The latest in our series of Q&As with the authors of Crush is Lauren Foley. Read on to find out more about her writing process and to read an exceprt of her story ‘This One Time…’
Can you give us a bit of background about yourself? How did you come to writing?
I’m Irish, and until recently, lived in Adelaide for five years. Well, I’m such a cliché, like most writers I was an English teacher.
Writing has always been there. I was a painfully quiet child who read all the time. I used to walk home from school reading, holding my book and turning pages with one hand. I’d glance up to cross the road, but in fairness there weren’t many cars about at that time of day, just tractors. A complete hopeless case who daydreamed constantly. The best thing my mother ever did for me was send me to acting classes in our local Millbank Theatre. Theatre is reading and daydreaming come to life. My love of writing comes from reading and drama and being involved in the process of taking a text and making it tangible over months and months of hard work. It is a great discipline.
How do you get your ideas? Is there anywhere particular you look for inspiration?
Art, nature and human experience. I mean, if it wasn’t for encountering other artists, other writers and learning from their interpretations I would be hard pressed to come up with ideas. The more credit we give to fellow artists the better I think. Also, I have to say, there are so many brilliant literary journals out there at the moment publishing new work and new talent I think we’re really lucky to have such varied choice. The Lifted Brow in Australia, is phenomenal in pushing boundaries, as is Gorse in Ireland. I have subscriptions to journals and I’d encourage aspiring writers to subscribe and gift subscriptions. A few of my favourites are: The Stinging Fly, Gargouille, Overland, and The Moth. Being an incessant daydreamer helps. Of course, I take inspiration from real life, particularly dialogue, that’s when iPhone notes come in handy. But, even when inspiration is taken from real life, everything gets reworked, fictionalised and ends up very different to its beginnings.
What does your writing process look like? Does it change from story to story?
I just write. And, when I’m not writing, I’m thinking about writing or I’m reading – so I’m thinking of someone else’s writing. If I’m completely uninspired to work on something new, I’ll root through my files find an abandoned draft and edit it. I’ll find sentences that aren’t completely shit and be encouraged to continue. That’s really what it’s all about. Not not writing. Even when you don’t want to.
I have Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and my hands are crippled with arthritis – I can’t physically write. I have no real grip left, my fingers are bent into an odd shape, and after little use they get very inflamed and painful and completely stuck in a claw-like shape, and I need them for the most important daily task of drinking copious amounts of tea. So, I actually have to dictate my work into my laptop and go over it by listening back to it. My lobster claws have made me quite unique as a writer, I suppose. I would do an average of thirty drafts of a story – that’s thirty changed drafts after the first complete draft. A much earlier draft of this story written in the third person was Highly Commended South Australian entry for Lip Magazine’s Rachel Funari Prize for Fiction, when I changed it to the first person for this submission it really found its voice.
I used to come up with endings pretty early on and stick with them, more and more I’m finding the endings are changing and evolving with the redrafts. I also find having a few readers who will give good criticism and not just say it’s grand – there’s little point in that – is essential. Deadlines help a lot, even when you self-impose them. Writing groups are great, I was President of Kensington and Norwood Writers’ Group in Adelaide they were brilliant in terms of a fortnightly deadline and varied response. I have to do a shout out to the SA Writers Centre and the Irish Writers Centre, I’d honestly be lost without them.
I’d imagine my process looks something like me: dressed in black, sat prostrate at my desk, crying into my coffee screaming ‘Why?! Why?! For the love of God. Why?!!’ That never changes.
How do you approach building the structure of a story? Do you like to play with form?
I take it more on a sentence by sentence basis, trying to match the words to the character, allowing the character to become fully formed by the end of the work. I’m not one for deciding plot, theme or character arc in advance; I find that restrictive. I might have a sentence or two or an image and just go from there. Trying to manipulate the language, styling it to fit the character usually finds its own flow after a while. And not being afraid to delete chunks of text – even when you love them. I’d say that comes from my theatre background, having that awareness of the text being a vehicle for character.
I do like messing about with form. I think we have to nowadays; we have Google at our fingertips and can easily find out what something looks like, so representation on that level is pretty much moot. Trying to get down to the bare bones of what a character thinks and feels and shaping the text to best serve its characters is vital. There is a lot of brilliant new work being done in mixed media forms and The Lifted Brow, who I mentioned above, stand out at this.
Crush explores a variety of interpretations and experiences of romantic love. What aspects of love did you want to explore in your writing?
Desire. Desire simply exists. Desire needs no external validation to exist in its entirety. And, I find it much more interesting and realistic than ‘love’ – which is pretty undefinable. Desire happens in our own heads and our own bodies and it doesn’t need reciprocity to be actualised.
Sex. Sex is very telling about character. The connectedness of people to their own bodies often goes underwritten. I’ll paraphrase Lia Mills here: so much good writing gets lost because people shy away from what they really want to say – do not be that writer. I’m very conscious of inhabiting my body. I think other people are too. Sex and foreplay are the physicality of desire. I don’t see any need to be coy about it. I wouldn’t want to.
How have you tried to either embrace or push the boundaries of the romance genre in your writing?
I refer to ‘This One Time…’ as one of my lesbian softporn stories – it’s not embracing heteronormativity that’s for sure. It’s also written almost entirely in rhyme. The work of folk musician ani di franco is seminal to this piece. I don’t think it’s for me to say I’ve pushed boundaries; that’s what readers are for.
Excerpt from ‘This One Time…’ by Lauren Foley
We saw each other. We smiled. We moved near. Nearer, nearer, nearer, near. We put our stuff down in-between us, in front and behind us and all around us. We moved the stuff and rearranged it, unpacked it and restacked it. We sat up straight, we sat down heavy, we leaned left, we tilted right. We laughed and teased those onstage with ease. We brushed arms so hairs might meet and greet. We laughed. We joked. We shared a Coke. We perspired. We sweated. In our minds, we heavy petted. We laughed, we breathed, we fantasised with need. We sat up straight, we sat down heavy, she leaned left, I titled right. We sighed. We groaned. We looked ahead. We moaned.
We took a break. She went for a smoke. I very nearly stole a smoke even though I thought I’d quit two years ago. There’s no hope. There’s no hope. She came back. I got wet. We sat. We dreamt. And dreamed. And dreamt. Dreamt and dreamed about how we felt. About another world. Where we could. Just do it. Out in the woods. Just do it. Screw it. Her sexuality. My instability. The logistic inability. We sighed. She groaned. We looked ahead. I moaned. We sat erect. We reclined. We leant on borrowed time.
To read more of ‘This One Time…’ by Lauren Foley, pick up a copy of Crush from our online shop or from all good bookstores.