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Three Leaves - interview with author Steven LaVey

Today our guest is Steven LaVey, a writer from Newcastle upon Tyne in the north east of England. We have conducted an interview with him about his newly released book, ‘Three Leaves'.

Who should read 'Three Leaves'? What is it about?

Three Leaves is work of romance/biographical fiction. The novel is in the first person, and is set in the years 2001-2004 in my home city of Newcastle upon Tyne. The protagonist is a fictionalised version of my nineteen-year-old, naïve self, and the work documents his struggles to come to terms with his life after fledging the nest from an overbearing, dominant mother.

The novel splits into three sections – or leaves – each one concerning a relationship, and how those relationships fall away from the protagonist. Two of those relationships are romantic, while one is platonic, although it may be up to the reader to decide (especially in the last part of the book) who the third leaf actually is as all sections contain romantic loss. The main section of the book (Leaf II) concerns the madness of the protagonist’s first true love and his decent into psychosis. It is about the inability to control his emotions, the monsters, and demons that arise from the abyss that he creates, and the sudden explosion of violence that comes with first love and the freedom from the matriarchal microcosm of the family home.

Other themes in the novel relate to his struggles to create his own identity as an adult. They include Buddhism, an obsession with the occult, philosophy, violence, the nature of truth, existentialism, and the absurdity and meaninglessness of a modern atheistic life. He struggles with subjective and objective reality; the sudden realisation that progression through life comes one day at a time, and that it brings him closer to death. The novel is about fledging, loss, the shock of cancer, the search for enlightenment, introversion, and isolation in a world full of people. It concerns art, poverty, music, and writing.

As stated, the book is in the first person. My aim was to write directly, so that it almost has a journalistic feel, so that the reader may experience the narrative immediately. I also wanted to create lightning-jolts, pockets of images, and framed bits of story that build up. My aim was to create moments, haiku, and explosive events. I wanted to write something real, that was ballsy, and which provoked mixed emotions towards the protagonist.

Similar work written in the same genre influenced the novel (as with my previous novel The Ugly Spirit) – in particular, the writing of Henry Miller, the early biographical-fiction of William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson, Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers and so on.

As for who should read Three Leaves: well, I would hope anyone who is interested in the complexities of the human condition, and anyone who feels that their life is more than a series of dualities. By that, I mean the understanding that the typical storytelling dichotomies of good and evil are flawed – and that the human condition, and being human, means embracing all aspects of one’s experience in order to have a better understanding of one’s true will.

What inspired you to write this story? What was your motivation?

Autobiographical fiction appears to me to be the truest literary form, but only if the writer is prepared to bare the worst things about themselves for it. The best example of this is Henry Millers Tropic of Cancer. Over the years, I’ve tried my hand at various literary genres (in particular sci-fi, surrealism, and comedy) but never found that my true voice came through. It wasn’t until I wrote The Ugly Spirit that I felt that I had discovered my voice – a narrative that doesn’t require thought, isn’t mimicry or emulation, it simply flows unconsciously through the fingers and onto the keys. The motivation, therefore, in writing autobiographical fiction and Three Leaves, is the attempt to transform and fictionalise periods of my life. What I’ve found through writing autobiographical fiction is that my past becomes richer than I’d ever imagined or remembered. As a writing process, it allows for many things forgotten (conversations, the memory of sounds, smells and sights, strange emotions, and dreams) to be remembered through association. By that, I mean you start to write about a dead family member, or someone you’ve lost touch with, or an event that happened many years ago, and as you write the mind remembers the memory of the memory, and images, feelings, and sensations, tumble out. Of course, my memory of the memory is entirely subjective, and may be falsified and muddied through my own bias and time.

If your book were to be chosen to be made into a motion picture, who would you choose to cast as the main actor/actress and why would you choose them?

It is difficult to imagine Three Leaves as a film. It doesn’t have a typical story arc that would satisfy your average filmgoer. It may work as a series, however as it is set in my home town of Newcastle upon Tyne, it would require mostly Geordie actors. I also don’t think that it would transpose well to another location without losing something of the essence of the north-east of England that is integral to the protagonist, and therefore the very essence of the story, for example the weather, dialect, seasonal changes, and the north/south cultural clash between the protagonist and his girlfriend in Leaf II, Ariella.

What has been the most challenging part of the story to write? Why and how did you overcome it?

The most challenging aspect of writing Three Leaves has been reliving the difficulties of my early adulthood. In being brutally honest about my behaviour at the time, I actually found solace in the fact that I have changed considerably since then. Re-examining my life and opening all those old wounds has given me a better understanding of myself and has helped me come to terms with the things that I did wrong, how I mistreated people and myself, and to accept my actions and embrace them as part of becoming a more emotionally rounded individual. I’ve found this process enlightening in that instead of burying it all and either pretending it didn’t happen, or blaming others, the whole process has been cathartic and a release from old demons.
Three Leaves - interview with author Steven LaVey Reviewed by JaamZIN on 6:28:00 PM Rating: 5
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