Welcome to Lisa M. Wayman
Where are you from and where do you live now? I’m a navy brat, so I’m from lots of places on the east coast. After my Dad left the navy my parents decided we should live closer to nature, so I spent high school in upstate NY growing my own food and living in a house heated by wood. Now I live in Phoenix Arizona and I appreciate the convenience of the grocery store, though the food doesn’t taste as good.
Please tell us a little about your writing . ‘Longing for Home’ is my first work of fiction. It is a historical fiction novel set in the 1890s. There is a love story in the book, but it is mostly about finding a place to belong.
Where do you find inspiration? I was inspired to write my book by my Great Grandmother’s story. She came from Slovenia to America as a 17 year old. She traveled by train from Slovenia to France, then by boat to Ellis Island and then once more by train Wyoming to meet her father. She did this all without speaking English. I used her story as a jumping off place to explore my roots. I also found it was a good way to come to terms with my own itinerant life and to figure out what it means to be home.
Do you have a favourite character? If so why? I love the two main characters in my book: Irena and Seamus. The thing I like most about them is that they both have strengths and flaws. They struggle together and rescue each other. My sister-in-law also commented that she loves that Irena is a plain looking woman. I wanted them to be real people so that they were relatable and so readers would love them as much as I do.
Are your characters based on real people? Well, yes and no. I took traits of different people and spread them over the characters. I then let Irena say things to characters that I wanted to say to real people, but didn’t get the chance to. For example, the character Maureen is modelled after a woman who my husband was helping out. He had the best intentions and was being nice to someone having a very hard time. I was surprised by how jealous I became and how upset I was. To allow Irena (spoiler alert) to shout and slap Maureen felt wonderful. I didn’t do that in my life, I explained to my husband how I was feeling and he severed the relationship. In my life it worked out fine, in the book it is more dramatic, and in a way more satisfying.
Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books? Do you enjoy this aspect of creating a novel and what are your favourite resources? I did a ton of research for this book. I’m kind of a history buff, so I had some baseline knowledge, but I certainly didn’t know the details. I started with Wikipedia for a general background, then went to the primary source. Old newspapers are available on-line and I read quite a few of them. The advertisements were great for all the little details of the time period. Another good source was Onthisday.com for an overview of what was happening in the world. While I was writing I read fiction that would inform how I understood my characters. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair helped me understand the Chicago meat packing district. Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly helped me understand the Irish experience. And really good writing by multiple authors – check out my book list on my website – helped me with the craft of writing. One of the reasons I wrote the book was to explore my heritage so I got on-line to the official Slovenia website http://www.slovenia.si/ and I looked for Slovenian bloggers, fairy tales, myths, ect. I even tried out some recipes and ordered Slovenian wine from Blue Danube. I am a PhD, so I’ve done research before and it was really fun to follow the trail wherever I wanted to instead of within the restrictions of scientific method.
Is there a message conveyed within your writing? Do you feel this is important in a book? I wanted to convey a message that resilience is possible. My characters live during the gilded age – the time of Downton Abbey, but Irena and Seamus are at the lowest station in society and struggle through poverty and racism. I don’t need books that end with perfect happily ever after, but I do think it is important to enhance the world. So I hope the reader takes away a feeling that big struggles can be overcome.
Sort these into order of importance: Great characters; great world-building; solid plot; technically perfect. Can you explain why you chose this order? (Yes I know they all are important…) Great characters absolutely first. A novel is a story and the reader is drawn into a relationship with the characters. My characters are complex enough with flaws and strengths that the reader feels a kinship with the fictional person and cares enough to be drawn deeply into the second most important aspect: a solid plot. The plot reveals who the characters are. I could tell you all about what the characters fear, aspire toward and secretly hope for, but it is much more interesting to learn about them by how they deal with their problems. I did have a hard time being mean to my characters, I love them so, but their trials are how they reveal themselves. The world building is the background for the story. It was important to me that it be historically accurate, but the point of the story was the characters, not a history lesson. Finally, technically perfect. Well, my editor will tell you this wasn’t my priority, I wanted to play with the words until my story was clear and the reader could see the action. I did pretty well with that, but not perfect and I am horrible at spelling and punctuation.
Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case? Do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited? I do both. I read, re-read and edit every time. I did at least three full reads with edits. Then I sent it to some beta readers who were ruthless and cut out an entire section and made me re-write the entire thing because it was ‘boring’. Then I re-edited. After all that I got a professional editor. She really helped to make sure that the writing was clear and technically sound. She discussed recommendations with me and I accepted 99% of her edits without question. There was one small thing that I thought changed the meaning and we discussed it and re-wrote it together. I was really lucky and the editor was collaborative and very helpful. I think it made the book really professional and the best quality. Some people might be able to do that without a professional editor, but I can’t.
Most authors like to read, what have you recently finished reading? Did you enjoy it?
I just finished The ‘Guilded Hour’ by Sara Donati.I thought she did a very good job of developing the characters. I liked that it was set in the 1890s and as a nurse I was interested in the medical aspect of the book. The other book that I recently enjoyed (for the umpteenth time) was ‘The River Why’ by David James Duncan. For absolutely gorgeous writing that will move your heart read anything of his.
Can you give us a silly fact about yourself? I can’t swear. My Dad was a navy man, but he never swore, smoked or drank. No kidding, if he hits his finger with a hammer he says ‘gosh dang it!’ I know, weird right? Anyway, I grew up with no swearing at all and I was pretty nerdy in school so I didn’t hang out with anyone who did swear. My husband laughs if I try to swear because I get it really wrong. When my characters need to swear I have to get a ghost writer to help.
Book links, website/blog and author links: