In February, we had the chance to interview the wonderful Laure Eve, author of The Graces, The Curses, The Illusionists and Fearsome Dreamer. It was a great interview and we had a lot of fun. We mainly asked about her writing process, since creative writing is something me and Sarah are really interested in and do ourselves. It’s always fascinating to hear about different authors’ writing processes and this was another insightful chat!
Sarah: Since we’re both creative writers, we wanted to ask you a bit more about your creative process and how you write. Do you normally think of the character or the plot first?
Laure: Umm…that’s a good question. So far, the sparking idea of a book for me, this is gonna make me sound super weird, has been a dream. So, perhaps obviously, Fearsome Dreamer came from a dream, as did The Graces. It’s one scene in the book and I have this dream and it’s the kind that stays with you and doesn’t let you go. You find yourself sinking back into it the next day…you just can’t concentrate on anything so it’s usually that and there’s two characters usually involved in the scene and something happens and it just leaves me fascinated to know who they are, what’s going on between them and what that world is that they’re in. So that’s usually how it starts.
From there, I write that scene knowing nothing about what the wider world is and going ‘Okay, who are they?’ and then it’s usually the character work immediately after that because I want to know who they are and what they’re doing there because you can’t have any plot without that. You need the characters, you need to know the tension in their lives, what it is they want that they’re not getting or what it is they’re afraid of that’s happening to them or whatever that is; that’s where plot comes from. For me it’s the character first and their fears and desires and that’s what drives the narrative.
Sarah: That’s a really interesting way of working, I’ve not heard that before. So do you plot things out from there or do you just kind of let it go?
Laure: To be honest, every book has been different because they’re quite particular things. For example, The Graces was quite a different way of working because that was very plot based in that it’s an unreliable narrator. That [The Graces] was very character driven because it was her voice and I knew exactly who she was, what she wanted and how the book ended. Because of the way it unfolds, because she’s not telling you what’s actually going on and you don’t find out til the end, it’s almost like working backwards and that’s therefore quite plot [based] because I knew where I had to get and it was about revealing as much as I thought I needed to reveal at every point in order to get there. That was quite sort of focused in that way.
The thing that I’m writing at the moment is so huge in terms of all the world building, that’s actually quite plot heavy. I usually know what the ending is – usually – and then the writing of it is the murky attempt to get there somehow. So I find that quite useful because if you’re just wandering off into the dark without any sense of the direction where you want to end up, even if you end up somewhere different or the way you get there is not quite what you envisioned, you need an anchor point to head towards I would say, so in terms of story and plot I know the ending. The middle is up for grabs! Depending on what happens: you’ll have fun things like a character will suddenly be like ‘Hi. I know you thought that I was a secondary character that’s not actually very important but it turns out I’m really important and you should write my story instead!’. That happened in Fearsome Dreamer. I was like ‘Who are you? You were just the teacher, you were just there for like a scene and now you’re one of the main characters and I don’t understand how that happened!’
Sophie: Do you write any differently now to when you first started writing?
Laure: That’s a good question. Umm, (long pause). Well it’s hard to say because every project is different. It’s a real sod actually…because once you’ve written a book you’re like ‘Great, I know how to write a book now I shall just apply this method to the next book!’ and it never, ever, ever works out because unless you’re writing the same book over and over, every book is a totally different beast. You learn different lessons on every one so yeah, it’s tricky, it’s a different way of writing every time. I do think I’ve learned a lot about different ways to write different narrative structures and how it feels to write a first person unreliable narrator vs. a third person omniscient and all that kind of stuff. I tend to want to test myself on every book in that way which doesn’t necessarily make for a fun time because every time I’m starting a book I’m like ‘I have no idea what I’m doing! Why don’t I just write something easy!’
There’s something about me that needs some kind of challenge because I want to learn on every book basically. So, I think, I hope, I know a lot more about the different options of writing. I think when you start out you’re drawn to one thing and one way, there’s a certain kind of story or a certain kind of storytelling that you love and that you try and emulate, then the more you write the more you play and try and test things out and its good to be brave I think.
Sophie: Did you want to be a writer before you were a bookseller?
Laure: I wanted to be a writer all the time, since I was a kid. Writing and books were my first love really. I was one of those classic bookworm kids that would read at the breakfast table and get jam on the pages and my mother would shout at me. I’d read in the bath and all the pages would get crinkly because I’d drop it in the bath and my mother would shout at me – I was that kid! This is terrible and I shouldn’t say this in a public forum but when we used to go to mass, at the Catholic church we used to go to, I would take a book and put it inside the hymn book. My mother couldn’t stop me but she was like ‘Well, at least you’re in church.’
