L is for the way…E is for email

A few years back I met Lisa McKay when her novel My Hands Came Away Red debuted. We struck up a friendship (I loved that book, BTW. And so did the critics. It was a later a finalist for in the 2008 Christys) and I’ve come to admire her many talents, her humor, and her love for people. When she and I and our husbands met for lunch one day, just before they moved to Laos, and I heard the story of how they met and fell in love, I knew it would make a great book! I am so pleased to have her as my guest to talk about Love at the Speed of Email – a modern-day fairy tale that hits the e-book shelves this week.

Love At The Speed Of Email
is the story of an old-fashioned courtship made possible by modern technology. Here’s what the back cover says:
Lisa looks as if she has it made. She has turned her nomadic childhood and forensic psychology training into a successful career as a stress management trainer for humanitarian aid workers. She lives in Los Angeles, travels the world, and her first novel has just been published to some acclaim. But as she turns 31, Lisa realizes that she is still single, constantly on airplanes, and increasingly wondering where home is and what it really means to commit to a person, place, or career. When an intriguing stranger living on the other side of the world emails her out of the blue, she must decide whether she will risk trying to answer those questions. Her decision will change her life. 
Here is the conversation Lisa and I had at the speed of email! 
Your first book was a novel, why did you choose to write a memoir this time around?

I didn’t intend for this second book to be a memoir. In fact, I was working on a novel on human trafficking when my husband, Mike, and I became engaged. But as we began to plan our wedding I found it increasingly difficult to flip in and out of such vastly different worlds – the happiness of the one I was living in and the harshness of the one I was trying to write about.

After months of trying to force myself to persevere with the novel, one day I stopped long enough to ask myself what I really wanted to be writing about. The answer to that question wasn’t trafficking. It was exploring the idea of home.
I’d spent my childhood living in countries as diverse as Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. I carried Australian and Canadian passports. I was living in Los Angeles working for a non-profit organization that provided psychological support to humanitarian workers worldwide. I was hopelessly confused as to where home was. Perhaps, I thought, I could write my way towards clarity. That’s when I started working on the memoir.
What’s the hardest part of taking your relationship, analyzing it, and putting it into a book for all to read?
The hardest part of writing about my relationship with Mike was figuring out what to leave out. We had written each other 90,000 words worth of letters before we ever met, and that was just the start of the raw material I had to work with.
Writing about my previous relationships was harder. One chapter, in particular, I must have rewritten a dozen times. I went over that story over and over again, trying to pin down what had happened during that time and, in particular, my own contribution to the unhealthy dynamics of that relationship.
How did your friends and family feel about appearing in your book?
This was something I was concerned about. It hasn’t happened too much to me (usually I’m the one wielding the pen) but I know it must be a bit weird to have someone else write about you and then put it out there for everyone to read.
I only changed the names of two of the characters in the book, so before I finalized the manuscript I did send it to almost everyone who has a significant “speaking” role with a request to let me know if they had any questions or concerns about the material that involved them. I didn’t give them veto power, per se, but I did want them to see what I’d written and to hear their thoughts.
Funnily enough, a couple of my family members somewhat concerned about how other family members might feel about their portrayal, but no one was concerned with how they were portrayed.
The trickiest part of navigating this issue wasn’t with family; it was with friends and previous boyfriends. However contacting previous love interests to let them know what I’d written about them before I made it public actually proved to be a healing exercise.
In this book you write about “the internal and unwinnable war between the longing for Adventure and Home.” How are adventure and home playing out in your life currently?
When my husband, Mike, heard about this question he joked that he wants Adventure and I want Home. He’s not far wrong, actually. After years of living abroad and traveling the world for work, I am increasingly yearning for a stable community, a white picket fence and an idle passport.
It’s not the season for that quite yet, if it ever will be. We’re currently living in Northern Laos. Mike works for a humanitarian organization here, helping oversee programs related to child and maternal health, food security, education and water and sanitation. I do some work as a consultant psychologist around issues related to stress, trauma and resilience. I do a lot more work as a mother, however. We had our first child just nine months ago and, well, mothering is a bit relentless, isn’t it?
So I’d say Adventure is still edging out Home, but we are managing to create a Home together in some important ways here in Laos.
You spent three months writing letters to your husband before you ever talked or met. How do you think that influenced the way that your relationship developed?
Writing all those letters to each other gave us time and space to ask and answer questions. We wrote about anything and everything during those first months – about childhood and work and what we’re passionate about and the little details of how our days had been and what we were reading …
This helped pace us. It allowed us to get to know one another in a measured, thoughtful, way before anything else entered the picture. It meant that when we finally did meet in person we had a really solid foundation of respect and liking to build upon. I think that three months of writing letters enabled us to learn more about each other than we would have learned if we’d been dating while living in the same city during that time.

