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Monday, April 29, 2013

Léna Roy Interview

The synopsis, from Goodreads: Seventeen-year-old Luke lives and works at the Moonflower Motel in Moab, having fled New York City where his father Frank drowns his sorrows after the death of Luke’s mother. Back in New York, eighteen-year-old Ava meets Frank at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. When these lost souls converge in Moab, what happens transforms them all.

I confess, it sounded like a huge downer to me. I figured it would be dark, possibly too high on the grit factor for me, so I put off reading it. Finally, I decided Léna was so cool that I needed to interview her. (I've been keeping up with her on Facebook for awhile, she has a really interesting blog and she's Madeleine L'Engle's granddaughter. How awesome is that?) To do a proper interview, I needed to read her book too. The lesson I learned? Don't judge a book by its blurb! Yes, the book deals with dark topics: death, alcoholism, mental illness, drug use, but the book itself is hopeful. Pair that with the amazingly unique characters and it's a story well worth reading. Try it for yourself!

 The Restless Writer (RW): What came to you first, the plot, the characters, the setting or something else?

Léna Roy (LR): Great question! I think it would have to be the setting, and then the characters. I had gone to Moab on vacation 17 years ago and was so stuck by it I decided to move there for a year. I was a therapist for troubled teens at the local mental health center. I knew that someday I would write about it. Then, back in the city, one day I had a vision of Luke moving into his trailer and hanging a painting. It haunted me for so long that I had to write his story. Why was he there? What was the painting?

RW: I loved the setting for Edges, since I have no personal experience with it. How did you decide to tell Luke's story in Moab?

LR: It had to be Moab!

RW: The recurring bear elements in the story were fascinating to me. Is this something you had to research specifically for the book?

LR: Ah, the bear. When I was writing, the bear (Ursula) came from somewhere deep inside my sub-conscious and had to be part of the story. It was one of the most fun and magical moments I have had  with writing, because I didn't think of her - she just appeared. I had to rewrite those parts a LOT.  Some people see her, and some don't. It is supposed to illustrate that there are many levels of reality, and that there are different truths for each person. Tangerine doesn't see the bear - she doesn't need to. She has her own faith. Ava catches a glimpse of something outside of herself, something her higher power could be. Hank - well, his grip on reality isn't so reliable. And Luke doesn't know what to believe. That's why Cin askes him: "Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?"

RW: How do you write? Extensive outlines or more by the seat of your pants?

 LR: Both! I have to write a really crappy first draft first though, so I'm a panther at first. Then for the rewrites, I really think about plot, structure and character development that makes sense.

RW: The story tackles a lot of heavy issues: alcoholism, drug use, runaways, mental illness, family estrangement and death. However, the story doesn't get bogged down in darkness. To me, the story had the perfect balance between the serious subjects, reality and hope. Was it easy to find this balance or did you have to work through various drafts to get to that?

LR: Thank you!!!  There were many drafts! But I primarily wanted this to be about healing - there are so many books out there that deal with the descent into addiction and the dark stuff, with no hope. I mean, I can write about all of that, but others have done it better!

RW: What audience did you have in mind while you were writing this book?

LR: I did not really have an audience in mind. My first draft had altering points of view between some of the adults and Luke, Ava and Tangerine.

RW: Do you visit Moab frequently?
LR: I haven't been back there in 16 years! But this summer, at the end of August, we are finally going! My husband and I met there - we have three children together, so we have been waiting until the youngest was old enough to do all of the hikes we love. She will be 8 this May! (And we have two boys - ages 11 and 13.)

RW: There are a lot of fascinating characters in this book. Which of them became particular favorites of yours? Will we see any more about them from you?

LR: Hal is very close to be heart as is Cin. I have a companion book to Edges already written called The Land of the Lost and Found. Bruno, a minor character in Edges becomes the focus, and I introduce some more characters too.

RW: What are you working on next?  

LR: I am still writing a rough draft of something so I can't talk about it, but I just finished India Flips - a story about a girl who follows a friend onto a Reality TV show.

RW: You are the granddaughter of one of the most beloved children's authors ever, Madeleine L'Engle. Have you ever felt daunted by her legend or just inspired?

LR: I could write a whole book about this! There is no simple answer. It is definitely both! I couldn't take myself seriously enough as a writer (even though I always wrote) because I could never be like her. And then publishing! I think that people expect me to be like her whether they are aware of that or no - I have a lot of fans who are also Madeleine fans, but I also know that some people were disappointed that I wasn't MORE like her. But my grandmother HAS informed my world view and inspired me - we were very close, and I wouldn't be myself without her! She lives on in my heart . . .

Thank you so much, Léna for a great interview and for writing a great book!