5 QUESTIONS: Laura Lam, author of False Hearts
It's here, it's here! Laura Lam's exceptional False Hearts is out today in hardback and digital, and Laura's stopped by the blog to answer our 5 burning questions. To get you ready for the EPIC adventure, you can find an intro by Laura here, and the prologue to the book here. Or, you know, just buy the whole thing and have an AWESOME weekend read!
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1. What’s your 'elevator pitch' for False Hearts?
Conjoined twins Taema and Tila were raised in a secluded cult called Mana’s Hearth. They escape and are separated and fitted with mechanical hearts. Ten years later, one twin is accused of murder, and the other must assume her identity to prove her innocence and save her life.
2. It’s a thrilling mix of genres – SF, chase thriller, action-adventure – were there any key inspirations for the story?
The main one was reading an article about conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton. They were famous in the vaudeville era and also became involved in film in the 50s. I started thinking about what a close bond conjoined twins would have, and how much it would eat at you if your literal other half kept a secret—like murder—from you. Knowing the secret, I knew it would be a chase thriller, and I thought the SF aspect would work well because I knew once they were separated, they’d have mechanical hearts. We can do that now, sort of, but it’s still a little stretch beyond our current tech. I had fun world building and imagining San Francisco about one hundred years from now.
3. The sinister cult is excellently drawn - how did you research that aspect? Any weird facts to share that you uncovered?
I first became interested in cults when I took a university course on folk religion and magic and we ended up studying Jonestown and a few other cults. When I realised I was setting the book in a future with really advanced technology, I needed a reason why the twins would have made it to 16 before being separated, as current medical practice is to separate twins if at all possible, often when they’re too young to consent, much like surgery on intersex children. Having Taema and Tila raised in a secluded cult made a lot of sense for the story. I called it Mana’s Hearth.
I did a fair amount of research on various cults, and also read depictions of cults in fiction, such as Whit by Iain Banks and Last Days by Adam Nevill. The main thing I noticed cults had in common was they alienated their followers from outside friends, family, and the outside world, and they had very charismatic leaders. Though not quite a cult, it was interesting to learn about the Bohemian Grove club in Monte Rio, California during my research. Essentially, every summer a bunch of rich and powerful men hang out in the redwoods and do some rather cult-like activities like burning a giant effigy in a ceremony called the Cremation of Care. Evidently the Manhattan Project was brainstormed there in 1942. Women aren’t allowed in the club. I had it so the first Mana-ma of my cult was married to a member and annoyed they wouldn’t let her join, so she created a commune of her own. Mana’s Hearth is always led by a Mana-ma, but over the years, they’ve grown increasingly corrupt.
4. Which book do you always recommend to people and why?
Recently I’ve been recommending The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers left, right, and centre. It’s shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke award this year. It’s a beautifully realised sci fi tale of a crew aboard a ship called the Wayfarer. It’s just delightful and you fall in love with every member of the crew. I absolutely adore found families in fiction, and this definitely has a great one, plus it’s very refreshing in its depiction of open sexuality and gender expression. It’s also a happy and comforting book. Go read it!
Otherwise, I’ve been recommending Robin Hobb to everybody since I was a teen. She’s been my favourite author for the last 13 years, and I doubt that’ll ever change. Start with Assassin’s Apprentice if you’ve never read her, and have fun falling in love with Fitz and the Fool.
5. What’s your top writerly tip?
Put your butt in the chair and just write. Maybe not every day, but as often as you can spare it. The best way to find your process and how you write best is to jump in and find out what works and what doesn’t. Plan, don’t plan, write on index cards, scribble in a notebook, use Scrivener or Excel or Word, tap random thoughts on your phone. Work from home, or at work on your lunchbreaks, at the café or the library. Everyone’s a little different but once you find out what makes you most productive, try to keep doing that until you have a finished product. It’s not really a tip so much as a reminder that there aren’t really any tips that are perfect for everyone, as no two writers work in exactly the same way.
Bonus question from horror author team S.L. Grey: Which kind of apocalypse would you prefer to survive and why? Zombie virus, alien invasion or rapture-style event?
Honestly, no matter what apocalypse comes my way, I’m pretty sure I’m one of the ones destined to die. I have zero practical skills, probably couldn’t bring myself to kill anyone, and when things get tough I tend to panic and flap my hands rather than come up with a great plan.