I’m delighted to welcome Lia Weston to Behind the Pen today. I recently reviewed (and loved!) her latest novel, You Wish, so it’s terrific to have an opportunity to share a little more about that novel with you all.
Where did the initial inspiration for You Wish come from?
Most people have daydreamed about being in their favourite film or band, or even living a different life. I loved the idea of a company which could create photographs of any situation you wanted. You know—I want to win an Oscar, I want to be in Sherlock, I want to be friends with these famous people. I assumed that such a company existed but when I went to research one, I found that it didn’t.
The thing with human nature, however, is that if you have such a company, people will want to take the concept further. Instead of requesting to be in a movie, they’d inevitably start asking to have real-life photos edited or new ones made from scratch. Happy snaps from a holiday they never went on, the creation of a relationship that only exists in their mind, et cetera. So the concept of this theoretical company quickly shifted from ‘Can you put me in Die Hard?’ to ‘Can you edit my wedding album so I’m married to my ex-girlfriend?’
Moreover, I wondered what it would be like to be the person actually doing this edit/delete work, especially if you created the business. What do you do if people want an album of photos of a person they’ve been legally barred from contacting? What do you do if parents who’ve lost a child want to see what their life could have been like? What would fulfilling these requests do to you? It was too interesting not to follow up. My main character, Thomas Lash, also has the ability to instinctively know what people really want—rather than what they say they want—which further complicates the story.
I never think about it at the time, but in hindsight, all three of my novels are about illusions and delusions. Some people find inspiration in incredible events or deeply moving relationships. I tend to write about things that make me cross.
I love the brother-sister dynamic between Tom and Gen. Was this always intended or one of those relationships that evolve on throughout the writing process?
Gen snuck in under the radar. She didn’t feature hugely in the original plan for the book, but every time I wrote about her, she just kept chatting away and I couldn’t help myself. Tom’s natural inclination is towards complete freedom and solitude, so I loved having her subtly remind him that he can’t actually be a hermit. He needs her as much as she needs him, even if he doesn’t realise it. It’s very odd; teenage girls keep finding their way into my work, probably because they’re just so much fun to write.
If you were a prospective client of IF, what type of photo book would you be seeking?
I have very few photos of me with my brother, so if Tom could make me one of those, that’d be great. For a purely frivolous pick, I’d be quite happy to be popped into Bram Stoker’s Dracula, just to wear something by Eiko Ishioka. (That final green gown of Mina’s, thank you very much.)
Where do you normally write? Is it in the same place every day or are you an all over the place writer?
I’m an all-over-the-place writer out of necessity. I have a lovely old desk at home with secret drawers and a comfy chair, but I move to other rooms if I need to spread out (or take refuge in the garden where the wi-fi doesn’t work if I’m forcing myself not to procrastinate). When I’m under a deadline, however, I will write wherever I have to—car wash, blood donation centre, queuing at the Department of Motor Vehicles. It’s not glamourous, but it gets the job done.
Is there any one particular season on the year that you find more creatively inspirational than the others?
I’m a sucker for spring. I love the aesthetics of winter—gloomy days, windswept hills, everything my inner Goth desires—but my hands get very cold very quickly. (As I type this, it’s 22 degrees but my hands could chill a beer.) Cold hands means typing is difficult, let alone holding a pen, so while I crave the deep dark winter, I’m always very happy when the sun returns so I can get some warmth back in my fingers. Artificial heating just doesn’t seem to have the same effect.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Do I need to say ‘reading’? I probably don’t. In addition to that, I love cooking, though I’m currently under a self-imposed ban on buying any more cookbooks because I have far, far too many that I haven’t actually read, let alone made any of the recipes from. Baking in particular makes me happy. There’s little better than a house that smells like warm dough. Kickboxing makes me happy as well; clearly I have a whole bunch of repressed rage that needs to be smashed out on a regular basis. Perhaps it’ll help if I buy some more cookbooks…
Sometimes imagination is not enough.
Thomas Lash grants secret wishes . . . on-screen, that is.
White wedding gone horribly wrong and need to swap the groom? Never went to university but must have a graduation photo? Need to create a fake family for that job interview? Problem solved with expert Photoshopping and Tom’s peculiar ability to know exactly what you desire. Tom never says no, even when giving grieving parents the chance to see what the lives of their lost children may have looked like.
But where do you draw the line . . . and what happens when the fantasy Tom sees on-screen starts to bleed into his real life?