About a month or so ago I was wasting time on Twitter when I came across a tweet that caught my attention: YA Reads was hosting a 2013 Debut Author Bash. A blog tour of sorts, each participating blog will sign up with the hopes of hosting one of the many debut authors.
Excited, I signed up, and gave my top four author – all of which I want to mention I would have been honored to host. And than I waited patiently to hear back. Before long I was assigned to a debut author. Her name is Laura Lam and her debut YA novel is Pantomime – a book I didn’t know much about going into it, but absolutely adored coming out of it.
So today, for your pleasure I am honored to host author Laura Lam as part of this year’s YA Reads Debut Author Bash. I was lucky enough to have the chance to ask Laura a few burning questions.
BookBandit (BB): Can you tell me about yourself, and about your journey as a writer?
Laura Lam (LL): I’m originally from California but now live in Scotland. I started writing as a teen, but grew discouraged and focused on reading everything I could get my hands on instead. When I studied creative writing at university, I got back into it again and by the age of 21 I’d finished my first manuscript, which was Pantomime. It eventually found a publisher and an agent, and voila!
BB: What was the inspiration behind your debut novel, Pantomime?
LL: I wanted to write about a girl who disguised herself as a boy, but where that wasn’t a disguise either. I’ve often been interested in the lines between gender identity and non-binary gender. I also put in a lot of my other interests, such as the circuses, magic that might be advanced technology, Victorian sensibilities, and long-vanished civilisations and myth.
BB: Ellada is a unique world. As the author, the creator of this world, how does Ellada different from the world we currently live in? How is it similar?
LL: In my mind, Ellada is a far future world–maybe Earth, maybe somewhere else–where history has restarted after a catastrophe. So the people are in a civilisation much like the Victorians, but there are remnants, or Vestige, of a long-vanished civilisation called the Alder. The Victorian period was when people made huge scientific developments, but what if that had been altered for these people because they already had access to lasers and very advanced weapons. But the catch is: once it breaks, they don’t know how to fix it. So Ellada was once a strong empire but now that a lot of Vestige is running out of power or breaking, that power is now very precarious.
BB: Gene and Micah are one in the same. What kind of research went into the creating and crafting of a hermaphrodite character?
LL: Well, “hermaphrodite” as a term has fallen out of favour as it can be misleading, so the term used now is “intersex.” I didn’t know that when I first started researching. I read about both historical intersex people from the Victorian era and contemporary issues surrounding it. It’s a heated subject because even though it’s not that uncommon, so many people haven’t heard of it. Many people don’t realise that many babies with ambiguous genitalia are given normalisation surgery even if there’s no pressing medical need, resulting in doctors choosing a sex that doesn’t align with the person’s gender later on. So, I did a lot of research and became very passionate about intersex rights. In terms of crafting Micah’s character, I put myself in his shoes as much as possible, both as Gene and Micah. How would I feel going through what Gene and Micah do, and how can I get that across accurately and sensitively?
BB: R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic is like no other circus. It is described as being the home of “wonders beyond the wildest imagination.” With that, if you were a part of R.H. Ragona’s circus of Magic, what role would you have in it?
LL: I’d totally be an aerialist and fly through the sky. It’s no coincidence that’s what Micah ends up doing!
BB: In both reading and writing, I find characters to be very personal. What qualities of your characters do you see in yourself? What qualities of yourself do you see in your characters?
LL: I think there’s quite a lot of myself in both Gene and Micah. I was a shy teen, uncomfortable in my skin, just wanting to be accepted for who I was. I think a lot of teen and adult characters will hopefully be able to see and feel that in Micah as well. Most characters have shades of me or people I know in them, and I can’t hate any of them, even the antagonists. They all have reasons for doing what they’re doing.
BB: What was the easiest part about writing Pantomime? The hardest? And why?
LL: The easiest chapter was when Micah and Aenea go to the Museum of Mechanical Antiquities. I wrote it in one fevered rush and much of it is unchanged from the first draft. I just loved writing about all the Vestige within it, and the Clockwork Woman was a complete surprise. The most difficult chapter was the titular Pantomime chapter, which went through several plots until I found the right one. It was also difficult to balance describing the events of the play and the feelings of the actors playing them.
BB: If you were to describe Pantomime in only three words, what words would you use to describe it?
LL: Magic, flying, falling.
BB: Let’s say Pantomime was being made into a movie, who would you want to see cast as the characters of your book?
LL: Gene/Micah – Saoirse Ronan, Drystan – Alex Pettyfer (though I haven’t seen him in anything so unsure of his acting skills. But he looks right), Aenea – Anna Popplewell, R.H. Ragona – Javier Bardem.
BB: What is the one thing you hope your readers take away from Pantomime?
LL: Somewhere, there’s a place for everyone.
BB: Do you have any advice, any words of wisdom, for aspiring writers?
LL: Read. Write. Re-write and edit. Repeat ad nauseam.
Readers, can I just tell you how awesome it was participating in the 2013 Debut Author Bash! Through it, I not only had the chance to read a great book and discover a new author, but I had the chance to share it, and to be a part of such a great event.
I just want to say THANK YOU to YA Reads for hosting such a great event!
And a BIG THANK YOU to author Laura Lam! She’s awesome and so is her book (readers, believe me, you’ll love it!). Please, please run out and pick up Pantomime. And don’t forget to check Laura out online, on her website.