Author Feature: Lisa J. Lawrence

#TuesdayTalk with Lisa J. Lawrence. Her new YA novel, Rodent, is on shelves now.

Tell us a bit about your book.

Rodent is my first novel. It’s about a sixteen-year-old girl who is stuck caring for her younger siblings—from laundry and meal prep to doing the school run—because of her mother’s alcoholism. While she’s trying to keep everyone alive and together at home, she starts grade eleven at a new school. That’s a roller coaster ride of new relationships, disasters, and triumphs.

What was the catalyst for your story?

One night, a few years ago, I was going through the bedtime routine with my three-year-old daughter. As I tucked her in to bed, I thought, “What would it be like for a child to have to do all of this?” I started thinking about situations in which a parent is absent or incapacitated—leaving a child to do a parent’s job— and the story bloomed in my head.

What was your favorite book as a child?

I was one of those kids who read any and everything—even the back of the cereal box—so it’s hard to pick one favorite. What Was I Scared Of? by Dr. Seuss stands out in my mind. Those pale green pants were deliciously terrifying! As I got older, I really liked Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary and everything by Judy Blume, especially Tiger Eyes. As a teen, Margaret Laurence developed as a favorite, particularly The Stone Angel and The Diviners.

In your opinion, what makes a compelling story?

Broadly speaking, I believe a compelling story includes characters readers care about, an interesting plot, and a little bit of grit. A suspenseful battle/chase scene never hurt either (think Harry Potter)!

How do you see your novel speaking to its readers?

I think readers who are victims of bullying, who have loved ones with addictions, or who generally struggle in their day-to-day lives will relate to this story. The protagonist, Isabelle, is often trying to deal with things that are out of her control. Part of her frustration comes from fighting against the path her and her siblings are on but feeling powerless to change it.

Do you gravitate toward a certain genre or type of writing? Why?

The stories in my head right now are realistic fiction for teens. I joke that I should write a trilogy set in a dystopian future, but I haven’t felt the spark for that one yet! I love writing about this stage of life, with characters navigating a very complex world with an emerging sense of self. I also think teens have incredible strengths and capabilities they’re sometimes not even aware of, so I like writing about characters surviving and prevailing in difficult circumstances.

What types of conversations do you hope will come out of your book?

Some possible conversations I hope will come out of my book include bullying, delinquent parents, alcoholism (or addictions in general), the foster system, relationships, stress, friendship, honesty, isolation, and the need for a support network. Most of all, I hope readers are engaged in the story and feel they have traveled this journey with Isabelle by the time they finish the novel.

Tell us a little known or interesting fact about yourself. Lawrence, Lisa 07-06-15 BW

Since I was a teenager, I have been inexplicably obsessed with Italy (with no family connection whatsoever). I now have a master’s degree in Italian Studies. Even hearing the language makes my heart beat a little faster! Also, I have never been downhill skiing or snowboarding in my life, which probably makes me a disgraceful Canadian!

Lisa J. Lawrence grew up in small towns in British Columbia and Alberta. She could often be found in the library during summer vacations or hammering away at an old typewriter. She graduated from the University of Alberta with a BA in Romance Languages, an MA in Italian Studies and a BED in Secondary Education. Since then she has taught preschool, post-secondary Italian, and Spanish as a second language. She enjoys the visual and performing arts, the Rocky Mountains and haunting the local library. Lisa lives in Edmonton, Alberta, with her husband and three children.

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