Lauca is a European writer, author of micro stories inspired by everyday life, while her historical novel draws inspiration from Chinese history and her adventures across China. Her writing also reflects her interest in foreign languages and crossing cultures.
Genre: historical novel
Q1: What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
My latest and also first book is ReturningEast. The inspiration came from the website of an old French shipping company, Messageries Maritimes. Thus, the novel is about a physical journey from France to Hong Kong and then Asia in 1954, which turns into a journey of self-discovery and evaluation of one’s past.
Q2: When you’re writing an emotional or difficult scene, how do you set the mood?
I don’t think I have a specific process, maybe because this is my first novel. Every scene was challenging because I did not “know” them before writing them.
Q3: What authors, or books have influenced you?
I have a couple of authors, who I love to read, like Banana Yoshimoto and Amy Tan. But I think life has a larger influence on my writing than authors do. I love reading in different languages and I can really see how the tone of let’s say a Chinese novel is different from an American one. I am more drawn to Asian cultures, and I also enjoy reading French novels but as I often read in English, I came across many good novels from US or UK authors.
Q4: Which of the characters do you relate to the most and why?
Interesting question, I never thought about it. They each have a trait that speaks to me but there is no one I relate to most. I think the ladies of the story, even though they are minor characters, are quite interesting. Maybe one day I will write their story, where they get to be the hero.
Q5: What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?
You don’t need to get it right from the start. You can always edit a first draft, but you cannot edit a white page. So, just put as many words as you can on paper, following your inspiration or a prepared plot, and later edit what you don’t need or like.
Also, don’t get stuck in confusion, there is never a right answer, and one choice is a good as another. When you research something specific, like for example how to use multiple points of view, use three sources and then make up your mind. Do not waste your time looking at dozens of sources, after the first 3 or 4, they all are a variation of the first two!
Q6: How much research did you need to do for your book?
Researching the book was the fun part. I love history and I enjoyed exploring websites relating to stories from old Hong Kong, watching Youtube videos shot in China and also going to the library to read about colonial Indochina. Much of what I read never found its way in the book, but the magic is in the realistic details which appear throughout the book.
Q7: What was your hardest scene to write, and why?
The end. I do not plan a sequel, but the end of the book is not the end of my hero’s story, as in my mind, there is a life for him after this journey. Thus, it was challenging to find a satisfactory comprise between leaving his journey open and at the same time closing this chapter of his life, and the book.
Q8: What is your writing process like? Are you more of a plotter or a pantser?
For this first book I was 100% a pantser. I had no plot whatsoever, I had no characters, nothing. I sat down each time I had scheduled a writing slot and had to squeeze my imagination to have the next scene come out.
I took part in the NaNoWriMo in 2019 and I did plot a story. It was definitively easier to write a first draft and even though I did not finish it (at least for now), I could write 44.000 words in three weeks. Considering that I have an office job four days per week, the result is not bad.
For the second novel, which I started a couple of weeks ago, I am a mix of plotter and pantser. I do have my characters this time and I know their development. I have some ideas about a couple of points I want to bring in the story, but I do not have a complete plot.
Q9: What are you working on now?
I still work on micro stories, which I publish twice per month. I also started a second novel, as I mentioned above. I can say that there will again be an international set of characters and the story takes place between Berlin and Italy, around the first decade of 2000.
Q10: What are you currently reading?
I have just re-read a novel by a Japanese writer, Aki Shimazaki, translated into French. On my e-reader I have open The Law of Attraction, by Hesther Hicks and on my night table there is an Italian edition of a collection of short stories related to Japan, written by Italian or foreign authors.
To find out more about Lauca follow the social media links below. Keep scrolling for a sneak peek at Returning East.
Amazon Author Page:
Returning East is available in paperback and ebook.
In the Joliette harbour, JJ looked down from the deck of the Cambodge as a sea of passengers queued to board the ship. Most of the passengers were men. A whole army division was probably heading to Indochina to support the troops in the ongoing battle at Điện Biên Phủ. Priests and nuns were the next conspicuous group, unintentionally mixing with the soldiers on the gangway. Some soldiers gave way and made the sign of the cross; others turned their backs on the ecclesiastical company and kept their distance, thus blocking the priests and the extreme unction that their presence on board seemed to announce.
