authors · Bookbybook · meet the author

bookbybook 04: Laurie Graham

I met the fabulous Laurie Graham through the wonderful writer Michelle Lovric. By that time, Laurie had published over a dozen novels. I realized I knew of her books, but hadn’t read them. How authors curse people like me. But I’ve remedied that now and urge you to read them, too.

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Alongside the steady stream of fiction, Laurie keeps an amazingly candid, insightful and straight-talking blog which I’ve followed for some time. She tells it like it is:

‘Earning a living as a writer is tough these days. I know of several published and proven writers who have either been let go or offered so little money that they’re need to retrench and rethink.’

Rethinking is a process Laurie has undergone only recently. As she wrote last summer:

‘I know you’re waiting with bated breath to know my next career move … so I thought I’d better give you an update. The story so far … a few weeks ago my publisher thought the WWI story I’d pitched to them was a good plan. Then they decided it wasn’t. But they did think Caroline of Brunswick was a ripping idea and so even though there was no money on the table I started thinking about Caroline … But suddenly Messrs Publisher & Co decided Caroline was a terrible idea. Actually, I think they decided that Laurie Graham writing about Caroline was a terrible idea …

‘So here endeth my stint at historical fiction. I’m getting bumped back to the 20th century. Or maybe the 20th century counts as history now.

‘Moving along to Plan C, how do we feel about sequels?’

As you’ll see from her answers below, the sequel proved to be a good move – and ensures continuity of publication. Best of all, it sounds like FUN. (You can have both, right?) So enjoy Laurie’s answers and her novels. You can find her website here. And you can follow her on Twitter, too @LaurieGraham47.

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What was the first book you wrote?

That would have been Laurie Goes to Boarding School and Has a Spiffing Time, written when I was about seven. It was a total rip-off of the Enid Blyton Malory Towers books which I read avidly. I longed to be sent away to school, ungrateful little varmint that I was. I created my first book out of folded Basildon Bond and even designed a uniform for my fantasy school.

Strangely, in spite of this precocious start, it never occurred to me that writing might be a career option.

For which book would you like to be remembered?

I only reread my own stuff if I have a very powerful incentive, such as someone holding a gun to my head, but I will admit that there are a couple of my books that still make me (and therefore others, I hope) laugh. They are The Unfortunates, which was published in America as The Great Husband Hunt, undoubtedly the worst title I ever had foisted upon me, and Life According to Lubka, runner-up in the dumb title contest.

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Is there a book you abandoned partway through?

Between the ages of seven and forty, a landfill’s worth probably. Mercifully, I don’t remember. Once I had been published and made the rash decision to write for a living I no longer had the luxury of giving up on projects. Perfect Meringues was the nearest I ever came to it. I remember going home after a pub lunch with a friend, consigning half of what I’d written to the bin and starting over. It was a great relief.

Is there a book you know you’ll never write?

There are several. Science fiction. Vampires. An Aga Saga. Fifty Shades of Beige. A serious contender for the Booker Prize.

Which book do you believe should have fared better?

Mr Starlight was a clunking failure and I never understood why. I’m rather fond of it myself. It made it onto ‘Book at Bedtime’ and when it was first published it had a deliciously gorgeous cover. Nevertheless it turned out to be a commercial turkey. Meh!

Have you been surprised by readers’ reactions to a particular book?

The book which readers most often thank me for is Perfect Meringues. Heaven knows why. It’s just a piece of froth really. But that also made it on to Radio 4 so obviously I’m no judge of these things. Generally, my readers are just lovely, generous-spirited people who get my sense of humour. It’s quite rare for anyone to trash me so when it does happen it feels like a cold shower.

What book do you wish you’d written?

I make no secret of my admiration for Evelyn Waugh and in particular I think A Handful of Dust is pretty much perfect. But every year I discover new (to me) writers whose talent I envy. This year’s discovery has been Richard Ford’s Frank Bascombe stories.

What are you writing now?

My last book was The Night in Question – my angle on the Whitechapel Murders of 1888 – which was published last year. I’ve just finished first draft of The Early Birds, which is a sequel to The Future Homemakers of America and follows its characters into old age. I’m thinking Lily Tomlin, Kathy Bates, Judi Dench.  God willing and the creek don’t rise it should be published next June.

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