In Lori Carson’s debut novel, The Original 1982, it’s 1982, and Lisa is a twenty-four year old waitress, aspiring singer-songwriter, and girlfriend to a charming, egocentric musician. That year, she makes a decision that will forever change the trajectory of her life.
But what would have happened if she had chosen differently? Thirty years later, haunted by regret, Lisa revisits her past to ‘rewrite’ her story.
Alternating between two very different possibilities, The Original 1982 is a novel about how the choices we make affect the people we become—and about how the people we are affect the choices we make.
Nikki Tiani: How did you know you had a talent for writing? Was it an inherent ability, much like your musical inclination?
Lori Carson: I’ve always written stories, even before I discovered music. My mother was an amateur writer, and we grew up (my siblings and I) reading her illustrated stories. She encouraged us to write and illustrate our own, and we did. I also loved reading; going to library. Reading and writing were my first loves.
NT: Where did Lisa come from? Is she a happy accident or a carefully plotted character based upon people in your real life?
LC: Lisa Nelson, the protagonist in The Original 1982, is a singer-songwriter who creates a daughter out of her imagination and longing for one. She was pretty easy for me to imagine.
NT: How are you able to balance work, family and your new writing career?
LC: I’ve always devoted most of my time to my work. Prior to writing my novel, I wrote songs, and worked on assorted music projects. So it’s not that dramatic a change. Although writing fiction does require a huge commitment in terms of time. But I’m not married, and don’t have my own family. I’ve got a dog and a couple of cats. They’re patient. I chose to have an artist’s life a long time ago.
NT: Were any of the plot points (or subplot) based upon your own experiences? Do you draw inspiration for your music and writing from your past?
LC: I definitely drew from my own feelings and experiences both as a musical artist, and a childless woman. Also, I drew from the experiences of people I know, and used to know. They were the jumping off point. They formed a kind of armature around which my fictional story was built.
NT: How did you choose your agent? I get a lot of ‘how-to publish’ queries from my readers and any guidance is always welcome!
LC: I did my research. I looked for someone who represented women who wrote literary fiction and/or women’s fiction. I found an interview, online, with my agent, Lisa Bankoff, and read her responses. Lisa seemed like the right person, so I sent her a cold query letter. She answered it almost immediately, within the hour, and asked for an exclusive read of my first draft. I know that sounds preposterous, too good to be true, but that’s how it happened.
NT: Where were you when you found out that Harper Collins was publishing The Original 1982? What was your first reaction?
LC: I was in my old apartment, a few blocks from my current one. My first reaction was: “Woo hoo!” Pretty thrilling thing to happen to a first-time novelist. I was over the moon.
NT: How have your fans reacted to news of the book?
LC: My fans have been very supportive. I’m sure there are a few who will be resistant to the idea of my doing something new. But hopefully most will see that The Original 1982 has a lot in common with the music I’ve made.
NT: Is there anything else currently in the works?
LC: I’m currently about a third of the way through a second novel. I hope to have a first draft completed by winter.
For more information on Lori Carson, visit lifeandmusic.loricarson.com, or find The Original 1982 at harpercollins.com.