When I read Those Pleasant Girls by Lia Weston, I experienced one of those moments that happens all too rarely when I’m reading – I was sobbing with laughter. My husband was staring at me as if I was a lunatic but I could not help myself – it is one very funny book. So I knew I had to have Lia Weston as my guest for Where Stories Are Made and what a guest she is! I know I shouldn’t play favourites but this might be my favourite interview so far; how many writers have a coffin in their dining room! Over to Lia to amuse, entertain and most definitely intrigue you! Oh, and if you keep reading through to the end, there’s the chance to win a signed copy of Those Pleasant Girls.
1. My stories are made …
At home, though if deadlines are looming, I make them wherever I can. I wrote parts of Those Pleasant Girls at the car wash and blood bank, and developed the plotline for my third novel in a forest. Otherwise, I’m in one of three places: my old rolltop desk in the study; the dining room, if I need to spread out; or the fernery, if I need some Vitamin D.
They’re very different environments. The study is quite dark and cosy—my natural habitat—whereas the dining room faces north and gives me enough room for my whiteboard and piles of paper. The fernery is quiet and calm, and brilliant when I need to concentrate; it’s too far from the house to get wi-fi. (The downside, however: the elements. And occasional spider.)
2. My stance on notebooks is …
Prolific and capricious. I would love to be organised enough to have one notebook for each new book, but my pattern is usually this: begin with a fresh notebook; misplace it; panic; buy a replacement; decide the replacement is too pretty to use; buy another, plainer notebook; get stuck in; find the first notebook that I’d misplaced; and then juggle between them, and possibly a third or fourth, depending on how absent-minded I am at the time.
Those Pleasant Girls turns up in five different notebooks, including one that I kept for years because my girlfriend had decorated the cover and I was terrified of ruining it. (It turns out that keeping it in the bookcase meant that some of the decorations fell off anyway.) I try not to use scraps of paper, as I know I’ll misplace them. I have a handful of Post-its for those times that an idea has to be written down immediately (I’ve learnt that I will never, ever, ever remember those light-bulb moments without doing this) but I’ll always transcribe them as quickly as possible for fear of losing them.
3. I am … tidy or messy?
Tidy. Messiness makes me twitchy. (This probably ties in to my fear of losing scraps of paper.) I also have to clean the house and wash my face before I start writing. Some people make a coffee; I exfoliate.
4. I like … noise or silence?
Both, and it depends on the book and my mood. While drafting, I listen to soundtracks such as Little Women or American Beauty (which I discovered, after years of rotation, are actually written by the same composer), Massive Attack (Ritual Spirit is a particular favourite), or atmospheric tracks such as If I Had A Heart by Fever Ray, Whistle Low by Jonquil, or Góða Tung by Samaris. Fait’s Atmosphere EP is also excellent—moody and instrumental.
Those Pleasant Girls has a few song-based scenes—Take The A-Train, Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough, and Welcome To The Jungle—so I would play those repeatedly while I wrote those parts. My third book, due out in April, is written from a male POV; I found myself listening to a lot of Queens of the Stone Age, especially Misfit Love, In The Fade, Song For The Deaf, and You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar But I Feel Like A Millionaire. (No-one does elegant macho swagger quite like Josh Homme.) Recently, however, I’ve discovered the rabbit hole of ASMR videos, and that’s all I can work to at the moment—soundtracks of people tapping or scratching random objects. It does something to my brain. I may never recover.
I also highly recommend two apps for blocking out background noise, such as your husband watching a slasher movie: Coffitivity—which simulates the sound of a coffee shop or cafeteria—and Soothing Sounds—where you can mix and match everything from thunderstorms and purring kittens to crackling fires and windchimes… or all at once, if you like.
5. On my desk, I must have …
A glass of water, a Sakura Pigma Macron pen, and lip balm. Seriously, that’s it. Now I’m wondering if I should add more things. …Wait, no, it’s too untidy.
6. My walls are covered in …
Jewel-toned paint, and boxes of wine. I had a romantic dream of a study with bookshelves and comfy chairs. Instead, I have a room full of booze, with my desk squeezed into the corner. It’s not really a problem; it’s just not what I’d initially envisioned. Looming above the bottles (fittingly, considering his habits) is a poster of The Cure’s Robert Smith, which I got when I was thirteen and my husband had framed for me as a surprise for my fortieth birthday.
I also have two cards by Melbourne illustrator Hanna Mancini. The one on the left reminds me of the way books let us slip beneath the surface of reality into another world. The one on the right makes me think of Stephen King’s philosophy that stories are “found things, like fossils in the ground.” It reassures me when I’m stuck that the story already exists (like a big… hairy bear thing, I guess, looking at the card again), and I just have to uncover it.
On top of my desk are a marble from a glass-blowing acquaintance and a crystal ball which was given to me after a friend read The Fortunes of Ruby White. So far I haven’t tried scrying, but I’m considering it. The dining room has my favourite Waterhouse print—Circe Invidiosa. I stare at it while I’m unravelling character motivations; I’m smitten with its colours, and subtle air of menace. Never has anyone looked so lovely while poisoning a lake.
7. I love my writing spaces because …
They are a shelter from reality. I adore my desk; we found it hidden at the back of an antiques shop, covered in many years’ worth of dust and junk. My husband restored it, including the green leather writing square which is reminiscent of the desks I used to study at in the University of Adelaide’s Barr Smith library. (We’ve never been able to figure out what the pull-out shelves on the side were originally intended for, however. If anyone knows, drop me a line!) The only drawback to my writing spaces is the lighting in the dining room. Candelabras are very romantic, but they’re not ideal for deciphering handwriting. At least I have wine at my fingertips in the study if I need it…
Win a Copy of Those Pleasant Girls by Lia Weston
So, if the image of me crying with laughter isn’t enough to convince you to read the book, then the blurb will! To win signed a copy, all you need to do is comment on the blog; let me know which part of Lia’s writing space you are most intrigued by. For me, it’s definitely the coffin! Here’s the blurb:
Evie Pleasant, nee Bouvier, is back in town. In a figure-hugging skirt, high heels and a pin-up hairdo, she’s unrecognisable from the wild child who waged war on Sweet Meadow in her youth. She’s made a promise to herself: ‘No swearing. No drinking. No stealing. No fires.’ Trailing a reluctant 16-year-old daughter and armed with cake-making equipment, Evie’s divorce and impending poverty has made her desperate enough to return to Sweet Meadow to seduce her former partner-in-crime and start again. But the townsfolk have long memories and the renegade ex-boyfriend is now the highly-respected pastor. Evie’s cakes have a job to do.
The winner will be drawn by random number generator on 17th November at 5.00pm WST. The winner will be connected by email. Good luck!
If you’d like to know more about Lia (and I definitely recommend at least following her on Twitter as she is also prone to moments of extreme humour there) then you can find her website here, follow her on Facebook here, catch up on all the laughs on Twitter here, or see her pretty pics on Instagram here.