Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Q & A with Greg Lazarus - Authors of Paradise

In the wake of the launch of their new collaborative effort as Greg Lazarus, Paradise, Paranormalsphere had the opportunity to ask local authors Lisa Lazarus and Greg Fried a few questions.

The gorgeous cover of the local edition of Paradise.

Your books have a very international flavour, it occurs to me that a reader from anywhere in the world would instantly identify with your characters, and love what they get up to. Why do you think your characters are so real?
Lisa: Thank you. We like our characters to get themselves into tricky situations that don’t always make them happy. Trying to carve out a little patch of satisfaction in hard circumstances seems like a challenge that resonates with many people.

Greg: We know a character is working if we start talking about her like she’s real, as if she’s our friend or enemy or frenemy or whatever.

You have said that you don't fight when you write together. So what happens when you're not writing?
Lisa: When we’re not writing, we’re arguing about who must look after the kids.

But we’re very pleased we fought a lot after having our first child, because it provided the stimulus for our first book, a memoir called The Book of Jacob, which was about our experience of having a child.

As our children started growing up, our books became lighter. Our first novel, When in Broad Daylight I Open my Eyes, is about a tortured psychologist who meets a strange philosopher – it’s a psychological thriller. I was pregnant when I co-wrote that book so no wonder. Paradise is lighter, funnier – a hopeful look at the world – and guess what, our kids are older, and our lives are slightly more settled.

Greg: But there are limits. Our books will never become serene, because we are not calm.

What do your families think of your books?
Lisa: I don’t think Greg’s mother enjoyed When in Broad Daylight – there was too much perverted sex. However, my parents seemed to like it a lot. They talk wistfully about its contents.

Greg: Yes, we based our characters on Lisa’s parents.

Your novels effortlessly straddle literary and commercial. Do you do that on purpose or is it an accident?
Lisa: Effortlessly!? Nothing is effortless when it comes to writing.

Greg: We love elegantly written, insightful novels that are easy to read. We keep trying to write one.

What are the top things you love about the South African literary scene?
Lisa: Going out for a drink with writer friends and discussing scandalously inappropriate things, and then berating oneself the next day for admitting to something strange, like enjoying gay male erotica (come on: the guys look good in it!).

Greg: I didn’t know you enjoyed that.

Thanks you very much for you time and the all the best with Paradise on our shores and across the pond!

The authors (photo from Books LIVE)

Greg is a philosopher at the University of Cape Town, and holds a PhD from Trinity College, Cambridge. Before taking up a post in philosophy, he worked as an IT consultant and business writer.

Lisa is a psychologist and freelance writer. She has Master’s degrees in educational psychology and creative writing, and a higher diploma in education. She has written for publications including Men’s Health, Femina, Shape, Cosmopolitan, Cape Town’s Child, Psychologies, and Mail & Guardian. Lisa tutors Magazine Journalism and Memoir Writing for SA Writers’ College.

The couple have co-written the memoir THE BOOK OF JACOB: A JOURNEY INTO PARENTHOOD (Oshun,2009) and the novel WHEN IN BROAD DAYLIGHT I OPEN MY EYES (Kwela,2012).

The new Greg Lazarus novel Paradise is out now.  It’s part art heist, part comedy, part adult coming-of-age.

About Paradise:

Maja Jellema is in Cape Town to do what she does best – steal. Her new employer wants a certain item from a building in Loop Street, and the only thing that stands between Maja and her prize is Hershel Bloch, the bumbling building manager. But what seems like the easiest job Maja has ever seen is about to get a whole lot more complicated . . .

Will Maja be able to finish the  job in time to save her no-good brother from large Dutch men with no sense of humour?

Can Hersh turn his topsy-turvy world around before he gets fired from Black Enterprises for being the worst estate agent in the history of the universe?

Will Surita finally make peace with her father and stop using her judo skills on people who just want to hug her?

Can the rage-filled waitresses at The People’s Republic – the greatest socialist coffee shop in all of Cape Town – produce even one cup of coffee without backchat?

Only time will tell. And it’s running out.

“Fast-paced and slickly written, it is both an uproarious comedy about lawlessness and a serious allegory about bondage. Greg Lazarus once again presents a cast of engaging, believable characters, not least of whom is the adorable klutz, Hershel Bloch.” - Finaula Dowling

“Laced with perfectly pitched black humour, and is populated with brilliantly drawn and unforgettable characters.” - Sarah Lotz

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