The mix of passengers included a statesman with his entourage, as well as a few civil servants of lower grade, some in the company of their wives and children. The navy officials completed the picture. With their white uniforms, they looked clean and smart, and they granted a holy quality to the whole scene, as if the passengers were entering into the officialdom of marriage. The various groups added brushes of colour to the white background: shades of green for the military, black and white for the missionaries, a potpourri of hues for the other passengers. Some glamourous ladies attracted looks, their wasp-like waists eclipsed by their full breasts and large light-coloured hats, whose ivory or vanilla colour often matched that of their purses. Each tone had its own modulation of buzzing voices, which were drowned out by the ship’s foghorn.
Jean Jacques stretched his neck in all directions to see if he could catch a glimpse of anyone close to his age among the passengers. Failing to see any, he lowered his head to look at the seawater splashing in the gap between the pier and the ship. The size and beauty of the Cambodge was remarkable. He read that the ocean liner—162 metres long with a speed of 23 knots—was quite new; its maiden trip had been only the year before. He took in every detail, which he planned to tell George about.
As the ship pulled out of the harbour, he felt the full power of its steam turbine engine, as if he were sitting in a fast car. When the harbour disappeared from sight, he went to sit on one of the deck chairs to enjoy the last rays of the afternoon sun. He opened his diary and read again the letter he wrote the night before.
My dear George,
This will be my last letter for a while. I am leaving tomorrow for China. Yes, you heard right, China! I wanted to write to you earlier, but the preparations have taken all my time. I arrived in Marseille today, and I will board a ship of the Messageries Maritimes, which will take me to Shanghai.
I know what you are thinking. I also feel I must apologise for changing my mind about going to Asia again. Despite my mixed feelings, I need to go there. I have good reasons and I hope you will understand my position.
My neighbour, my teacher, Old Min, passed away a few weeks ago. He found out he was very sick just a while before. After several years of searching, he had finally located his long-lost daughter and had recently got in touch with her. He was, though, too sick to go back to China to see her and she has no means to come to France. It was a sad moment for him to realise that, you can imagine.
Old Min was a generous and wonderful teacher, who dreamt of spreading the traditions of Chinese painting in France and preserving this ancient art. Unfortunately, his poor health prevented him from seeing his dream realised. I see now that he probably sensed he had not much time left to live. This is why Old Min took me in as his student, with an unspoken wish that I would carry on his work. He treated me with such kindness and selflessness; he guided me and took his time to teach me. During his stay at the hospital, we discussed the possibility of my going to China to study painting there. Old Min even contacted one of his friends, who is the dean of an academy in Hangzhou. Of course, I did not want to go. But I could not tell Old Min that, as he lay on his deathbed. Instead, I humoured him and promised that I would go. What a mistake!
On one of my last visits, he asked me to take his ashes to his daughter, so that he could rest in peace in his motherland. Despite the pain, which made his face contract and his hands tremble, he took my hand and pressed in it a ticket to China and a letter from his friend in Hangzhou, who had accepted me as a student for the next few months! You can imagine my surprise, and my fear. I was dumbfounded and I just took the ticket. The day after, though, after a sleepless night, I planned to tell him that I could not go. When I arrived at the hospital, his bed was empty. I had arrived too late. What would you have done in my position, George, tell me? How can I now refuse to go, without having told him so? His wish to let his daughter have his ashes mattered to him so much that he arranged my ticket from his hospital bed! I feel I cannot let him down now. The dean’s letter allowed me to secure a visa to China, but I am not sure I will go to the academy. Still, I must meet Old Min’s daughter and give her his ashes.
You see, I have very good reason to go there. And this time I want to keep my promise.
I shall write to you more from the ship, maybe send you postcards along the way, if possible. I don’t know. Old Min bought a third-class ticket, but my parents changed it to a tourist-class ticket, not the cheapest. At the beginning, I thought my father would not let me travel. But it looks like they are keen to see me go, after all. Especially my mother, I am sure. Maybe my father agreed in the hope that the experience will forge my character. You know him too. He has clear ideas how a man must behave in society, and shyness is not permitted.
Since Old Min passed away, I did not have anybody to speak to. We did not speak a lot either, but I felt he was my close friend. Now I feel lonelier than ever, and you, George, are my only friend.
My warmest regards to you. JJ.
JJ closed his diary and as usual, he tried to recall George’s baby face. Now and then the memory would start fading; he would then turn to the portrait in his diary. Each time he bought a new diary, he would draw George’s portrait again: a child of six or seven in blue shorts and a white shirt, a leather ball in his hand, his eyes half closed and facing the sun but still looking straight into the camera. The image was like a picture he had stolen from his mother shortly after George’s funeral.Like this interview? Please consider Buying Me a Coffee to keep them coming :)