Ten Questions About Shadowplay, By Laura Lam
Well, goddamnit. This should’ve gone up last week, but I had to rebuild my schedule of posts due to file corruption and when I saw Laura’s release date in her original email I mistook it for the 17th instead of the 7th so — mea culpa, I’m a jackass. Whatever the case, Laura is here to talk about her new young adult book — which is itself the sequel to the mighty Pantomime — and I’ll politely ask that you not give into your jealous because Laura is a 25-year-old with immense talent and two books already under her belt oh and a Robin Hobb quote, too?
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF: WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?
I’m Laura. I’m 25. I write books and stuff. I used to live in California then for some stupid reason (love) I moved to the cold, frozen land of Scotland.
GIVE US THE 140-CHARACTER STORY PITCH:
Sequel to PANTOMIME. Contains: mystery glass domes, creepy doctors, a clockwork hand, an AI ghost, romance, séances & an illusionist duel.
WHERE DOES THIS STORY COME FROM?
PANTOMIME focuses on the circus, but [SPOILERY STUFF] happens at the end of that book and the main characters shift to become stage magicians, hiding from the authorities after them in plain sight, weaving illusions over themselves as well as for the audience. I always though circuses were cool, but I also thought magicians were super cool. The first book’s been compared to The Night Circus, the sequel’s getting comparisons to The Prestige, and I’m okay with that.
SHADOWPLAY has a different focus from the first book, too. The first book was a coming of age story for the protagonist, a character born intersex and raised as a girl who runs away to the circus as a boy, Micah Grey. Micah was very much settling into his new scene. Now, instead of finding himself, he’s finding his voice and really discovering who he’s going to be.
HOW IS THIS A STORY ONLY YOU COULD’VE WRITTEN?
Because it’s a sequel to another book I wrote.
Less flippantly, it’s a difficult question to answer. No one else would have taken these various elements and put them in a blender the same way I would have, with my tone and my voice. My books are a mishmash: this book has echoes of The Prestige, X-men, Battlestar Galactica, The Illusionist, Robin Hobb (because I’ve read her more than any other ever and love her and oh look, she read my book and gave me a quote and I fan-squeed a lot), and probably other influences I haven’t figured out yet.
WHAT WAS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT WRITING SHADOWPLAY?
Writing with added expectations. The first book was just my own little project, my hobby and escape. I had to write SHADOWPLAY knowing that people were going to read it, and that now they’d have all these expectations. If they picked up PANTOMIME because they liked circuses, they could be pretty disappointed in the sequel: there’s no circuses. In the end I had to pretend it was just for me again, because otherwise I freaked out and rocked back and forth and ate too much chocolate.
Also, writing while working full-time, studying part-time for a masters, and launching your first book: NOT RECOMMENDED. I ended up quitting the masters at a postgraduate certificate for my sanity. Sleep is good.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN WRITING SHADOWPLAY?
Plotting. The first book, I didn’t outline that closely. PANTOMIME is very introspective and it’s not fast-paced. SHADOWPLAY very much takes all the things I introduced very carefully in the first book and kicks things up to the next level. I left a lot of mysteries deliberately because breaking them open a little at a time is a lot of fun.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT SHADOWPLAY?
I’m a huge sap and I love my characters. I actually miss these characters if I don’t write about them for a few months, to the point where I’ve started writing short stories with them just so I don’t have to say goodbye. That sounds a little crazy, I know.
I love the atmosphere of the creepy, run-down theatre it’s set in, and all the bits with Anisa, a character you only have a brief hint of in the first book. Cyan’s a new character and she came to life, turning out totally different than I thought she would. I’m a big geek – SHADOWPLAY just has a lot for me to love. I’m proud of it, even if I know it’s not perfect because no book ever is.
WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY NEXT TIME?
Stress eat less chocolate while drafting. Pretty sure I gave myself cavities.
GIVE US YOUR FAVORITE PARAGRAPH FROM THE STORY:
This paragraph in chapter 2, during a séance, lays down so many hints for the story of SHADOWPLAY. I loved putting so much at the beginning, but the reader has to unravel it throughout the book:
“Your future is murky,” the magician continued. He frowned into the crystal ball, as if surprised by what he saw there, his voice shifting into a deep, resonating timber. “But the spirits show me visions. I see a girl, no, a woman, in a wine-red dress. Her child is ill, eaten from the inside. I see figures on a stage, playing their parts, the audience applauding as magic surrounds them. I see great feathered wings flapping against the night sky. A demon with green skin drips blood onto a white floor. A man checks his pocket watch, and I hear a clock ticking, counting the time.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU AS A STORYTELLER?
To be honest, I have no freaking idea. I thought on the other side of the publishing curtain, things would be easier. And, in many ways, they are. But there are still challenges and they’ve morphed.
At the moment I’m working on three books. Obviously, I hope at some point they all find homes, but at the moment, I have no idea if they will, and if so, which will come out first. I know that I never want to stop pushing myself, so I have more Micah Grey books, another young adult fantasy, and an adult sci-fi thriller on the go.
And there’s a growing line of stories lined up in my head, some missing plots or characters, like dolls missing body parts, but all really wanting to be told.