Dr. Sara Lodge!
So here we are. The conclusion of my "Indie August" series! This post is special to me for two reasons. One, because it falls on my birthday. Yep. Mother Earth saw fit to take me for another spin around the block and bring me back one more time. For which I'm grateful. The other is Dr. Sara Lodge. They say you never forget your first. Dr. Sara Lodge was one of the first I followed on Twitter, one of the first to follow me, and the absolute first to respond to one of my tweets in my early days on Twitter two years ago. We still follow each other and she still offers her insight whenever the opportunity presents itself.
So when she agreed to be a part of my "Indie August" series, to me it felt like a friend saying they'd pop by to say hello. To that end, her interview will be a two-parter. Part One is here and now. Part Two will close out my "Indie August" interview series Monday, August 30th.
Also, before I go any further, I should state the decision to use her title was mine, not hers (albeit with her permission, of course). I feel like a title earned should also be a title used.
A Senior Lecturer at the University of St. Andrews in the seaside town of St. Andrews, Scotland, Dr. Sara Lodge is someone I consider to be a writer's writer. This, before we even got into the meat and potatoes of the interview -
"I am the sort of writer who has several slightly different writing ‘hats’. I publish non-fiction books under the University professor hats & I’m currently writing one on Victorian women detectives. But I also write speeches, mostly for NGOs, which allows me to be political without anyone knowing that their voice is my voice. And then I write fiction & kids’ stuff for fun. I only publish a little of that - I feel I’m still a baby fiction writer. It’s interesting to be all those different kinds of writer at different stages of experience. You never know it all!" - Dr. Sara Lodge
KD: What got you into the writing industry?
Sara Lodge: I’ve known I was a writer since I was six or seven years old. I knew in the same way that you know as a kid what your favorite color is (in my case, red) or your favorite flavour of ice cream. It just is. At that point, of course, I didn’t know if I would ever get paid for my writing or really that writing was an industry. I just knew that when I read a story (eg. Simon and the Witch, which I loved as a kid), I felt compelled to write a sequel, where a minor character, Winnie from Wapping, turned people into jelly. I loved making readers laugh. I wrote postcards so long that the name and address got wrapped in tiny sentences like a fly by a spider. Many years later, I met somebody at a party who said ‘Wait – I know you. You’re postcard girl.’ All my female friends’ housemates had passed around these strange postcards with so many words crammed onto them.
KD: I won't lie, 'Postcard Girl' has a nice ring to it. I mean, I'd never call you that, but still. So how long have you been writing overall?
Sara Lodge: Since then! But it took me a very long time to get published in anything more official than the school magazine. I wanted it too much; so I invested publishing a book with all kinds of perfectionism and anxiety. It took me a long time to learn that while it may be love, writing isn’t marriage. You don’t have to get it right. In fact you better accept that it won’t be perfect. Writers are like snakes and each piece of writing, once complete, is a skin that they slough off. So by the time it’s out there in the world it won’t shine like it did when it was part of their imaginative skin. But it will still be beautiful.
KD: I can honestly say I've never heard it put quite that way before. I write fiction. One of my projects is a historical fiction piece. It involved a lot of research. Like, a serious amount. In your writings, which have you found to be the most research intensive, fiction or non-fiction?
Sara Lodge: For me, non-fiction is the most research intensive. For my book about Edward Lear, I spent seven years reading thousands of his letters in public and private archives, viewing his pictures, and making my way, painstakingly, through 30 years of his diary-writing. It was immersive. Afterwards, I felt like I’d been his servant. I knew what he ate for dinner, what his bowel movements were, and what his handwriting looked like when he was drunk. When I write fiction, I tend to draw more on imagination and fairytale and I like the freedom it gives me to invent anything at all – like a wish-washer for example. You can imagine what that machine might do in the wrong hands.
KD: Wait, what? Seven years? And here I am complaining about seven hours' worth of research. You also mentioned you're a speechwriter for NGOs. I imagine the preparation for such an undertaking would be a bit different than say, you writing your own words in your own style for your own books and projects. Are you at liberty to explain your speechwriting process?
Sara Lodge: It's fascinating work and I’m privileged to do it. I only write for people and organisations whose aims I support – mostly on women’s rights, education, and the environment – which makes it easier to get the vocabulary and tone right. When I first work with a new client I talk to them a bit like a hairdresser talks to a new client. I try to listen very hard to what they say they need (the protocol of the speech) and what they want to say. I’m also listening to their speech patterns and key words and phrases. I read any briefing materials they send me. I come up with a structure for the speech – a theme and a progression of ideas and moods that should ideally take the audience through different emotions and lift them up at the end. Then I do a first pass. After I’ve had some feedback on that pass, then (again like a hairdresser) I’m cutting the speech and shaping it to fit the speaker more closely so that, ideally, it feels like ‘them’ – but sharper. I want them to step onto the podium feeling like they’re really killing it. I get a huge kick out of occasionally hearing one of my people deliver a speech and receive a big ovation at the end. I know how the stars’ hairdressers feel on Oscar night…
KD: That's quite the process. Nice. I can see how that would be akin to a stylist. Now, I'll be repeating this next question in Part Two of our interview. If readers want to know more about Dr. Sara Lodge, where would they go?
That's it for Part One! Hope you all come back for Part Two of my interview with Dr. Sara Lodge as we wrap up the "Indie August" series!