It's always good to meet new friends. Just be sure to carry Handi-Wipes with you...just in case.

It’s always good to meet new friends. But carry Handi-Wipes with you…just in case. You never know where the sticky stuff on kids’ fingers comes from.

When was the last time you met a friend you didn’t know yet?

Me too. It’s been a while. Well, I’m here to solve that problem for you.

I met this really great author, who also happens to be a really funny, nice person. I’d like you to meet her, too. You know me, I’m just generous like that.

Her name is Laura Palkovic and she wrote Some Several Souls.

It's a novel, but this is three-year old Laura on the cover. I asked her for a more recent picture but she said "The last time I had my picture taken for an interview, it really looked like I had been hitting the embalming fluid too heavily." She passed on a more recent picture. Go figure.

It’s a novel, but this is three-year old Laura on the cover. I asked her for a more recent picture but she said “The last time I had my picture taken for an interview, it really looked like I had been hitting the embalming fluid too heavily.” She passed on a more recent picture. Go figure.

So, through the magic of advanced cyberization, Laura and I virtually chit-chatted about her book.

I started by raving, not like a lunatic–like a fan. When I interview a person, I like to make her/him feel superterrificish. Manipulative? Maybe. Effective? Like putty in my hands, People.

I just want you to relax and feel good. This mask and tourniquet around your throat isn't too sung, is it? Good. I just want you to feel free to answer all of my questions.

I just want you to relax. This mask and tourniquet around your throat isn’t too snug, is it? Good. I just want you to feel free to answer all of my questions.

Here’s an edited version of my review of her book:

Laura, Dahling! Your début novel is mahvelous! You explore the full range of human emotion. And you do it so deftly, with uncanny insight, and delightful wit.

Your many characters (not too many) are real people: quirky, flawed, tender, struggling to be whole without knowing how, generous, loyal and ornery. They are family–their own family–and they became my family as I lived with them through your rich and wonderful descriptions and adept, pitch-perfect dialog.

You, my dear, are a reader’s writer. By that, I mean she attends to the smallest detail to make each character and scene come alive. I felt the love behind the tension between Molly and Anne. My heart ached for Sean and Killian. I rooted for Trevor, broken but not irreparable. I wanted a pal like Sam. Do see what I mean? Of course you do!

And the ghosts…who doesn’t love a ghost?

I highly recommend this book for anyone who has ever been wounded in childhood (who hasn’t?) and still feels the scar, anyone who enjoys reading a story with characters so real that they pop off the page and into your heart, and anyone who…oh, I just recommend it to anyone!

Laura was ready to be interviewed.

Lorna: So Laura, titles fascinate me–mostly where they come from. Some Several Souls is a neat alliteration and catchy. Where did you come up with it?

Laura: Lorna, you are the greatest person in the world! Has anyone ever told you that?

Lorna: Actually, yes. My dog tells me that all the time. But back to the title…

Laura: Oh. Yes. Originally the book was going to be titled Breddlebene, after the little town in which the story was set. It was quite late in the process (actually, after I’d submitted it to Dog Ear Publishing) that I changed it to Some Several Souls on the advice of most of the people who had already read it.  Either they couldn’t pronounce the word “Breddlebene”, or they felt the location didn’t have enough connection to the story to give it title status.  I resisted, but finally acknowledged the wisdom of their ways. I like this title because it feels more inclusive and draws me closer to all the characters.

Lorna: So it wasn’t the alliteration thing, eh? I thought sure it was that… Okay, now I’m going to play hardball with you. Build a profile of your target audience, kind of like those forensic profilers do on those gritty crime dramas I shouldn’t watch.

Laura: Oh, dear. Female, about five nine, overweight, need some attitude adjustments.  Almost just kidding.  Definitely female, ones who have been pushed around but are smart enough to learn from their experiences and find a way to rewrite their histories in ways that satisfy them. My goal in telling this story was to write it in such a way that when the reader got to the bottom of one page she would feel compelled to go to the top of the next page to find out what happened next. I just wanted to tell my story well, like Stephen King does about 100% of the time, regardless of his subject matter.

