Friday, 20 February 2015

Interview - Laura Vanderkam (The Cortlandt Boys)

I have had privilege to be able to ask questions to Laura Vanderkam, concerning her eBook, The Cortlandt Boys. Laura Vanderkam is more well-known as a nonfictional author of many books and her works have been included in many publications, on a national scale.

This was my interview with Laura - I hope you enjoy!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

LV: In addition to my novel, I’m the author of several non-fiction books on time management including 168 Hours and What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast. I freelance for various publications including Fast Company and USA Today, and live outside Philadelphia with my husband and our four kids.

2. What is The Cortlandt Boys all about?

LV: The Cortlandt Boys is about a small town high school basketball team that wins the state championship with a last second 3-point shot. The story revisits the characters ten and twenty years later as the ramifications of that lucky break affect the boys and all the people around them, forever linking them to this little town that has its ways of not quite letting you go.

3. What inspired you to come up with the title?

LV: Even though the members of the basketball team age over the course of the book, in many ways, it’s their boyhood that shapes their lives, and so I wanted to reference that. As for the name of the town, Cortlandt, it’s not a real place, but had a slight allusion to “court” buried in there. I’d started using it, and liked it, and stuck with it.

4. How much research did you do?

LV: The part that required the most research was the basketball scenes. I played one season when I was 12 years old, and while I wasn’t any good at it, at least I had a general sense of the rhythm of games. I like to watch college and pro games, and I tried to capture some of that excitement.

5. How much of the book is realistic?

LV: I hope it’s realistic. I tried to capture what life is like in a small town. It’s familiar and comforting, yet suffocating at the same time.

6. Were you good at English when you were at school?

LV: Reasonably, though oddly enough, people seemed to think I was better at math back in the day. I enjoy math, but I enjoy writing more.

7. When did you decide to become a writer?

LV: I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and I’m very fortunate that this has turned into my day job. I can’t imagine doing anything else!

8. What is the hardest thing about writing?

LV: The most challenging thing about writing The Cortlandt Boys was making space for fiction, given that I’m already writing as my 9 to 5 job. I also wrote the manuscript for a non-fiction book in 2014 (called I Know How She Does It -- it comes out in June), and I wrote a host of other articles as well. So that was a lot of words. I had to push myself at the beginning to make time for fiction, but eventually, I got enough into my characters and story that I wanted to keep going.

9. What books have most influenced your life?

LV: My non-fiction books are mostly self-help books, and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People continues to set the standard in that genre. Its message of self-discipline influenced me a great deal, and hopefully comes through in my time management books.

10. Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?

LV: For fiction, I wind up re-reading Virginia Woolf’s books frequently. In non-fiction, I like John McPhee for high-brow stuff, and Gretchen Rubin for advice on daily living.

11. For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/ hardback books?

LV: I love ebooks -- I published The Cortlandt Boys that way! -- but I probably prefer to hold a traditional book in my hand. That’s why my office is so cluttered with books!

12. What is your favourite quote?

LV: One of the busiest women I ever interviewed told me that instead of saying ‘I don’t have time’ she says ‘It’s not a priority.’ That’s really more accurate language, and very insightful. Life is a choice. Using this language reminds us that if we’re not happy with our choices, we have the power to choose differently.

13. Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

LV: One of my favorite young authors is Zac Bissonnette. He’s got a new book out this spring called The Great Beanie Baby Bubble, which is a darkly hilarious account of toy tycoon Ty Warner and the Beanie Baby collectors who bid up the prices tremendously. It all crashed around the turn of the millennium, and Bissonnette does a great write-up of the fall out.

14. Any tips for aspiring writers out there?

LV: Writing is a skill like any other, and you get better the more you do of it. One of the reasons I like blogging is that it’s a daily form of practice. Just as a musician plays scales, I blog.

15. How can readers discover more about you and your work?

LV: Please come visit me at my website, I blog frequently and would love to continue the conversation.

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