Today I have the absolute delight of introducing you all to a fabulous Australian author, Laura Bloom. Laura is a new-to-me author whose work I am currently devouring.
Laura grew up in Sydney and graduated with a BA, Communications from the University of Technology, Sydney. She has worked in the areas of youth policy, social justice and health promotion, and has travelled widely, including living for spells in Germany, India, the UK, and as a toddler in New Guinea, which is where she began her love affair with the sub-tropics.
She now lives in a small town near Byron Bay on the East Coast of Australia with her chosen family, including her godson and her son who has autism. For such a word-based person it’s been an extraordinary journey to learn to love and communicate beyond words.
It’s the people traditionally left out of the frame who interest Laura the most, as well as what happens after what would be the climax in many stories. A couple reuniting after the war, in IN THE MOOD; a woman who has changed her name and started a new life, only to find her old life catching up with her, in THE CLEANSKIN; what happens when you break up with the perfect person, in CHOOSING ZOE.
Laura’s novels have been shortlisted for the NSW Literary Awards, the ABC Fiction Prize and the Young Australian Readers’ Awards and published in France, the US and the UK.
What are you currently reading?
Usually I read something non-fiction over a long period of time, and fiction in big gulps. Right now my non-fiction book is SPQR, A History of Rome, by Mary Beard. She writes so interestingly about the Ancient World, pointing out how cruel it was in some ways, at the same time as being so civilised in others, and drawing many interesting parallels with our society, today.
I’m also rereading While I was Gone, by Sue Miller.
In some ways it’s similar to my new novel, THE CLEANSKIN, in that it’s about a woman who participated in something awful in her youth, and then rebuilt her life, closing the door on her past … almost. I’m a big fan of Sue Miller’s work generally, and this book is wonderful.
What was the last book you bought?
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.
Do you prefer to read books in print or electronically?
Electronically. I don’t buy print novels anymore, unless it’s one I love so much I want to have easy access to it on my shelf. I bought Life after Life by Kate Atkinson for this reason.
What do your bookshelves look like? Do you have an organisation system (genre, colour, author…) or are you just happy to go with the flow?
We have a wall of shelves in the living room for pocket paperbacks, and then another in the dining room for the bigger sized paperbacks. However, now that we’ve gone ‘electronic’, we’re slowly weeding through our books, keeping only our favourites and giving the rest to the second hand bookshop in town.
This is my new bookshelf, that I can carry around with me, everywhere:
How often do you read?
At least a couple of hours a day. I don’t know how people cope when they say they can’t find time to read.
Describe what you would expect to find in your dream book?
Honesty – that startle I feel when the author describes something or someone, or makes a connection in an original way that feels true. Emotional intensity and complexity. Characters behaving in ways that feel true yet I didn’t expect.
How do you choose what to read next?
If I get so much as a whiff of a recommendation, from anywhere, I’lll download a sample on my Kindle and give it a try. I also tend to binge read an author, so if I’ve enjoyed one of their books, I’ll keep going until I’ve read them all.
So you’ve started a book and discover it’s not for you. Are you more likely to discard it or finish it?
Discard … unless someone’s told me it’s worth the investment, and then I’ll keep going. I’ll also have ‘rests’ sometimes, where I’m enjoying something but it’s not suiting my mood at that moment. A light hearted novel, for example, can be perfect for some moods, but not for others, in which case I’ll come back to it later.
If you could read any book again, for the first time, what book would you choose?
Pride and Prejudice. I still remember reading it for the first time as a teenager and it made me so happy. The freshness and wit of the dialogue between Elizabeth and Darcy was a revelation, and the romance when she first sees Darcy’s wonderful mansion and grounds at Pemberley … I think that’s where my love affair with real estate listings first started.
What is about books that appeals to you so much? What is your favourite part about reading?
I love the intimacy a novel gives you with another person’s internal world; the journeys you can take in your imagination, and experiences you can have, which, I’ve found, have the potential to change you and expand you, and heal you sometimes, as well as entertain.
Can you tell us a bit about your writing style: are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you prefer to write in 1st or 3rd person? Are you an early riser writer or a late night owl writer?
I’d like to be able to get up early and write first thing, but at this stage of my life I am a 9 to 4-er, to fit in with my son’s day.
I prefer to write in third person, as it feels to me that it allows more ‘oxygen’ into the story.
Pantsing or plotting: this is one of the Big Questions I’ve struggled with my whole writing life, and I still don’t feel I’ve found a good answer. I want to be a plotter, but so far I’ve been a panster. The plot of my most recent novel, The Cleanskin, took me six years of writing and thinking and many drafts to work out. I’m now plotting my next novel, but I’m already a little concerned that the ideas my ‘planning brain’ are coming up with are boring compared to the ones that arise organically out of the story. It would be so wonderful, though, to know where I was going and smoothly proceed. My fingers are still crossed that this could work for me.
Was there any particular book that inspired you to start writing?
I can’t remember ever not wanting to be a writer. That said, it wasn’t until I was thirty one that I published my first novel.
Do you have any advice to other writers out there?
Be as truthful as possible, staying with your characters through their difficult, painful and vulnerable moments. It can be confronting sometimes, but it’s those moments that create a deeper and richer reading experience.
And lastly, what are you currently working on?
I’m putting the finishing touches to a novella about a friendship that springs up between a teenage a girl and a young boy very similar to my son, who has autism. The inspiration for it is captured in this photo of my son and our friend, below.
Soon that will be finished, though, and then I need to commit to what I’m going to work on next. I have a few ideas swirling around, and a few chapters of each written, but right now I am intrigued by all of them, so it’s a difficult decision to make. I think I probably need to keep working with them all for a little while longer and see which one comes to the fore.
Thanks so much for chatting with my Laura Bloom.
To learn more about Laura Bloom, visit the following social media sites:
To purchase a copy of The Cleanskin, visit the following online retailers:
The Author People | iBooks | Amazon | KOBO