Q&A with Sofie Laguna for her new novel 'The Choke'
How did winning the Miles Franklin change your life – did it give you extra pressure when writing your next book The Choke?
Winning the Miles Franklin Award opened my work to a wider readership. It’s thrilling to share my books with so many more readers, and to hear there passionate response to the stories I have written, and the characters I have created. When it was time to write my next book, I was worried at first, that it wouldn’t be as good, but after a while I became so involved with the characters and their concerns that nothing else mattered.
Where did the idea of The Choke come from?
I first got the idea for the story after watching Nick Broomfield’s film about Aileen Wuornos, America’s most notorious female serial killer. Aileen’s childhood was impossible. I was outraged on her behalf; it didn’t seem there was any chance of hope for her. I couldn’t bear the feelings the film gave me. I wanted to write a book that might give that child a voice, and my own feelings a place. After a very short time I realized that I was not retelling Aileen’s story, but making a new story entirely, with a new Australian heroine with a very different future.
What significance does the landscape of the Murray have on The Choke and why is this very much Australian setting important to you.
I relished setting the novel in my own country. So much material – beautiful and funny and familiar. I could use the vernacular, I could go to the locations – literally drive there and immerse myself in the natural settings I had chosen. I knew its cast of characters. I knew the highways, the weather, the redgums and I could get to know the river.
What does ‘character’ in a novel mean to you? Can a character be the plot?
For me, character is everything; it is the driving force behind my work. All the energy in my work is derived from character - and it is the reason I write. It’s great fun being immersed in character, as if I was on a stage, in costume, inhabiting a new world. I trained originally as an actor, and I believe the thing that attracted me to acting is the same part of me that writes. It is the part that likes to play, that likes to imagine I am somebody different. A character holds all the cards; it is the character who will decide any questions of plot - at least for me. Plot depends entirely on character, and the plight he or she may find themselves in.
Explain the role of Michael in the novel – he’s such a lovely character!
When I began the story I had no idea how important Michael would become; originally he was just the boy Justine, my protagonist, was forced to sit beside because she was caught cheating. But then a relationship forms between the two and magic happens. Michael is such a bright deep trustworthy sort of person, he shows Justine what friendship can be. He gives her something to hold onto.
If a reading group were sharing your novel together what question would you want them to think about…
How does Justine manage to hang on to life - what resources does she have? What is her strength and where do you think it comes from?
Posted by Global Administrator on 22/11/2017