After reading local author Larry “L.A.” Doyle’s novel “About A Girl,” in which the main character is a UNH student residing in Newmarket, I wanted to discuss the book with him, particularly his approach to the plot and the writing style. He was great to talk to; intellectual and entirely down-to-earth. This is what he had to say.
Q:What was your inspiration for this particular story?
A: I had made a friend and the way the two main characters meet was very similar to how we met. I just loved the way she was in the world, the way she reacted to things, to people. I felt that I might be able to capture a little bit of her essence, but not telling her story.
Q: How autobiographical is this for you?
A: You could say that the meeting on the bus, the drunken encounter at the Stone Church, getting the job in the coffee shop and some of the trips up to the Stone Church – that is essentially how this relationship I had with this woman came to be. Her story went a different way. For the most part the characters are drawn from life. Once you get into boyfriend-land and going to classes, that’s pretty fictitious.
Q: Did you base Kenny off of yourself?
Q: Why did you decide to write this?
A: I dabbled in writing anyway. Another part of this story, maybe why I wanted to write it is: I’ve had some experience with at least one person, up here, who has been raped. It was revealed to me mostly through her confidence in my ability to allow her to talk about it without falling back into whatever pain she knew. I’ve known people further back whom I’ve asked and that’s happened to them, but it was different from the perspective of someone in his late fifties and here’s a 21-year-old saying, ‘I need someone to lean on, do you mind?’ I guess I was successful at being a leaning post. So I wanted to write a little bit about that experience.
Q: How did you make such dynamic and different streams of consciousness?
A: When I was writing, especially because I didn’t know how the thing was going to go when I first started, I first established Suzy’s voice. I knew that was how it was going to start and that the majority of the book would be in her voice. So I was very leery about Kenny’s voice more than Suzy’s.
Q: Were the book’s comments on rape culture intentional?
A: That was intentional. I didn’t want Suzy to die. I wanted her to get something positive out of this, but not all birthday cakes. Suzy becomes a statistic. C’est la vie.
Q: You also briefly discussed schizophrenia in the book. Was that autobiographical, too?
A: I did have a brother who was schizophrenic. From my own personal experience, I was very lucky in getting a lot of help and understanding from my friends. In the book, it was more of a way to get Kenny out of the picture for a while, because Suzy is always wondering how much she leans on him.
Q: Do you have a favorite author?
A: The two novels that I would want: “Macho Camacho’s Peak” and Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening.” “Macho Camacho’s Peak” is in large part about the Americanization of Puerto Rico, how it is consumed by American culture. The idea of one culture absorbing another is very depressing. The Chopin novel is used a lot in women’s studies courses. It’s a wonderful novel, a short one, about the woman’s awakening to herself. It’s about a person who realizes herself has been absorbed by her husband. Her husband’s culture is completely dominating her. She awakens to the fact that she has certain sensibilities that are her own.
Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
A: One of the ways of finding out whether you’ve got anything that people want to read is putting it out there for people to read. You have to decide if you really want to write for others or just yourself. If you want to write for others you’ve got to publish yourself somehow. Writing poetry and saying, ‘No, I don’t want anyone to read it,’ is likely not going to help you.