Lorna: I think men in touch with their feminine side would enjoy it, too. But that’s just me… Moving on. The picture you chose for the cover is intriguing. You also refer to it (or the little girl in it) in the narrative. Which came first, the photo or the story? And tell us how that all evolved.

Laura: I think the story came first, at least the idea of the story. Finding the picture of the little girl did a great deal to help me shape the story as I did.  That’s a picture of me at about three years-old, standing on the beach at the place in the book I call Hume Bay.  When I first saw that picture I had an initial dislike for myself as I then was. I don’t know why. I had a more positive response to a later picture that I also describe in my story. I think I wanted to see myself as the five year old and not as the three year old. While this was not the original impetus for the story, as I wrote and rewrote the book the events around the younger girl began to form and take shape; both versions of the children then became important characters and their story became the crux of the novel.

Lorna: That picture was worth way more than 1,000 words, then, huh? Don’t answer that–rhetorical question. This book is filled with characters that are, well, characters. Who was your favorite and why?

Laura: Molly, because she represents my major point of view and I know her best. I’m pretty fond of most of the others. I also like Molly because I think she has a clearer view of life than I do. She knows who she likes and who she doesn’t. I think I’ve learned to be a little more forthright from spending time in her head.

Lorna: I love it when a pretend person knows more than you do, especially when you make up the pretend person. Kind of gives new meaning to the old chestnut: “Write about what you know…” What about your least favorite character? What made her/him less appealing to you?

Laura: Roger Fitzmaurice, hands down, because he’s a snake, a rat, a permanent oil stain on the white linen of life.

Lorna: Agreed. That guy reminded me of someone I once married! Reading about his shenanigans was surreal, and not in a good way. Speaking of surreal…there is an interesting and often amusing supernatural element that wafts throughout the story line. Tell us about why Ned had to be dead to do what he did.

Laura: Ghosts are natural to me. I grew up in a haunted house, literally, and they were my scary playmates, so having a major character be a ghost wasn’t much of a stretch. From a practical point of view Dead Ned gets to sit in on and listen to a lot of things he missed in life, which not only would be harder to do if he were still alive, but also wouldn’t have the same weight for him if he were still occupying space. His ego won’t work for him anymore in terms of allowing himself to deny his responsibility to Molly, and if he weren’t dead, we wouldn’t have the plot device that he can’t move on to heaven until he takes care of his unfinished business. I also liked exploring his frustration when he couldn’t get the living to listen to him.  In the end, though, the message I got was that it wasn’t what he said or did but the fact that has there for his family and friends, even if it was once removed in spirit that made the difference for all of them.

Lorna: Dead or alive, “moving on” is something of a challenge for lots of us. But I digress. See what I mean about the “moving on” thing? Let’s examine the ever popular Point of View or voice. You state from the beginning: “When I look back on that time, on the oddness of events, of how that year changed me, it truly seems like it happened to someone else. And so I think of it in the third person, omniscient.” That’s a bold choice in this day and age. Tell us about that choice.

Laura: This is another decision that came late in the process, and it was purely practical. I liked the idea of telling the story in third person with the preface that it’s actually first person, sort of. Originally, I hadn’t ended the sentence with the word “omniscient.” Then a friend pointed out that I was describing events that Molly wasn’t a party to. So I added the word “omniscient”, which, if you take her preface seriously, begs the question, “So, is this for real, or did that Jenkins girl make the whole thing up?” I’ve developed a taste for ambiguity.

Lorna: I can see that…or I think I can (I say, scratching my head and deciding to drop this before I get a headache.) Many people believe that fiction is really a memoir that isn’t ready to “come clean.” Does what happened in this book bear any resemblance to what happened to you?

Laura: Glad you asked, because no one ever comes out and asks me if my mother tried to do to me what Molly’s mother tried to do to her (spoiler alert averted). The answer is no. However, there are numerous events described in the book and adapted to the story that I either experienced directly or were told to me as parts of family history. Little listeners have big ears, even if adults think children are too simple or stupid to understand, and while F. Scott Fitzgerald held that living well is the best revenge, I’m here to tell you that writing well is even better.

