It’s no secret that I adore Suanne Laqueur and her writing. She was kind enough to answer 80 million questions for me to share. I’ve had the privilege of speaking with Suanne on a few occasions and she is a remarkable writer with a once in a lifetime kind of talent. I hope you all enjoy this little Q & A just as much as I did.
Let’s get messy…
Let’s start by getting to know you first…
- What type of liquor do you drink when you’re writing? Do you drink it straight or with a mixer?
I’m such a trashy drinker. Mike’s Hard Lemonade is my go-to. If I don’t have any, I like red wine, or a really dark oak-barrel-aged stout.
- What do you want to be when you grow up?
I want to be content.
- How would your best friend describe you?
I asked her. She answered, “Concentrated. You have love, humor and wit that’s never half-assed. Concentrated.”
- What is the last gift you gave someone and why?
I gave my best friend a coloring book called “Fantastic Cities” because it was her birthday.
- Do you Google yourself?
On occasion but I’m not sure what it is I’m looking for.
- I love everything Fish Tales, where did the world of fish tales come from?
The world of theater and dance was my world growing up and into my adulthood. My mother owned a studio in our hometown and I started ballet at three. I majored in danced and theater in college and then taught for ten years. So the dual worlds of onstage and offstage were something I was familiar with. And also, since TMIL was essentially born during my college years, it isn’t much of a surprise I set it around what I saw and lived every day.
- I want to talk about The Man I Love a little bit. What scene did you write out of The Man I Love?
Meaning what got cut? A ton!! My editor tells me to write everything, so I write everything. She’s got a really sharp axe. There was one hilarious scene with Erik making out with Daisy and then Will sneaks up behind, gets Erik in an arm lock and starts dry-humping him. Har de har har. I took all that cut material and put it into my fourth book, The Ones That Got Away. Seemed a shame to let it all languish in a drawer.
- Where do your characters come from? They are amazingly detailed and heart-achingly real.
All of them have bits of myself, just as a starting point. But I spend a lot of time with them before I write a story. Many authors have a pipeline of stories in their head, and they think of characters to fit. Me, I work the other way around: I start with characters and hang around with them a good long time, letting them tell me their story. And by hanging around, I mean things like lying in bed, talking to a pillow, pretending I’m Erik and the pillow is Daisy. Then I switch. I’ll be in the car and pretend I’m Will, having a conversation with Erik riding shotgun. I talk to myself A LOT and I just try to pay attention to not only what I’m saying, but how it feels.
Anyway, I think it’s a combination of my weird imagination and theater background that results in this crazy “method writing” technique. But it works for me. By the time I sat down to write TMIL in earnest, incarnations of Daisy, Erik, Will and Lucky had been in my head for over 20 years.
- When you began writing the book did you see Erik and Daisy’s story play out the way it did? Did the story change while writing?
TMIL was essentially written from the ends in. I had scenes with Erik and Daisy meeting in college. And scenes with them estranged as adults. And a lot of hinting at this terrible betrayal that led to them disconnecting completely. But nothing in the middle. Eventually I figured out the tragedy that tore not only Daisy and Erik apart, but their entire circle apart. That section was built completely from the ground up out of nothing. James Dow was a brand-new character that took me about six weeks of intense writing to nail down. I talk about him in depth in The Ones That Got Away, which is essentially a behind-the-scenes tour of The Fish Tales.
- The Man I Love is told completely from Erik’s POV. Do you find it difficult to write from a man’s POV?
I first thought TMIL would be Daisy’s POV. I’m a woman, I identified with her, it made sense. So I started writing things from her perspective. Then found myself wandering off into other characters’ minds. I wrote about twelve chapters total and only four of them were from Erik’s POV. None of it was going anywhere, it was a lot of talking but no story. It just felt really stagnant. I sent it to my friend Ami like “Help!” She sent it back to me with just Erik’s chapters separated and she said, “This is your story. He has the evolution. Nothing can happen until he turns around and makes it happen. Everyone else is just waiting.”
I was like, “Write it from the guy’s POV, are you kidding?” But I did, and it was crazy how easy it was for me.
- Do you ask men to help you get into the male mind? So many female authors are writing from a man’s POV lately and I can’t stand when it comes across as what a female would say or think. When I read The Man I Love, I felt like you really captured the male mind.
Whew, thank you! I worried that too in the beginning but like I said, it was kind of crazy how quickly I found Erik’s voice and dialed into him. A lot of times I found myself stressing about his voice or tone or actions. And I’d just think, Don’t worry about being male or female. Just be ERIK.
I didn’t consult with any men. And I took it as a great compliment when a male friend of mine read it, and later kind of pulled me aside and said, “This is weird, but how did you know that’s what a blow job feels like?”
- Where does Erik come from? He’s like my most favorite people ever! Is there a real life Erik? If there is, can you tell him that I love him? In my mind we are in a relationship already.
