Laura Wiess: A Self Portrait
Laura Wiess Revealed
About Laura Wiess
What is your birthdate?:5/16
Previous occupations:Oh, this is fun. I've worked as a pizza place waitress, dry cleaning counter clerk, scheduling rep for a driving school, mortgage tax department rep, mortgage assumption assistant supervisor, lunch truck driver, landscaping help and bartender. I love what I learned in each of those jobs, and heard a lot of good stories from the people I met. All grist for the mill.
Favorite job:Besides writing? Driving the lunchtruck. The people were cool, I was my own boss, drove around all day in the summer with the music on and made excellent money. It was hard work, very physically demanding but it earned me great muscles, I got a killer tan and met tons of interesting people.
High school and/or college:I come from a small town in NJ that didn't have a high school, so I went to St. Pius X, a regional high school and it was a blast. It was a pretty innovative place at the time, very free and open, allowing students to structure their own days, so some days I'd only schedule myself one half-hour class and could hang out socializing for the other 7 hours or so. It sounds bizarre now, I know, but it was absolutely wonderful for someone like me, who needs room to stretch and does not do well in captivity.
Name of your favorite composer or music artist?:The Black Crowes, Bob Dylan, The Band, Corinne Bailey Rae, John Mellencamp, Beatles, Isley Brothers, Smokey Robinson, Chaka Khan, Van Morrison, Train, Counting Crows, Melissa Etheridge, Janis Joplin.
Favorite movie:My favorites change according to mood. Some of them are Auntie Mame with Rosalind Russell, 13th Warrior with Antonio Banderas, Anne of Green Gables with Megan Follows, Moll Flanders with Alex Kingston, Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson, Smoke Signals with Adam Beach, Skins, The Kite Runner, Chocolat and From Hell with Johnny Depp.
Favorite television show:Rescue Me with Denis Leary.
- Q. How would you describe your life in only 8 words?
- A. Author, reader, feeder of strays. Love, laugh, learn..
- Q. What is your motto or maxim?
- A. Live, and let live.
- Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
Perfection (to me) means the end of growth or evolution -- what is perfect is done, complete -- and so it's never been something I've consciously reached for. I love experiencing a thousand constantly shifting shades of happiness.
Close to perfect happiness though, would be spring, with rich sunshine, fresh breezes and life blooming all around me. Spring is exciting, another chance to stretch and reach and begin anew. All things seem possible in spring. It makes me positively giddy.
- Q. What’s your greatest fear?
- A. Losing my mind. I'm pretty sure I'd really hate that.
- Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
- A. I love where I am, so if I added anything it would be hanging out in the shade under the towering weeping willows near the pond with my family and friends, laughing, talking, eating and having a wonderful time.
- Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
- A. I don't know that I do. Must think more about this.
- Q. Which living person do you most admire?
- A. I don't think I admire one person so much as I admire traits like passion, determination, kindness, honor and humor.
- Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
- A. "But why?" and "I've been thinking..."
- Q. What do you regret most?
- A. The times I've ignored my gut instincts and held back when I should have rushed forward.
- Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
- A. A powerful singing voice. Chaka Khan, Melissa Etheridge and Janis Joplin have always knocked me out.
- Q. What is your greatest achievement?
- A. So far, I think it's writing. Well, that and discovering a great stock of patience that I never knew I had.
- Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
- A. Ha! I'm pretty sure it would depend on who you asked. I'm going to choose determination, as once I sink my teeth into something I want it takes an act of God to make me drop it again.
- Q. What’s your best quality?
- A. Determination. See above.
- Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
- A. I'm good with who I am.
- Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
- A. Well, I smile a lot. I'm usually a pretty happy person and I like findng the humor in things.
- Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
- A. I never have just one favorite of anything so it's a tie between Auntie Mame, Anne Shirley and Moll Flanders.
- Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
- A. I can't think of anyone specific but I imagine it would be a villain who, despite his/her bad intent, would be someone I could either feel sorry for or understand why they wanted what they wanted, and weren't just a cardboard, pure evil figure.
- Q. If you could meet any historical character, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
- A. I can't think of anyone specific, and if I did meet someone I'm not sure I would tell them anything, so much as I would want to listen, try to see who they really were and understand why they did whatever they did.
- Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
- A. It's a tie between indecision, mandated conformity and judging on appearance rather than substance. All three drive me mad.
- Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
- A. When I was younger I wanted to work in the baby animal section of the zoo -- lion and tiger cubs, specifically -- but I think I would have overdosed on cuteness, so it's just as well that I never pursued it. Of jobs I've actually held to support my writing, I'd say zooming around all summer driving a lunchtruck. Excellent job: great money, being out in the sun with the music blasting, selling food and meeting great people. It was wonderful.
- Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
- A. This is it, right here, right now.
- Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
- A. Reliability, determination, enthusiasm, kindness and a great sense of humor
- Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
- A. Food. (Oh, come on. You must have expected that.) More specific? Pasta, pickles, cheese, good bread. Or sicilian pizza, extra sauce, extra chese. Or vegetables. (Good God, I just can't do it. I simply cannot pick just one of ANYTHING.)
- Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
- A. They change with my mood but today I'm going to say Anna Begins by Counting Crows, Caravan by Van Morrison (The Last Waltz version), I've Got a Feeling by The Beatles, When Jesus Left Birmingham by John Mellencamp, and Your Love is Mine by Corinne Bailey Rae. Oh, and My Morning Song, and Wiser Time by The Black Crowes.
On Books and Writing
- Q. Who are your favorite authors?
- A. This is rough because I have so many.
- Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
- A. I have comfort books that I read because they make me laugh, cry or freak. I love the characters and how they draw me in and never let me go until the end.
So I always reach for Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, It by Stephen King, The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, and Blood Countess by Andrei Codrescu. Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series, too. And Sara Bird, Sherman Alexie, Madeleine Brent and Jerzy Kosinski. Impossible to name just five.
- Q. Is there a book you love to reread?
- A. Oh yes, all of the above.
- Q. Do you have one sentence of advice for new writers?
- A. Listen to your characters because they may know more than you think they do.
- Q. What comment do you hear most often from your readers?
- A. "I started to read Such a Pretty Girl and couldn't put it down again until it was done." That's a wonderful thing to hear, truly.
- Q. How did you come to write How It Ends?
- A. How It Ends grew out of some haunting, unanswered questions and two completely separate, very disturbing images I've had tucked away in the back of my mind for years.
The unanswered questions were born as a result of several people who were dear to me passing away and me realizing -- after it was too late, of course -- that there were so many things I'd never asked them, stories only they knew that I should have taken the time to listen to and mostly, odd fragments of info discovered after their deaths that couldn't be resolved and will now always remain mysteries.
I started wondering about life stories, how each one of us has one that isn't apparent at first glance, what we tell the world about ourselves and what we deliberately tuck away and never reveal.
And of how we never really know someone, no matter how much we want to believe that we do.
I also wanted to explore how love begins, and how it ends, and what comes of each experience. I think everything that happens to us both teaches us something about ourselves -- what we accept, what we reject, what we're willing to trade and what we're not -- and shapes us for what comes next. The imprints -- both good and bad -- that we leave on each other -- often without meaning to -- and how we go on to translate them fascinates me no end.