Gentle readers, we continue with our series of character interviews I am conducting, illustrating one way of getting to know your characters better in your own works in progress. Today we have in the hot seat the lovely Laila Harris, one of the main characters of the contemporary novel Streets on a Map by Dale Harcombe. (Ark House Press, December 1, 2010)
POV Boot Camp (PBC): Laila, what do you love most about living in the small town of Astley?
Laila Harris: I love the interaction and concern people have for each other. Of course, that creates a whole other set of problems.
PBC: Yes, I’ve always appreciated the lure of the small, tight knit community, but we do often romanticize it. Would you elaborate on the difficulties you’ve encountered with living in a small town?
Harris: Sure, along with involvement in each other’s lives and concern, there is also a lot of nosiness. People always have an opinion on what is happening and are not backward about sharing it. It is almost impossible to keep a secret in Astley. If someone does manage it is a major event.
PBC: That can definitely be trouble. I remember, in one smaller town I lived in, a major employer closed their doors in part because everyone in town knew what “secret” contracts were being worked on there. So, what are your greatest hopes and dreams?
Harris: Once I would have said they were all in the past, but that was before Abby moved to Astley. And before life changed dramatically with the arrival of the last person I ever expected to see in my life again. I guess we never know what life has in store for us. Perhaps that’s just as well. While it can be a problem at times, it’s exciting, too. It means there are always new challenges and experiences that maybe we never have dreamed of.
PBC: Life does havs a way of surprising us; sometimes I like that more than others. 😉 What are your greatest fears? Weaknesses?
Harris: I feared Abby was about to make the same disastrous mistake I had made all those years ago. I had to try and do something to help her. So I did. I guess some people might say a weakness of mine is trying to help people I care about and make life easier for them, which I suppose could be construed at times as interference. I have been told I have a tendency to be bossy and a mite stubborn. I suspect some people think I’m a soft touch at times because I try to see the good in people. Of course, occasionally that backfires, but not often. Sometimes people surprise you.
PBC: I can so relate to that. Do you have any hobbies or special interests?
Harris: Thanks to classes by Bea Sorenson, a local artist who also runs patchwork classes, I discovered I had an aptitude for patchwork. I was delighted with the patchwork cushions she helped me make.
I’m interested in people. It’s hard to live in Astley and not be interested in people because we rub along against each other every day.
PBC: How about pet peeves? What annoys you?
Harris: I hate the way people talk about others. Gossip is, as anyone who’s ever lived in a small town will tell you, the lifeblood of small towns. Everybody’s private business is sorted through like communal laundry. Sure, I know that it’s rooted in concern for others, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying. It’s one of the things Abby struggled with when she first came to Astley, but even those of us born and raised here find it a problem at times. I’ve been on the receiving end of my share of it over the years, but that’s people in small communities. You can’t change them. Deep down, maybe I wouldn’t want to.
PBC: I’m pretty sure all of me would like to rid the world of gossip, but life definitely is much more peaceful when we accept we can’t change anyone but ourselves. What do you value most?
Harris: Sure that would have to be my relationship with the Creator of the universe. That is the only thing that got me through some of the tough times of my life. My friendship with Eric Sorenson and being a mother to Louise are also vital to my well being. Family and friendships are important to me.
PBC: I hear you on that. Tell me a bit more about your family and friends. What do you like about them? Dislike?
Harris: My family consists of my daughter, Louise, and her husband and two boys. Real live wires those two are. Always on the go, but Louise is a good mother. I love that Louise and her family live close enough that I see them often. Unfortunately, Louise can be stubborn and unforgiving when someone hurts those she loves. I suspect in that she’s more than a bit like her mother. But I’ve had to learn to forgive.
Eric and Bea Sorenson are great friends of mine. I’ve known them both a long time, more years than I’d care to count. Abby is a close friend. People might think it strange, given the big age difference between us, but we have so much in common. I guess I see a lot of my young self in Abby.
Harris: Dale Harcombe is passionate about books, writing and reading. Sure, it’s not just her study is littered with books. They’re all over the house. Dale reads copious amounts of fiction and poetry. She writes poetry, too. She has something I could never manage–a happy marriage with her husband of over forty years. They live with a ginger dog that exists under the misapprehension she is a small human in fur. Dale’s grown up son and daughter both married with families of their own live a couple of hours away. She likes to visit them or have them visit her. Then she puts aside writing for a time.
PBC: So, Laila, what do you think of Dale? What do you like or admire about her? Anything you dislike?
Harris: I like how she made me see my story and Abby’s were intertwined and that none of us can exist without others. I liked the way she brought out the idea that friendships have nothing to do with age, but more about something intrinsic in common.
I dislike the way she thought that was the end of the story and went onto work on a new novel with new characters instead of going on to tell everyone what happened next with Abby and myself and the people of Astley. Now that would make a good story. Maybe one day she will tell it.
PBC: In your shoes, I’d feel that way, too, Laila. If you had one question you could ask Dale, what would it be?
PBC: Laila, if you could spend a whole day with Dale, where would you go and what would you do together?
Harris: I think we’d go to the theatre–a musical, of course. Then afterwards we’d go out for coffee and sit and talk about the show. On the way home we’d sing some of the songs from the show. Did I tell you Dale likes to sing? It’s purely a hobby. She never wanted to make a career of singing.
Harris: I love it. It’s simple, eye catching, and modern. The tree signifies the elms that line the streets of Astley. The road reminds me life is a journey. The butterflies remind me that life often brings changes. Sure, I’ve had my share of those over the years. If you read Streets on a Map, and I hope you will, you’ll soon see what I mean.
Thanks for stopping in and chatting with us, Laila! Readers, it’s your turn! Got any questions for Laila Harris about Streets on a Map or anything else on your mind? Comment away. If one of your characters would like to chat with us here, send me an email and we’ll set a date.