Lauren and I have known each other for a few years now and even though she lives in Sydney and I live in Perth, we make sure we catch up when either of us is visiting and it’s always a laughter filled event. Lauren is a genuinely warm hearted, multi-talented (you should see her cookies!), humble and loyal person with a wicked sense of humour. I adore her and I also adore THE LACE WEAVER, her magnificent story of two young women and their families and loves during World War Two in Estonia.
I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of THE LACE WEAVER while I was in Europe. For a few freezing snowy mornings in a row, I woke up hours before my family just to have quiet time to read it! The photo here is me holding the book in front of a beautiful berry tree in Lapland, Finland. I felt like that tree was put there just to show off the stunning cover. I hope you all add it to your list of books to read and rush out and buy it because it’s a wonderfully moving story. I must warn you though, I cried bucket loads towards the end.
I hope you enjoy this glimpse into Lauren’s world, I love how raw and real she is in her interview too!
A breathtaking debut about love and war, and the battle to save a precious legacy.
Each lace shawl begins and ends the same way – with a circle. Everything is connected with a thread as fine as gossamer, each life affected by what has come before it and what will come after.
1941, Estonia. As Stalin’s brutal Red Army crushes everything in its path, Katarina and her family survive only because their precious farm produce is needed to feed the occupying forces.
Fiercely partisan, Katarina battles to protect her grandmother’s precious legacy – the weaving of gossamer lace shawls stitched with intricate patterns that tell the stories passed down through generations.
While Katarina struggles to survive the daily oppression, another young woman is suffocating in her prison of privilege in Moscow. Yearning for freedom and to discover her beloved mother’s Baltic heritage, Lydia escapes to Estonia.
Facing the threat of invasion by Hitler’s encroaching Third Reich, Katarina and Lydia and two idealistic young soldiers, insurgents in the battle for their homeland, find themselves in a fight for life, liberty and love.
Praise for The Lace Weaver:
‘A beautifully written and utterly compelling story of love and war and resistance that shines a light onto a dark and tragic period of history while also illuminating the enduring power of love and friendship. Unforgettable and emotionally wrenching, and as exquisite as the lace the women of the story weave.’ Kate Forsyth
‘A sweeping historical story set in Estonia and Russia during the tumultuous year of 1941 … This is a meticulously researched novel, and Chater seamlessly incorporates the symbolic motif of the Estonian lace-weaving tradition and the Tartu knitting circle to link the past and present … Recommended for fans of Kirsty Manning and Kate Morton, this is a gut-wrenching tale about a devastating time in history. Full of hope, heartache and the power of keeping traditions alive.’ Bookseller and Publisher
‘From the very first line, I was captivated by this tale of two very different, but equally heroic, women. There is beauty to be found everywhere: in the writing, in the women's friendship, in the tragedy, and in the motif of the lace shawls, which weaves the story together.’ Natasha Lester, author of Her Mother’s Secret and A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald
'A rich, textured and evocatively told story of love, loss and the ties that bind. The setting is exotic and intriguing and presents a unique side of the war ... I found it difficult to put this haunting novel down and it will stay with me for a long time to come, I’m certain. Lauren Chater is a bold new force in Australian historical fiction. Bravo on a glorious debut!’ Tess Woods, author of Beautiful Messy Love and Love at First Flight.
‘Beautiful and brilliant … An impressive, powerful and skillfully told anti-war novel from an extremely gifted writer’ Backstory journal
In addition to writing fiction, she established The Well Read Cookie, a blog which celebrates her love of baking and literature. She lives in Sydney with her husband and two children. The Lace Weaver is her first novel, and she is currently working on her second, Gulliver’s Wife. See www.laurenchater.com and www.thewellreadcookie.com
An interview with Lauren Chater:
How do you go about researching settings and scenarios in your book?
Setting plays a really big role in all my stories. In fact, I’d say it really dictates the way my characters think and act. I’m a big believer in visiting the places where my books are set. I just can’t write about a place with any authority unless I’ve spoken to the people who live there, eaten the food and tried to understand the topography. In fiction, it’s the small details that count; is the ground in the forest loamy or dry? What kind of birds live there; how do they sound? What are the seasons like; does the landscape change slowly or does winter come all at once? What songs do people sing? What recipes do they pass down to their children? If that seems like a lot of questions, it probably is. I might not end up using the information directly, but if it helps me to understand my characters better, it isn’t wasted.
What do you know now that you wish you knew before you were published?
How slow the process is. I mean… really, REALLY slow. We are talking Flash-Slothmore-from-Zootopia style. Depending on how much structural work your manuscript needs and how busy the publishing house is, it can take a year and a half, sometimes more, from the moment you sign a contract to the moment where you get to hold your finished book. That’s a long time in the real world! There’s a lot that goes into getting a book published, though. A good deal of time is set aside for editing, but there’s also cover design (which has to be pitch perfect), marketing schedules (which are affected by what other titles are also in production) and ‘selling in’ to bookshops and distributers (the sales reps at publishing houses are often overlooked but they do an incredibly important job getting books into the right hands).
