Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Author Interview: Lisa Lenard-Cook

Lisa Lenard-Cook’s first novel Dissonance won prizes and acclaim when it was first published in 2003. This fall, the Santa Fe Writers Project will reissue Dissonance, making this terrific novel available again.

Lisa took time from her writing and book tour to answer questions for Rose City Reader:

How did you come to write Dissonance?

I’ve found that any fiction I write requires three seemingly unrelated seeds. The first seed for Dissonance was planted when my daughter Kaitlin Kushner, then (1995) in middle school, brought home a library book, I Never Saw Another Butterfly, about children’s art at the concentration camp Terezín. Now, when I was young, I read an autobiography by my friend Leslie Klein’s mother, Gerda Weissman Klein, All But My Life, about her experiences in Europe during WWII. I never intended to write a book about the Holocaust. But that first seed was reawakened.

That Christmas, we went to my in-laws in Los Alamos, where my mother-in-law mentioned the apocryphal story about physicists measuring the velocity of those who jumped off a high bridge. It got me thinking about the Manhattan Project, about physics, about the atomic bomb, & & &. A second seed.
I happened to be reading a great deal of music theory at the time, although I no longer remember why. (Although I love music, I’m a piano lesson dropout.) One morning, I read about the mechanism of the piano, and a line came into my head: “The piano is unique among instruments for its double stroke.” While I didn’t know who was speaking, I did know I’d better take notes. From that first line, the first draft of Dissonance was written over a two-month period in the summer of 1995. It was finished coincidentally (or, perhaps, not coincidentally) on the 50th anniversary of the bomb at Hiroshima.

What did you learn from writing your book – either about the subject of the book or the writing process – that most surprised you?

The most important thing I learned—something I stress in my writing classes, and when I edit and coach—is the value of putting a book away for a while after one writes it. It allowed me to revise not only this book (five years after I first wrote it) but many others, as an editor rather than as its author. A first draft is just that—a first draft. Novels that touch readers do so because the author has reworked them over and over again.

Who are your three (or four or five) favorite authors?

Katherine Anne Porter, Margaret Atwood, Carol Shields, Margaret Laurence, Alice Munro--and many, many more.

What kind of books do you like to read? What are you reading now?

Literary fiction and smart mysteries with female detectives (Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, Marcia Muller). Right now, I’m reading Hilma Wolitzer’s The Interestings and rereading Andre Dubus III’s House of Sand and Fog. Also, home design books.

What is the most valuable advice you’ve been given as an author?

Revise, revise, revise.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

The gift of being able to consider life’s quandaries from a fictive perspective.

What do you do to promote your books? Do you use social networking sites or other internet resources?

I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and have author pages at Goodreads and Amazon. I blog on my website.

Do you have any events coming up to promote Dissonance?

Book launch: Bookworks, Albuquerque on September 7, at 3 pm;
Discussion/reading: Garcia Street Books, Santa Fe on September 14, at 2 pm;
Talk on the seeds of DissonanceAlbuquerque Chapter of Hadassah on September 16, at noon;
Talk on book’s reissue: Southwest Writers, Albuquerque on September 16, at 7 pm;
Discussion/reading: Bookwoman, Austin on October 7, at 7 pm; and
Santa Fe Writers Project fall launch party: Silver Spring, MD on October 25


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