Monday, January 3, 2022

Lara Thompson Interview - One Night, New York

Photo Content from Lara Thompson

Lara Thompson succeeding in besting hundred of competing applicants to win the inaugural Virago/The Pool New Crime Writer Award competition with the manuscript of her first novel, One Night, New York. Lara is a lecturer in film at Middlesex University and she drew on her love of film noir, the photography of Berenice Abbot, and her own family history for this novel's backdrop. She lives in London.


Greatest thing you learned in school. 
You will learn more from getting things wrong than getting things right.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way? 
There are lots of great writers who have influenced me - Patricia Highsmith, Donna Tartt, Hanya Yanagihara, Anthony Doerr, Daphne DuMaurier, Truman Capote, I could go on and on! As a film lecturer I am also always inspired by photography and cinema. Every book I write has an accompanying film/art/culture list to help get me in the mood. For this book I was specifically inspired by Howard Hawks’ original 1932 version of Scarface, the great twentieth century photographer Berenice Abbott and NYC itself, which is, in many ways, a character in the novel in its own right.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us? 
Stories offer humans multiple gifts - escape, morality, artistic inspiration - but primarily they give us the opportunity to live alternate lives. For me they are as essential as air.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book? 
This is a HORRIBLE question! Virtually impossible to answer. Could we not have had a top five? I love so many books for so many reasons. Okay. I will try. The book I come back to again and again in recent years is Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. It is exquisitely plotted, breathlessly thrilling and packs an emotional punch that I strive to capture in my own writing. I still care about the characters in that book - it is impossible to believe they don’t exist!

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us? 
My current WIP is a novel set by the sea in England in the 1990s. High on the cliffs above a fishing village is an institution called The Republic. The locals think it’s a school but it’s much more than that. When a woman returns to the village with her teenage son, bringing with them secrets of their own, they are drawn into a world of unexplained deaths and illicit occurrences, of magic and intrigue and desire.

In your newest book; ONE NIGHT, NEW YORK, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it. 
My debut novel One Night, New York begins in 1932 at the top of the Empire State building on a freezing December night. Two young women are waiting to kill a man who has done something terrible to both of them. It is a mystery novel and a romance, a coming of age tale and a story of of old New York between the wars - of Harlem jazz and Lower East Side tenements and parties in The Village, of a city thrusting towards the stars while rotting underneath.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel? 
I hope they fall in love with my characters, get lost in the atmosphere of 1930s New York and are desperate to find out what happens next.

What part of your characters did you enjoy writing the most? 
I love the moment when the characters start to speak for themselves, when I no longer feel like I am ‘making them up’ and they start to live and breathe on the page.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why? 
This is a great question! I think I’d like my protagonist Frances to meet Tom Ripley from Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley. Frances is an illiterate farm girl seduced by the bright lights of New York - young, naive, bolshy, independent, occasionally aggressive and highly sexually charged. She’s far braver than I could ever hope to be. I love her and miss her! No doubt she’d confound Tom and try to stop him but I also think they’d eventually have a great mutual respect for each other. The tension between the two of them would be electric.

Where did you go on your first airplane ride? 
I was late to flying and didn’t step foot on a plane until I was seventeen. I flew to Cuba with my fellow photography students and it was life-changing.

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives? 
I have struggled with this question. In the end it’s pretty simple. No bungee jumping for me. I think everyone, at least once in their lives, if not frequently, should kiss someone they love who loves them back.

Best date you've ever had? 
For my 21st birthday my boyfriend (now husband) took me to Paris and arranged in secret for my best friends to meet us underneath the Eiffel tower. Afterwards we had dinner on a boat on the Seine and sailed past the miniature Statue of Liberty dancing to ‘New York, New York’. It was amazing.

What event in your life would make a good movie? 
This would make a good scene in a movie, rather than a whole film - my life’s not interesting enough to fill an hour and a half of drama! At 24 I attended the funeral of a close friend’s father. Afterwards I stayed at his house. A group of us drank and danced and looked after each other. I went to bed, drunk and sad but buoyed by all the love. Suddenly someone banged on my door. It was another friend and he was covered in blood. We ran through the house to find my friend’s brother had fallen (or thrown himself) over the balcony. He had been consumed with grief at his fathers death. Blood poured from him and he wasn’t moving. We were all terrified. We called the air ambulance who came fast and saved his life. I still don’t know if he fell or jumped.

