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Interview with Lauren Willig, author of Band of Sisters (conclusion)

Excerpt from my upcoming review of Band of Sisters: “This is an exceptional, sweeping saga about a group of women, all alumni of Smith College, who volunteered to go to Europe to assist the ravaged French villagers during World War I.  What is extraordinary is if an event happened in this book, it happened in real life….” 

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

LW. My first serious stab at publication was in third grade, with a mystery novel called “The Night the Clock Struck Death”, featuring twin girl detectives (because if one girl detective was good, two had to be even better, right?). That manuscript came back to me with a rejection slip, as did the one after that (a Victoria Holt knock-off called “The Chateau Secret”, written in sixth grade), but religiously read my Writer’s Digest magazines, attended writer summer camp at UVA as a high schooler, and kept on at it. I signed my first publishing contract in 2003— seventeen years after that first rejection letter.

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

LW. No. Perhaps that’s wishful thinking, but there’s power in an actual object, in the feel of the paper in your hands. Children learn to read on paper books. It’s still the default mode—even if I do spend most of my time reading on Kindle these days as I sit in the dark next to my small children’s beds, waiting for them to fall asleep.

Q. What makes a writer great?

LW. Every reader will have a different answer to that. For me, it’s something to do with voice and characterization, with that magical mix of word craft and an intuitive understanding of human nature, which makes the words themselves fall away as the real, living, breathing, believable people appear before you, telling you their stories, sweeping you into their lives.

Q. and the all-important: What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

LW. It involves a great deal of coffee. A very great deal of coffee.

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

LW. I spent most of my childhood living in other centuries. I went jaunting off on the crusades with Eleanor of Aquitaine as a Lower Schooler through E.L. Konigsburg’s A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver, and took off through late Victorian London every Sunday night with Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes on Mystery. I looked for Robin Hood and his Merry Men around every tree in Central Park and spent a great deal of time as a Victorian governess in gothic mansions via the oeuvre of Victoria Holt. So my real life, my life as a child in Manhattan—and an adult in Manhattan!—with some digressions to institutions of learning in between has very little to do with my writing. Although I did mine my experiences as a grad student in London for the Pink Carnation books and as a junior associate at a New York law firm for my first stand alone novel, The Ashford Affair.

Q. What’s your down time look like?

LW. With an early rising preschooler, a night owl first grader, two books due this year, and a pandemic, down time feels like a quaint and charming concept I may once have read about in a book. When I can, I try to grab a few minutes with a jigsaw puzzle (I find jigsaw puzzles terribly soothing); I do a great deal of baking with the preschooler (which may explain why most of my baked goods come out shaped like dinosaurs); and I relish my reading-in-the-dark time as I sit by the first grader’s bedside, waiting and waiting for her to fall asleep.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

LW. All the time! I’ve always been a cross-genre reader—no one could figure out what genre the first Pink Carnation book was meant to be when it came out back in 2005!—and I love writing as broadly as I read. I’ve had a half-finished contemporary rom com sitting on my computer for years, waiting for the time to finish it, and I’ve always wanted to write a mystery or mystery series, either historical or contemporary. Maybe one of these days….

Q. Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

LW. I haven’t regretted any of the books I’ve written, only the books I haven’t written. So when it comes to the question, should I write it? The answer is always: write it!

Thanks so much for having me here, Trisha! To learn more about me or any of my books, just pop over to my website, www.laurenwillig.com, or to my Facebook author page, https://www.facebook.com/LaurenWillig/. Or you can find me on Instagram (@laurenwillig) and see all those dino shaped cakes my preschooler makes me bake!

Did you miss the beginning of this wonderful Interview?
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My weekly BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    November: Ella Quinn, December: Lauren Willig, January: Madeline Hunter, February: Mike Lupica 
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