Sometimes imagination is not enough.
Thomas Lash grants secret wishes . . . on-screen, that is.
White wedding gone horribly wrong and need to swap the groom? Never went to university but must have a graduation photo? Need to create a fake family for that job interview? Problem solved with expert Photoshopping and Tom's peculiar ability to know exactly what you desire. Tom never says no, even when giving grieving parents the chance to see what the lives of their lost children may have looked like.
But where do you draw the line . . . and what happens when the fantasy Tom sees on-screen starts to bleed into his real life?
Those Pleasant Girls, Lia's second novel, was published with Pan Macmillan in April 2017, and You Wish, her third book, was released in April 2018.
In between wrestling with plot points and procrastinating instead of writing her synopsis, Lia runs a bicycle shop with her husband Pete and also works as a freelance copyeditor.
An interview with Lia Weston:
Can you tell us briefly about your book?
Have you ever wondered what your life would have been like if you'd married someone else? (Chris Hemsworth, for example.) Perhaps you've daydreamed about winning an Oscar instead, or sharing the stage with Beyoncé. Then you need Thomas Lash, the man who can make your dreams come true. Onscreen, anyway.
Tom's company, IF, creates photographs so good, no one suspects they're fake. But when his clients' demands start getting out of control, and Tom's Photoshop world starts to bleed into reality, things get complicated. You Wish is a story about illusions, delusions, love, obsession, and all the strange places they lead us.
Which Hollywood stars would you like to see play the lead roles in the movie version of your book?
I find character models really helpful when writing, and a couple were based on actors, handily! Aaron Taylor-Johnson was perfect for Rohan, Tom's business partner. (It's all in the pout.) Kat Dennings was a base model for Mica. Tom, however, simply didn't match anyone I could find, and therefore evolved purely in my head. That being said, if Andrew Garfield is available, I'd be more than happy for him to take the part.
How long did it take you to write your book?
Eighteen months, from start to finish. I normally take longer -- The Fortunes of Ruby White took around eight years and Those Pleasant Girls approximately four -- but was on a very tight deadline with my publisher. It was an incredibly stressful but creative time, and although I occasionally felt as if my brain was leaking out of my ears, I think You Wish is my best work. (Please don't ask me to do the next one in nine months, though. I'd need a time machine and possibly some kind of drug habit.)
How did you come up with the title? Did you have alternative titles?
I wrote You Wish under the title Sophia Running On The River, as I felt it summed up Tom's obsession (and favourite hobby) in one go. However, my publisher pointed out—quite correctly—that no-one would have any idea what the book was about, so You Wish it was. I should have learned by now; none of my original titles have survived!
How do you come up with character names?
They basically come in two categories: themes and inside jokes. In my first novel, The Fortunes of Ruby White, one character was called Mr Petrie, because he was a dish. (Ba-da-bing! To this day, I don’t think anyone’s got that one.) In Those Pleasant Girls, many of the residents of Sweet Meadow have Germanic surnames, some of which reference their professions, such as Mr Zucker, who runs the sweet shop. Mini D’s surname (Mimulo) is Italian, as he is an outcast, as was Evie (nee Bouvier, a French surname). For You Wish, I liked the name Tom because it’s such a straightforward kind of name, but it can also either be used formally (Thomas) or in a cutesy manner (Tommy), neither of which suit him. Alex is named after Alex P. Keaton from Family Ties. Kain is quite Biblical in his outlook, hence his moniker. Mica was actually called Kat initially (see the Dennings reference above), but I realised that there were far too many K names. I couldn’t bear to change Kain to anything else, so Kat shifted to Mica. (Another artistic Italian, which I’ve only actually just realised.) Believe it or not, Tom’s surname—Lash—came from the manager of Grumpy Cat. I read an interview and thought it was brilliant. (The name moreso than the interview.)
What is the best piece of writing advice you have received?
Write the book you want to read. Firstly, there's no point chasing a story you're not passionate about. Why spend thousands of hours creating a book you think someone else might possibly, maybe want to read, only to find out that it isn't true, and you could have spent that time creating your epic space opera/dark noir thriller/mermaid poetry collection instead? You also can't write for the current market, because by the time your book goes to print (after all the writing and the submitting and the waiting and the editing and the re-editing and more waiting), several years will have passed. People's tastes change. Don't try to predict the next big thing. Write your own story. At least at the end, even if no one else picks it up, you'll have something to be proud of.
What was your road to publication like?
Unusual! I wrote my first novel partly because I had an idea for a story and wanted to see how it would turn out, and partly because I didn’t want to be that person with a half-finished manuscript in a drawer. I thought it was OK, and decided to take a shot at publication. I picked a publisher whose backlist I liked—Simon and Schuster—and posted it off without a second thought. Then I started researching, and realised, to my horror, I had done everything wrong. About eight months later, when I’d decided that I was blacklisted because of my numerous submission-based faux pas, I received an email asking if the book was still available, as they were interested in publishing it. If you're a writer, and depending on your particular state of mind, this story will either make you hopeful or want to punch me in the face. However, I think it’s a great example of how so much scaremongering there is about getting published—you must have an agent, you must get rejected fifty times, you must write several other books first, you must sacrifice a squirrel on the second Sunday at high noon, etc.—and so much of it isn’t true. Luck and timing are important. These things you can’t control, unfortunately. However, if a publisher has submission guidelines, take those seriously.
Do you take negative reviews of your book personally or do you shrug them off?
It depends on the review. If someone says, “This is the worst book I have ever read,” I shrug it off because my work is obviously not to their taste. No-one can be universally loved. (Possibly except from Taiki Waititi.) And also this person has clearly never read Mein Kampf. If, however, a review points out a structural or factual issue, that's another story. Fortunately, reviewers have for the most part been kind. And if they're not, one of the best ways to make yourself feel better is to read the reviews of a book you adore, and marvel at the different ways people can express how much they hate it. (Seriously, over 11,000 people have given Hamlet a one-star review on Goodreads. Personal fave: "this book deserves 0 stars. Shakespeare killed off all characters like who the hell is left man.")
Which writers inspire you?
Charlotte Wood, as she puts her heart and soul into her work, and dives into troubling waters. Sonya Hartnett, because she uses imagery so beautifully, and her books made me see that prose can be poetry. And Bill Bryson, because he's so informative and yet still hilarious.
What is your all time favourite movie?
Shaun of the Dead, although I'm not a horror movie aficionado (and still have to cover my eyes at one pivotal moment). The cast is superb, and it has that blend of understated British humour and physical comedy that I love. Plus, geekily, the sound editing is excellent. (Yes, I'm the person who can sit through a horrendous movie and still give the audio its due.) However, this choice alternates with When Harry Met Sally, depending on the day. There always has to be a runner-up, right?