I can’t even remember where exactly I got Laura Langston’s book, The Art of Getting Stared At, whether it was at a book sale, or if I bought it after reading some reviews on it, but it was three years ago and it wasn’t until recently that I realized Laura was from Canada! Since I was preparing for my month of Canada by reading Canadian books, I bumped this one up on my list and I’m glad that I did because it was so good! Laura reminded me of one of my favourite authors, Lisa Genova, with her medical mystery-type stories and I was just so engrossed in this story. It really made me excited to read more of Laura’s work!
So, naturally, I was very excited when I asked Laura if she would be interested in doing an interview for my Canada feature and she said yes! Welcome to the blog!
1. It’s Canada’s 150th! Is there a special way you like to celebrate Canada?
When my kids were really little I’d always make a strawberry pie on Canada Day and serve it with vanilla ice cream or whipping cream. We’d have that after dinner before heading down to the Inner Harbor to watch the fireworks. Even though they aren’t so little anymore, the tradition still sticks.
2. I see that you live on Vancouver Island, which makes me envious since I love the water and think it’s such a pretty place! Do you have a favourite place in Canada, or maybe one you long to visit?
I have lots of favorite Canadian spots – my hometown of Victoria, BC as well as the small community of Tofino near B.C’s Long Beach and the big city across the water, Vancouver. I also love Montreal and I think Ottawa is pretty great too. I’ve been lucky enough to live or visit most Canadian provinces though I haven’t been to Prince Edward Island yet and I’d love to go there.
3.Why do you think it’s important for people to read Canada? Who are some of your favourite Canadian authors?
I think it’s important for people to read, period, so I wouldn’t limit it to Canadian writers though I do think it’s important to support local writers, and since those closest to me are Canadian I like to read them. It’s impossible for me to pick just a few favorite Canadian authors; I have so many. In YA I like Tanya Lloyd Kai, Teresa Toten, Don Aker, Beth Goobie, Kelley Armstrong. For historical fiction Susanna Kearsley can’t be beat and I adore everything Pauline Gedge has written. For good suspense or mystery I like Eileen Cook who writes YA and Joy Fielding who writes for adults. And I’ve loved Margaret Atwood ever since I read The Handmaid’s Tale.
4. Why did you become a writer? What (or who) inspired you to do what you do?
I was one of the lucky ones because I knew by the time I was in Grade Four that I wanted to be a writer. I was pretty well driven and began making up stories at a really young age. Since I didn’t know any writers and didn’t know how to ‘be’ a writer I became a journalist instead. However, the drive to tell stories wouldn’t go away, so when my first child was born I devoted myself to fiction writing and I haven’t stopped since.
5. Your book, The Art of Getting Stared At, deals with a very unique medical issue. What inspired you to write about that subject?
A number of years ago, my daughter had a friend who didn’t spend much time on makeup or clothes. She cared about her appearance, but not to the same extent the rest of the young women did. Whenever the group of them would be at our place getting ready for a school dance, my daughter and her friends would spend hours doing their hair and makeup and figuring out what to wear. The other girl would spend maybe 20 minutes getting ready. I was intrigued by that and by the dynamic I witnessed between the group of them. They were all good friends, but they thought she was weird and she thought they were shallow. Around the same time, I met a woman who had lost her hair to alopecia. She said she’d never truly appreciated her hair until it was gone. I began to wonder how it would be for my daughter’s friend if her appearance was significantly altered. What if she began to obsess about her looks? How would she feel if she’d always ‘prided herself on being a little bit better than the girls who spent so much time on their makeup?’ From there, the novel took shape.
6. What is the writing atmosphere like when you write — do you prefer silence, or do you listen to music?
I prefer silence but I don’t always get it because I have two shelties (Team Sheltie) and they can be vocal, especially when I turn on my treadmill desk and walk and write at the same time.
7. What are you reading right now? Any favourite authors you might like to mention?
I’m always reading two or three books at a time, usually a novel, a non-fiction book and sometimes a book for research. Right now I’m reading The Couple Next Door by Canadian writer Shari Lapena; The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben; and Psychics, Healers & Mediums by Jennifer Weigel. I have so many favorite writers but lately I’ve been on a real Jojo Moyes kick. I love her books.
8. When you’re not writing, what do you like to do with your time?
It depends on the time of year. In the spring and summer, I’m cycling or working in the garden. I have a big garden and a greenhouse and I like to grow a lot of my own food. In the winter, I do more yoga, attend more lectures, have people over for dinner more often and I try to fit in a trip somewhere warm. Oh, and I’m always reading no matter what time of year.
9. What has been the most challenging part about writing and publishing? Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
I think the most challenging part is waiting – waiting on editors and publishers, then after a book is accepted you must wait for it to be published. That’s always a challenge. The best advice I can give to aspiring writers is to read a lot and to write a lot. Read widely; get a sense of what you like and don’t like. Write passionately, from the heart, and don’t censor yourself.
10. Can you share any details on what you’re working on next? Any exciting projects in the works?
I’m always juggling two or three projects. Just last night, we launched In Plain Sight, my latest YA with Orca Book Publishers. I have another YA called One Good Deed that I’ve finished revising and will be sending out on submission soon, and I’m at the brainstorming stage of another YA which I can’t talk about yet because the embryonic stage is a delicate one for me. I also write for women under the name Laura Tobias and I’m working on a second Tobias novel at the moment too.
Thank you so much to Laura for being on the blog today. Are you a fan of medical mystery books?