Sunday, October 12, 2014

Author Interview: Suanne Laqueur: The Man I Love

Your real name and pen name?
My name is Suanne Laqueur and I write under the same name.

Please share some of the best memories of your childhood
My mother was a dance teacher and she started her studio in the basement of my house.  As a very young child I would sit on the stairs and watch until I was old enough to participate and then dance quickly became my life. I grew up in a house filled with music: classical works, scores from great ballets and musicals, old standards, the Beatles, Bette Midler, jazz and Tito Puente. My hometown had both a summer children’s theater program and a summer Shakespeare festival. The memory of hours spent in rehearsal and production and the friendships forged there have lasted until my adulthood.

About your education
After I graduated high school, I attended Alfred University in upstate New York and earned a double degree in theater and dance. 

What career did you plan during your education days
I had no idea what I wanted to do other than something with dance.  I knew I didn’t have the chops to make it as a professional performer but I slowly realized I had a gift for choreography and teaching.  After I graduated college, I taught for two years at the State University of New York at Fredonia, then came home to teach at my mother’s dance studio until she retired.  At the same time, I was working fulltime at a telecommunications company and unconsciously building that secondary career.  Nothing was deliberately done. I just had the fortune to be able to make it up as I went along.
What languages you can speak and write?
My father is a translator.  I don’t think I was even conscious of the myriad of multi-lingual phrases that accompanied my childhood. I took for granted he greeted me with “Was ist los” instead of “what’s going on?” We didn’t have napkins, we had “serviettes.”  It was always “gesundheit” after a sneeze. “Avante” when we needed to get a move on. If a swallow of juice went down the wrong pipe, my Dad would cry, “Ach du lieber!” and make me put my hands over my head while he thumped me on the back. For years I thought “Ach du lieber” meant “put your hands over your head.”
I formally studied French through college and can still get by speaking, reading and writing it.  I tried a couple years of Spanish and did terribly.  I did a crash course in Italian when I was getting ready for a two-week trip to Italy.  I did great with it, and then promptly forgot everything as soon as I was home.  If you don’t use it, you lose it.

What is your biggest source of inspiration in life
Life itself.  Everything around me. Conversations—whether I’m participating or overhearing. Moments between humans. Interactions. Relationships. I watch and listen, I take it all in. I spin it around in my head, and then I write it down.
Three places where I do my best plotting: working in the garden, walking on the beach, and usually right before I fall asleep.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced? How did you overcome it?
I’ve dealt with bouts of depression and anxiety for most of my life, a particularly bad one in 2004 and a really bad one in 2013.  How did I overcome it? I just did. I had to. I knew I would. It’s hard to articulate how, but I think a lot of it was just acceptance. This is happening. This is not forever. This is not everything you are. This is just a thing. And you’ll get through it. In a way, it’s your finest hour.
I went to therapy but I also started talking about the anxiety and depression with my friends. Making it ordinary. And I found out that so many other women struggled as I did. A look of relief and gratitude came into their eyes. They’d clutched my arm and say, “Oh my God, me too…”
Then I started to believe I could have anxiety and depression AND be a functioning human. As in, I’m having a slight panic attack AND I am making dinner. It didn’t stop me anymore.  It continues to be part of my life without being the defining force of my life. It’s part of my journey without being the road itself. It’s ceased being a demon to conquer because the more I accept it, the less powerful it becomes. Depression doesn’t want to be invited to stick around. It doesn’t want to be talked about. It wants power and shame and to be special. Don’t give it what it wants. Get help. Talk about it. Make it ordinary.

When did you start writing? What is the purpose of your writing?
I write because my mind never shuts off. I write to get things out of my head and stomach so I can sleep. I write to capture moments, I write to create understanding and I write to connect with people.
I’ve written little stories since I was about ten. From a young age, I read voraciously and had very sharp powers of observation which made me retain details of experiences. I was a steel trap. I kept a journal for most of my life and this, coupled with my very strange photographic memory, led me to start recording conversations as dialogue. Complete with quotation marks and “he said,” “I said.” As I got older, I noticed how much people enjoyed when you shared memories of them: what they were wearing, what they said to you and how it made you feel. Or an act of kindness you remembered. Or when you observed them doing something they loved and how it affected you. People love to be noticed. People love to be remembered. People love to connect and that’s what’s inspired me most in my writing—the thought of being able to connect with people emotionally by drawing on my own memories and observations. Letting them know that what they perceived as a throwaway moment was actually a story to be told.

Which of your work has been published so far? Would you like to share a synopsis of your work?
My first novel The Man I Love was published in June of this year.  It follows the emotional journey of Erik Fiskare over a 15-year period, as he attempts to salvage relationships destroyed in the wake of a college shooting incident. Instances of gun violence have become sadly prevalent in our society today, but I’ve taken a more emotional slant on the issue by examining and exploring the victims and their connections to each other.
As a freshman, Erik is drawn to the world of theater but prefers backstage to center stage. The moment he lays eyes on a beautiful, accomplished dancer named Daisy Bianco, his atoms rearrange themselves and he is drawn into a romance both youthfully passionate and maturely soulful. It is a love story seemingly without end. But when a disturbed friend brings a gun into the theater, the story is forever changed. Daisy is shot and left seriously injured, her professional dreams shattered.

