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Lavinia Ludlow : Writer you Should Know

Lavinia Ludlow got into writing because she couldn’t play ice hockey and didn’t have access to a punching bag. She writes about misfits, troubled relationships, and indy artists struggling to make it. Her style combines the three-chords-and-attitude charm of a garage band with the transatlantic wit of something more clever.

Last month, we kicked off our new fiction series with an excerpt from her second novel Single Stroke Seven

WHO THE FUCK IS LAVINIA LUDLOW?

I’m a musician, writer, contortionist, and failed vegan dividing residence between San Francisco and London. Definitely swipe right if you’re into weird shit like…oh wait, wrong medium.

HOW DID YOU GET INTO WRITING?

It sounds cliché, but writing chose me. At fourteen, I had more pent up rage and vengeance than a Tarantino film. lavinia-ludlowWith no money and little freedom, I couldn’t direct the angst into the typical teenage outlets like ice hockey, electric guitar, or hitting a punching bag. Instead, I hoarded college-ruled binder paper and pencils, and wrote it all down. The early scribbling was nonsensical, but I like to believe that every artist was once a kid painting by number.

“What began as a slapstick tale about a San Francisco rock band morphed into a deeper social commentary, and I’m very proud of this.”

When I hit my twenties, I looked back on the mountain of content I’d shelled out over the last six years, realizing there were a few gems  to aggregate into a novel or two. Many, many years of revision later, here we are.

WHAT DO YOUR WRITING HABITS LOOK LIKE?

With all the travel I do, I don’t have a dedicated desk since my workspace changes just as frequently as my “bed.” I tend to café-hop throughout the day and hostel/motel/couch-surf at night.

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As for writing rituals, I get up around midday, shoot a quad-shot cappuccino, scarf food in front of the computer or notebook, and check email while I wait for the caffeine to kick in. I save the critical-thinking and hardcore editing for the quieter moments in my day when the living space is empty. When inspiration strikes, I duck out of whatever I’m doing and let things run rampant. Rough-drafting takes priority over everything, including eating, sleeping, and whatever else might get in the way of the muse.

WHAT MADE YOU WRITE SINGLE STROKE SEVEN?

I’ve always wanted to honor the narrative of the starving musician and deliver more than just a typical “Behind the Music” plot. I sought to produce a darkly humorous work that would entertain but also allow the reader to identify with headaches like the boss from hell and family drama to deeper heartbreaks like hunger and abusive co-dependent relationships. I wanted to highlight social issues such as unemployment, the skyrocketing cost of living in the Bay Area, and unaffordable health care. What began as a slapstick tale about a San Francisco rock band morphed into a deeper social commentary, and I’m very proud of this.

WHO ARE SOME AUTHORS YOU ADMIRE?

Arthur Nersesian is a total badass and an amazing and introspective dude. If you haven’t yet read any of his books, I highly recommend taking the plunge with Chinese Takeout followed by his debut, The Fuck-Up.

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Marc Schuster is the king of intellectual dark humor. Check out his debut, The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom & Party Girl, and his sophomore novel, The Grievers. He also launched one of the first small press reviews sites called none other than Small Press Reviews, which is still going strong today. The site has been an  influence on my reading, writing, and reviewing. I’m honored that Marc allows me to contribute content from time to time.

WHAT’S EXCITING TO YOU IN LITERATURE TODAY?

The way technology has enabled literary content and communities to flourish all over the world. Yes, our tech advancements have resulted in more white noise than ever and a waning personal touch in our interactions, but I believe this is a very exciting time to be involved in media, whether print or online. With just a few clicks of our fingertips, we can explore narratives from around the world, find small presses, and publish our own work.

“As for writing rituals, I get up around midday, shoot a quad-shot cappuccino, scarf food in front of the computer or notebook, and check email while I wait for the caffeine to kick in.”

I’m also fascinated by recent headlines of how e-books haven’t overthrown the printed page, and how the upcoming generation is experiencing a degree of “digital fatigue.” I’m a big fan of the printed book as I feel there is something very intimate about touching the physical pages of a text, being able to lend and receive a book, and not have to worry about battery life, backlight eyestrain, or WiFi connection.

