Interview with Laura BynumDecember, 2009
SS: How would you describe your life in only 8 words?
LB: The road less traveled: more risk, more joy
SS: What is your motto or maxim?
LB: Be one with yourself and all things will come to you - Lao Tzu
What Readers want to know...
SS: How would you describe perfect happiness?
LB: I believe perfect happiness comes in waves and that it's the result of a collision between perfect understanding and absolute appreciation. It's like having a brief glimpse into the perfection of everything and feeling completely comfortable with whatever I'm going through, good or bad. For me, these waves hit most often when I'm with my children or out of doors: my face in the sun; when I'm near the ocean; walking in the woods.
SS: What’s your greatest fear?
LB: Being trapped. Anywhere, in anything.
SS: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
LB: I'm pretty happy to be right here in the piedmont region of Virginia, but I miss my family farm in Illinois.
SS: With whom in history do you most identify?
LB: Abraham Lincoln (I was born in Springfield, Illinois - maybe this factors into this choice)
SS: Which living person do you most admire?
LB: Nelson Mandela (Helen Thomas is a close second)
SS: What are your most overused words or phrases?
LB: Most of them are expletives and are most often uttered while in traffic.
SS: What do you regret most?
LB: Not having taken more risks in life.
SS: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
SS: What is your greatest achievement?
LB: The three amazing souls that found their way into the world through me, and surviving breast cancer.
SS: What’s your greatest flaw?
LB: I have a hard time enjoying life sometimes; I often feel like I'm supposed to be working.
SS: What’s your best quality?
LB: My faith. It's been tested of late and I found that these trials have only made it stronger.
SS: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
LB: I'm content to be me. I'd like to have fewer crow's feet, but they've been well-earned.
SS: What trait is most noticeable about you?
LB: I have a strong sense of justice. Or maybe it's more an intolerance of BS.
SS: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
LB: Sean Thornton (The Quiet Man) I don't think this prize fighter, played by John Wayne in the film, would typically be considered a hero, but I find him the quintessence of heroism. Spoiler alert - Sean accidentally kills a man in the ring then goes back to his native home in Ireland. In order to properly court his sweetheart (the most beautiful woman who's ever lived - Maureen O'Hara), he has to fight her brother, but he refuses as he's afraid he'll kill again. It's his commitment to not make the same mistake twice, and not take another soul, that nearly costs him the girl. How many people are willing to give up the love of their life to 'do what's right'? Sean Thornton has a conviction of character I find truly heartwarming.
SS: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
LB: A lot of people would call him more of a vigilante than a villain, but I really love Rorschach (Watchmen). He's doling out justice according to the judge and jury of his own mind and doesn't realize he's committing the sin of judgement, and murder. What I love about Rorschach is that I think he's aware of this but feels it's his duty. I almost don't want to put him down as a villain, but how many people does he kill in his quest to affect justice? He's this wounded boy who's found a way to 'make right' the wrongs that surround him and who, in the end of the story, won't play the game of a few wrongs can equal one big right. He's old school and committed, and I love his dedication.
SS: If you could meet any historical character, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
LB: Mary Magdalene. There's a lot of conflicting information out there about her role in the life of Christ. In 1969, the Catholic Church went on the record saying that Mary Magdalene was not, and never had been a prostitute, as she'd been portrayed, willingly or no, for years. There are other documents out there that suggest Mary was a larger part of Jesus' life than is expressed in the Bible. I've never understood the need for a virgin birth, never thought of sex as anything other than a natural way to progress the race and express love, and would find it pretty normal and natural were the Lord to have had a mate. I would love to talk to her about this and get the real skinny on something so pivotal.
SS: What is your biggest pet peeve?
SS: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
LB: I love to cook.
SS: What’s your fantasy profession?
LB: I'd love to be a film director.
SS: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
LB: Courage, kindness, authenticity.
SS: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
LB: Chex mix.
SS: What are your 5 favorite songs?
LB: Solsbury Hill (Peter Gabriel), the final movement in the Firebird Suite (Stravinsky), Cool Change (Little River Band), If You Want Me To (Ginny Owens), Mercy Me (Marvin Gaye)
Questions About Books and Writing
SS: Who are your favorite authors?
LB: In no particular order, and full of giant, gaping holes: John Steinbeck, Toni Morrison, Elizabeth Strout, C.S. Lewis, Joseph Campbell, Thomas Wolfe, Nell Harper Lee, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Audrey Niffenegger, John Irving, Margaret Atwood, James Joyce, Cormac McCarthy, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Barbara Kingsolver, Louise Erdrich, Wally Lamb, Maya Angelou, Joyce Carol Oates, Jeffrey Eugenides, Chinua Achebe, many, many, many more.
SS: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
LB: The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
SS: Is there a book you love to reread?
LB: Olive Kitteridge
SS: Do you have one sentence of advice for new writers?
LB: Pare down ruthlessly - (Dan Conaway, my literary agent)
SS: What comment do you hear most often from your readers?
LB: As my book hasn't yet been published (not until Jan 5, 2010), most comments are from my family. The one I love most is "This is what you've been doing? We didn't realize..." Even typing that up gets me misty.
SS: What is your birthdate?
SS: What were your previous occupations?
LB: Everything from waitress to builder of corporate departments.
SS: What was/is your favorite job?
LB: Aside from writing, I loved owning a small production company (Ugly Girl Productions). I didn't get paid for a bit of that work, but it was a blast to have such a layered way to communicate a story or cautionary tale.
SS: Where did you go to high school and/or college?
LB: I went to Springfield High School in Springfield, Illinois, then to Millikin University (Decatur, IL) for about three semesters but was itching to get out in the world and do my own thing. I quit and then went back to college a few years later and graduated with my bachelor's from the University of Illinois at Springfield (Communications), and then from Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, IL with my master's (Communications).
SS: Name of your favorite composer or music artist?
LB: I have to divide this up into three: Stravinsky, John Williams, and Dario Marianelli
SS: What is your favorite movie?
LB: The Quiet Man
Get more on Laura Bynum at SimonandSchuster.com