Harry Tyke is a flabby, divorced grade-six teacher on the verge of a monumental mid-life crisis when he unexpectedly ends up in a storytelling workshop taught by a creative, free-thinking teacher-turned-storyteller named Olga. The workshop awakens Harry’s long dead romantic side and hurls him into stories from his past, including his decision to give up on his dream of being a novelist to please his parents, a decision this classroom-weary teacher can no longer live with as he sags into his fifties.
Questioning contemporary ideas of what makes a happy and productive life in an increasingly digital world, this romantic comedy–set in Vancouver, Canada–will have you cheering for this unlikely leading man from start to finish.
An interview with Laura Michelle Thomas
Who are your top 5 favorite authors or influences, and why?
I’m not a fan of writers as much as I am a fan of individual pieces of writing. Top on my list of works I can read over and over again are: “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, “The Man Who Loved Islands” by D.H. Lawrence, The Chrysalids by John Wyndham, The Lord of the Flies by William Golding, and Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. I’m really a classics junkie. I just finished my fourth or fifth read of The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway. Before that it was Madame Bovary by Flaubert and on tap now is A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain.
What type of writing fuel do you prefer, and what – if anything – do you feel this contributes to your creative process?
Coffee and sugary carbs are what I reach for when I hit a wall during a writing session. Well… it keeps me going through to the end of my writing session, so yes!
What inspired you to write your latest book?
Let me share a true story to illustrate. In December, my daughter’s elementary school had their annual Christmas concert during which each class does two songs. Her teacher instructed the class to bring their cell phones, tablets, etc. on the night of the concert so that they would have something to do while waiting to go on stage. We don’t use screens recreationally in our house. Call me a Luddite, but I’ve been against screens as a form of parenting and entertainment since I became a mom. My daughter took her new tablet with her – a recent birthday gift from her uncle. She reported after the concert that it had been boring and a weird experience – she and her life-long friends sitting next to each other for an hour, no one talking, everyone silently playing; it was not a pleasant experience. And then there are the days she comes home from school and says the class got “online game time” during their library block…
Pirates or ninjas, and why?
Ninjas are so lame. I mean… why not show your victim more than just your eyes? Are you a coward or what? Pirates… well… if you think of modern piracy, then yuck. Hobbits trump them both.
Give us one piece of sage advice on writing, relationships, or life in general.
We are always in conflict – with others, with society, with nature, with ourselves – so rather than waiting for peace, just get on with your life and your writing.
If you were a cocktail, what would you be called, and what’s the recipe?
I’m not much of a cocktail drinker, but wine is another story. We love touring the wineries of the Okanagan in BC and I’d love to own a vineyard someday. My label would be something like The Book Cellar.
If you were to pen the screenplay for the next summer blockbuster, what would it be about – and who would you want to see in the starring role?
I have penned one already – a futuristic feminist dystopia – but I don’t know who should play seventeen-year-old Alyssum, who lives in Ministry City in Egypt in the 212th year of the Second Enlightenment.
If you were to write an open letter to a famous author (living or dead), who would it be, and what would it say?
I might write a letter to Hemingway thanking him for putting the clear, concise telling of a story ahead of flowery prose and superfluous, page-padding details.
Where can we find you on a typical Friday night, and what kind of trouble are you getting into there?
“Friday Night Fun” with my family. No trouble allowed.
What are you currently working on, and why does it kick ass?
My current major project is an animal fantasy adventure for young readers. I’m on a full rewrite of the first draft to boil it down to the best parts and best characters and it will not be moved to the proofing stage until I absolutely love the story and it’s as good as I can make it at my current skill level. I’m a practitioner of rewrites until it’s right. I think that practice helps my work get a little higher up the kick-ass scale; and kick-ass for me means a work has longevity, becomes a classic.
Do you have any talismans, charms, superstitions or music that inspires or helps you to write, and what’s the story behind them?
No. It’s a strict routine and a systematized writing process that work for me.
What’s your exercise or sport of choice when getting out from behind the desk?
Skiing in winter with my family. Road cycling in summer with a club. Swimming and yoga year-round. Oh, and last summer I got into paddle boarding. That’s fun. I want to do more of that this year.
About the Author
Laura Michelle Thomas is an author with an opinion on just about everything she thinks is wrong with contemporary life in North America (which, in her opinion, is just about everything). Harry Tyke, the 52-year-old protagonist of The Naked Storyteller, is who Laura might be if she wasn’t the author of her own life and had a beard. When she’s not writing and telling her family to buzz off and let her work, she’s runs a very busy website through which she fosters the development of young writers around the world through free annual writing contests, young writers conferences and other inspirational stuff. With the assistance of her team of junior bloggers, editors and artists, Laura has the privilege of being publisher and senior editor of an international e-zine for young writers called jaBlog! To find out what novel project Laura is working on now, please visit her website and click on “Novels by Laura Michelle Thomas.”