Ask the Author: Laura McBride

“I love questions. Especially hard ones. So go ahead: let's talk!” Laura McBride

Answered Questions (19)

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Laura McBride Rose - What an intriguing question

I thought of Roberta as a narrator, someone who could describe Las Vegas, which means that little of her story is in We Are Called to Rise. But I imagined a story for her; I know things about her.

So . . . a sequel. I will have to think about this. If I do write about Roberta, you may give yourself credit for the idea. I am between novels now, turning the possibilities in my mind, and here - you have offered me a new one.

Thanks so much for reading and discussing my novel. You cannot imagine who much a writer appreciates engaged readers. We owe you our joy.
Laura McBride Dear Ruby - I'm embarrassed to find this question so late. I'm not sure how that happened. Thank you for your kind words. I loved writing We Are Called to Rise so much. I was afraid to imagine it might be published, and there was freedom in that.

Your question: I am inspired by events, and I am interested in more things than I can reasonably keep in mind. Focus is an issue for me =)

I am writing a third novel now, and I kept changing my mind about which story I would write. It drove me crazy. I couldn't decide if they were all fine or all terrible. But I think that when I settled in and decided to keep writing the story I am now writing, it was because I decided that it had room for me to explore ideas and feelings that matter (at least they matter to me). Maybe that sounds grandiose, but life is short and writing a novel is long. I may as well try to write as big as I can.

I fear that this answer rambles - not a good look for a writer! - but I am late to meet a book group. By the way, I am happy to Facetime with interested book groups.
Laura McBride Tawny - You are what I need! Jut before I slapped my laptop closed last night, frustrated with words that would not twist themselves to what I intended, your note popped into my inbox. Thank you. I am fed by readers like you - Laura
Laura McBride Well, I asked for difficult questions, but Goodreads, really? I'm not telling!
Laura McBride It's nearly Valentine's Day, and it seems a terrible punt to say I can't think of a couple . . . how could that be?

I suppose it might be Lila and John Ames, in Marilynne Robinson's Gilead trilogy. I love the line from the last book, when Lila says something like "It's hard to keep an old man alive" - with so much love.
Laura McBride I love to get a laugh with stories from my own life, but it would take quite a lot for me to write a memoir. To work well, stories need to be shaped, and I worry about shaping something true into a story that is no longer true. It would be a challenge, so I guess that part of the idea intrigues me!

I've read several memoirs recently. Three that moved me deeply, in the order that they did: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout, and When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.
Laura McBride Hi Elaine - Thanks for writing to me again! I have a novel coming out May 2 ('Round Midnight) which is also set in Las Vegas. It takes place over 60 years, and taught me something profound about how the Vegas I know came to be.

That said, I think I might be done setting a novel in Las Vegas, at least for now. The story I am working on currently is set in Arizona and New Mexico, and I can imagine setting stories in many other places as well.
Laura McBride Hi! This is a hard question, because five years is a long time. I can definitely recommend some books I've read in the last couple of months though. I'm reading The Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey this week, and I love it. I loved her first novel Snow Child too. I also like to read non-fiction, and I was very moved by Bryan Stephenson's book Just Mercy, and also by Amanda Lindhout's This House of Sky. Have you tried Andria Williams' The Longest Night?
Laura McBride Thank you Amy. When I read, cathartic is what I most want a serious book to be. I really appreciate this comment
Laura McBride Wonderful question. And I don't think I have ever gotten it before. I wrote in Avis' voice because initially I could not imagine writing in Nate's. I didn't want to be in his head, and I didn't think I could bring true openness to that experience. By the end of the book, it was different. I could have written in Nate's voice (you can hear it a little in the conversation he had with his mother about the war), with love. Now that you suggest it, I wish I had.

It didn't occur to me, and I know exactly why it didn't. I intended for the book to have three voices, and added Roberta's voice late in the story. I deliberately added her voice without twisting her own story into the three, but that deviation from the "perfect form" I had in my head felt like a concession. I was not open to considering other deviations from the original plan. I am aware of this because I am finishing a second novel right now, and taking more liberties with the structure I initially created. Each time it is hard for me to decide if the liberty is worth the gain, but I find that relaxing my form can make the story richer. And it may well have made We Are Called to Rise richer if I had tried it then.

Thanks for reading, and for an interesting question.
Laura McBride Carol - Thanks for writing me. Were you in the front row with a friend? I am so glad you came and we had the chance to meet. Laura
Laura McBride I think it might be a question of where did I not get an idea? When I was writing We Are Called to Rise, my senses were on full alert. Waking or sleeping, I was always half thinking of the book, and everything that happened to me, everything I sensed, everything I experienced, jumped back and touched what I was doing in the novel.

I had long planned to write a story about Las Vegas, and I had been thinking about my home in these terms for years before I began to write.
Laura McBride I enjoy the process of writing a great deal, so as long as I have an idea and a spit of time, I don't have to do much to feel inspired.

For me, time is a big issue. I am definitely an all-in concentrator, and I hate to be pulled away from a project in the middle. I do not enjoy writing a drib here and a drab there. So very often, if I can't see a sufficient space of time in which I might reasonably finish a project, I do not start it. This is an ongoing issue. I am hoping that publishing We Are Called to Rise will give me the freedom and the confidence to work somewhat less and write more.
Laura McBride I teach composition at a community college, which means that I spend my working life persuading recalcitrant writers to write.

So I use the same tricks I offer my students.

I set a goal - a word count, a number of hours writing without stopping, anything concrete will do - and then I do it. I don't worry about whether I am writing something good or something bad, I don't worry about where the writing will take me next, I don't wonder what will happen if the writing is not right; I don't do anything but stick to my goal and pat myself on the back when I reach it. Also, I add ice cream.

Choose a small task that you know you can do. Do it. Smile. Wait until later to choose another one.
Laura McBride I love the act of writing itself. I suspect that I have the same feeling that someone who loves painting or cooking or gardening or dancing has while doing those activities. While writing, I am engaged, excited, stimulated, challenged, curious, hopeful. Writing is a form of communication, and it feels very human to try to communicate with a reader through words.

I write for the pleasure of solving a problem, realizing a truth, understanding another I write to make something, to feel something, to live something.
Laura McBride I don't feel particularly qualified to answer this question, but from my own experience, here is what worked:

1) Prepare for the writing experience. A novel is a very large project. It is discouraging to start a project and then to abandon it, so for me, it was very helpful to think out the whole project in advance. What time would I dedicate to it, how much time would it take, what might interrupt that schedule, how could I give myself the best shot of being successful in that plan? Of course, life throws up surprises - and mine did too - but having thought the whole process out helped get me through those.

2) Form writing habits. Talk about them with others. Stick to them. Writing does not always go well, and you cannot rely on "being in the mood." Some writers set minimum word limits, others set time periods. I have done both, and they both work fine for me. I do not worry about whether the writing I am doing in a set period of time is good or bad. I just do it. Faithfully. Diligently.

3) Be kind to yourself. If I meet the goal I set for myself (a certain number of words, a certain length of time) then I pat myself on the back and smile broadly, and think: "Good job, Laura." I never think about whether the writing was good or bad after I finish it. I concentrate on congratulating myself for doing it. There's plenty of time to evaluate, revise, and edit later.

4) If you don't love it, if writing makes you mad, if it turns you into a grump about the state of the world and publishing and the problems in the system, consider a writing break. It's okay to just live life, just to be, and trust that when the urge to communicate with others is strong enough, you will go back to it.

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