Today I’m speaking with the prolific writer, Brian Lageose. He is the author of Unexpected Wetness and Screaming in Paris. His blog Bonnywood Manor is fifty percent hilarity, forty percent ingenious and ten percent Cheval Blanc.
M: Your blog is called Bonnywood Manor. Enlighten the proletariat and tell us how you arrived on that title.
B: The concept of Bonnywood Manor evolved over time. Many centuries ago, when we bloggers still used stone tablets and chisels, I shared my writing on another blogging platform. Since I am an admitted overachiever, I often had multiple blogs going on at the same time (up to 10 at one point), as I am also an admitted masochist.
In a moment of epiphany (drinking was probably involved) I realized that I needed to coordinate all these sites in some way. I set up my own website (which required me to learn coding to some degree, as back then we didn’t have point-and-click website creation; I still have nightmares about the experience to this day) and, thusly, “Bonnywood Manor” was officially launched. In my questionable vision, the Manor was an artist’s enclave established in the Roaring Twenties, allowing me to share my love for old movies, art deco, manor houses and hedonism.
To get a better sense of the conception, you can still visit this long-abandoned website: http://lageose.net/
There’s much more to the story than I can share here but, end result, “Bonnywood Manor” is meant to be a writer’s collective, encompassing all styles and voices, a community. And it also happens to be the name of my publishing company, one that I created and registered with the state of Texas just before I published my first book, although it really only exists on paper, with no employees or assets or, well, book-printing machines. (I had naïve visions that my first book would be a huge bestseller and I actually thought I might need said company for tax purposes. This proved not to be the case, whatsoever.)
M: I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you miss a day without posting. How is it, that you are better than everyone?
B: While I generally post every day, there is a wee smidge of cheating underlying that impression. There are often times when I don’t have something fresh fully prepared, so I’ll dig something out of the archives, bang it around a bit, and then throw it back out there. (Sometimes it will be a complete re-write, other times it will be mere minor fiddling.) As I mentioned in the previous response, I have worked on a number of blogs for many years. The archives are brimming, with both treasures and absolute failures, so I have plenty of things to recycle without getting too annoying or repetitious.
But yes, I try to post something every day. It forces me to constantly be creative on at least some level, and I think we should all strive to do that, whether it be writing or gardening or singing or curing cancer.
M: What are some of your favorite topics to write about? Do you laugh or chortle at your own material?
B: The most easily-satisfying pieces are the “Past Imperfects”, wherein I take old photos and envision a story to go with them. Since folks are already accustomed to these being warped little adventures, I’m free to go wherever I want with them, and go I do. (Really, that’s what writing should be, going wherever you want, but so many of us write for others and forget to write for ourselves.) And yes, I do laugh at some of my own lines, but usually not while I’m writing them. It’s only later, when I’m digging through those archives, when the chortling ensues. Sometimes you need a little distance to appreciate what you’ve done.
The most fully-satisfying pieces, however, are the “nostalgia” stories, from my childhood and early adult years. My writing style changes somehow, a switch just gets flipped, and I enter this other zone as I reflect and contemplate. And yes, I cry over my own words, while writing them in these cases, as I’m often revisiting demons and heartache, even if I give everything a delicate veneer of humor.
M: Besides Liam Hemsworth’s whimsical hair, where do you get your inspiration?
B: Quite simply: Life. Humans are extraordinary and messy and warm and cold and desperate and heartless and glowing and stupid and stunning, all at the same time. The story-triggers are everywhere.
M: You wrote a book titled Screaming in Paris, about a family’s misadventure on their Paris vacation. Is this somewhat autobiographical; is the family in the book based upon your own family experiences?
B: Yes, it’s entirely autobiographical, with 90% of the goings-on entirely true. (There are absurd “dream sequences” inserted throughout, thus requiring me to put a disclaimer on the copyright page that said book “should be considered a work of fiction”, even though it’s mostly not. Despite that nod to possible whimsy, there are certain family members who have never forgiven me for how I portrayed them. I guess they don’t like looking in a mirror.)
M: You also wrote a book called Unexpected Wetness, again about a family’s misadventure, but this time in Six Flags. I too had a few misadventures on vacations as a kid, but mostly because my dad said, “I am going to turn this car around,” and he actually would. He didn’t believe in idle threats. What or who were some of the catalysts that caused your vacations to go off the rails?
B: The catalysts are easy to identify: People behaving inappropriately, be it family members (notice the theme?), Six Flags employees, random tourists who should never have strayed from the family farm, or corporate officials who only look at numbers and not patron enjoyment. Everything that could go wrong, did. And I took notes.
By the way, it sounds like your father is my father as well. I find it pleasing that you might be my sister, but I will be slightly annoyed if I learn that you knew this the whole time and didn’t bother to send me something lovely for my birthdays.
M: Do you prefer writing for your blog over novels?
B: This is an excellent question, one that I have been pondering quite a bit recently. I greatly enjoy the “instant gratification” of releasing a blog post. You know right away if folks like something or they don’t. And there are many times when the commentary discussions are much more satisfying than what I may have written in the blog post proper.
At the same time, spending most of my day either composing/revising a new blog post or responding to comments leaves little time to work on my novels. I currently have five said novels that are in various stages of development, two of which I have been working on for years. (And one of which weighs in at roughly 700 pages of rough draft and clearly needs some whittling.)
I haven’t released a new novel since 2014, which is ridiculous. I’m retired, I should be putting out a new book every 6 months or so. But the allure of blogging is beguiling, and I let myself get led astray. Perhaps it’s time that I pull up my socks and get the deed done. Thank you for giving me this gentle shove, even if you did not mean to do so.
M: Who are some of your favorite authors/influences?
B: This question is always tricky, at least for me, as I have many influences, all for wildly variant reasons, but I’ll give it a run, with the admonition that this is only a sampling:
Zilpha Keatley Snyder: I worshiped her books as a tweenager.
Stephen King: Despite the horror angle, he has a solid understanding of humanity.
Anne Rice: Two words – hypnotic atmosphere.
Anne Tyler: She takes the tiny moments and gives them grandeur.
Douglas Adams: To be allowed into his warped, immensely-imaginative mind was a pleasure.
Gore Vidal: Extremely arrogant and off-putting in his personal life, he could structure a whopper of a tale.
John Rechy: Bold and fearless.
Garrison Keillor: He paints small-town life with loving brushstrokes.
Fannie Flagg: And she does the same.
Ray Bradbury: Science-fiction angle aside, when he shares his childhood via his characters, I’m mesmerized. “Dandelion Wine” is one of the books I wish I had written although, to be honest, I wish I had written some of the books by anyone on this list.
M: Is there any one book that you read as an adolescent or young adult that had a profound effect on you? Did it actually put you on a different trajectory in life, like it made you decide not to become an Alaskan Fisherman?
B: I think it’s fair to say that nearly every (respectable) book I read as an adolescent or young adult confirmed my belief that I was meant to word-smith. I wanted to be a writer when I was 8 and I still want to be a writer at 54. There has been an amazing amount of life-crap thrown in my way over the decades that kept me from this goal, but it’s still what I yearn for, still what I want. I have so much to say, so many, many things, and I’m sure I will continue trying to write the right words until old-age and happenstance dictate otherwise.
M: Where can the masses find your books and you online?
B: My Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Brian-Lageose/e/B00EECSIH2/
My main blog: https://brianlageose.blog/
My Twitter Account: https://twitter.com/BonnywoodManor
My Author Page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Bonnywood-Manor-328812236679/