I have another site.

Hey folks,

For some reason, this is the site that comes up in searches about me or my book. I’m here to tell you that there is another site:

http://www.lauriepetrou.com

That is where you can find more permanent info on my books. Of course, I also have a newsletter, that you can find there, and I’m on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook, too.

Until next time!

LP

 

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Who would do ANYTHING for you? What would they ask for in return?

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I have a friend whose father once told her, ‘You need to have someone in your life who you can call, in the middle of the night, and ask for ten thousand dollars, no questions asked.’

Someone, in other words, who would do anything for you, and hold that secret for you –without judgement – forever. And presumably, you should be that person for someone else, too.

Are you someone’s lifeline? Who is yours? Who is your person? 

Many of us tell our partners, our best friends, our siblings, that we would do anything for them: take a bullet, bury a body, break them out of prison, keep their darkest secret – you name it, we’d do it, in our fantasies of to-the-death loyalty.

Shakespeare says, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” There’s a reason that this bon mot from Hamlet is one of The Bard’s most famous. We know, not only from Shakespearean family tragedies, but from our own lives, that sometimes debt has a scorpion’s tail that can snap back and sting you.

We will do anything for each other today, but what about tomorrow?

What happens a month after your person bails you out? Are they still thinking about it? Maybe they are proud of themselves, maybe they are still thinking that they would do it again, in a second. Maybe they are still basking in the sun of your gratitude. Maybe they are just a little bit smug. Maybe, also, they sense the shift, that feeling that in spite of the stress and the guilt, they now have something they would never voice aloud: the upper hand.

We all think we would do anything for our person. What I am interested in, and what drove my writing, was seeking the answer to: What happens After? 

What do you think would happen to your relationship, if it had been pushed to the limit, when you tried to return to normal? What would happen the first time you didn’t have time for your person? Or couldn’t help them out for some small favour?

What happens when the itchiness, the incessant presence of what you asked of them, gets under their collar? Keeps them up at night? Makes them wonder, in their darkest heart, ‘would they have done the same for me?’

The answer, we hope, is of course. Of course we would.

But what if they actually needed to ask?

In Sister of Mine, there are two main characters, and they are sisters: Penny and Hattie. There is a fire, and Penny’s terrible husband, Buddy, is killed. Now typically, this would be a big spoiler. This is a thriller, a suspense! Don’t tell us what happens!

But here, the death happens on the first page. This is not, in fact, a ‘Who Dunnit’, but a ‘What’s Next?’ What will this secret do to the sisters? What will they ask of each other?

Penny and Hattie are each other’s people, their Ride or Die Bitches, held together with a bond of love and sisterhood that nothing can break. Or at least, that nothing can break all at once. But perhaps the strain of everyday, the weight of unsolvable problems or long-held debts, make hairline cracks that threaten the strength of even our deepest and closest relationships.

Could you stand it? Could you do it, knowing that your life, and your relationship, would always be different? Maybe it would make it all the stronger. Maybe Shakespeare was wrong.

What would be your limit? Where would you draw the line, or would the line, perhaps, just keep moving? Because maybe the ultimate favour or lifeline is not the thing done or learned under cover of darkness, but reconciling a life completely altered, and a relationship forever changed.

Secrets and crimes done by best friends, gang-members, and siblings has a long, and arguably masculine tradition: it is where we find stories like The Godfather, with all of its familial obligation and debt. What we don’t see a lot of is female characters taking and pushing one another to their limits in the name of friendship or family, and nor do we see much of the other side of the action, of what happens a day, a month, and a year afterwards. A phone call, a getaway car, gun shots: we recognize these as symptoms of lifeline stories. What about the woman who has to take her child to daycare with the weight of a terrible secret on her mind? These are the characters I what to know about; these are the characters I know.

 

 

Two-Book Deal with Crooked Lane Books!

