Lori Lansens was a successful screenwriter before she burst onto the literary scene in 2002 with her first novel, Rush Home Road. Published in 11 countries, Rush Home Road received rave reviews around the world, shooting its author into literary stardom. Now with a slew of successful follow-ups and a feature film in development, Lori is back with The Mountain Story, a harrowing survival tale about four strangers who spend five days lost in the mountain wilderness above Palm Springs.
We caught up with Lori to talk about favourite reads, balancing parenthood with writing, and her most memorable fan interaction.
When did you first discover a love for writing?
When my daughter was four, before she'd learned to read and write, she used to sit with a crayon and paper and compose long stories made up of scribbles and symbols and the few letters she knew. She would try to read the stories to us, reinventing as she went. She was born a writer. My son wrote and illustrated a ninety-four page graphic novel when he was in grade four. It's bred in the bone, I remember that when I was in grade three I would write stories at home and ask my lovely teacher, Ms Gay, to let me read them to the class. I thank her for indulging me. In some way or other I've been telling stories ever since then - short stories, screenplays, plays, and finally in my late-thirties, my first novel.
Describe your writing routine?
I'm a working parent, like any other. My work day begins after school drop off. I make a pot of tea and then climb the stairs to my office above the garage and dive into my work. The first thing I do each morning is edit the previous day's work - a good tip for new writers. You only have to face the blank page once and it's a good way to get a running start. The hours between drop off and pick up feel like minutes. I set an alarm to remind myself that I have children and need to get them from school. Other writers talk about how they spend most of their time trying to avoid writing. Not me. Housework - that's what I try to avoid.
What do you wear when you write?
Pajamas. Don't all writers? I love my pajamas. I'm slightly irritated when I have to go out in the world and wear real clothes. I have never sat at my desk wearing jeans or any other kind of pants. I have also never written without sneakers on my feet. No bare feet. Not even sandals. Sneakers and socks and mismatched pajamas. Writers are an eccentric bunch, aren't we?
Tell us about your most memorable fan letter?
When I wrote The Girls, a memoir of conjoined twins, I had never heard the term 'ick factor' but it came up often when people discussed my novel. Not all, but a surprising number of readers explained that they had to overcome a feeling of revulsion in order to pick the book up. It's painful to imagine the subtle and not-so-subtle rejection that people with disabilities face every day. Readers would often tell me that they only read the book because of a friend's insistence. One particular reader wrote to say that his discomfort with people with disabilities was such that he would cross the street to avoid having to walk past someone using a cane, and that in fact there was a disabled man in a wheelchair that lived on the same floor of his building and he used to panic every time he left his apartment that they might end up together in the elevator. He was afraid, he said, but wasn't sure why. He read the story of Rose and Ruby, reluctantly at first, and then with great interest, in one sitting. He wrote - "I'm not a man who cries and I cried like a baby." The following morning he found the man in the wheelchair waiting at the elevator. He looked into the man's eyes and nervously said good morning, and the man, who could not speak, smiled at him, he says, and changed his life. He didn't explain further but I think he was saying that he made a connection with a fellow human in a small but powerful way. I'm proud to say that The Girls is used as a teaching tool at some Colleges and Universities in the US (Canada too I hope) in courses that teach about disabilities.
What are you reading now?
Right now I'm splitting my time between Guy Vanderhaeghe's new book of short stories Daddy Lenin and Peter Kavanagh's memoir, The Man Who Learned to Walk Three Times. Both books are enormously inspiring, for different reasons, and in both, beautiful writing.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you like to do for a living?
This question terrifies me. I really have no marketable skills. I would go back to waitressing, I suppose, although it would be much harder for me to get a job now in my fifties, than it was in my twenties, for a variety of reasons that make me want to rant.
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More about Lori Lansens
Mountain Story: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/the-mountain-story-2