1. When/why did you decide to become a writer?
I’ve always written, since I was a little girl. I don’t think you choose these things—they choose you. The decision to finally DO something with my writing was conscious, though. And very immediate. I had been blogging for some time on eatsreadsthinks.com. My social media network was growing bigger and bigger. I was getting more and more comfortable showing people the literary side of myself. I was sharing more and more of my writing. People kept saying I needed to get it in front of a wider audience and I brushed it off. But around this time last year, a sudden determination filled me. I’m doing this. What am I waiting for? What’s the worst that could happen? Of course the doubts come in on the flank: what if no one likes it? To which I answered, what if they do like it?
2. What authors inspired you when you were younger? What books do you enjoy reading today?
If I had to narrow it down to two influential authors, I would say Laurie Colwin and Rumer Godden. When I read Godden’s In This House of Brede, I was amazed at how she was able to create well over two dozen characters and make each one unique and vibrant and alive. And I loved her attention to detail when it came to settings and surroundings. Colwin’s Family Happiness blew me away with its thoughtfulness and depth of emotion regarding a sort of taboo subject—this very ordinary woman found herself having a love affair and struggling with emotions she didn’t have names for. I found myself thinking, “I want to write this way. Make ordinary people extraordinary. Take extraordinary circumstances and show how ordinary and universal they really are.”
3. What was the inspiration behind your novel The Man I Love?
The characters were in my head for a good two decades. But they were like literary paper dolls. I just played with them, writing little vignettes. Fan fiction.
Then someone from my past came back into my life, twenty years after we had gone through a terrible experience and then completely disconnected afterward. I was completely unprepared for the emotional whirlwind that came with resolving this event from my youth. I went into a bad depression and I didn’t understand what was happening to me. Working it out in therapy, I came to realize that disconnecting from pain doesn’t end it. Maybe it hides but it’s never gone. It’s there waiting for you when you tear open that boarded-up door. Often with more power than it had before. You have to feel it—even twenty years later—or it will never leave you.
This was the story I wanted to write. Needed to write. Both to channel it away from me in a positive way, but also because I suspected this kind of experience is universal and I wanted to connect with others through it. I wanted to write a story about the effect of trauma. And not limited to trauma from a shooting or an accident or war—I wanted to write about emotional trauma. Abandonment. Loss. Heartbreak. Particularly emotional trauma that goes unresolved. Grief that’s left un-grieved. And that’s where one of the taglines for the novel comes from: “You never got over her. You just left.”
4. Will we ever see these characters again?
Absolutely. I’m currently working on a companion novella to The Man I Love which will tell Daisy Bianco’s side of the story.
5. Why ballet?
My mother was a ballet teacher and she started her studio in the basement of my house. As a very young child I would sit on the stairs and watch until I was old enough to participate and then dance quickly became my life. After I graduated high school, I attended Alfred University in upstate New York and earned a double degree in theater and dance. I knew I didn’t have the chops to make it as a professional performer but I slowly realized I had a gift for choreography and teaching. I taught for two years at the State University of New York at Fredonia, then came home to teach at my mother’s dance studio until she retired. I love the art of dance, and I love ballet because it’s the foundation. If your ballet technique is good, you can dance anything.
6. Were any of the characters personalities or emotions taken from real life?
Certainly the theater and dance aspects are taken from real life. And it’s emotionally autobiographical based on my own experiences with anxiety, depression and recovery. The line “Live the truth,” came to me when I was in a very dark time. Like this one ray of sunlight piercing through heavy clouds, I suddenly thought, “Live the truth of who you are and what you feel.” It was instantly calming. I wrote it down and pinned it up by my desk, knowing it was going to be something important but I didn’t know what yet.
7. What other genres would you like to try your hand at?
I’m working on a bit of historical fiction. A story that spans generations of one family through both World Wars. The amount of research required is daunting, I’m a little nervous about it but I think I can do it.
8. Why did you choose a school shooting, since it's such a sensitive topic?
I think it chose me. I needed a traumatic event that would drive Daisy and Erik apart. Something that would send them into a spiral and eventually push Daisy to do what she did.
One day I came across a YouTube video of Viviana Durante and Robert LaFosse. In it they are dancing the pas de deux “The Man I Love” from George Balanchine’s ballet Who Cares? Robert is blond and handsome and nothing like I picture Will Kaeger looking. However, Viviana is petite and dark-haired and just an exquisite dancer. I watched her in this video and she seemed to embody Daisy right away. And certainly the chemistry she has with Robert evokes the relationship Daisy has with her partner Will.
Anyway, I was watching the video and I came to the part where Viviana does this very difficult lift on Robert’s shoulder. And you can see, right around the 4:04 mark, that she overshoots the jump and she teeters on his shoulder. It’s this precarious three seconds where you can see Robert discreetly adjusting his weight and getting her back on balance. And something just popped in my head. I thought, “something happens here.” I don’t remember exactly when that thought coalesced into “she gets shot” but it did and I had my story. Sadly, instances of gun violence have become prevalent in our society today, with much focus on the assailants and their motives. But I’ve taken a more emotional slant on the issue by focusing on the victims and their connections to each other before and after the shooting.
9. What do you most want readers to take from the novel?
A friend of mine who is a psychiatrist just finished The Man I Love. She said one thing she often tells patients is that after a trauma, you have to decide if the event is going to be a dot on the timeline of your life, or if it’s going to define your entire life. You can’t bury your pain—it thrives in dirt. You have to feel it. You have to embrace going into the black because it’s the only way to come out the other side. But you can be in the black and still be a functioning human being. It’s not an either-or situation.
Human forgiveness works much the same way. People make mistakes. The ones we love often hurt us. Is the mistake something you can incorporate into the architecture of your love affair? Or does it define the entire relationship, in which case you will never be able to move on and grow.
10. Would you like to see The Man I Love as a movie? If yes, who do you want to play your characters?
This is tricky because everyone has their own image of the characters in their head. Sometimes I think Justin Timberlake would make a great Erik. And lately I’m following the rising star of ballerina Misty Copeland: her body and technique, the way she dances and looks and carries herself is totally Daisy to me.
11. Where do you see yourself and your career in the next ten years?
Doing this. Writing, blogging, creating, sharing. Enjoying a following and doing what I love.
12. What would you be doing if you weren't writing?
I’d love to have a little farm-to-market stand in the country.
13. Can you tell KSR what you're working on next?
I anticipate publishing my novella Give Me Your Answer True in January. And then I have an idea for a prequel which will tell the story of Erik’s family. Particularly his absent father.
14. Thank you for participating in the interview. Can you please leave the readers with three things that may surprise them about you?
I worked three weeks as a Verizon field technician which allowed me to finally add “pole dancer” to my resume.
I once rode in an elevator with Baryshnikov. I’m still recovering.
I love bed. Bed is the best place to read and if I could write comfortably in bed, I would.
Find Ms. Laqueur online via:
Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wq8WLkEzYwY