book.
About THE HOME PLACE:
Carrie La Seur makes her remarkable debut with The Home Place, a mesmerizing, emotionally evocative, and atmospheric literary novel in the vein of The House Girl and A Land More Kind Than Home, in which a successful lawyer is pulled back into her troubled family’s life in rural Montana in the wake of her sister’s death.
The only Terrebonne who made it out, Alma thought she was done with Montana, with its bleak winters and stifling ways. But an unexpected call from the local police takes the successful lawyer back to her provincial hometown and pulls her into the family trouble she thought she’d left far behind: Her lying, party-loving sister, Vicky, is dead. Alma is told that a very drunk Vicky had wandered away from a party and died of exposure after a night in the brutal cold. But when Alma returns home to bury Vicky and see to her orphaned niece, she discovers that the death may not have been an accident.
The Home Place is a story of secrets that will not lie still, human bonds that will not break, and crippling memories that will not be silenced. It is a story of rural towns and runaways, of tensions corporate and racial, of childhood trauma and adolescent betrayal, and of the guilt that even forgiveness cannot ease. Most of all, this is a story of the place we carry in us always: home.