Interview: Laura Lam – Author of Pantomime

Written By: Kellie - Feb• 06•13

We have a very special treat on the blog today, and I couldn’t be more excited. I had the wonderful opportunity to ask Laura Lam a few questions about her YA debut, Pantomime, and got some great responses. Read on!

pantomime by laura lam

Snarky Bird– First off, can you tell us a little bit about who you are and Pantomime?

Laura– I was raised in California just outside San Francisco, and my nickname at school was “Nose-in-a-Book.” I moved to Scotland after I graduated university at 20 to be with my husband, whom I met on the internet when I was 15, and I’ve been here for over 3 years now. I still often have my nose in a book.

Pantomime is my YA fantasy debut, and at its heart it’s a book about people trying to find a place to belong and who they want to become. It’s set in Ellada, a pseudo-Victorian world riven with Vestige—ancient, possibly magical artefacts left behind by a vanished civilisation called the Alder. Iphigenia Laurus, or Gene, is the daughter of a noble family, and feels trapped in her pampered life and her debut and possible upcoming marriage. Micah Grey is a street urchin who joins the circus as an aerialist’s apprentice. But there’s more to the story than first meets the eye, and Gene and Micah have a secret that might be the key of unlocking the mysterious of Ellada.

Snarky Bird– Where did the inspiration for Pantomime come from?

Laura– I’ve always loved the circus, as it’s a little microcosm of oddball characters, all of whom have a persona that they don to entertain and trick the audience. I took a lot of my pet interests—the circus, a dying empire, mysterious older civilisations, gender studies, the Victorian era—and mashed it all together, and somehow, it ended up working and I had Pantomime and its world.

Snarky Bird– From concept to completion, how long did Pantomime take to write?

Laura– This one’s a bit tricky to answer. Micah’s character first appeared in 2007. I researched and thought about the character for about a year while I worked on short stories and poems for university. In late 2008/early 2009, I think, I started writing a book with a Micah Grey that was 27, but I kept getting stuck because I was 19 and couldn’t quite tap into his world-weary voice. I decided to write a “short story” about Micah’s past when he joined the circus as a teen in December 2009, three months after I moved to Scotland. I was working in a very dull filing job, so I daydreamed during the day while I worked and wrote in the evenings. It ended up being a little longer than a short story.

But I wrote very slowly, and kept switching back and forth being YA Micah and adult Micah. So in the end, the first draft of Pantomime took 15 months, as I finished in March 2011. I then promptly subbed it to Angry Robot’s Open Door month, after reading through and fixing typos. I thought that meant I had edited (note: that is not editing). I fretted for about 6 months and didn’t write much at all, and then I had a revision request from Angry Robot, so after a further 3 months of furious, proper editing and rewriting, I returned it to them in March 2012. So, all in all, a bit over 2 years for Pantomime, with 18 months of working on it, but the world’s been kicking about in my head for 6 years now in total.

Snarky Bird– What is a typical writing day like for you?

Laura– I try to get up at 6.30 or 7 to write before work, but more often than not I just stay in bed until I have to roll out of it for work. I work, and every now and again I’ll write on my lunch break. But I pretty consistently write after work at a local café until they close for about an hour and a half, and if inspiration strikes, I’ll write at home as well. When I’m rough-drafting, on the days I write I try for about 1000 words, but that’s not 7 days a week.

Snarky Bird– Were there any scenes in Pantomime that were especially difficult to write?

Laura– The titular pantomime scene, actually. The actual pantomime interwoven through the circus, Leander and Iona, went through several plots, and it was tricky to blend between the actors playing the parts and actually telling the story of the play. I think I ended up rewriting that chapter about four times, but it finally all came together and I’m happy with it now.

Snarky Bird– Any favorites?

Laura– The scene when two characters go to the Museum of Mechanical Antiquities is by far my favourite scene. I wrote that in one, frenzied rush and had some of the most fun I’ve ever had writing. That scene went through some changes, but a lot of it is pretty close to the first draft.

Snarky Bird– What are you currently working on/ What is your next project going to be?

Laura– I have finished the first draft of Pantomime2, so I’ll be editing that for the next wee while. After that, I’m not 100% sure what to focus on next. I have two projects outlined, but I need a few factors to fall into place before I know which one I’ll focus on more. Evasive, I know, but it gets harder to talk about books that aren’t under contract.

I’ve also been playing around with a few short stories set in Ellada, mainly for fun. I’m not sure what I’ll do with them long-term, but I like the ones I’ve written so far

Snarky Bird– Laura, thank you so much for answering all these questions. Good luck with all the release month crazyness!

You can visit Laura on her website, here. Follow her on twitter, here. And of course, you can purchase Pantomime, here.

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  1. […] Guest Post – The Fear and Joy of Writing Pantomime: The Book Smugglers 6th February: Interview: Snarky Bird Book Reviews 6th February: Guest Post – On the Back Lot of the Circus: One a Day […]

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