Saturday, June 20, 2009

Scott Laser author of "The Year that Follows": Loaded Questions Interview

The Year That Follows by Scott Lasser is a novel that delves into the lives of two related and yet entirely different individuals. On one hand there's the struggling yet intelligent, fiercely independent Cat who is a single mother living in Detroit. Then there's Sam, a man who knows his life is coming to a close as well as the fact that he's not done all that good of a job at many things especially where is daughter Cat is concerned. The lives of both Cat and Sam are changed forever when Wall Street broker Kyle -- Cat's brother and Sam's son, is killed in the attack on the World Trade Center buildings on September 11th, 2001.

In this third novel author Scott Lasser deals delicatly and yet honestly with both the tragedy of 9/11 and the equally unsettling tragedy occurs when families grow apart. The Year that Follows focuses on the paths of Cat and her father Sam, both flawed individuals, with a frank honesty as their lives draw them back together. Front and center is the theme of lost children, Kyle's death, Cat's withdrawn relationship with her father and in what is perhaps the most compelling of the novel's storylines Cat's search for the infant child her brother had just learned was his days before his death. Lasser does a very admirable job of telling the story of real people with real flaws attempting a real reconciliation.

Kelly Hewitt: I read on your blog (Scott Lasser's Blog) that you have been working to publicize the release of The Year That Follows and are doing a book tour. In a different post you wrote: “writing is not performance, not really, but writers are sometimes called upon to perform, live, in person. I’m glad of it. Sure, it’s what’s on the page that matters, but a writer’s physical presence can bring added attention to the words.” I am curious, how have your book tour visits been
going? Do you still feel the same about the necessity of an author to perform from time to time?

Scott Lasser: How’s the tour going? My view is this: anytime you can find a bookstore that wants to have you visit it’s going well. I’ve enjoyed the events so far, about half of those scheduled. I don’t know that there is a necessity for writers to perform, but I do think that every little bit of promotion helps, and readings and talks are part of that.

Television still seems the most effective marketing machine ever invented, but writers hardly show up there anymore. (We’re talking lack of invitations more than lack of willingness. Even Cormac McCarthy went on Oprah, one of the last venues.) In fact, it seems likely that the publishing houses will start producing webcast interviews and the like, a relatively cheap way to reach readers. In fact, Kelly, you might consider this. One thing seems fairly clear to me: people buy stuff off screens.

KH: The events that make The Year That Follows such a great novel are centered around the death of Kyle during the 9/11 attacks. I have to admit that while reading the beginning chapters, I was very nervous about how you would deal with such a sensitive subject. My fears were unnecessary as you dealt with the events of 9/11 very respectfully and subtly by providing the reader with scenes before and after but not during. Did you ever consider writing the scenes in which Kyle died in the 9/11 attacks?

SL: No. Journalists did a great job of that, and had I added such a scene, with the inevitable cell phone call and the like, it would have felt gratuitous, which is to say not essential to this particular story.

KH: I thought it was great that Bryan Cranston (television's Breaking Bad and Malcolm in the Middle) recently plugged your book in Time magazine. Have there been other surprising endorsements of your novels?

SL: Well, it does seem that I owe Bryan Cranston a favor. And yes, I’ve had some surprising endorsements, mostly from other writers whom I respect greatly and who also blurbed my books: Christopher Tilghman, Richard Russo, Anita Shreve, and Wally Lamb, none of whom I’ve met, with the exception of Russo, five years after the fact. I’m grateful to each.

KH: Your website (click here to visit) notes that you have worked a wide variety of jobs: including ski instructor, English instructor, waiter, steel worker, government bond trader, and financial advisor and now author. Do any of your crazy work stories from so many professions find their way into your writing?

SL: Of course. I published a whole novel about Wall Street. A couple years ago I published a ski-instructor story. I’m currently working on a novel that will make some use of my time in the steel plant. I’m troubled by novels whose characters have no visible means of support. I don’t know about you, but I seem to spend a large amount of my time trying to make a living.

KH: Your first novel Battle Creek centers around a minor-league baseball team and America's relationship with its favorite sport. All I Could Get, your second novel, focuses on business and the world of bond trading. Each of these novels has a theme but also deal with issues of family and relationships. The Year that Follows seems less like your first two novels because it focuses much more on family not the world of baseball or the world of bond trading. Do you think that's a fair assessment? What would you tell your readers is the theme of The Year that Follows.

SL: Battle Creek and All I Could Get grew out of my experiences in very male milieus, whereas The Year That Follows did not; in fact, it has a heroine. I suppose that might explain the difference you feel. As for the theme, well, that’s always a tough one for the writer. I prefer that the reader makes that call. I guess I could say it’s a book about bloodlines and the meaning of family. Man, that sounds trite.

KH: In an interview I did with Wally Lamb not all that long ago he expressed a worry about how many stories he has left in him and noted that each novel seems to take him longerand longer. Now that you've written your third novel, have you ever had a similar feeling?

SL: Oh boy, there’s as question. Yes and no. I’m usually cutting things from novels. I suppose I figure if I can’t make it go away it will come back in the next book. As for length of time to write, well, I’d like to be faster. I’m actually working on that.

KH:There's one question I always have to ask. I realize that The Year That Follows has just been released but what can fans of you and your novels expect to see next from you? Have you already begun work on another project?

SL: I’m working on a new novel set in my hometown of Detroit. My goal is to have a first draft done by the end of this year, with something I could show my agent by the end of the following year, if not before that. I am certainly feeling more urgency now. Still, The Year That Follows came out about a year after it was accepted at Knopf, just to give you an idea of the lead time on these things.


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"The Year that Follow" - struggling yet intelligent. Love the year that follow.

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"The Year that Follow" - struggling yet intelligent. Love the year that follow.

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