Please welcome debut author, Laura Rose Wagner for our spotlight today!
Laura Rose Wagner has a PhD in anthropology from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She lived in Port-au-Prince from 2009 to 2012, and survived the earthquake. She travels to Haiti often, and founded a creative writing group for young people there.
1. What is your favorite letter of the alphabet and why?
I like so many of them! M and L are melodic. The vowels are undervalued, long-suffering workhorses that deserve more love than they get. Lately I’ve been appreciating the edgy poeticism of the letter X—”Xiomara” and “Axelle” are gorgeous names, visually and aurally.
2. What do you want readers to know about your latest book?
I want readers to think about Haiti, first and foremost, as a place with real people in it, people who are as complex, conflicted, and thoughtful as anyone else in the world. I’d like for people outside of Haiti to know that there is an everyday life in Haiti—people work, cook, tell jokes, flirt, watch soccer games, argue, call and text friends on their cell phones, go on Facebook. There’s a lot of focus on Haitian suffering and crisis—because those things do matter—but, sometimes, the humanity of people is erased when the focus is only on suffering. Even as people struggle to survive, they remain people, with vivid and deep internal lives and identities. I wanted to present the story of an ordinary, complicated human life amid those publicized crises.
3. As an author, how do you know when you have discovered an idea for your next book?
Well, Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go is my first book, so I’m open to any ideas anyone has for the next one! But I would say that it’s not always clear, and that sometimes the best ideas happen when you’re not forcing them. Sometimes you’ve got to give your ideas the space and freedom to simply be, and then some of them become clear and powerful over time.
4. What was the catalyst for creating your latest book?
I wrote an article in Salon.com shortly after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. I wrote the first draft when I was still in the hospital in Miami It was about my experience of the disaster—I was in a house that collapsed. A woman named Melise (to whom Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go is dedicated) was killed instantly; my landlady and I were buried under the rubble and rescued that night. But the article wasn’t only about the quake; it was also about ordinary life and people, and what things had been like before. The article struck a chord with a lot of people, and the kind folks at Abrams/Amulet got in touch with me and asked if I would be interested in writing a novel.
5. What’s next?
I’m not sure, but I would love to do a short story collection next. I love stories that are small slices of life—a single moment of recognition, reckoning or experience that means far more than it might appear to mean.
For more information about Laura Rose Wagner, please follow her on Twitter @.
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