Please give Casey Lawrence a warm welcome.
- Can you tell us a bit about your novel, Out of Order?
My first novel, Out of Order, is a Young Adult murder mystery with a biracial, bisexual teenaged protagonist, Corinna Ngyuen. Corey witnesses a multiple homicide and must identify the killer and pick up the pieces of her life, all while worrying about graduation, college, and coming out to her parents. What makes my book different is its unique format: the story is told in two distinct parts, Before and After the murders, so that most of the story is told in flashbacks that lead into each other to reveal clues about the killer’s identity and the events that leads up to the murders. The back-and-forth between Before and After was a deliberate stylistic choice to explore the way our brains work and our memories form.
- Out of Order features a bisexual character in a same-sex relationship. Did you set out to write an LGBT novel or is that simply how the characters appeared?
I’m not going to say that the choice to have a bisexual main character wasn’t deliberate, because it was, but the romance element was something that wasn’t planned. I never intended the book to contain a love story. In fact, it was supposed to be a book about female friendships. Having a bisexual main character definitely made the decision to include a romantic element easier, because that part of the story formed very naturally while I was writing the book. So while Corey was always going to be bisexual, that ended up being a more important element to the story than I intended, because she fell in love— something that I didn’t know when I started writing the story.
- When did you realize you wanted to pursue writing as more than a hobby?
I think a part of me has always wanted to tell stories. I’ve loved reading for as long as I can remember, and I started writing in the third grade, with a series of stories about turkeys throwing a coup d’etat on thanksgiving. I think it was in the fifth grade that I realised that I wanted to write for the rest of my life— I had this fantastic teacher who encouraged my writing, and she told me I would be a published author one day. I believed her, and now I am.
- Can you give us a brief rundown of your writing process?
Usually I come up with a concept and start writing without much of a plan, at least for novels. I’m what they call a “seat of my pants” writer because I don’t outline beforehand. Sometimes once I’ve got a few chapters written I’ll do a rough outline of where I want the story to go, but for the most part I just like to let the story grow naturally, and take notes as a I go along so I don’t forget any important details. But I usually write a story very fast, if it’s meant to be. I have a lot of unfinished works that never went anywhere, but Out of Order I wrote in less than three months.
- What part of the writing process is most difficult for you and how do you make it easier for yourself?
Finishing is definitely the hardest part for me. I have many half-finished manuscripts that I “wrote into a corner.” Because I write by the seat of my pants and don’t plan the ending beforehand, I sometimes write myself to a place where there is no way to conclude the story neatly, or I just don’t know how to do it. So I set it aside, and sometimes I go back to old stories and read them and the ending comes to me— but sometimes, there is no ending in sight. I still haven’t figured out how to fix that!
- Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?
There have definitely been times in my life where I felt creatively drained and anything I managed to write didn’t feel right. That’s writer’s block for me: I can write, but it’s all terrible. The only advice I have to get out of those funks is to consume stories. Read books, read comics, binge watch a TV show start to finish, watch movies, play video games. It sounds like procrastinating, but the best way to find inspiration is to consume media, at least for me. Maybe I would have ended that sitcom differently. Maybe I would have liked to have heard more from that background character. Those are jumping-off points to re-inspire you to write your own stories.
- What was it like working with a professional editor for the first time?
I had a really good experience with my editors! I always had the last say in what got changed and what didn’t, and they were really excellent about staying true to my vision. The only things that got changed were grammatical errors, word choice, confusing sentences. That sort of thing. They never once asked me to change the structure of my story, or anything major in the plot or about the characters. The back-and-forth process was a little hard to get used to, but I really feel like it produced the best product possible.
- What are you reading right now?
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. It’s the true story of an Australian bank robber who escapes from prison and flees to India, where he spends ten years living on the run in Mumbai. I’ve only just started it, but it’s very exciting so far.
- If you could give an aspiring author any one piece of advice, what would it be?
Be principled. Don’t settle for a publisher who wants to change everything in your work, or who goes against your vision. If they see the value in your work, so will somebody else. You don’t have to accept the first offer on the table, and you should never feel obligated to change something essential about your work to make others feel more comfortable, especially if that thing is the race, sexuality, religion, or ability of your characters. We live in a diverse world that is clamouring for diverse books, but a lot of publishers are still playing it safe. We don’t have to let them. They need us and they need our stories, so we don’t have to settle for the scraps anymore. Find a publisher who believes in what you believe in, who supports your vision and your intentions with your work, and who will work with you to produce the best book possible, not the “most marketable.”
- What are you working on right now that readers can look forward to?
I just finished writing a sequel to Out of Order, which explores the ramifications of the events of my first book. It’s about the murder trial, but also about the psychological impact on Corey, and the implications of her being forced to grow up so fast and being responsible for the freedom or imprisonment of another human being. Hopefully my publisher likes it enough to produce it, in which case it’ll be available in 8-10 months.
What I’m working on currently is a new thing, an urban fantasy novel set in Toronto. It’s about magic leaching into the groundwater and the city becoming slowly sentient and protecting its citizens from external and internal threats. It’s only a concept so far, but I know it will have a diverse cast of characters and will deal with the historical, social, economic, and political implications of magic, as well as current events.
Casey Lawrence is a twenty-year-old Canadian university student completing an undergraduate degree in English Language and Literature with a double minor in French and German. She is a published author of LGBT Young Adult fiction through Harmony Ink Press and has been actively involved in LGBT activism in her community since she co-founded the Gay-Straight Alliance at her high school.