Thank you for having me. I’m delighted to be here.
First up, please tell us about your connection to Wales
I moved to north Wales when I was six and my family still live there. My step-father is Welsh and he is the man who raised me. Identity and what shapes us is something I’m fascinated by – and thematically it’s what my first novel, Bloodmining explores (a second edition, renamed The Family Line, is to be released in the summer). Many of the settings in the novel – Harlech, Shell Island, Bangor, Anglesey – were places visited for holidays as a child and young adult. And the town in Redemption Song, Coed Mawr, is inspired by Llandudno; anyone who knows the town will see this immediately. It’s another of my favourite places. I take my own boys there now, and though I live hundreds of miles away Wales still forms a large chunk of my identity.
Tell us a little about yourself as writer and as person.
I’m a reader, a writer, a mother to two boys and a wife. After studying for a degree in literature I moved to London. There, I worked as an actress. When I got to thirty-ish and hadn’t won an Oscar (!), and wanted children, I changed career. At first, I worked as a journalist and copywriter, so words with a smidgeon more fact than fiction (only a smidgeon) and I was the commissioning editor of hagsharlotsheroines – an e-zine with a focus on literature for women. I have always been a passionate and voracious reader so while I didn’t always want to be a writer, perhaps there’s a sense of inevitability that I might one day turn to it. Having said that, I appreciate how incredibly lucky I’ve been to see my work published. It’s a privilege to have people read my stories.
Tell us about the inspiration behind your latest book
My latest novel, Redemption Song, was published on 28 January. It’s a story about love, forgiveness, how we come to terms with deeds we’re not proud of, and err, redemption! It looks at what happens when everything goes wrong – and the process of putting the pieces back together again. Readers have described it as poignant, thoughtful, captivating and full of hope.
The maxim ‘Forgive and forget’ has always troubled me. If we forget the ‘bad’ deeds – those done unto us and those we do unto others, then how are we to learn from such mistakes? For me, forgiveness is really, really important because it’s so closely linked to love and without it we can become stuck, bitter and vengeful. Without forgiveness and love, we’re unable to move on and we are in danger of damaging ourselves further. Like everyone, I’ve done things I’m ashamed of and I find the process of forgiving myself extremely difficult – I have a tendency to beat myself up over relatively minor transgressions. I wondered what it might be like for someone who has done something which, to their mind is truly terrible (though it might not be seen that way by others) and how they might journey towards forgiveness and the chance to love again. All three point of view characters have suffered significant loss and are struggling to rebuild their lives. I fear this makes the novel sound rather worthy, but I hope I’ve explored this issue with a light touch, and laughter and hope along the way!
Which Welsh person would you like to invite for dinner and what would you serve?
Morgan le Fay, queen of Avalon, goddess, enchantress and all round fascinating character. Toasted Bara Brith; I’m not much of a cook.
Sarah Waters is fab, as is Rachel Tresize and Bernice Rubens and Dylan Thomas and Roald Dahl – there are so many wonderful Welsh writers it’s hard to choose and I’m not great at ‘favourites’ as you’ll see later on too.
What is the best thing about Wales?
It’s spirit: defiant, wild, untameable, mystical, resilient.
What are you working on now?
I have another novel contracted for Accent Press – the release date is March 2017. Skin Deep is an unconventional story of love, friendship and how much appearance matters. Quirky artist and former model Diana Brading longs to be admired for her talent, not her looks. Damaged by a psychologically abusive relationship with her mother, she also craves love. Cal is intelligent and kind. Hidden from the world, he is lonely. Congenitally deformed, Cal doesn’t look like others. And he needs love too, to be judged by what lies within and not his unusual appearance.
When the two meet an unconventional relationship develops as they try to find love and their place in a world fixated with image. It explores obsession, concepts of beauty, and the legacy of parental exploitation. If this makes it sound a little grim – it’s not. It’s full of wonder and joy, and love. Skin Deep is written, though there will be more work on it with my editor, Greg. Alongside this novel, I’m writing a brand new one. It’s very early days (15k into a first draft and no title yet) so I’m loathe to say too much other than it’s about addiction and love – love between sisters and grandparents, as well as partners.
What are the best and the worst aspects of writing?
I’m a bit of a control freak so it’s brilliant to be the omnipotent, all seeing, all knowing creature, the puppet master of others’ destinies! Seriously, I enjoy stepping into others’ shoes, seeing the world from another perspective and exploring emotions and ideas that I’d never get the chance to in real life. I’ve learnt most of what I know about the world from reading novels.
Promotion is an aspect of the job that I’m less keen on, though I do love interacting with readers, whether that’s online or in the flesh, so to speak. I find reviews difficult to cope with as well. Yup, I’m a chicken. I swore I wouldn’t read them, but I can’t resist. No willpower. Love the good ‘uns, cry at the bad, then get over myself. I’m not a brain surgeon, no one dies if I mess up – at least not in real life.
What is your favourite book?
Oh, that’s impossible to answer because I read such a variety. I took a glance at my bookshelves to help me with this and though there are plenty of the classics, psychological thrillers, crime novels, romances, the odd literary novel, the majority are what you’d call women’s fiction. Favourite? Phew, impossible to call. I am constantly awed, and humbled, by the talent out there but authors I consistently return to include Maggie O’Farrell, Jenn Ashworth, Jojo Moyes, Kate Atkinson, Sarah Rayner, Margaret Atwood, Rowan Coleman, Rose Tremain … and on and on I go!
What book are you currently reading and in what format (e-book/paperback/hardcover)?
Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth. It’s fabulous; I love her work. In paperback; I don’t own a Kindle. I love paper!
Laura has published five novels (two under a pseudonym) and numerous short stories. After a degree in Literature, she moved from her homeland of Wales to London where she worked as a journalist. Now she lives in Brighton with her two boys (Ginger1 and Ginger2) and her husband (the BigFella), a bluegrass musician. She loves a bargain, jeans, pretty dresses and high heels.
As well as writing, she works as an editor/mentor for Cornerstones and The Writing Coach, and runs workshops on the art of fiction. She’s spoken at festivals and events nationwide, including London Metropolitan University, GladLit, University of Kingston, and The Women’s Library.
To buy the e-book: https://Mybook.to/RedemptionSong
To buy the paperback: http://mybook.to/RedemptionWilkinson
If you’d like more information about Laura and her work visit:
Facebook: Laura Wilkinson Author