Exciting News! I can finally talk (and write) about how thrilled I am about this: I’ve signed a two-book deal with NYC-based Crooked Lane Books for Sister of Mine, and another (yet untitled) book! I’m so happy about this, and am already really enjoying my relationship with Crooked Lane Books. They are publishers of suspense, crime, thrillers, mysteries, and all manner of dark and stormy books. My whip-smart editor, Chelsey Emmelhainz, is insightful and creative, and really gets my writing. She knows how to crank up tension and make a book sing.

This brings me to the surprising nature of writing, publishing, and genre.

I never thought I was a suspense writer. I am a literary fiction writer, a #canlit writer, a writer whose first book, a book of short stories, was all about characters, if not plot. I work, painstakingly, on individual sentences. I love prose. I love words, plot be damned! (Stupid, maybe. Short-sighted, absolutely). But I have changed and grown, and here I am: a novelist who has written one, and is working on another, book that is full of tension, suspense, and a Big Twist. A big twist, it seems, was in store for me, as well: the surprise is that I actually love this kind of writing, and these kinds of stories.

I have historically been a bit of a book snob. I like to read Giller, Pulitzer, Booker, National Book Award winners. Sometimes these are artful, but difficult books, full of poetic prose and sweeping landscapes that often appear as the most complicated characters in the books. I like to learn things – about other cultures, peoples, and also myself – while reading.

But I’ve notice a change in my habits over time, and my understanding, from talking to others in the book biz, is that I’m not alone. I find my tastes expanding: I love historical fiction. I adore gothic. I love a good domestic suspense book. I love YA. I don’t know if this is an echo effect from the culture of recommendations and word of mouth – the same way that my music playlists are varied in a way they weren’t 10 years ago, for instance – or if I’m just a late bloomer (possible, absolutely), but I’m discovering a world of books that are cross-genre, and that I am now a reader who loves all kinds of books. Surprise! Twist! These books are FULL of excellent writing, that is gorgeous, poetic, full of prose and sweeping landscapes, and I am still learning a shit-tonne about other cultures, peoples, and myself.

I had some excellent conversations with Amy Stuart (author of Still Mine) about my author/reader identity crisis. She told me how great it’s been to have her work appeal to different kinds of readers, and appear in different sections of the bookstore.

As an author, I am discovering the delightful rush of peoples’ reactions when they ask, ‘Is it a suspense book?’ (nod) ‘I LOVE those!’

Me too, sister friend!

Writing Practice in Real Life

When you look up images of ‘writer’ on Google, this is what you get, to start:

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The young white guy with glasses and pipe/coffee/drink makes a lot of appearances. Man, that guy is really letting the creative juices flow. We also see a lot of typewriters, scrunched up paper, dimly lit rooms, wooden desks, ink… you know, old-timey stuff. You can almost hear the Billie Holiday on the record player, or the crickets chirping outside.

What you don’t see or hear is real life. Nobody is yelling ‘There’s no toilet paper!’ from the upstairs bathroom.

Sometimes you’ll hear or read an author describe their writing practices: get up early, go into study, write for four hours, have lunch (maybe have lunch brought to them), write all afternoon, have whisky (Okay, I added the whisky). Sometimes it seems they are writing, diligently, on mountaintops or in sunlit cottages, definitely the ocean roaring in the background.

I have a writing practice. It looks like this: sometimes chaos, sometimes daytime, sometimes nighttime, sometimes here, sometimes there: in bed, in my office, on the bus, at the library, at my local. Sometimes there are kids calling for me. Sometimes everyone in the house is asleep. Sometimes the cat walks across the keyboard. There is always tea. In fact, that might be the only constant in my writing practice. Tea. Not whiskey, tea. There is no practice, except practicing.

We sometimes get caught up in the romantic notions around writing, among other things (my husband is a winemaker; you should hear the romantic notions people have about his job!). We subscribe to the idea that if we’re not Hemingway writing novels while drinking on the back of a bull, but are actually, in fact, jotting ideas down at soccer practice, that we are not doing it right.

