I’ve said before, one of the reasons I enjoy this blog so much is the opportunity it affords me to meet and interact with authors and artists. One of the people I’ve had the pleasure to chat with is Lavinia Ludlow, author of “alt.punk”. (If you haven’t had a chance to read my review of “alt.punk” – you can find it here.) It’s one of the more engaging interviews I’ve done – Lavinia really made herself emotional accessible in her answers. We talked about the process of editing the novel and getting it published, some of my criticisms of the book, what the future holds for her, and – of course – the impending zombie apocalypse. Enjoy!
The Word Zombie: One piece of advice that’s often given is – “write what you know.” How much of Lavinia Ludlow is there in your lead character Hazel?
Lavinia Ludlow: Some of the scenes and characters in alt.punk are loosely based on reality. I based Avaline on a friend I had in my early twenties. I based Landon on every smart-ass I’ve come across in my lifetime. With Hazel though, I don’t see too much of myself in her. One of the hardest things for me to do was maintain her cynical voice throughout the book. At times, she felt so uncontrollable, even if she was a character that I had engineered. I don’t like cynical, and I don’t like being down on anybody or one’s self, so to write a character like her was extremely emotionally trying.
It’s funny you should mention “write what you know.” Initially, I wrote Hazel as twenty-four years old. Casperian Books came back to me with a list of global edits and among them was to age Hazel an entire decade. I was twenty-four at the time so one of my main concerns was that I didn’t have the first idea as to what it would be like to be thirty-four. A person’s whole reality changes in a decade’s time, priorities, situations, opinions, views, crises. That’s something I struggled with in getting right, and I still don’t know if I got it right in alt.punk, but I met them in the middle and made Hazel thirty.
The Word Zombie: One of my criticisms of the book was the overwhelming carnage that was Hazel and Otis together. It was hard to push through in places. How do you think the bluntness with which you examined their relationship helped further the story?
Lavinia Ludlow: When I wrote this, my intent was not necessarily for it to be a matter of lunacy, but more of a rock bottom for both them as a couple, and also as individuals. When you throw drugs and alcohol into any mix or social setting, it’s only a matter of time before someone ends up screaming, fighting, bleeding, missing teeth, or stumbling into situations involving unprotected shenanigans.
The book’s back blurb sums it up well, “together, they are a disaster.” To be honest, I didn’t purposely write them gritty or perverse. They each started out as a seed of an idea, a concept, and they took off together in certain settings and situations. They were two of the most easy characters for me to write because they were the “anything goes” couple. Otis was so far gone in his own psychosis and Hazel was just looking for an excuse to regress that anything was possible.
The Word Zombie : I’ve read from you that the process of rewriting and editing “alt.punk” was a difficult experience and dealing with the addiction and depression in the book took an emotional toll. What did you learn about yourself during that process?
Lavinia Ludlow: I learned that I never want to be as angry, upset, sad, and hateful as I was when I wrote this book at twenty-two. I never want to hate on the world the way I did, and I never want to go back to the person that I was. I blamed everyone and everything for the life I was living except myself, and I made up excuses and believed that I was powerless to alter my reality. Though the story may be fiction, the heavy emotions and “carnage” as you mentioned above were realities in my world at the time.
Editing the manuscript years later in my mid-twenties proved extremely hard because I had matured and I wanted the negativity behind me. But to edit something is to revisit again and again with hopes of enhancing scenes and dialogue, and these were scenes and dialogue that I wanted nothing to do with. Getting it to print and out for an audience gave me closure. This chapter, or rather book, in my life is shut, and I am a much better person specifically because alt.punk went through the publication process.
The Word Zombie: Casperian Books, a small independent publisher, published “alt.punk”. How was your experience working with them, and what advice do you have for other authors who are looking at independent publishers as an outlet for their work?
Lavinia Ludlow: Casperian Books has some of the smartest most industry savvy people on its staff. They really know the publishing business, they are consistent in their word and never falter. They tell it to you like it is, no sugar coating, and they always want more out of you because they know you could always write something better, edit it better.
My advice to those seeking out an indie publisher is never get discouraged. Everybody, at some point, will know what it’s like to be rejected. Have thick skin, query with your best shot, and be careful what you wish for because once your manuscript is picked up, you’re in for one of the most difficult and emotionally trying experiences of your life: the editing process.
The Word Zombie: Stephen King once said – “If you don’t have time to read, then you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” What do you like to read in your spare time and what do you have on your “to read” pile at the moment?
Lavinia Ludlow: There are books that I read for pleasure and books that I read to study. I read Murakami, Vonnegut, and Tony O’Neill to be entertained, to be wowed. I read a lot of indie authors like that of my peers to see where the industry is heading, to have a sense of what’s going on, and to study their voice and writing styles. It may sound weird but I really think hard when I’m reading them. When I read for pleasure, I’m just in it for the ride.
The Word Zombie: You are both musician and now a published author. What’s next for Lavinia Ludlow?
Lavinia Ludlow: I’ve been doing more and more reviews lately. My intent is to highlight the indie scene’s most talented writers and to really give them the credit they deserve. I have a few up over at Small Press Reviews and soon Plumb Blog.
You may think I’m a sell-out for saying this and maybe its just part of the maturing process, but I’m ready to have a permanent address. I want to find a consistent source of income, I want to pay off all debts, I want to not hyperventilate when I hear another one of my friends is getting married or having a kid, and I want to realize that things like this are normal at my age, maybe, and that “playing house” is not necessarily a bad thing. I may be far from ready to invest in a mortgage or a certificate from City Hall, but my body and mind are tired of inconsistency. I’ve lived in so many places, traveled to even more, I’m just done with waking up in the middle of the night not knowing where I am. I’m ready and I want to have a “home” with my own bed, my own bathroom, my own personal effects.
The Word Zombie: One last question. Once the zombie apocalypse occurs (and I think we can all agree it’s a matter of when, not if) – will you be going it alone, or looking to join up with a ragtag group of survivors? Also, do you prefer long-range weapons (guns, flamethrowers) or melee weapons (classic baseball bat) when dealing with a zombie uprising?
Lavinia Ludlow: This wins for the most bizzaro question I’ve ever been asked, and I was interviewed by Barry Graham.
It sounds emo but I’d go at it alone. I could not be around to see my friends or family be torn apart or eaten alive, and I wouldn’t want them to have to see me die of a similar fate because we’d all eventually have to venture out for supplies or travel some long distance for some random reason. Have I been watching too many Resident Evil movies?
My weapon of choice would be a steel-reinforced hockey stick, and I’d hurl pucks at the zombies like they were the opposing team’s goalie during game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. But knowing my taste in men (and women), I’d probably end up sweet-talked into the rank and file of zombies and find myself impregnated with a zombie spawn, and at this point I am just going to stop because Stephanie Meyers’ lawyers on retainer will sue me for plagiarizing, and my friends will pretty much kick my ass for even making the reference, at which point, I’ll have to kick theirs for recognizing the reference, so let’s leave it here.
I want to thank Lavinia for taking the time to chat with me. If you would like to learn more about her, you can find her online at – http://ludlowlavinia.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter at – http://twitter.com/#!/lavinialudlow. You can purchase “alt.punk” by clicking on the Amazon widget at the top of the page, or directly from the publisher by clicking here.
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