Author Feature: Laura Langston
Fifteen-year-old Megan “Cause Queen” Caliente is president of the political science club and likes to make her voice heard. But after the protest she organized on the Las Vegas Strip takes an unexpected turn, she is suddenly wishing she could disappear. When her mother comes to pick her up at the police station, Megan learns, to her horror, that her whole life has been a lie. Her father is a convicted terrorist, responsible for the deaths of more than two hundred people, and her mother has been living under an assumed name for fifteen years. Megan’s mom is taken away in handcuffs, and Megan is expected to return to her regular life under the supervision of her aunt. But everyone, students and teachers alike, is treating her differently now. Cruel accusations and gossip, as well as persistent reporters, follow her everywhere. Worried that she is destined to follow in her father’s footsteps, Megan, with the help of the charismatic Matt Mendez, the only person at school who hasn’t turned on her, decides to track down the father she thought was dead and get some answers.
What image/scene/character did you start this book with?
The book started in my mind with the character – Megan – finding out her father wasn’t dead as she believed, but was alive and in prison for committing an act of terrorism. That was the mental scene that gripped me. That said, the book doesn’t open there but opens earlier as I wanted to establish Megan’s character and give the reader time to get to know her before introducing the inciting story incident.
What kind of research did you do for your book?
I actually did a fair amount of research for In Plain Sight. I read stories (non fiction accounts) of people who were targeted and ostracised after the 9/11 attacks because they were Muslims. They were automatically assumed to be sympathetic to the terrorists and the hatred they encountered was pronounced. I also read a non fiction book called My Father was a Terrorist by Zak Ebrahim. It affected me quite profoundly. I watched a Canadian documentary called A Jihadi in the Family that featured Christianne Boudreau, and that impacted me as well. Once I was in the middle of writing the book, I ended up contacting a couple of American lawyers who helped me figure out some of the legal implications of Megan’s story.
Do you write in chronological order?
Usually. But in the beginning brainstorming time, I often ‘hear’ or ‘see’ bits of dialogue or character interactions, so I always right those chunks down and save them. They often make their way into the final novel.
What’s the hardest part of writing?
It all depends on my mood and what’s happening that day. Sometimes the hardest part of writing isn’t the actual writing – it’s waiting for that first review or an editor to get back to you. Waiting for any kind of feedback can be hard. But in terms of the actual writing itself, I probably find the first draft harder than the revision process. I love revising and polishing because that’s when the story really comes together.
What’s your favourite form of procrastination?
Who me? I don’t procrastinate. Not often. Not much. Okay, not for long. During the day when I sit down (or stand up at the treadmill desk) to write, I generally get on with it. I sometimes spent a few minutes surfing the news sites beforehand but once I’m in the groove, I stay there. At night, though, I sometimes sit down and plan to do some brainstorming or plotting and I reach for a book instead. So reading is probably my preferred form of procrastination.
What book do you wish you wrote?
There are a number of books I wish I wrote because there are so many good books out there! But a classic that comes to mind is Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. It’s a powerful story about friendship, love, life and death. And in the end, what else really matters?
What is your favourite aspect / part of your new book?
In Plain Sight is a pretty heavy book and there aren’t a lot of ‘feel good’ moments in it. I think my favorite scene is when Megan is in the kitchen with her aunt, just after her mother is taken away, and her aunt is trying to explain that Megan’s life as she once knew it, is over. I’m pleased with the emotion in that scene. I also like the interactions between Megan and Matt because Matt provides some levity and humor and he’s one of the few people who never turns his back on Megan.
What is your writing ritual?
Hmm. I’m not sure I have one. Does that make me the only writer without one?? I have a few little routines or habits though. Every novel I write gets its own notebook. In some cases, they get an entire binder. I keep notes on my computer but I like the physicality of having a binder or notebook where I collect random bits and pieces – everything from pictures or newspaper clippings to bits of information I find on line or snippets of conversation I overhear. So there is that. Oh, and I like to write with a purple pen. Preferably a gel pen.
In Plain Sight is available now.
Laura Langston is the award–winning author of over fifteen books for children and young adults, including Hot New Thing and Stepping Out. When she’s not writing, reading or walking her dogs, Laura can usually be found spying on people in the grocery store or twisting herself into a pretzel in yoga class. For more information, visit www.lauralangston.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @LauraLangston.