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The Good Book Appreciation Society

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Steven Sidley interviewing Greg Fried and Lisa Lazarus

Welcome to another Sunday Morning Pajama Flash Festival. This morning Steven Sidley (who interestingly enough also writes with his wife, Kate Sidley), will be interviewing husband and wife writing duo, Greg Fried and Lisa Lazarus on their latest novel, Paradise. We’ve never done a duo before, let alone a double duo, so this should be interesting. Over to you Steven…

boykey lazarai

‪Steven Sidley had thought to ask each of you questions separately, but that started to seem dumb, so unless I address a specific question to one of you, I will let you fight it out, or both feel fee to answer. OK?

‪Lisa Lazarus Sounds great, Boykey. We’re always up for a fight.

‪Steven Sidley Before I talk about the book, this is for Greg, mano a mano – I have got to get to the bottom of this – Kate and I started a play about 2 years and were basically nearly divorced after 2 pages. We finally got it together this year, but only by carefully separating writing tasks and swallowing great gobs of pride and biting our tongues. Who does what in your books and why are you not divorced yet?

‪Lisa Lazarus It looks like Lisa is writing, but there are two of us here.

‪Bea Reader Greg, Lisa, maybe write your name before your comment so we know who is talking, thanks.

‪Lisa Lazarus We are already arguing and have just swapped chairs so hang on…

Greg: We take turns writing sections, and then pass the evolving draft back and forth millions of times. Divorce – I hadn’t thought of that. It would certainly be good publicity. I didn’t think I had that option.

‪Steven Sidley Threats are always good – like – whadddya mean that joke is not funny? I divorce you I divorce you I divorce you

‪Lisa Lazarus Actually, writing is the one area we don’t fight about, for some reason. It’s our respite from marital combat.

‪Steven Sidley If my questions seem long, it is not because I am a fast typist – I was very diligent, and prepared them before. Here goes – stand by

‪Lisa Lazarus Though we have noticed that our books seem to be about conflict and the struggle for power, among other things.

‪Steven Sidley Now I have to tell you that I thought that the book was funny and clever and tightly plotted and the characters were salty and unusual and I cared what happened to them, including the thief. This is not a question really, just a compliment

‪Lisa Lazarus Coming from you, Boykey, we really appreciate the compliment. Though actually we appreciate all compliments.

‪Steven Sidley So the first thing that struck me about this book was the Maltese Falcon – a dangerous quest to acquire object of value. But then it spun off into multiple overlapping plot lines – a sweet, slightly overweight protag with a collapsing life, a dysfunctional family far away from the action (in Amsterdam), a lesbian affair, the re-appearance of an unknown daughter subplot, the world of judo, an animal rights subplot, and a most surprising and riveting underpin in the form of letters written in 1793 that interweaves with the current Cape Town main plot. All of this sounds complicated, but it all fits perfectly together in a sort of joyous tapestry. Did you guys do acid before working out the plot? Or did you sit together for 6 months and gingerly connect all the pieces? Or did it unravel itself under your pens?

‪Corinna Beamish I am busy working, so will post my first [!] question here now, if you don’t mind – or I might forget it! I am intrigued by people who write a book in conjunction with someone else. I have participated in Round Robin writing where one either pairs off and writes to and fro with someone else or in a larger group. It produced some weird stories and scenarios. I am interested to hear each of your thoughts on what working as a team brings to the books you write?

Lisa Lazarus ‪Steven, we had certain obsessions we wanted to work out. For example, what to do about midlife sense of failure, the outrageous treatment of animals, sex and slavery in the eighteenth century Cape…and they sort of came together in the book, because in our minds they were also running together. We also worked hard on the characters – it was important to us that they felt real and that readers would care about them.

‪Steven Sidley So you plotted it all out first? Like covering one of the whole walls from the detective shows with themes and names and arrows?

‪Lisa Lazarus ‪Corinna, working as a team helps us to produce a varied group of characters and voices. But we do need to work hard on plot and coherence. Over time we begin to inhabit the same imaginary world – and then it flies. But before that, it’s a slog. Like dealing with that pushmi-pullyu in Dr Doolittle.

‪Lisa Lazarus ‪Steven, one day we may be that organised. But actually we often had quite vague ideas and just moved forward to see what would happen. One writer compared this process to driving through the fog in a car. You can only see a little way forward in the headlights, but you can take a long journey that way. And then there are the many, many revisions after the first draft.

‪Steven Sidley Somebody asked me what the book was about, so I said – it is about this sweet middle aged unambitious guy about to get fired from a job he hates and then he finds out that he has a judo-loving animals rights activist daughter that he doesn’t know about and meanwhile there is the Dutch lady who had a criminal father who she loves, who gets sent to CT to steal….and also there is this old hippie who owns a building ….but in the end it is a book about… (you get to fill in the blank here – imaging you are doing a high concept pitch)

To read the rest of this interview join The Good Book Appreciation Society by friending Bea Reader on Facebook, or emailing

And please join us again next Sunday 13 July at The Good Book Appreciation Society at 9am, when Liesl Jobson will be interviewing Penny Busetto on her latest novel, The Story of Anna P, as Told by Herself.



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