Event: Big Holiday Read – Program Finale with Sophie Laguna
Where: Footscray Library – 56 Paisley Street, Footscray 3011
Date and Time: 28/02/2018 at 14:00 – 15:00
Price: Free Event
Host: Bruno Lettieri
Guest: Sophie Laguna
I generally enjoy watching Bruno interview and engage in discussion with Australian Authors. I firmly believe that people like Bruno are the connectors between the Writers and the Readers. Bruno has a talent for seeing things from a different perspective.
During The Write Zone and The Twilight School events, I had seen Bruno and Sofie Laguna in conversation before, and I was looking forward to attending this event. Unfortunately, due to public transport, I had to leave a little earlier, however, I managed to take notes and pick up some pearls of Writerly Wisdom.
Bruno and Sofie talked about the recent trend of the “Performance Authors”, a trend Sofie appeared not to be fond of, her position on the topic was that “The book should do all the talking.”. Sofie recently came back from the Perth Writer’s Festival, the experience was illuminating, but not a requirement as a Writer.
While I disagree, I understand her position and where she was coming from. An author shouldn’t rely on an Author Event to clarify things, it should all be there in the book, however, Bruno offered a counter-point.
Readers of Sofie’s book, The Eye of the Sheep, have approached Sofie, saying how they thought that the book was about Domestic Violence, however, when they came to see her at a Book Discussion event, they learned that there were other factors involved and it enriched their reading experience.
In my opinion, when it comes to creative endeavours, your intentions don’t matter, only your impact. So, in principle, I agree with Sofie that Authors shouldn’t rely on Author Events to clarify context or their position on something within their work, the work should speak for itself.
In saying that, I think its important for Writers and Authors to be accessible to their Readers. Sometimes, it is valuable for the reader to be able to ask questions of the writer and to connect with like-minded people at Author Events. Writing can be an isolating occupation and I think it helps to put in place steps to counter-act that.
Bruno and Sofie then moved on to talk about Reading and Reading Habits. “It’s really easy to turn on a screen to escape, but I prefer to read, to immerse myself in a good book. An Immersive Read is difficult to find. I don’t find them enough.”
Then Bruno asked Sofie why she writes, Sofie appeared to be a little overwhelmed by the endless possibilities (“any given day there’s a different reason.”), but she paused to collect her thoughts, “I do it because it’s satisfying to write. I do it because it’s powerful to write. In our past, there’s always an injustice, writing is a way of getting that resolved, a way of processing it.”
Bruno then asked about the inspiration for the novel. He wanted to know what was the conscious genesis of The Choke. Sofie explained how she had been watching a documentary made by Nick Broomfield. The documentary was called Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer which was about the life of Aileen Wuornos, an American serial killer who murdered seven men. Over the course of the documentary, it was revealed that Aileen Wuornos has suffered a terribly traumatic childhood, which had eventually influenced and shaped her into the person she had become.
Sofie talked about how angry she had felt about the lack of justice that Aileen had experienced, that she wanted to “give that thirteen-year-old girl a voice”. So, while Justine is based on the idea of Aileen as a young lady, eventually over the course of writing the novel, Justine “reveals herself, sentence by sentence”, and that Justine “grows on her own” into a three-dimensional character.
Bruno and Sofie then moved onto themes: friendship, love, survival in a toxic environment, and the repressed anger of damaged men. Bruno spoke of how he thought The Choke was about what can’t be done, Sofie seemed surprised by this statement at first, but then realised there was some truth to this.
Sofie confessed that she had felt conflicted about her decision to display Justine’s teachers as ineffectual, however, she recalled an event where she had spoken with a dyslexic reader. The reader spoke of a mirrored experience with Justine’s struggles within the Australian education system. The reader had felt relieved to have their personal struggles validated.
Bruno and Sofie then spoke of how the landscape of The Choke transported and immersed a reader into the narrative world, how Justine herself uses the landscape and the natural world as a refuge from the traumatic events she experiences. “We live in difficult times, where we all need some respite. We all need our refuges, don’t we?”
Bruno had agreed, “It’s important business looking after the soul.”.
Bruno was curious as to how Sofie would describe the elements of a good book. Sofie explained that she had asked her mother this exact same question, and Sofie’s mother had responded with, “Does it introduce you to a new and important world? Does it introduce you to new ideas?”.