Leah Bobet drinks tea, wears feathers in her hair, and plants gardens in back alleys. She lives in Toronto, Ontario. Her debut novel Above will be available April 2012. Visit her at : http://www.leahbobet.com/index.html
Now on to the FIVE QUESTIONS
1. Congrats on the publication of your novel Above. How long did it take from concept to publication?
All told, the distance between writing the first word and the book hitting shelves is almost exactly five years to the week. That’s a really long production schedule, but I am not a fast writer, I revised this thing within an inch of its life, and there were two years between acceptance and publication for various businessy reasons.
I baked it a cake for its first birthday, actually. And we’re throwing a big launch party for its fifth. Seems kind of fitting, somehow.
2. Where did the spark of inspiration for Matthew and Ariel come from?
Matthew was a work-in-progress for years before I realized I was actually working on him! I have a couple unfinished novels and some (finished, published) short stories playing with that same kind of voice: a younger male narrator who doesn’t really realize how far in over his head he is; who observes things, and tells us about them, and doesn’t really put together what they mean. He grew slowly, and carefully.
Ariel, though, was more spontaneous: there’s a line in one of the songs on Above‘s soundtrack about a girl disguised as a bee, and I turned that over in my head a bit and she’s what came out. It fit her prickliness, how hair-trigger and fragile and lonely she is. A lot of who she was grew out of that one image.
(It took me a very long time, actually, to find out what was really wrong in her life, in her head. She lied about it, even to me. About five times.)
But in a way, both Matthew and Ariel also have aspects of me and people I’ve interacted with. The question I walked into writing Above with, the question I wanted to answer was When do you stop trying to save someone? When is it ethical to let them fall? And they’re the parts of my personality, and my friends’ and family’s and ex-boyfriends’ and acquaintances’, that really deal with that question. They’re, in some ways, my personal failures. And my little victories, all at once.
3. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
The best writing advice I have heard lately came from alt-history author Charles Coleman Finlay: “Find your own way forward with joy and discipline.”
I think that sums the whole thing up: learn your own process and what works for you. Keep at it and make sure you’re not taking shortcuts, make sure you’re challenging yourself. And make sure you remember that this is supposed to be fun.
4. What is your solution to writer’s block?
Oh, you don’t want mine. I mostly go work on some other project. Or ignore it until it goes away, and just don’t write for a month or two.
I tend to figure that if something’s not working, there’s a reason, and if I can’t find a good reason (for example, I have gone 4,000 words in the wrong direction, like I did this winter on the current project) then maybe the story’s just not cooked through yet, or my brain’s burnt out on writing fiction at the moment. And so I go do something else with my time. Eventually I come back and things work. Or they don’t.
This can easily be confused with the words “bad work ethic”.
5. Finally, Beatles or Rolling Stones?
Hah — the “Gimme Sympathy” question!
Neither/or, really. It’s a false dichotomy. The world doesn’t work that way, and twenty years after they were influencing the same bands anyways.
(Yes. I am so no fun.)