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An Interview with an Author: Lori Lansens

by Ballycumber
February 12, 2010
Our BookCrossing roving reporter recently had the honor of interviewing Lori Lansens and discussing her upcoming novel The Wife's Tale. As noted in an article by JuneBug 31 in our last newsletter, Ms Lansens thought enough of BookCrossing to mention it in her novel.

How did you discover the joys of BookCrossing and what prompted you to include the BookCrossing mention in your novel, The Wife's Tale?

I learned about BookCrossing years ago after my first novel, Rush Home Road had been released. My husband, a director, was talking to a young actor who was excited to say that his girlfriend had enjoyed Rush Home Road and as a member of BookCrossing had recently released it into the wild. I believe she left it at a train station. I was intrigued by the idea of strangers leaving books for strangers and thought it was a wonderful way to share literature. I loved the idea that my novel was sitting on a table somewhere, left like a gift for a fellow book lover -- a literary 'pay it forward'.

Mary Gooch, the protagonist of my new novel
The Wife's Tale, is a morbidly obese woman whose husband disappears on the eve of their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. Mary's life has grown smaller with the accumulation of pounds and although she used to love to read books she's put aside literature in favor of magazines filled with diets that don't work and mixed messages about self-acceptance and body image. Mary makes some radical shifts and changes over the course of the story and her passion for books is rekindled. When she sees a book in a hotel lobby and is told the book was left there by BookCrossing, Mary "enjoyed the idea that a complete stranger had left the book for another complete stranger's edification, and thought of the volumes communicated in the exchange."

Fear, among other things, has kept Mary from experiencing life and driven her to the comfort of food. When she leaves her cocoon and opens herself to experience she discovers that the world is a kinder place than she'd imagined. How bad can it be when there exists a network of people that want to share special books with no strings attached?

If you had to pick three books that define you as a person, what would they be?

Three books that define me as a person? Perhaps unsurprisingly they are my own three novels - Rush Home Road, The Girls and my most recent The Wife's Tale. The protagonist of the first book is an elderly black woman. In the second book the main characters are conjoined twins. The third a morbidly obese middle-aged woman. The characters I write about are unlike me and yet they give voice to my interests and preoccupations. All three novels are set in Baldoon County, a fictional version of the small rural Canadian area where I grew up near the border to Detroit. For Rush Home Road I drew upon the rich history of the place -- a hunting and fishing ground for the neutral Indians, a battleground in the war of 1812, a terminus on the underground railroad, a hotspot for the rumrunners during prohibition, to tell the story of Addy Shadd, a descendant of the fugitive slaves that had settled the area. In my second novel, The Girls, inspired by the births of my children, I explored the idea of identity with conjoined twins Rose and Ruby Darlen in their fictional memoir. I had a baby on my breast, hip or lap for the better part of four years and felt so physically and emotionally bound to my children that I questioned my identity, and took that search to the extreme. With Mary Gooch in The Wife's Tale, I've confronted my encroaching middle-age and examined my own hunger while understanding hers.

Typically authors draw from personal experience when they create a character or plot. Is there any particular incident that occurred in your life that inspired you to write this book?

Inspiration? Since I began to write more than twenty years ago I've found myself drawn to overweight characters even though I am not overweight. I knew while I was writing The Girls that Mary Gooch's story would be my next. It's impossible to ignore the obesity epidemic. Most women, even slim women, have body image issues. Where twenty years ago, or even ten years ago, a woman weighing three-hundred pounds (as Mary does) would be have been rare, we see Mary Gooch more commonly now and unless we're blind, we also see her pain. If you have ever had 'one too many' of anything -- food, booze, cigarettes, drugs you can understand how a confluence of factors might allow any of us to become Mary Gooch. Empathy drove the writing process and while the story is not about weight loss, I wanted to write about a character struggling for control over what she calls her 'obeast.'

What is your favorite interview question -- and what is the answer?

It seems that I can't do an interview without talking about my children. My son is nine and my daughter is seven. They inspire me in so many different ways. They are both are book lovers and writers. My daughter tends toward song lyrics like "Just go away. I won't ever be your girl. This is just not working out" and will blurt out enthusiastically, as she did when we were driving during a recent rain storm, "I just love when the sky sobs like this." My son spent his spare time last summer creating a 77 page graphic novel. People wonder if writers are born or made. Mine were born.

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