#TuesdayTalk with Laura Langston. Her new novel, Stepping Out, is on shelves now!
Tell us about your book.
Fifteen-year-old Paige Larsson loves to laugh. She likes it even more when others laugh with her. As a YouTube comedy vlogger, laughter is Paige’s currency in life. It eases the pain of nasty comments, agonizing moments in gym class and awkward pauses at parties. Now Paige is about to step out of her comfort zone and compete in the prestigious International Teens in Comedy festival. Winning will give her the opportunity to work with some of the biggest names in comedy. It’ll also mean $10,000 for her school’s performing arts department. But Paige has always used her humor to mask the pain of a disability, and in the world of stand-up comedy, that won’t cut it anymore.
What was the catalyst for your story?
It’s ironic that I’ve written a book about a comedian because comedy makes me really uncomfortable. My partner loves stand-up. But if we’re watching a talk show and a stand-up comedian comes on, I literally have to leave the room. I’m so afraid they will bomb their set and embarrass themselves. So when Irish comedian Dylan Moran came to town it was a big deal that I agreed to go and watch him. As I sat in the audience, I began to think about how much nerve it takes to get up on a stage with the only goal of making people laugh. My writer mind went to work and I thought ‘what if you want to make people laugh but you can barely bring yourself to even walk across the stage to the microphone?’ The story took shape from there.
What was your favourite book as a child?
I can’t pick just one. It’s like asking me to pick a favorite flower or favorite food or even a favorite child. Impossible. And it also depends what age you’re talking about. As a really young child, I taught myself to read with Dr. Seuss and adored Charlotte’s Web. By the time I was 11, I was hooked on Nancy Drew and had fallen in love with a series of Sue Barton nurse books. After that, I was captivated by a novel called Mrs. Mike, which was set in the Canadian north. In my teens, I went through a Russian novelist phase and loved Anne Rice’s Interview With a Vampire too. I have eclectic taste!
In your opinion, what makes a compelling story?
To me a compelling story depends on a strong, appealing character and a plot that continually presents that age old question ‘what happens next?’
Does your book have a niche or specialty market?
I don’t really think so. It’s about a teen who wants to achieve her dream in spite of (what she perceives as) the limitations of her disability. I think any teen or pre-teen who has a dream and wants to achieve something will be able to relate, even if they don’t have a physical disability. We all feel insecure and unsure of ourselves at times, especially when we face an obstacle or what feels like a ominous goal.
Do you gravitate toward a certain genre or type of writing?
Lately I’ve been writing quite a bit of contemporary fiction for teens but I also love paranormal fiction and historical fiction (I’ve written both). I also write for a variety of age ranges . I can’t say any one genre or age calls to me more than another. It all depends on the kind of story I’m trying to tell and what audience I’m hoping to reach.
What types of conversations do you hope will come out of your book?
I hope Stepping Out will spark conversations around the issues of overcoming challenges, believing in yourself and not being defined by what you think of as your limitations.
Tell us a little known or interesting fact about yourself.
My secret superpower is an ability to talk to my characters when I dream. And it doesn’t matter what language they speak because I always understand them.
Laura Langston is the award-winning author of nineteen internationally acclaimed books for children and young adults. A former journalist with the CBC, Laura also writes non-fiction for such publications as Canadian Gardening magazine. When she’s not writing, reading or walking her shetland sheepdog, she can be found in the garden or the kitchen. Laura lives with her family and assorted pets in Victoria, British Columbia. Visit www.lauralangston.com for more information.