What is your favorite restaurant in town and why? 
My local bar/kitchen The Orchard in South East London. I can get there at 11, write all day, eat fried calamari and plum sauce for lunch, then meet friends in the evening for cocktails and steak all without moving tables. Perfect.

First Heartbreak? 
I went out with my best friend David for two years between the ages of nine and eleven. Then he moved up to ‘big’ school a year early and broke my heart. Sigh.

Favorite things to do alone? 
Read a good book in a noisy cafĂ© with a great view. Sunday movie matinee. Wild swimming.

  • 1. New York - who doesn’t love NYC?!
  • 2. The 1930s - skyscrapers and tenements, hog maw and cocktails, jazz and artists parties.
  • 3. My characters - bolshy Frances, her headstrong photographer friend Agnes, Stan her brother with all the secrets, Ben the ex-G.I Harlem Hellfighter and Jacks and Dickie - glamorous magazine editors with a penchant for cocktails, ingenues, gossip and power.
  • 4. The locations - Noisy tenements, serene art galleries, plant-filled Village apartments, electrified streets, freshly built skyscrapers.
  • 5. Atmospheric writing that transports you inside the minds of the characters and pulls you back in time.
  • 6. Edge of your seat cliffhangers (literally).
  • 7. The clothes - satin dresses shifting on hot thighs, thick fur coats, three-piece suits, wide cotton slacks, golden turbans.
  • 8. Hot love scenes in dark studios.
  • 9. Secrets and lies, double-crossings, misdirection and murder.
  • 10. The affirmation that with love and hope and belief in yourself the worst of all things can be overcome.
Your journey to publication
I had a really unusual journey to publication. In 2016 my Dad died. We were very close. I was devastated. I carried on for my mum and my husband and my son, for my colleagues and students, but life had taken on a murky grey hue that I couldn’t escape. In an attempt to distract me from the pain my husband bought me a writing course at my local college for my birthday. Every Friday I would go and sit with my fellow students and write and talk and think and laugh. That course saved me. My Dad had been a writer (passionate and unpublished) so when I wrote I felt closer to him.

In the summer of 2017 the course leader brought in a postcard that we had to use as inspiration for a short piece of writing. I was given Nighthawks by the artists Edward Hopper. I started to imagine who the people in the diner might be and the story that became One Night, New York was ignited. A month or so later, having written around 3000 words I saw an advert run by my favourite publisher Virago (in the UK they publish Maya Angelou, Margaret Atwood and Sarah Waters amongst many others). They were looking for the first 5000 words of a crime novel from a debut writer. The prize was a publishing contract. I hadn’t thought about my book as crime until then but I knew I had to enter. One problem - the deadline was a week away and I still had 2000 words to write to meet the word count. I raced to finish and handed it in an hour before the deadline. I’d never entered a competition before.

Over the next few months I didn’t hear anything and forgot about it all. Life took over. Then, one lunchtime I was sitting alone in my local Thai restaurant eating hot pho and received an email from Virago. I had won! I nearly passed out into my soup. I have never felt so wonderful. It was a true before and after moment. Since then my life has changed enormously. I have found not one, but two wonderful agents, been published internationally and now spend far more time writing than teaching. I know I have made my dad proud. And best of all, I have proven to myself that I am a writer.

Set over the course of a single evening, this literary thriller is at once a detective story, a romance, and a coming-of-age tale. It is also a story of old New York, of Greenwich Village between the wars, of artists and bohemians lighting up Manhattan as the Great Depression descends upon the city.

For the hundredth time since they'd made their promise, she wondered if she and Agnes were really going to go through with it, if she was brave and terrible enough . . .

A thrilling debut novel of corruption and murder set in the nightclubs, tenements, and skyscrapers of 1930s New York.

At the top of the Empire State Building on a freezing December night, two women hold their breath. Frances and Agnes are waiting for the man who has wronged them. They plan to seek the ultimate revenge.

Set over the course of a single night, One Night, New York is a detective story, a romance and a coming-of-age tale. It is also a story of old New York, of bohemian Greenwich Village between the wars, of floozies and artists and addicts—lighting up the world, while all around them America burned with the Great Depression.

You can purchase One Night, New York at the following Retailers:

1 Winner will receive a Copy of One Night, New York by Lara Thompson.
1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card.