Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Q&A with Lorna Landvik




Lorna Landvik is the author of the new novel Last Circle of Love. Her many other books include Patty Jane's House of Curl. Also an actor, she lives in Minnesota.


Q: What inspired you to write Last Circle of Love, and how did you create your cast of characters?


A: I can never exactly say what inspires me to write a novel — usually it’s the appearance of a couple characters who come into my head, bringing along their names and glimpses of their personalities. When a few of the main characters in this novel rose up from the murky recesses of my brain, it didn’t take long to figure out they belonged to a church circle.


Placing them in this community probably (I have to use that qualifier because I never really know) was inspired by my late mom’s long-time experience as a circle member. She’d tell me stories of what they were up to, what hymns she as their pianist played at meetings and why (I have her notes as to why she chose a couple of consoling songs the weeks after 9-11) and I’d attend holiday bazaars in which their homemade wares were for sale.


The women in Last Circle also presented themselves as older than what society deems “vital” and I wanted to write about this group that wasn’t going to listen to what society said.


Q: How would you describe your character Pastor Pete’s relationship with her congregation?


A: She’s trying to have one. Her goal is to be a kind, welcoming and inspiring leader, even as she’s a fallible, occasionally-doubting person of faith who wants to understand her fallibility and doubt rather than ignoring or being ashamed by it.


She’s much more open-minded and questioning than past ministers of All Souls have been and her rebellious streak contrasts with some congregants and their “you-must-do-it-this-way” beliefs. Even though she’s a fictional character, I wonder where she’d be in 10 years; would she still be a minister? If not, what caused her to leave? If so, would she still be at All Souls?


Q: What do you think All Souls Lutheran's money problems say about its role in its community?

A: I’d say All Souls is trying to find the balance between what used to work for congregants and what doesn’t work now. That’s what Pastor Pete is trying to figure out too — why are churches/places of worship less a sanctuary for people than they used to be? Why are fewer people seeking solace, community, inspiration and guidance there?


I myself, despite having grown up in the church, don’t belong to one anymore because church doesn’t — and really never did — feel like, “ahhh, this is my spiritual home.” (I never did like the paucity of female figures in the Sunday school bible stories.)


In this book, I’ve blended my questioning ideas about faith with the more certain ones of my family (I’ve got uncles and cousins who are/were ministers and missionaries). And I do honor those places that can be real sanctuaries for people — as my mom’s church was for her, especially after my dad died.


The reasons for declining church membership are many — certainly there is a history of great abuse and hypocrisy, but also I think it’s more socially acceptable to question more and obey less when the obeisance doesn’t feel real or earned.  


Q: How did you come up with the idea for the “scandalous” book the members of the congregation become involved with?


A: Ha! I wish I knew—that idea came from the novel’s wily women! That’s the fun of writing for me; chasing after characters who are headed in directions I had no idea or intention of going. Imagination works in mysterious ways and I’m always heartened and humbled by these people who come into my head and “allow” me to help tell their stories.


As far as the “scandalous” book— the reader will see that the women’s ideas of erotica are vastly different from that of say, a dominatrix; it’s really their musings on love, attraction and as one character says, “what gets your motor running, not the details of the running motor.”


While my mother’s circle never came up with a fundraising idea like this, I certainly would have been interested in reading it if they had!  


Q: What are you working on now?


A: That is information made classified by superstition. Talking about a project I’m either thinking of or in the midst of writing seems to dilute its power for me.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Sitting in a sound booth with headphones on, I just finished narrating the audio book which was really fun, trying to illuminate these different characters with my voice.


I really hope this book appeals to all ages (we’re talking those over the age of consent) as well as to all people, no matter your sex. One of my early readers said it made her think differently about her own partner and to be more tender with him and another said he wrote his own ABCs list!


In the end, who doesn’t want to love and be loved and if this novel entertains and amuses readers, as well as causes them to consider their own ideas of love and running motors -- well, that’s like a metaphysical royalty check.   


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Lorna Landvik.

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