I was really drawn to the power those writers had over me, how they could just completely subdue me into a world and…tell me things or explore things that didn’t necessarily come up in polite conversation, like death – I was a weird kid. I remember wanting to be able to do that to other people, you know storytelling and all, I just loved it and if there was any way to be that I really wanted to be it, so yeah, I always wanted to be a writer.
Sophie: The aim is to make people read it in church!
Laure: Yeah…I consider that a job well done. If someone comes to me and says ‘I’m afraid I’ve been reading your book’ or ‘My teen daughter was reading your book instead of concentrating on her prayer book’ I’d be like ‘your teen daughter will be fine’.
Sophie: And a book about witchcraft, even better!
Laure: Even better! I’m down with it.
Sarah: Do you have any writer rituals?
Laure: Not really, the only thing I would say that I’m consistent about is music. I tend to do playlists for each book that I write and I’ll always put them online because I have immense passion for music and it’s a huge source of inspiration for me especially for atmosphere and tone. Those playlists…tend to be a bit curated but while I’m writing, I listen to a song that I need for a particular scene that gives me the right entry point which does mean that I will listen to a song fifty odd times in a row because it takes me 3 or 4 hours to write a scene.
My Spotify list is pretty weird but I’d say that most writers do the same thing and just get stuck on this particular sound or atmosphere or something about a song just grabs you and you just have to keep listening to it until you get down what you need, so it gets a bit weird. I go through phases if I’m writing a particular book and there’s a particular band say that just suits the tone that I need, I will listen to nothing but that band for three months every day for hours and hours a day. I feel weird about it and I’m like…’Listen to something else Laure, what’s wrong with you?’ It’s really weird, you’re waking up, you’re in the shower, these songs are in your head, that music is like constant soundtrack that I can’t get rid of, I’m trying to sleep and I can hear the songs playing and it’s weird but you do what you need to do…
Sarah:…to get a book written!
We chatted a bit about a variety of different authors doing a similar thing.
Laure: A lot of writers do it…it’s just a quick atmosphere that you can just have. I can’t write to silence actually.
Sophie: No, I can’t – I agree with that.
Sarah: Oh I’m the opposite, I can’t listen to music.
Laure: Right! So again I know some writers who are like ‘Nope, too distracting!’ I’m like no I need it
Sophie: What do you enjoy about writing YA?
Laure: Huh…(long silence)
Sarah: Hope the silence isn’t ‘nothing’ (Laughing)
Laure: (Laughing) It’s shit, nothing to recommend! More like, it’s an interesting question for me particularly because actually every book that I’ve written…they are YA but my agent and I have always been quite like ‘We aren’t sure if this will sell to an adult or YA publisher’ so I never intended to write YA. What I like about the genre and writing within is that it feels quite unrestricted in a way that other adult genres can be. There are so many ways to tell a YA story and there aren’t big silos like there’s fantasy, sci fi, crime, thriller, contemporary all in the YA bracket which makes it a slightly different prospect than adult crime genre or something. It’s not quite the same genre in that way, I think YA writing can be quite brave. I think a lot happens in YA before it happens in other genres, because I think that YA writers have to be connected to a young audience who are the ones experiencing new things and brining in new trends and concerns and social stuff so it feels like you’re at the forefront almost more so than other genres. And then other genres tend to catch up a little bit but it feels like the conversation in YA is being had almost before anything else.
Sarah: Yeah, it feels like YA is a bit more broad.
We chatted about how young people change quickly and it’s hard even being a few years past teen years to understand how teens now live.
Laure: It moves so fast. I think that has the knock on effect on the actual genre because you have to move with it as a writer so you can’t be writing the same kind of books that you did, 3, 4 or 5 years ago. It’s just not possible because you’re writing to that audience that’s sort of pushing things so it makes it quite fluid and changeable and energetic.
Sarah: Are there any books you’ve read recently that you’ve recommend?
Laure: The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon which is out imminently (this interview was just before the release!) and I’m excited about that because usually when you ask a writer what books they’ve read recently that they love, it’s not out for months because they’ve been sent a proof! But I can talk about The Priory of the Orange Tree because it’s out imminently and that’s an amazing book that’s basically a feminist The Lord of the Rings – its so great, it’s the most incredible world. It’s incredibly accessible and thrilling – that’s a great book. The other one is, if you like The Graces, if you like my books, you would love Other Words For Smoke by Sarah Maria Griffin. It’s sort of atmospherically and tonally similar to The Graces in that its about women who live in a little cottage and they’re probably witches and they read tarot cards but…really crazy! There’s a whole other thing I don’t want to say because it will spoil it but there’s a whole other world to that and it goes somewhere really weird – there’s a talking cat, it’s great, read it!
A big thank you to Waterstones Deansgate, our friend Kimi and Laure Eve for the opportunity! Apologies this is a delayed upload but we hope you enjoyed!