Flare talks with author Leah McLaren about her first novel, Continuity GIrl
What sentiments did you feel, having completed your first novel?
Leah McLaren: “I wish I could say I felt an incredible sense of smug accomplishment, but I didn’t. I mainly felt nervous! Before the book came out I was terrified no one would like it and that all the reviews would be terrible, no one would buy it and I would see it in on the bookstore remainder table after one week. Thankfully that didn’t happen at all. Readers really seem to connect with the book and many of them write to tell my how much they like it. I can’t even begin to explain how happy that makes me.”
Please describe what the term ‘continuity girl’ means to you?
L.M.: “In literal terms, a continuity girl (otherwise known as a script supervisor) is the person on a film set responsible for back-matching the action. Films are shot out of sequence, so the continuity girl makes sure everything goes in order (for instance, if a character gets a black eye at the beginning of the film, they should have a black eye in the middle, even if that scene is shot at the beginning of the shoot, etc.) In figurative terms, Meredith’s job is metaphor for the way she tries to control the story of her life – both professionally and personally (by taking her fertility into her own hands and becoming a sperm bandit).“
Would you describe yourself as a “continuity girl”?
L.M.: “Obviously not in the literal sense. I could never do that job – too detail oriented! But in the figurative sense, yes, I can be a bit of a control freak. But I’m nowhere near as anal as Meredith. And I’d never steal a man’s sperm — that’s wrong!”
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
L.M.: “Read, read, read. I think a lot of writing is mimicry. The more your read, the more voices you have to mimic. Originality comes naturally. Also, sit down and do it. Diligence is by far the most important quality in a writer. And in my experience almost all good writers are highly diligent.”
What novels can we look forward to in the future from you?
L.M.: “Everyone asks that and the truth is, I don’t know. I hope to write another novel, I’m just not sure which one. There are five ideas floating around my head at any one time. But good ideas are a dime a dozen. Execution is everything. So we’ll see…”
What are you currently reading?
L.M.: “I just finished Gail Sheehy’s new book Sex and the Seasoned Woman and it was awful. I had to read it for a CBC radio panel and I was afraid I would be attacked because the other women on the panel were in their fifties. Luckily they hated it just as much as I did, so we had a great discussion. I also just finished Lynn Crosbie’s new book Liar. It’s a book-length poem about the very rocky end of relationship. It was absolutely harrowing, but really, really good.”
What book do you recommend as a must-have read?
L.M.: “One book I recommend to younger writers all the time is [Rainer Maria] Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. It’s a bit of a cliché now, but God, I remember reading that book for the first time and feeling my mind open up like a flower.”
Click here for more on Leah McLaren’s book Continuity Girl.