As the temperature creeps up us Topshop girls go on the hunt for for juicy, un-put-downable books to pore over and be swept away with whilst basking in the sun in our newest bikini. There’s a few that have peaked our interest this year – the much debated Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, the teenie-loving Hunger Games series– but it’s a very different sort of novel that has had us voraciously turning the pages this spring. Enter Laura Lamont: the country-bumpkin turned glamorous silent film star whose life unfolds amidst fame, fortune and the inevitable upsets on the way. It’s definitely not a fairy tale but it isn’t exactly tragedy either. (Our favourite character Ginger is as about as cheeky and goofy as they come!)
Emma Straub is the creator and pen behind Lamont and has proved herself a dab hand at spot-on, richly detailed storytelling. Carefully spanning decades of Lamont’s life, Straub muses on the complexities of fame through the eyes of someone who doesn’t feel quite worthy. There may be plenty of Fitzgerald style decadent misery here and a hint of quirky The Artist style fun but the novel and story still feels new. Whether you’re a fan of the Golden Age of Film or of really great new writing, we’re guessing you won’t regret picking up a copy.
We spoke to the Brooklyn based author, Emma Straub, about research, her favourite characters and not giving up on writing.
Where did you get the inspiration for Laura Lamont?
Not to sound too terribly morbid, but in the obituaries! I was working on something else at the time, and stumbled across an obit for the 1940s actress Jennifer Jones. It was a novel–it was that clear to me immediately. Dramatic, romantic, epic. I knew I wanted to write a book about a movie star starting right then.
Have you always been interested in Hollywood and it’s golden age?
I have always loved the movies, and was never prejudiced against black and white films in the way some children are. My parents and I once had a Hitchcock festival in our living room. So, yes! But I didn’t really know much about the studio system until I began to write Laura Lamont.
Where did you go to research and what resources did you use?
Why, to Hollywood, of course! I took a few short trips to Los Angeles and went on some studio tours, taking notes furiously, and then my husband and I did a a house-swap (itself a very cinematic idea!) for a whole month. That’s when I did the bulk of my research at the Margaret Herrick Library, which is run by the Academy of Motion Pictures, the body that gives out the Oscars.
Do you ever use real life people as inspiration for characters?
Yes, sometimes, when I truly couldn’t help myself. I was very careful not to read about Jennifer Jones in my research, because I didn’t want my main character to be modelled on a real person, but some of the ancillary characters are, absolutely. It was irresistible! Hollywood was full of very colorful people at the time.
We have a soft spot for the comedy actress Ginger in the book – do you have a favourite character in the book and why?
Oh, I have a soft spot for Ginger, too. Thank you for saying that. I’m also very partial to Irving. What can I say? I’m a bit smooshy about real love.
How long did the book take from start to finish?
I’m pretty quick, once I get rolling–it was about two years from idea to publication. Fast!
What tips would you give to young wannabe-writers?
Don’t give up. I wrote four novels that didn’t get published before this one. Don’t ever give up.
What’s next for Emma Straub?
Two things are happening in quick succession–I’m trying to finish my new novel before this summer, because I’m due to have a baby in August. So, sleepless nights?
The Life of Laura Lamont is out in paperback now.