Greg Lazarus is a South African husband and wife duo writing team, who brought us ‘ The Book of Jacob’ and ‘When in broad daylight I open my eyes’. The most recent novel to come from the two of them is Paradise, set in Cape Town. Here is a quick summary:
Maja Jellema is in Cape Town to do what she does best – steal. Her new employer wants a certain item from a building in Loop Street, and the only thing that stands between Maja and her prize is Hershel Bloch, the bumbling building manager. But what seems like the easiest job Maja has ever seen is about to get a whole lot more complicated . . .
Will Maja be able to finish the job in time to save her no-good brother from large Dutch men with no sense of humour?
Can Hersh turn his topsy-turvy world around before he gets fired from Black Enterprises for being the worst estate agent in the history of the universe?
Will Surita finally make peace with her father and stop using her judo skills on people who just want to hug her?
Can the rage-filled waitresses at The People’s Republic – the greatest socialist coffee shop in all of Cape Town – produce even one cup of coffee without backchat?
Only time will tell. And it’s running out.
Which does sound rather interesting I have to admit, and once I have read it I will let you know the verdict.
But here I am, jumping ahead of myself! The Book Club Blog asked Greg and Lisa a couple of questions regarding writing together while being married, I mean, really, I know it happens, but if I try to imagine myself and The Man attempting to write something together I imagine flames coming out of his nostril and extreme frustration on my part;-) so, I do believe it takes some sort of harmonious energy in order to do it and by the looks of things to do it well.
So, without further ado, lets see how they do it!
How did you decide to write together?
We had a baby. And then we fought all the time. Seriously!
Our first book, The Book of Jacob, was a memoir and we wrote it for cathartic reasons. We also thought that readers might be interested in hearing how one’s life and relationships are radically changed from both a male and a female perspective. Most memoirs about babies are written from the women’s point of view. A few are written by men about their experiences. We wanted both.
After that, it was a short step to fiction. In our fantasy or imaginary world of writing, we never argued – it might sound strange, but it’s true: writing is the one area of our life that is free from any conflict. There’s also something deeply romantic about sharing an imaginary world with your partner.
There are certain places around Cape Town where we know the other one is imagining the same thing. We have a tense scene in When in Broad Daylight I Open my Eyes, a psychological thriller, at Graaff’s pool in Sea Point. Whenever we walk on the promenade, we look at Graaff’s pool and imagine our central character Kristof, an enigmatic and sexually perverse philosopher, diving into the water and swimming out to sea.
How do you set the rules as to who does what and how do you reach consensus when writing. How does this affect your writing and your relationship?
Writing, as we mentioned, feels good for our relationship. We used very different strategies for our two novels, When in Broad Daylight and Paradise. For the first novel, the thriller, we began with a simple idea. There would be two main characters: a female psychologist and a man with bad intentions. Every scene was to be written from the perspective of either the psychologist or the menacing figure. We each took charge of one character, and assigned the scenes accordingly.
That first draft was a mess. However, once we had finished it, we had gained more insight into our characters, plot and setting. We then went back to the beginning and rewrote everything scene by scene. This time we collaborated closely: we bounced the chapters between each other many times, deleting scenes, adding new ones. Then we worked through the book again, and again…
For Paradise – a comedy about lawlessness and a serious allegory about oppression, in which we’ve tried to present engaging and believable characters – we passed the manuscript between us for the first draft, each of us writing between 300 and 1000 words at a time. We found this a better method as there was more coherence in plot and character. We felt immersed in the story together, from early on.
And what motivates you to put pen to paper?
We’re driven to do it. Of course we love books and everything to do with books – libraries and book launches, authors (well, most authors) and book shops. And going out for coffee – because during or after a visit to a book shop, you always have to go out for coffee.
We were both voracious childhood readers and we’ve always charted our lives through books. We remember periods of our lives partly through what we were reading. Because we love and respect stories, we want to add some of our own to this huge resource, to create worlds that some people might wish to visit.
Thank you Lisa and Greg for you candid honesty in this interview, it was great to see ‘How you do it’.(And I HAVE to agree that you yes, you have to go out for coffee after going to a book shop, they just go together.)