People often ask me how I have time to write. Or they’ll say, ‘I wish I had the time that you do to write’. I don’t think I have any more or less time than most people I know. But I do know that this is something I always want to do. And so I’ll cram in it, and it happens during the messy, busy, activity-filled reality of my life, when there are usually two loads of laundry sitting beside me and maybe a container of homemade slime in the near vicinity. The point is to just do it, not wait for the perfect place or moment.

No one is going to know if you wrote your book wearing your oldest, holiest comfies with no bra, eating peanut butter out of a jar. They’re just going to read the damn thing. So just write the damn thing.

The Book Deal for Sister of Mine

The deal on the book deal.

The long awaited (by me, by loved ones, by my long suffering agent, who is as steadfast as they come) phone call, where I hear that HarperCollins wants to publish my book, Sister of Mine – happened.
It happened 4 months ago, so it’s taken a while for the shock to wear off. This is quite literally a dream come true after years of writing, editing, revising, waiting, rejection, more revisions, and on and on. It is happening.

This is my second book. But in every way, it is different from my first. In genre, size, scope, and more, writing this book taught me so much about being a writer. But also, maybe even more importantly, about sticking to my guns. Or bliss, or dreams, or passion – call it what you want. About not quitting. And hey, don’t get me wrong. I quit a LOT of things. I am great at quitting. I quit exercise crazes all the time. I quit committees that take up too much of my time (but I also say yes to too many committees). Hell, I even quit reading books that aren’t my jam, and I LOVE books. But writing? I can’t quit it.

So here’s the snapshot:

– Book gets signed with HPC. I die a thousand deaths, recover, and continue freaking out for weeks
– I go to their offices, where THEY HAVE MY NAME ON A MOUNTED SCREEN TO WELCOME ME WHEN I ARRIVE, meet my editor, who I just fall in love with right away because she is amazing, and then they GIVE ME A PILE OF BOOKS before I leave. Again: this is the stuff of dreams.
– I am now making revisions based on my editor’s notes. And man, they are thorough. She is amazing at this. In fact, here she would circle the word amazing because I used it recently.

It is a very exciting time. I have also developed a strange habit: I pour over acknowledgements pages of books. They are my favourite part of finishing a book. Now that I’m becoming more acquainted with all the very many people who are part of getting that book out in the world, I want to get to know them as a reader.

Until next time,

LP

A Major Award

I have been writing for a long time. Hell, I am starting to feel like I’ve been around for a long time, and have been writing since I was a teenager, and that’s starting to feel like a lifetime ago. So…I think it’s safe to say that I’m a writer who’s been digging around at it for a while.

Writers are a funny group of people. We often don’t self-identify as writers. It feels too much like, say, calling yourself a chef when you like to cook. Maybe you burn a lot of stuff, but occasionally you make something really good, and it makes you want to keep cooking. Calling yourself a writer: it feels too… bold.

So let me liberate you: if you write regularly, if you love writing, if you are, above all else, sticking with it: you’re a writer. 

I think of all of these things, it’s the stick-with-it-ness that is the most important. When I was in high school, my Latin teacher, the legendary Mr. Geoff Maybee, said to me once, apropos of nothing that I could tell, that I was ‘tenacious.’

The fact that he remembered who I was, and was not confusing me with my best friend Nicole, whom all teachers and even sometimes we ourselves got mixed up, was reason enough for me to remember this for the rest of my life. Tenere: in Latin, this means ‘to hold’. I hold onto things. (I held onto that for all this time. I mean, maybe he was talking about Nicole for all I know). I hold on, and I don’t let go. Not unlike a certain bunny cop, I don’t know when to quit (I’m talking to you, Gideon Grey).