Digital media has supported much of my writing efforts, but in the age of information overload, I adore seeing physical copies of books and ’zines in circulation. I’m also stoked about seeing small presses opening brick-and-mortar stores, which will afford independent books the shelf space they deserve.

WHAT’S SOMETHING (WRITING RELATED) YOU STRONGLY BELIEVE THAT YOU THINK MOST PEOPLE WOULD DISAGREE WITH?

Self-published work that hasn’t gone through a formal feedback loop, multiple rounds of editing, and a final copy-edit polish. Before you break a crowbar against my skins, hear me out.

One: I know my work is far from perfect, and it will never be perfect.

Two: I fully support any guerrilla form of publishing, which circulates works so often overlooked by established mediums.

Three: amazing writers and books have emerged from self-published efforts for centuries. However, today, the ease of self-publishing with a wad of cash and a few mouse clicks (take Amazon for example) has injected vast amounts of undercooked work into the world. Feedback is crucial, and it needn’t be from pricey editing houses or a professional that charges you by the page or hour of work. One can easily seek opinions and criticism from a writing community or local workshop. Hell, I seek feedback from my peers and they seek it out from me. Doing so gives writers insight into how their work can improve, especially when it comes to more global overarching themes in a full-fledged novel.

WHAT WAS ONE BOOK YOU HAD TO READ FOR SCHOOL THAT YOU LOVED?

Waiting for Godot. The existentialism, obscurity, and dark-natured content struck a chord in me, and became a major literary and life influence. The Great Gatsby of course, because it’s beautifully written and classic American. I adore that era of hardcore partying, the flamboyant décor and dress, and just how tragic and dysfunctional Fitzgerald portrayed the richest of the rich.

AND HATED?

The Scarlet Letter. Flat writing and completely overrated. Alright, let the death threats begin. I can handle them.

HAVE YOU GOT ANY ADVICE FOR SOMEONE STARTING OUT?

Read as much as you can to gain a better sense of your own writing, and of course, don’t solicit people for a review or critical feedback unless you’re as invested in their work as you want them to invest in yours.
Be a humble motherfucker and don’t turn into an arrogant dipshit just because you land a book deal or get a few short pieces published. We are all here to celebrate and support each other’s work so definitely pull your weight.

Understand that life will never present you with a distraction-less vacuum of time and space to write. You will always have unforeseen circumstances to deal with or other personal demons, which might hinder or even fully prohibit you from consistently focusing on your work. If you’re serious about writing (or any art), dedicate time to your craft every day, even if it’s just a few minutes in the morning between your trip to the bathroom and brewing your morning cup of coffee.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?

Ten years ago, I’d imagine I’d still be jet-setting around the world, working, living, and writing on the road. In the last few years, I have developed the innate desire for my roots to sink deeper. I’m not just in need of consistency, but I desire peace of mind and body.

This jaded and cynical hater of romance is in a committed relationship, and I am now at a crossroads where I need to decide where (or maybe which country) I should officially call a permanent home. I worry how my perspective and approach to writing will change if I adopt a more “domestic” focus but I also worry about falling behind like the protagonist in Single Stroke Seven, who feels like the “super senior” in the local music scene who never grew up, never wanted to move to the next stage of adulthood.

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Whatever life path I choose, I know I’ll always have a backlog of stories to inject into the world with the standard Ludlow grit. So although I may finally set up shop in one city for the majority of the year and terrifyingly yield to the notion of monogamy or monogamous polyamory.  On a creative level, I’m not going anywhere.

 

Follow Lavinia on Twitter and Fictionaut. You can find her short fiction at  Pear Noir!Chicago LiteratiCurbside Splendor Semi-Annual JournalKnee-Jerk MagazineNailed MagazineGloom Cupboard, and The Molotov Cocktail,

If you have fiction in need of a good home, please see our submission guidelines

This interview has been edited for length, content, and clarity. 

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