Monday, February 16 2015
Smashwords – an Interview with Larry Laswell – Part 1
Reader’s Note: This interview is an excerpt from a two-part interview with Larry Laswell conducted by Smashwords, the world’s largest distributor of indie ebooks. During this first portion of the interview, Larry discusses his early literary influences, favorite books, as well as what inspires him every day.
Q& A With Larry Laswell:
Q. Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in North College Hill just outside Cincinnati, Ohio. My neighborhood was lower middle class, and almost every household was led by a World War II veteran with at least two children. It was a no- nonsense culture in which children learned to address adults by mister and misses, and answer questions, "Yes, sir." and "No sir." It was a pay-it-forward community. Everyone always helped each other out, and never expected anything in return. In a way, it was militaristic, and a man had to stand for something. I think my readers will see a little of that in my work.
Q. Who are your favorite authors?
I think that depends on the genre. Serious literature would be Ayn Rand, Hemingway, Michener, and Steinbeck, Orwell’s early work, and perhaps Orson Scott Card. I like Heller’s Catch-22 although he beats the reader over the head with his vocabulary.
For action adventure, thriller, spy stories it would be Tom Clancy, Ken Follett, Stephen Coonts, David Poyer, Dale Brown, John le Carre, and Dan Weber.
For science fiction, I would say there’s two: Isaac Asimov, Stanley Kubrick.
Then there’s Douglas Adams, who is a genre all by himself.
Q. Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Wow, no I can't, but in the sixth grade, my teacher gave me a book report assignment on Quo Vadis. I had to get permission from my parents to check the book out of the library. Let me say, that was a heavy assignment for a sixth grader. I will never forget that experience. Quo Vadis, gave me an appreciation for nineteenth century European literature, in terms of structure and style. I will never forget Lygia,
About that time, I went through periods of reading everything written by different authors like Mark Twain, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jack London, and O'Henry. Each of those authors brought a different approach to storytelling, and I learned from each one.
Q. What are your five favorite books, and why?
For pure narrative art, my favorites would be The Bridges at Toko-re, The Pearl, and The Old Man and the Sea. When I think of emotional impact, The Grapes of Wrath comes to mind. Those four books have heavily influenced my writing style. Douglas Adams was the master of fantasy and humor in his Hitchhiker series. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and Lord of the Rings are excellent examples of masterful storytelling. For techno-thriller action, it has to be The Hunt for Red October.
Q. What do you read for pleasure?
Recently it has been books like Enders Game, and books in the Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum. I guess I’m going through a phase again, aren’t I?
Q. What is your e-reading device of choice?
I purchased a Kindle about five years ago, and my wife stuck her nose up at it. Then I showed her how easy it was to find a book and download it. After that, I couldn’t get it back from her, so I bought an I Pad and put a Kindle reader on it.
Q. How do you discover the e-books you read?
Depends. About half my reading is for pure enjoyment. For those books, I pick up what looks interesting or books recommended by my friends. The other half of the books I read are for professional analysis to develop my craft. For those books, I pick up specific authors or genres. Every so often, I re-read what I call my "classics," Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Kubrik, Mitchner, Victor Hugo, LeCarre, and Gustave Flaubert.
Q. Describe your desk.
Organized chaos. I have a hutch-like desk about five feet wide. To my right, I have twelve writer’s reference books and three binders with story ideas and notes. Between those books and my computer monitor, is a stack of papers relating to my current writing project. That stack changes daily, but usually includes my manuscript bible, and a smattering of loose notes. The rest of my desktop is an eclectic collection of notepads, loose papers, and pens that surround my large screen monitor.
I would like to say, that I am better organized since I discovered the power of Scrivener. It’s an editor and organizer for the manuscript and research. The authors designed it for writers, and I love it.
Q. What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
Ninety-nine days out of a hundred, I look forward to getting out of bed because I have so much to do that I value. Being retired, I am not responsible to anyone, or for anyone except myself. That’s tremendously liberating, and means I can do what I value. What do I value? I value those activities that enrich my life, and the lives of others. That’s why I write.
Q. When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
My favorite activity is spending time with my wife, Marsha. We do everything as a team, and we learn from each other. When we’re together, five minutes can’t go by before we are laughing about something. We even work together on my writing projects. She has amazing insight, and is my toughest critic, and number one supporter.
I guess reading would be number two. Between my wife and me, we read 10 to 20 novels a month. Number three would be woodworking and tinkering in the garage -- that’s my man-cave.
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