Traumatized by the experience, the lovers spiral into depression and drug use until a shocking act of betrayal destroys their relationship. To survive, Erik must leave school and disconnect from all he loves. He buries his heartbreak and puts the past behind. Or so he believes.
As he moves into adulthood, Erik comes to grips with his role in the shooting, and slowly heals the most wounded parts of his soul. But the unresolved grief for Daisy continues to shape his dreams at night. Once those dreams were haunted by blood and gunfire. Now they are haunted by the refrain of a Gershwin song and a single question: is leaving always the end of loving?
The Man I Love explores themes of love and sexuality, trauma—physical and mental—and its long-lasting effects, the burden of unfinished business and the power of reconciliation. Through Erik’s experience we reflect on what it means to be a man, a son and a leader. A soul mate, a partner and a lover. What it means to live the truth of who you are and what you feel. What it means to fight for what you love.

What are your forthcoming writings?
I’m currently participating in an anthology project and working on a short story called My Funny Valentine.  I’m also researching my next novel, a sequel to The Man I Love.

How much real life goes into a fiction writing?
For me, a ton.  Many people have asked if The Man I Love is autobiographical. My answer is that the emotions conveyed in the book are autobiographical, but the circumstances are fictional. When writing a scene, I try to lay the emotional groundwork first.  Besides the necessary plot advancement, what’s the feeling I want to convey and why? You get that settled and then layer the action on top and the scene becomes authentic and your characters are believable.

Is high level of imagination important to have for an author?
Absolutely. You’re constantly looking for the story in things. At their heart, most stories are quests:  somebody is looking for some Thing, they meet conflict along the way, they grow and change, they find the Thing and X happens, or they don’t find it and Y happens.  With an active imagination, an infinite number of extraordinary quests can occur.

Your origin of birth and other countries you have visited/ stayed. What best things you liked in these countries around the globe?
I’m American, born in New York.  I just came back from a two-week trip to Amsterdam, Antwerp, Paris and London. I loved the old-world charm of Amsterdam and Antwerp.  We stayed with family on this leg of the trip so it felt very intimate and homey.  Paris was grand, sweeping elegance, a very beautiful and feminine city where time didn’t matter.  London had a brusque business-like pulse, Big Ben tapping his watch and keeping everyone moving along.

Your favorite time of the day?
Between nine and eleven PM.  The day’s work is done but the night is still young.  It’s usually when I sit down to write or read or craft.  It’s my time.  I’m also partial to around two-thirty on a weekend, when it’s time for a nap.

Your zodiac/ sunsign?
I’m a Pisces.

Your favorite color and why?
I love grey.  Some people associate the color with sadness, indecision or industrial bleakness. I actually find it soft and I like its complexity. I have a lot of grey sweaters and shirts and several rooms in my house are painted grey, including my kitchen.  I love a beach under an overcast sky layered in grey.  When I garden, I love to put plants with silvery-grey foliage next to orange and yellow flowers. Grey makes other colors pop. Grey can be cool or warm. Grey can be dramatic or unobtrusive. Grey doesn’t make you decide. Grey is kind to everything. Grey gets along with others.

What is the last book you finished reading? What is the current book you are reading?
I just finished reading “The Hundred-Foot Journey” by Richard Marais, which was delicious.  I’m currently reading “The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B” by J.P. Donleavy

Your favorite book and why?
When I read Rumer Godden’s In This House of Brede, I was amazed at how she was able to create well over two dozen characters and make each one unique and vibrant and alive. And I loved her attention to detail when it came to settings and surroundings. Laurie Colwin’s Family Happiness blew me away with its thoughtfulness and depth of emotion regarding a sort of taboo subject—this very ordinary woman found herself having a love affair and struggling with emotions she didn’t have names for. I found myself thinking, “I want to write this way. Make ordinary people extraordinary.  Take extraordinary circumstances and show how ordinary and universal they really are.”

What comes to your mind when you think of India?
I think of chana masala which is the only Indian dish I know how to make. I think of spices like cumin, coriander and cardamom, which I love. And the smell of curry powder, which I do not love. And I wonder why so many great spices begin with the letter “C.”
I think of a business trip my husband took to India and how he was in an open-air atrium of some kind, waiting to be called into a meeting, and monkeys were hopping around him.  How he saw such extreme poverty in the streets, fly-covered children begging for food and money.  Juxtaposed against an opulent wedding party in a hotel lobby, the bride resplendent in pink silk, the intricate henna patterns on her hands, no expense spared.
I think of books: the beautiful imagery of Rumer Godden’s novels, written from her experience of growing up in colonial India.  The sights and sounds rising from the pages, pulling me down into that complex continent.  I think of a scene in Rosamunde Pilcher’s Coming Home, when a young woman in the WRNS, stationed in Ceylon, receives the news that the younger sister she thought had died in the Battle of Singapore has been found alive.

Sun or Moon: Moon
Laughter or Smile: Laughter
Morning or Evening: Evening
Coffee or Tea: Coffee
Mountain or Sea: Sea
Long Drive or Short Drive: Short
Silence or Conversation: Silence
Water or Fire: Water
Air or Earth: Earth
Mars or Jupiter: Mars
Tulip or Rose: Tulip
Red or Blue: Blue
Left or Right: Left
Glance or Stare: Stare

State your signature line/ tagline/ best quote
“Live the truth of who you are and what you feel.”

The last line of your autobiography would be…
“There was no trick to it. She just watched and listened. And wrote it down.”

Twitter handle: @suannelqr
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