Sometimes I stink. Sometimes what I’m writing is a dog’s breakfast. I have been rejected numerous times. But I also keep succeeding. I know I am a writer. It’s something that has always come naturally and easily to me. It’s something, (dare I say?) that I am good at. Sometimes very good.  You know, as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said: ‘when she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid.’ That kind of thing.  But there are also those other reasons I am a writer: I write regularly, because I love writing. I can’t stop. I’ve gotten better over the years. It’s easier. I love it more. Now I know what I’m doing, it’s easier, I love it, I’m good at it, I love it, etc. A writing loop.

Sometimes I submit to competitions. Bruce Mau’s Incomplete Manifesto for Growth has, as one of the tenets, that you should avoid competitions because they’re not good for you. Ok, fine. That’s sometimes true. However, they are excellent at pushing you: to edit, to clean up, to try, to get out there. And they are very good distractions when you are in that writer’s place of limbo: waiting to hear back on a manuscript. Competitions serve to dull the waiting ache.

I submitted to one called Half the World Global Literati Award. The concept spoke to so much that is dear to my heart. I had recently read, with interest, Nicola Griffith‘s study on the major lit awards going to books with male protagonists. I felt a pang for all the books I had loved as a teen with male leads, and all the stories I had written in my youth trying to emulate them. However, my recently completed novel, Sister of Mine, is all about women: sisters, mothers, daughters, and their lives together and separate from one another. These women, for all of their choices from the mundane to the insane, could be any of us.

I decided to submit, and then put it out of my mind.

I received an announcement that I had made the shortlist of 40 authors from all over the world. I was momentarily distracted and excited. This was very nice. But I knew how the story would end: I wouldn’t win this, because, as I had come to understand, I didn’t win things. [Aside: actually, I’m not just talking about writing things, I am talking about ANYthing. Going all the way back to Latin in high school again. I once won a pen in a game of VERBA (Latin Bingo) and was so ecstatic at finally having won something that I saved the pen, and refused to use it until our Latin exam… where it failed to work.]

And then, while up North with my family, being very Canadian: drinking a tea on a rock while the sun rose, and finishing Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – which, I should tell you, you should drop everything and read right now – my phone rang. It was the Half the World folks. I was their Grand Prize Winner of the Half the World Global Literati Award. 

“Are … you… kidding… me?” is what I warbled into the phone. Always a bridesmaid, you know. Makes a girl question good fortune. But it was true. A major award.

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CBC called me half an hour later, and I took the call closest to the lake, where the reception was the best. It was like a dream.

I am still riding a wave of happiness. And disbelief. And shock.

But then, back to it. Slowly, bit by bit: digging and sweeping and dusting, hoping to uncover an enormous dinosaur, just below the surface. Writing away.

Write on.

LP

Hey, Writer!

This is for you. You might be slogging away in a Starbucks, or in your bed, or on your couch, or at a seaside cottage with a glorious view to inspire you. Maybe you are on the train, on on the can. You are writing. Or you are trying to. You just did, or you wish you had. You might be feeling like this is a solitary vocation.

It is.
I, myself am a high functioning introvert. I have to speak to hundreds of folks for a living, but when it’s over, I often want to hide out by myself somewhere with a cup of Earl Grey and a book. Whenever I go on trips away with others, I find an excuse to find a coffee shop so I can pull out my laptop and write, or my notebook to make notes, or my book, so I can read. Writing (and reading) is a solo (pre)occupation. Take it from this lone wolf. But that doesn’t mean you are, in fact, alone. There are countless of us at it, at this very moment: many staring at their screens right now.

Sometimes it comes easily, in a big whoosh! Other times it is tinkering, polishing, turning words over in your mind until they fit. Sometimes it is standing back to look at the whole thing, or pausing to find the perfect way to describe a place or feeling.

I hope that by baring my soul and journey here, that other writers will feel a little less out to sea.

But whatever you do, keep at it. A bit a day. You’ll be surprised how it adds up.

LP