LAUREL SAVILLE: NORTH OF HERE IS ULTIMATELY A LOVE STORY BETWEEN DAMAGED PEOPLE
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
Laurel Saville is getting ready for her new release North of Here. The book will have a premiere on March 1, but already is a hot title and is standing solidly near the top of Kindle Amazon rankings.
Our next guest is well established author and writer of articles, that were published in LA Times Magazine, The Bark, NYTimes.com and many other popular publications. It’s a great pleasure to introduce to you Laurel Saville.
– Laurel, what is your book North of Here about?
– Set in the Adirondack Park / North Country area of upstate New York, the book follows the intersecting fates of four very different people who are trying to create meaning and structure in their lives: Miranda is a 23-year old woman trying to find her footing after a series of tragedies befall her privileged family; Dix is a 30-year old, local handyman whose humble demeanor belies a more complex background; Darius is a charming narcissist who tries to build a back-to-nature commune; Sally is a no-nonsense social worker who tries to fix problems and people. There is a lot of searching and frustrated ambition, the characters are often not what they seem, there are many fumbled attempts to help each other, but the book is ultimately a love story between damaged people and also with a very challenging landscape.
– How did you decide to write the story?
– I would say that all of my books and stories start with some moment that seems resonant to me, some image, experience or scene that keeps coming back to me. The imaginative aspect of writing is a process of figuring out how that moment came to be. With “North of Here“, I had a mental picture of a young girl on the back of a snowmobile, in the woods at night, wondering about the blue light coming from the windows of the houses she passed. That scene was eventually cut from the book, but it is where it began. I wanted to know who she was and how she got there, and why she didn’t know what television was. To answer that question, I started writing about the adults that I envisioned as her parents first, and that story became the book. Mostly, writing a story, for me, is just the process of creating a character and seeing where they take me. For this book, I also wanted to capture a certain ineffable yet very compelling quality of the Upstate New York landscape – it’s an area I lived near, visited, and then lived in for twenty five years. It has a highly contradictory nature and a dark, ragged roughness that I love.
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process?
– The biggest challenge came with the last third of the book. In earlier versions, the story took a very different turn from what readers have in their hands today. As one of my editors said, it seemed to become a different book and there was a disconnect from beginning to end. That same editor gave me a great tip when he told me how much he loved the character Sally, and how sorry he was that she had dropped off the scene. So, in revisions, I spent some more time with her, and she became one of the very important threads pulling the story forward. It’s not easy, but I had to throw away a lot of the work I had done and find this new way to carry the emotional, aesthetic, and storytelling vibe I had created in the first sections all the way through the entire work. But these things are just part of the process of writing and working out the story.
The other challenges I faced are inherent to writing in general, which have to do with how to make characters, locations, a story, and emotions feel alive, vibrant, honest, and real to readers. That’s just the hard work of writing!
– Tell us something more about your main characters Miranda and Dix? Are they close to someone from your real life?
– I suppose most of my fictional characters reflect some aspects of people I’ve met and known, some even reflect aspects of myself, but honestly, they really become their very own people and personalities on the page and within the events of the story they’re in. Miranda has lived a very sheltered life, and when faced with a slew of tragedies, she has few coping mechanisms to fall back on, which leaves her lost and vulnerable. Dix is exceedingly competent, but gets lost in his own way as he becomes tangled in Miranda’s emotional morass. Darius and Sally try to come to their rescues in very different ways and with varying results, some tragic, some hopeful.
– How much time did you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– This is a difficult question, as it’s not like I just sit down and start writing and write straight through. There’s a lot of just thinking in the background that goes on for a long time first, and a lot of regular life happens during the process. However, when I look at my oldest documents, it appears I began writing in November of 2013, content editing with my publisher began in early 2015, and now it’s being released a year later.
– What the readers will find in your most popular books Henry and Rachel and Unraveling Anne?
– “Unraveling Anne” is a memoir about my mother’s life and death. She went from a 1950s model, artist, and fashion designer to an alcoholic street person who was murdered in a burned out building when she was 53 and I was 20. Along the way, she was part of an important group of artists associated with the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles and thoroughly entrenched in Hollywood’s hippie heyday. This book is the story of me as an adult daughter going back and researching my mother’s life and milieu to try and understand who she was.
“Henry and Rachel” was inspired by some of the stories I heard of my great grandparents. While the book is fiction, it does include transcripts of actual letters between my great-grandfather and grandfather from about 1914 – 1921. The novel is set in the Caribbean and New York City, during the first few decades of the 1900s, and follows the ill-fated and star-crossed relations between Henry, an English inventor and dentist, and Rachel, his common and completely misunderstood wife, and what eventually compels her to abandon him and four or their five children.
– Who are you?
– I am 52 years old and I live on a rural island in the Puget Sound, near Seattle, Washington, that’s about the size of Manhattan but has only 11,000 residents. I am involved in dog rescue and rehabilitation, married, with two dogs, three ducks, and one cat. I have many wonderful friends, but am solitary, reflective, pragmatic, and analytical by nature. I love doing anything outdoors, especially if it gets me muddy or wet in the process. I have a mountain bike, e-bike, flower gardens, small canoe, a truck, and a lot of dirt-encrusted footwear.
– What are your writing habits?
– I go to my desk pretty much five days a week, just like a job, and write what needs to be written. That often means managing the deadlines of my corporate communications consulting work first, and working on my literary pursuits in the gaps in between.
– Are you satisfied by the sales of your books?
– Selling any quantity of books is satisfying! You write in total isolation for months and months, then a couple of editors get involved, and then the book disappears into design and getting ready for release, and then, right about when you’ve forgotten the story almost entirely, it hits the public and you get dragged back into the fictional world you created through the reviews and feedback of readers. It’s very exciting.
– What are you doing to promote your book by the best possible way?
– Fortunately, my publisher does a great job in that way. My job is, first and foremost, to write the very best book that I possibly can. And then support their efforts at PR and marketing by writing essays and contributing to blogs as requested, answering questions and being available to the media as needed, being active on social media, and getting going on the next book!
– You are working as a corporate communications consultant. How important are the communications and public relations in literary business?
– The most important thing is to write as good of a book as you can. You have to start with bringing as much talent, artistry, craft, and hard work to bear on creating a great reading experience for people. Then, if you do that, your publisher will help get the word out, and then grateful readers will tell their friends and family about the book they just read and loved. Social media makes this effort easier and broader, which is wonderful, but it all begins with a well-written, compelling story.
– When we will see your next novel and would you unveil something more about it?
– My current work-in-progress is turning out to be rather dramatically different than my other books. It’s set sometime in the sci-fi future. The opening scene that I cut from “North of Here” has shown up in this new novel. In this case, the snowmobile ride and the blue light in the windows starts my young protagonist on a journey that goes farther than I ever imagined I could take one of my characters. But I’m also finding myself thinking about writing a book that continues some of what I started in “North of Here”. Given how long the process takes, I imagine it will be another year or two before I have another book out there.
– If you may ask yourself one question in the interview what it will be?
– Q: What are the biggest misunderstandings about being a writer? A: People don’t realize how much work goes into the process of writing. They seem to think you just get an “inspiration” or have an “idea”, and sit down and write a book and ta da! Done. People say things to me like, “Oh, you’re a writer? I just finished a second draft of my novel.” I say, “Great, only six or ten or twelve more drafts to go!” They look at me like I’m nuts, but editing, revising, tossing out whole sections, re-working the story line, over and over and over again is just what writing is. This is where the joy and satisfaction and creativity happen – in the hard labor of not just writing, but in re-writing.