Q&A with Laury A. Egan

Introduce yourself to the rest of the class. Who are you and what makes you tick?

I’m in my late 60s, widowed, and work very hard at my writing. I’m an old-school writer, perhaps because my early career was at Princeton University Press, where rigorous editing, design, and production were priorities. My home is on the northern coast of NJ. For most of my life, I’ve looked upon the ocean—water is a setting that occurs in most of my fiction and poetry. I’m also a visual person, a fine arts photographer and instructor, and for thirty years subscribed to the Met Opera (part of the inspiration for “Fabulous!”), where I also did some freelance photography, as well as at the Opera Company of Philadelphia and for most Lincoln Center venues. The blend of the verbal and visual has been a strength.

What does it mean to you to be an author? What makes a writer a writer?

I wrote my first poem at age seven and began my first novel just before I turned thirteen; in high school, I wrote short stories. From my early years, I thought of myself as a writer. Then, for some unknown reason, I switched gears and attended Carnegie Mellon University in graphic design rather than accept offers from Bennington and Bard in creative writing—the single decision I’ve regretted all my life because I believe I chickened out on myself. Being a writer is my identity, yet I have few friends who understand the centrality of this core belief because most people have a separation between their identities and their careers, i.e., they can retire and feel fine, with little loss of self. I don’t expect to stop writing until I am physically or mentally unable to continue.

What makes a writer? Prioritizing the work. Never being satisfied, never being lazy. It’s not unusual for me to make 30-40 passes on a novel, as excruciating as this can be. My discipline and drive are probably due to the fact that I returned to writing in my mid 40s and feel an urgency to produce, to experiment (my books are rather diverse), and to achieve technical excellence. In addition to “Fabulous!,” three other works of fiction have been published: “Jenny Kidd,” “The Outcast Oracle,” and “Fog and Other Stories,” with a literary suspense, “Wave in D Minor,” due in 2019. Four collections of poetry have also been released in limited edition. A number of completed works are currently circulating with publishers, and several will never see the light of day, for good reason!

Are you promoting a specific book? Tell us about it. Include the book blurb if you’d like.

My new book is a comedy, a significant contrast from my previous fiction. “Fabulous! An Opera Buffa” is simply great fun, a confection, with some suspense and a touch of romance. One morning, I woke and heard Gilbert Eugene Rose’s voice in my head and promptly sat down at the computer and gave him free rein. He came through with absolute clarity.

Fabulous! cover final

From the press release:

“A campy, hilarious, fast-paced indulgence that’s addictively entertaining…Dynamic, colorful characters add flair to a story full of snappy dialogue and rapid-fire action. The book’s tone is primarily one of effervescent joy, but Egan also manages to incorporate serious themes of personal identity.”—Kirkus Reviews

A talented opera singer, Gilbert Eugene Rose, moonlights as a drag queen and diva divine, Kiri De Uwana, in order to pay his rent. However, Gil is dying to become famous on the New York operatic stage; unfortunately he might get his wish when he lands lead roles as a soprano and tenor in separate productions and is also hired to sing Handel by a dangerous female gangster who is at war with the producer of one of the two operas. Suddenly, happy-go-lucky Gil finds himself stranded in the middle of Mobster Boulevard, aflutter in heels, dresses, and wigs, with only his wits for protection and a new romance for inspiration. A delightful divertissement for our somber times.

“Audacious and brilliantly adventurous, this book reads like a madcap opera, illuminating a beautifully controlled zany cast of characters. Egan reminds us of how essential such fun and joyful storytelling can be, leaving us smiling and wanting more.”—Martin Hyatt, author of Beautiful Gravity

Tell us about your biggest guilty pleasure. For example, do you sit naked in your pantry in the middle of the night and eat Nutella with your fingers?

Hands down winner is Netflix, streaming and DVDs. After a long day writing, I love to switch off and watch a movie or series, particularly those from the BBC or from indie/international filmmakers.

Tell us one thing that you’re passionate about. For example, would you strap yourself to an oil rigging a la Lucy Lawless with a Greenpeace sign in your hands?

I’m very liberal on most issues and feel very strongly about politics, the separation of church and state, the environment, and equality, especially women’s and gay rights.

What’s your writing process? That is, do you have a particular place you write and/or time of day? Do you have any particular things you do before you write? (e.g. do you listen to music, drink coffee, take dance breaks…)

I often write seven days a week (or edit, do promotion, or the business side of writing). Usually begin about 7:30 in the morning, coffee in front of me, to check the news, FB, emails, and then dress and begin serious work, stopping around 5:30 p.m. or so. A long day, but as I’ve aged, I feel serious pressure to improve and to explore new subjects, settings, characters, and styles—recently have completed a novella and a short novel utilizing touches of magical realism, which was a fascinating challenge.

Tell us something that most people don’t know about you (unless you’d have to kill us, in which case tell us something that some people don’t know).

All my life I’ve struggled to maintain primary relationships at the same time I’m writing or pursuing artistic goals. Unfortunately, I find one tends to dominate at the expense of the other. I’m really envious of writers who can be in a long-term relationship and maintain an active and productive artistic career. My dream would be to find another writer (or artist or musician) who “gets it,” but I doubt this will happen.

Is there a book by another author that you wish you had written?

Inspiration for my first published novel, “Jenny Kidd,” came from Patricia Highsmith. Her Tom Ripley books are brilliant, though having read all of her work, I wish she’d spent more time and effort on editing and polishing. I greatly admire Michael Cunningham’s “The Hours” and Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway.” Kent Haruf and Annie Proulx are other favorites for similar reasons—they are fantastic wordsmiths who deeply understand the human condition. Influences on “Fabulous!” were very funny novels by Joe Keenan and Stephen McCauley, which I read many years ago.

If time and money were no problem, where would you most like to go in the world?

Because I’m semi-disabled, my days of travel are mostly over, though I did do a great deal in years past and throughout my childhood. Have never been to Brittany and would love to see that area. If I had it all to do over again, I think I’d prefer living in Cornwall, England, on the coast. Especially as our cultural aesthetics are deteriorating in America, I wish I’d made the move years ago.

And finally, what sorts of writing projects are next for you?

I have a number of completed novels in search of homes: “A Bittersweet Tale,” a psychological suspense; “The Swimmer,” a short novel about a woman dealing with end-stage cancer and a last journey to the ocean; “Once, Upon an Island”—my “big book” and my clear favorite of the thirteen novels I’ve finished. A novella, “The Black Leopard’s Kiss,” is a real departure, with magical realism elements, but because it’s so difficult to place novellas with agents or publishers, I’m working on some short stories and another novella—perhaps linked—to act as a bookend. I’m really excited about the challenge of accomplishing this.

Thank you very much for these wonderful questions. It was a pleasure to share my thoughts!

Laury-ColorLaury A. Egan is the author of The Outcast Oracle, Jenny Kidd, Fog and Other Stories, and Wave in D Minor (2019). Her poetry has been issued in limited-edition collections: Snow, Shadow, a Stranger; Beneath the Lion’s Paw; The Sea & Beyond; and Presence & Absence.

Laury A. Egan’s website: www.lauryaegan.com and Facebook pages: https://www.facebook.com/laury.egan and https://www.facebook.com/lauryaegan/?modal=admin_todo_tour


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