Erik is very loosely based on someone from my past. Erik and Daisy’s story is also loosely based on something that happened to us. Basically TMIL is emotionally autobiographical with different circumstances layered on top.
- This I am must know! Why didn’t Daisy fight for Erik? Why the fuck did she cheat on him in the first place? FYI, I hate her for what she did to my imaginary, future baby daddy.
You know, I really don’t have a good answer for this. Believe me, as much as you hate her, you don’t hate her half as much as she hated herself. And I think we can all identify with that experience of doing something really, really, really stupid and having no reason, and just feeling like you’ve blown the world up, everyone hates you and you want to die.
I’ll tell you this, in The Ones That Got Away, this question is posed to Will: “If you could go back and change anything you did on The Day Of Which We Will Not Speak, would you?”
And Will answers, “I wouldn’t have left Fish alone at Colby Street. Dumbest thing ever. Telling Dais not to go over there, leaving him to stew in rage and pack up and leave. Idiotic. If I could go back, I would’ve slashed his tires or hid his car keys. Then I would’ve parked outside his bedroom and not moved. Or lay down in the driveway. Or better, I would’ve thrown Dais into his room, barricaded the door and not let them out until…something happened. Or someone died. I don’t know. But giving him space was the wrong tactic, I know that now.”
And even in Here to Stay, Daisy asks Erik, “What would you have done if I came to your room that night?”
“I can only answer that in hindsight,” he says. “It’s easy to say now I would’ve let you in and talked to you. Would I though? I honestly don’t know. I might have locked you out and ignored you. I might have let you in and sat there like a stone. I might have thrown you up against the wall and fucked you and then made you go. I might have just cried. I don’t know.”
I just don’t know either… Love brings out the best and the worst in us.
- Do you think I’m a complete weirdo for falling in love with a character from a book? Do you find it easy to fall in love with the male characters?
Hell no, I fall in love with book characters all the time. I find I often identify with the hero more readily in books. It’s rare I get quickly attached to a female character, especially if she’s weak or wishy-washy or makes perpetually bad decisions. Or worse, is indecisive and can’t communicate. Not that men are always these things, but I find it more irritating in a female character.
- What scene was the hardest to write in The Man I Love?
The scene with James Dow in the theater was tough. One chapter alone went back and forth between me and my editor, I think, eight times. But the hardest by far were Erik’s scenes with Diane Erskine. It is really hard to write about therapy because as anyone who’s been there knows, it’s not a three-chapter process. It’s long and slow. But of course I couldn’t write it that way. So it was really challenging to pace it properly. To convey the sense of time and process against the sense of drama. Also there was very little physical movement or environmental observation to fall back on. It’s two people in a small room so the dialogue and the emotion were just out there naked with no distractions.
- Do you think you’re a better writer than most other authors? If you’re too modest to answer, I’ll do it for you. (Yeah, your totally are.)
Um… LOL, I’ll let you answer. Holy crap, thank you. That’s a loaded question. I think I can speak for any artist when I say we look at our work and have moments of, “Now that’s how you do it, motherfucker!” and other moments of, “Oh my God, I am a total fraud, this sucks.”
Being a writer, this is never more evident than when I’m reading. I read books where I simply can’t turn off my inner editor. I read other books where I want to crawl into a corner and cry because who the hell do I think I am, thinking myself some kind of writer. I am nothing… Blah blah blah, on and on, volleyed between smugness and despair. It’s all healthy. It’s good to be satisfied with a scene that kicked ass, and good to read a kick-ass book and know you still have so much to learn.
- How do you handle criticism of your writing?
By drinking. LOL, kidding. Sort of. I handle negative reviews much better than I used to. I think it’s artistic nature to obsess on the negative feedback. I won’t lie: it stings, it smarts, it hurts your feels. I just keep reminding myself nobody, nobody has ever written a universally-beloved book. Even the Bible has crummy reviews (“too preachy!”). And I remind myself that negative reviews balance out the stellar ones. The goal is a range of reactions from a range of people. And if any reviewer gets really harsh, then I take a deep breath and say, “Welp, not my audience.” And if that doesn’t work, I crack a Mike’s and vent to a friend. Or my mother.
- Do you hide any secrets in your books that only certain people would notice?
Oh God, yes, all the time. I love to hide little anecdotes and private jokes and catchphrases like easter eggs. And I love getting that text message from the finder, “Oh my God, I can’t believe you put ‘bang the manny’ into your book! I laughed out loud in Starbucks!”
So be careful what you do and say around me. I will use it.
A huge thank you to Suanne for taking the time out to answer all of our questions (I threw in a few from some friends.)
- What do you guys think of my version of the Fish Tale characters?
You can find Suanne here…
If you want a chance to win a signed copy of The Man I Love by Suanne Laqueur, enter this giveaway on Pretty Mess Reading’s Facebook page, here.