You’ve recently become a mother. How has that impacted your writing?

It’s given me a lot more material to work with and a lot less time to do it in (not to mention a brain that doesn’t seem to work quite like it used to).

In all seriousness, motherhood has had a big impact on my writing. I prefer to write in long, quiet, uninterrupted stretches of time (and all of you mothers know that that’s exactly what you don’t have the second you give birth). So I’m doing the hard and painful work of learning to approach writing in a completely new way. I’ve felt way too tired and life-all-turned-upside-down as busy since Dominic’s birth to think about starting another book quite yet. So I’ve been focusing on shorter pieces of writing – blogging and essays.
You’ve chosen to self-publish your book – what sort of hopes do you have for it with the reading public?
I had a great experience publishing my first book with a traditional publisher and I’m excited to explore this new frontier of self-publishing. Technology is changing publishing so rapidly – I find it amazing that I can publish this book and undertake a (virtual) book tour without leaving Northern Laos!!
As for my hopes … I have several. Starting grand: I hope that everyone who reads it loves it and that it sells a million copies.
More modestly (and much more sensibly) I hope that it entertains and I hope that it makes people think. I would love to see this find its way to people who will enjoy a good love story or who are grappling with questions about home, commitment, or long distance relationships.
More modestly still, I hope to sell enough copies to break even on this project. I’d like to earn a living from writing someday and this particular publishing adventure is all part of the process.

Thanks for hosting me on this virtual book tour (isn’t the internet amazing?? I remain astounded that I can launch a book from Laos).

Susan here:  Three cheers for the Internet! So there you have it, readers. If you would like Lisa to visit your blog just let her know. Please do pick up a copy of Love At The Speed Of Email from Amazon or elsewhere or drop by Lisa’s blog and say hello. You might like to know a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book will be given away to charities Lisa cares deeply about. She’d be happy to tell you more…
Thanks for being my guest on Edgewise, Lisa! All the best to you and Mike and sweet Dominic!

Author: Susan

This post has 8 Comments

  1. Cherry Odelberg on June 11, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    I read, “Lisa looks as if she has it made. She has turned her nomadic childhood and forensic psychology training into a successful career as a stress management trainer for humanitarian aid workers. She lives in Los Angeles, travels the world, and her first novel has just been published to some acclaim.” and I thought, “Oh, I would really like to know this person. Darn, it's only a book character.” Then I thought, “Wait a second, the character's name is the same as the author.” My eyes scrolled to the word memoir. I am exceedingly happy. I will be looking for this book with anticipation!

    Susan, I also made note of the similarity of story with “Sound Among the Trees,” wherein the lead characters meet through the internet.

  2. Barbara Youngren on June 11, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    Thanks for sharing this, Sue! I always appreciate a recommendation from you because I know it will be “worth the read” if you say so! I have already downloaded it and look forward to a lazy day to read it! I'm not sure when that will be since we have started our crazy tourist season here (which means visitors!) but I will carve out the time to do it.

  3. Susan Meissner on June 11, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    Yes, Cherry, it's Lisa's very own story of finding love! Hope you enjoy it, Barb!

  4. Lisa McKay on June 12, 2012 at 3:14 am

    Cherry and Barbara, thank you! What a boost to read your comments. All the best! lisa

  5. Joanne Bischof on June 12, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    The book sounds like a great read! Your blog is so fun…I popped in and am still chuckling about the pending lactation services. The teething 7 month old in my arms didn't find it quite as funny. LOL. Best wishes with your books release!

  6. Lisa McKay on June 13, 2012 at 7:19 am

    Thanks Joanne – he's been a monster this morning. No biting, but lots of crying and refusing to sleep. I sense another notice coming regarding sleep training boot camp. Hmmm.

  7. Anonymous on June 17, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    Thank you, Sue, for this interview. Like Barbara, I know a recommendation from you leads to a good read!

    I hadn't read Lisa's earlier book, but an thrilled to meet her. Lisa–I love that you're addressing the home vs. adventure desires. Certainly a thread in my marriage, and still a personal dilemma after crossing the official threshold for seniors.

    You have a new reader here, and will spread the word. Enjoy your blogging; we are! Best to you all, and God bless you all in your generous work. Give Dominic a hug from me–but what I really want to do is pinch one of his chubby cheeks. 🙂

    Mary Kay

  8. Lisa McKay on June 25, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    Thank you Mary Kay, I will give those cheeks a tweak today for you 🙂

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