Welcome to the blog, Leonore – I’m delighted to have you here.
It’s a comfortable blog, I’m delighted to be here, I might stay.
I absolutely loved your book, Lizard. Can you tell us a little about it?
Thank-you. This makes me very happy. It is a novella – which by Wikipedia’s standards is a story under 50 000 words. It is about a metamorphosis, but never a complete one.
How did it come about?
In the summer holidays in 2004, I decided to read all of Kafka’s novels (but I’ve never read Amerika) and a few of his short stories, so it started there. In literature class, we studied the Trial and I had the idea (specifically in class) of some-one with a disability – and amputated calf – and how they go about with it. I forgot about this and got on with my exams. Two years later I thought of a story about a woman with blue nipples. A couple of month later I puked out the first few thousand words or so of a first draft of Lizard and read it out at a Failed Novelist meeting.
How long did it take you to write?
The bulk of the first draft took four months in one block, with a three week hiatus. Then the last bit, and the next few versions, took a year. Then I did intensive editing before sending it off to the Roastbooks competition, with a schedule and help from friends. Once it was into the real-life-proper-editing-process I got really helpful comments and tracked edits from Roastbooks, and we spent time going through it over and over.
Of all the creatures in the world, why did you find lizards so appealing and/or right for Eliza’s story?
It came from a curious conviction from the first night of writing Lizard – that all reptiles represented in art were somehow an underhand way of pointing out a “sexual factor,” but I’ve looked this up since, when I went through my lizard-stalking phase, and only found slight confirmation in the direction of regeneration and reproduction, but nothing decisive. Regardless, I still feel that lizards are alien, rarely cute and unappealing, similar to how Eliza sees adults, and an adult version of herself, until she settles at the end. On another note, lizards are also cool because it looks like they have superpowers. I am unsure whether this applies to adults.
Who is Leonore Schick?
The person who typed this comma, I think.
What would you do if you discovered, one morning, that your calf, like Eliza’s, had become scaly like a lizard’s?
Shake and tremble. Wear thick trousers. Find a payphone or a mobile. Call my parents. Visit their doctors and dermatologists with their French health insurance cards. Paris or Bayonne depending on current location and proximity.
Eliza acted stupidly.
You’re published by Roast Books, can you tell us a little about them?
They are a little publishing company, new, idealistic and realistic at the same time. On top of the information on their website, I can add that they taught me lots through helping me edit Lizard. Faye, the lead Roast booker, gave really clear guidelines but didn’t want me to change anything I didn’t want to change. I felt totally in control but also really needed their help. They were really honest about which bits were shaky and which bits they liked. It is a very lucky coincidence that I got published, and by them.
And a little about your writing process?
Lizard was written on computer, but I’m trying to go back to handwriting because traveling with a laptop is dodgy and tricky. I wrote it in order, writing only what was fun to write. Eliza has quirks and fillers so once I’d found those it was easier to get back to her way of speaking. There were very sharp changes in location and her fillers and attitudes change accordingly. If there’s a process, it’s write-write-write-write, edit edit edit edit edit. And then I wrote the last chapter, and then edit, edit, edit, edit… I tend to write “fragments” and group them. I wrote a book at school with a friend, and reused the method my friend and I had come up with for that – writing down a skeleton of what will happen in each chapter, and the skeleton is very vague at first, and it is completed when ideas come. Some days are only for the skeleton, some days I spent only looking at etymologies of words but most days were spent writing and once that was done, editing.
You’re a member of a writing group, Failed Novelists; can you talk to us about that? Did being a member of that influence your process?
Yes. What is great about our writing group is that there is no teacher or predominant voice – we’ll listen to everything and everyone who comes along, and give as much feedback as we can, all together, even if it is the first time. Everyone writes, everyone criticises. We’ve done some collaborative work, like The Amazing Failed Novel that we printed in book form, and there was a special support group for NaNoWriMo partakers. A non-FNov friend told me people often regret their first publication, but all the feedback and what learnt whilst editing means that I can’t. Funnily enough, it’s not in a very FNov spirit to say that. The Failed Novelists is basically a support group that encourages writing.
I went to a meeting in the first term of second year of University and by the third term I’d started writing Lizard. I think I’d forgotten that writing was something I did. Being around other people getting excited by a particular word or even a word count really motivated me. Lizard may have been based on a Failed Novelist suggestion, but I may have started writing it before hand and suggested it – I actually cannot remember, and I’ve asked the others, and they don’t know either. As for the process – it gave a deadline – the following Sunday at 2pm. It’s nice to turn up with something new. I remember the first few thousand words of Lizard being read out, and a couple of people wanted to hear more – it was really important to feel like I wasn’t doing something for nothing. I read out whole chapters on a Failed Novelists’ retreat week and got helpful feedback. And then when it came around to editing it before sending it to the Roastbooks competition, I made a communal FNov email, like a virtual support group, and they’d help me tweak bits and told me which bits were unclear.
I was told about the competition by Selena, a sort of FNov founder. It’s pretty safe to say that Lizard wouldn’t have been written, let alone published, if the Oxford Art Movement stall (that I was manning) hadn’t been the Failed Novelist’s neighbour at the Fresher’s fair at the beginning of my second year.
Did you have a reader in mind when you wrote Lizard. If you did, what do they look like?
It varied, but the first person who read it was my sister, and when she did, I felt like it had been published. This makes me think I wrote it for her.
Which authors do you admire the most?
This is tough. I’m not sure what admiration entails. I know loads of writers from Failed Novelists, many of them are amazing. I’m just reeling out of a Coetzee phase – I like how he doesn’t need a plot because his style is so perfect. Some of my favourite books used to be the Just William series, but I don’t know if I admired the author. I like Angela Carter’s Wise Children, and most of Kafka.
What advice would you give to any, so far, unpublished writers reading this?
From the one thing I’ve had published I’d say, join a writing group and/or keep an eye out for competitions, they are often put in literary magazines, but are also all over the internet.
Tell us a secret.
My sisters and I used to have this doll called Micheline, she had red hair like Eliza, and she was really chubby. She would giggle and sometimes she’d say, “can I tell you a secret? My favourite ice-cream is strawberry.” According to Micheline, that qualifies as “a secret”.
Here is my secret:
My favourite ice-cream is not strawberry flavour.
When you’re not writing, where are you most likely to be found?
I’m very hard to find. I am without a fixed home – not exactly homeless, but I haven’t lived anywhere for more than three weeks, maximum, since I finished University in June. But I like films and music and graphic novels.
What’s next for you?
I wish I knew.
Anything you’d like to add?
Thank-you-thank-you-thank-you for letting me write my first ever interview, ever, in my life, it has been tricky and fun.
L. Schick: DOB, January 1988 / British citizen / POB, Paris – I’ve lived in Kent and Paris and Oxford and Belgium, I’m a film junky and in my second year of trying to learn to play the guitar. I’ve just finished University, so I’m B.A for now.