Last December I reviewed Laura Lam’s Pantomime. I fell in love with her world of Ellada and her wonderful protagonists Gene and Micah. So when I got the chance to interview Laura for her official release blog tour, I jumped at the chance. Laura was kind enough to answer my questions and I’m excited to share the interview with you today. Let’s take a look at what Laura had to say.
Let’s start with the basics. Who is Laura Lam?
I’m a 24-year-old who was born and raised near San Francisco, California, and gave up the sunshine to move to Aberdeen, Scotland to be with my husband, though we might not settle here forever. I work as a corporate librarian, read a lot and write a lot, watch some TV, travel, and don’t do all that much else!
You’ve stated Pantomime was originally developed from background notes to a different Micah Grey story. Why did you have Micah run away to join the circus?
Without giving the game away too much, Micah’s long-term career has a distinct need for physical strength and some theatric performances. So having him join the circus as a young lad would work very well for him indeed. It was an idle fancy for a while, but when I decided to write a “short story” about Micah joining the circus. I just fell in love with the setting and it kept getting longer and longer. First it was going to be a short story, then maybe a novella, and then it became a novel. With a sequel, and maybe more!
Have you always had a fascination for the circus?
I’ve always loved the circus. I remember seeing Ringling Bros with my mother and brother when I was little. I distinctly remember really wanting a snow cone and after I ate it, it turned my tongue blue. Like all kids, the clowns scared me. And I loved the aerialists the most—flying through the air and catching each other at just the right moment.
I’ve also watched Cirque du Soleil on TV, but not live yet, and whenever the circus comes to town, I always pop down to the beach to go see it. Anything with circuses always makes my ears perk up.
Did you have to do much research on Victorian circuses? If so, what was that process like?
I did a fair amount. Luckily, Brenda Assael wrote a really detailed account in her book The Circus and Victorian Society, which is fantastic. I also did a lot of general research online, and also read The Giant Circus Book by Taschen right before a huge rewrite, which was excellent inspiration. I also watched a lot of clips on Youtube of circus acts and read circus fiction like The Night Circus & Water for Elephants.
One of the clowns, Drystan, in his description and ‘clown persona’ rather reminded me of Robin Hobb’s Fool. Was this a deliberate homage or is it accidental?
It’s funny how obvious my admiration for Robin Hobb has come out in my writing, without me even realising it. It makes me feel oddly exposed! But yes, Robin Hobb is my favourite author and the fact that Drystan wears white motley is not accidental in the slightest. It’s a little homage to the Fool. Drystan is different to the Fool in many respects but there’s some obvious parallels—they both keep their past secret and they like to tease the protagonist until he blushes, and they’re both decidedly odd, but in the best possible way.
In Pantomime, both Gene and Micah dealt with issues of gender identity. What drew you to this subject?
I’ve always been fascinated by gender. Perhaps it’s a result of growing up in San Francisco. I’ve always seen gender as a fluid thing (even if I personally have landed pretty traditionally on the cisgendered-female side), and found it increasingly annoying that people were obsessed with putting people into boxes. Black or white. Male or female. Straight or gay. For so many, it’s not an either/or, and so I wanted to have characters who don’t fit into traditional societal boxes of gender or class or race or sexuality. It’s also not an accident that Micah’s last name is Grey.
I think all of my work will have some aspect of “in between” in it. YA embraces that as it has characters transforming from children to adults.
Of all of the acts in R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic, which one would you love to see most in real life?
The Phantom Damselfly, without a doubt, though she was more of a sideshow performance. Under the Big Top, I’d want to see the aerialists most of all.
What’s up next for you? More Micah Grey books or are you working on other projects?
I’ve finished the first draft of Pantomime2 (title to be determined) and sent it off to my agent and am awaiting revisions. In the meantime, I’m working on another YA set in our world, which is a gothic ghost story with a twist and meshes a bunch of genres together, as apparently that’s what I do!
I’ve also been playing around with some short stories set in Ellada as well, which has been fun, and also contemplating other books set in Ellada & the Archipelago.
What is your current read and what book are you most eagerly awaiting, apart from Pantomime of course?
I’m currently reading Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Mariott, which is just lovely. It’s a feudal Japan Cinderella retelling mashed with the revenge of Count of Monte Cristo, with magic and shadow-weaving. Fantastic!
Upcoming books: A lot of my Strange Chemistry cohort will have amazing books out next year, and I’m also anticipating a couple of sequels to books I loved this year, such as Dracomachia by Rachel Hartman and Scarlet by Marissa Meyer.
Is there something else you’re obsessed with other than writing and books?
To be honest, reading and writing covers most of my obsessive nature. There’s other things I quite enjoy: watching good TV and film, travelling, seeing friends and the like, but nothing else I’m obsessed with as I am with the written word.
Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?
As someone who worked in a library, I appreciate this question! I alphabetize my fiction by last name and my nonfiction is in rough Dewey Decimal system. The system’s getting a bit messy around the edges because we’ve run out of room for books, though.
Thank you so much, Laura! If you want to find out more about Pantomime or Laura, please visit her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook. And I’m only the second stop on Laura’s blog tour, be sure to check the other stops out as well. They are listed below.