How do you make time to write?
I love this question because it gives me permission to fantasise. In my perfect world, my well-behaved children wake up after 7.30 and get themselves dressed. My husband works from home, so we enjoy breakfast together before I kiss the kids goodbye, retire to my dedicated study and settle myself before a state-of-the-art computer while he drops them at school. I spend the next eight hours writing furiously, pausing only for a quick lunch break, before the kids return home, help us make dinner and then bathe and put themselves to bed. As a reward for my creative labours, I allow myself the pleasure of a few hours reading in bed before dropping off myself for a blissful uninterrupted nine-hour slumber. That’s the dream.
The reality is very different! In reality, I am the main carer for my children, aged three and six. I write when I can - when my son, who has special needs, is at school; when my Mum babysits my daughter, on weekends when I can get away for a few hours and the kids can hang out with their Dad. I write at night, forcing my eyes to stay open until I’ve finished just one more scene. I write on a funny little old desk in the corner of my bedroom or in noisy cafes or at the library. I have written drunk, sober and exhausted beyond belief, wrung out by the demands of children and a day job. It’s not pretty and to be honest, not everything I’ve written has been good on the first go. But that’s the beauty of editing; you get another shot at it. The important thing is to get it down. Everything else can be fixed over time.
Which famous person living/dead would you most like to meet and why?
I would love to meet Jonathan Swift, the 18th Century Irish author and satirist. That sounds odd I know, but I’m currently writing a novel based on Gulliver’s Travels (told from his wife’s perspective) and I’m trying to incorporate some of Swift’s mannerisms and personal tics into the story. I’d love to know if I’ve got them right! I’ve discovered so many interesting things about him since I started researching; such as, that he had piercing blue eyes and a cleft chin and was considered rather handsome. He also displayed some compulsive behaviours, such as obsessional hand cleaning and the desire to bathe twice a day as he didn’t like bad smells. In the 18th Century, bathing twice a day was considered very odd!
What is your favourite fairytale?
My favourite fairytale has always been The Goose Girl, retold by the Brothers Grimm. I’ve loved it ever since I was a child. I love the drama of the lost handkerchief, stained with the blood of the Princess’s mother and the pathos of the horse’s severed head which speaks to her from beyond the grave. And of course, the gory vengeance when the imposter Princess is ordered to ‘dance on the hot pokers’ inserted in her shoes until she dies. I was a strange child.
Why do you write?
I write to understand myself and my own responses to things. I write to draw connections between ideas which might seem dissimilar but in fact, when put together, illuminate something about what it is to be human and to know suffering, joy and regret, emotions that we all experience at some stage in our lives, no matter what our backgrounds. I also write because I love being able to speak to people in a way I couldn’t in real life. When people read, they’re inviting you to tell them a story and that’s really special. They are sacrificing their time in order to give you the space to say something. I find that humbling and amazing and terrifying. Mostly, though, I’m just grateful for the opportunity.
What are you reading now?
Right now, I’m reading a few different things. I’m reading Jean Rhys’ classic Wide Sargasso Sea, as inspiration for my Gulliver novel. I also have From Here to Eternity by Caitlin Doughty on my bedside table, which is the follow-up to her successful memoir Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: and other lessons from the Crematory. Caitlin is a mortician, blogger and media personality advocating death acceptance and the reform of Western funeral practices. And lastly, I’m diving in and out of a collection of short stories by Australian author Laura Elizabeth Woollett called The Love of a Bad Man, which explores the lives of various wives, mistresses and girlfriends of some of history’s greatest villains and murderers. I heard her speak last year at the Perth Writers’ Festival; she was amazing!
What made you want to become an author?
I would love to say the guarantee of ridiculous amounts of money. And fame. Thankfully, I already knew not to expect those things! The real reasons are varied and have changed over time as I’ve learnt more about the writing craft. Initially, it was for validation; to prove to myself that all those hours of writing and rewriting my manuscript weren’t wasted and to show my writing tutors and my parents that the time and money they’d invested in me was justified. Now, my motivation is to learn more about this strange path I’ve chosen and to challenge myself to find new and interesting ways to express what I want to say.
Which books have made an impact on you and stayed with you long after you’ve read them?
I’ve read so many amazing books over the years, but the ones which have impacted me most are the ones which have either come to me at the exact moment I needed them or have made me feel less alone in the world. Chocolat by Joanne Harris is one; Toni Morrison’s Beloved is another. March by Geraldine Brooks taught me that historical books could be as much about a person’s internal world as the external. I love Kate Forsyth’s Bitter Greens, a dark Gothic retelling of the Rapunzel tale. I devoured it over two days but I still think about it and return to it when I need a comfort read.
What is your favourite motivational phrase or quote?
You’re going to laugh, but it’s a Disney quote and it applies to everything, not just writing. It’s Dory the Fish: ‘Just keep swimming.’ I think it’s perfect.