Lorna: Well said! And with that being said, having written such a good book, tell me, if you could change one thing about this book, what would it be and why?

Laura: Somehow, I would try to simplify the opening chapters so there weren’t so many characters to try to keep track of so quickly. But I guess funerals can be like that.

Lorna: Heck yes! I get confused at small family gatherings. Name tags help, but that wouldn’t work in a book, would it. Another rhetorical question. Here’s a real question for you: What one piece of advice would you give to writers trying to get published?

Laura: If you’re going to self-publish, try to research the different companies. Look for other books that that have researched and rated self-publishing companies. In terms of actually writing, (okay, this is more than one thing), be very minimal in the use of the word “just”, the phrase “made his/her/its way”, and for God’s sake, don’t let characters sigh more than twice in the entire book. And remember these words of wisdom from Ernest Hemingway: “The first draft is always shit.” I went through at least five drafts and I will stand by Ernest on this one. At least as far as novels go.

Lorna: I did say “one” right? But those were all great pieces of advice, Laura. [Note to readers of my blog: Hemingway and Laura said the “s” word, not me. I would’ve used “crap” or “poop”, even if I had to misquote Hemingway.] [Additional note to readers: I managed to put Laura, me and Hemingway in the same sentence. Twice. Impressive.] Getting back to the interview…give us a fun fact about this book.

Laura: The name of the town, and originally the name of the book, came from a remark my Canadian cousin made. She lives in the town of Breadalbane, Ontario. Up there it’s pronounced “Broadalbin”, but she said she suspects the original settlers, who came from Breadalbane, Perthshire Scotland, pronounced it “Breddlebene”. She also wishes I would get a life, since she assumes I based the character of Anne on her. Now that she mentioned it…

Lorna: I’m glad you changed the title of the book. You might have had an old-fashioned Highlands fight on your hands if you hadn’t. Now, give us a fun fact about you.

Laura: When the night is dark and the moon is full and I am all alone in my house, well, sometimes I like to do the Time Warp again.

Lorna: Again? (Shifts in chair while casually Googling “Time Warp.”) Um. Ah. Do you have any more writing projects planned or underway?

Laura: I’m about 2/3 of the way through the sequel to Some Several Souls.  I’ve been about 2/3 through the sequel for some time now. Do you remember that whole section on procrastination in Some Several Souls? Written from life.

Lorna: Maybe you’re stuck in a Time Warp…again. Just kidding! What question do you wish had I asked you but didn’t? Go ahead. Ask it and answer it!

Laura: Do I like to talk to book clubs and reading groups?

Laura: You betcha!

Lorna: I should have let you do this entire interview. It would have been a lot shorter. Hey, how can anyone interested in Some Several Souls get a copy?

Laura: If you live in the Plattsburgh area, visit The Corner-Stone Book Store on Margaret Street, or Conroy’s Organics up on Route 9. Amazon and Barnes and Nobles carry it on the Web (if you get it there, or have a current open account with either of them and think it merits at least one star, I’d really appreciate it if you’d give me a review and your honest opinion.) There’s also a copy at the Plattsburgh Public Library. I don’t mind people getting it from the library – that’s your tax money at work – and I get a kick out of trolling through the online cardex to see if anyone’s taken it out. I have no shame.

Lorna: I see you are getting the hang of self-promotion. Good for you. Maybe I can help with that a bit more. Before I let you go, can you provide us with a short teaser from your book meant to intrigue and tantalize us?

Laura: You already did that for me, but how about this one: “There had been, it seemed to Molly, a sort of glow about Trevor, a preternatural light that shone out of his eyes. Molly was not entirely sure what ‘preternatural’ meant. She had come across the term ‘preternatural light’ several times in the course of her literary adventures, usually cheap romances that employed occult subplots.”

Lorna: That was great. People, if your curiosity is piqued, do yourself a favor and commune with Some Several Souls.

Look for more author interviews in the next few weeks. It’s part of my never-ending quest to be a better person by helping others.

Whatever you need. I'm here to help.

Whatever you need. I’m here to help.