Decembers Interview brings us the bonus of two for the price of one.
Welcome to the art of Laura Dron a.k.a L .S. Matthews
Laura’s first novel, Fish (2003), won the Fidler Award and was also Highly Commended for the Branford Boase Award and nominated for a Carnegie Medal. Her other novels are The Outcasts (2004), A Dog For Life (2006), Lexi (2007) and After the Flood (2008). Laura also wrote two short SEN titles, Deadly Night and The Game, which were both published in 2006.
‘Stunning debut novel’ (The Glasgow Herald 20031011) See Laura’s answers to questions about her first children’s novel Fish [Kindle Edition] on YouTube SIDE BAR ———————————>>>
‘the fable-like quality of the telling has a subdued power.’ (Linda Newbury, TES 20031219)
‘Matthews allows just enough detail – and heart – to make miracles feel possible.’ (Book of the week, Publishers Weekly 20040531)
‘powerful and often surreal tale’ (Western Gazette 20020822)
‘A very unusual book, it maintained its pace … the characters are so well drawn.’ (Armadillo 20031101)
‘A wonderful story of survival simply and powerfully told.’ (Daily Echo 20030927) ‘A strong, tender story … I highly recommend this book.’ (Children’s Books in Ireland 20040301)
1. Above are just a few of the great reviews for your first children’s book ‘Fish’; you also paint and create sculpture, so I have to ask: Author, Artist and Sculptor, who is the real Laura Dron?
I always loved art as much as I loved writing, and I didn’t know which to continue with on leaving school. I applied for both Art College and to do an English degree at University, got the grades and was accepted for both, so that didn’t help in making a decision.
In the end, I went with the English, which I am happy about, on the grounds I’d definitely learn a lot (and it certainly makes you read and understand books you might not have, such as texts in Old/Middle English); I felt I could continue with my art whenever I chose and that is what happened.
The only help I’ve ever needed with the art is technical – e.g. different strengths and abilities of concrete in sculpture, how to treat papers – and I’ve managed to get most of that from internet research and books, trial and error. I pick up power tools and just see what they can do, and luckily haven’t come to harm yet. Men working in builder’s centres have been incredibly helpful and they always respond apparently unaffected by the fact I’m a woman (and rather a sIight one at that); but apparently lots more women are doing DIY now, so maybe they’re used to it!
I was also lucky enough to meet sculptor Chaim Stephenson, who, at the time, lived nearby and he gave me great technical info, but most helpfully, just encouraged me to just get on with it and have a go, see what worked.
I’ve also written songs, played guitar and sung in a band, rehabilitated abused horses and ponies, and am self-educated in psychology (both animal and human), and a qualifed Early Years Professional. I’m all of those things as much as I am an author or an artist.
I’ll just happily go with whatever brings in an income at the time – and currently it’s the turn of the Art.
People say it must be nice to have all these talents and strings to your bow, but I always sigh slightly and point out it might be handier to have Excellent Stockbroker skills or something – most of my talents don’t lead to steady financial reward along a well-defined route.
Still, I might be great at that I suppose – I’ve just never tried!
Very subconsciously. I didn’t really notice till I started saving image files and the word “fish” or “mullet” or “shoal” kept springing up. I don’t know, they are very beautiful creatures and have a sort of primal importance to them. I like all animals and if you get excited about seeing a bird, you tend to feel even luckier to see fish in their natural habitat, because, without scuba kit, it’s pretty difficult.
Currently the rivers and harbour are pretty churned up from all the floodwater and rough tides so I am a bit bereft – I still gaze in hopefully.
I’d just been watching trout in our river and got my underwater camera kit when the floods hit.
I think it’s likely all that will have to wait for next year!
3. What are you working on at them moment
I was angle-grinding and moulding stone in the summer outside, which was lovely, but now it’s turned freezing cold, I am turning my hand to jewellery for the first time. I do quite enjoy it, and I’m sure it’s better for my damaged arms, hands and shoulders, but I will welcome the sculpture and good weather again.
I’ve been to a few art and craft fairs, but find they really don’t cater well for true artists and artisans – there will need to be a new venue, or venues for my work. I’d love to set one up as I’ve really enjoyed seeing the talent of blacksmiths and furniture makers; they certainly need space and the right crowd with the right mindset to buy their work.
4. Even with the concentration on art, is there a book bubbling in the back of your head at the moment?
No, I’m fixed on whatever I’m doing at the time, totally. Multi-tasking is all very well, and certainly not geared to one sex. Men do it all the time in many jobs. Women have just been given a hand-clap for it because they’re forced into it far too often – making tea while little ones pester or need attention simultaneously, for example. I find one can do several things at the same time, but none of them will be done as well as if each task were concentrated on separately and solely. I’ve asked very different people if they think that’s the case, and if they’d prefer NOT to multi-task, given the choice, and so far, they’ve all agreed! Some people just need to break the cultural barrier and insist, and know they have the right to, that they’re doing THIS now and don’t want to be interrupted – if they have the set-up which allows that, and if they really want their best results, not just “good enough”.
5. Desert Island Discs. We always like to throw this one in. If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you take with you?
One must be a book, a piece of music/record track and one luxury item
Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men In a Boat – I used to keep a pocket version (I have several editions) in the glove compartment for any time I was stuck waiting – not driving, and stuck in traffic, I hasten to add. I know it word for word, but it doesn’t matter, I still laugh.
Bob Dylan’s Mr Tambourine Man because I don’t think I ever tire of it, and I’ve sung it along with him since I was a kid. Close your eyes and you’re off dancing “beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free, silhouetted by the sea..” I want a spear or a net or twine, frankly, to help me catch things to survive, and I’d consider them a luxury item. But if it’s assumed one has those, I’m going for a big duvet. Washable and dryable might be a good idea.
6. And the finally, the future ?
My plans: As far as my Fine Art goes – I’m going to working on my fine art again soon, as the online shop with what I call my “outlet” range has taken up enough of my time and has plenty of products and choice to last a while. I’m aiming at continuing a theme started with my painting “The Sea Will Come”, producing a series of large, mixed media works exploring the texture of the ocean; creating much larger 3D effect works such as my glass fish shoal block pictures which sold (and which I rather miss!); working on new sculptures based on the old piers of West Bay, which were of my childhood, and have now been replaced; and hopefully my first video installations. A lot to be getting on with!