Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Louisa Treger

Louisa Treger has worked as a classical violinist. She studied at the Royal College of Music and the Guildhall School of Music and worked as a freelance orchestral player and teacher. Treger subsequently turned to literature, gaining a First Class degree and a Ph.D. in English at University College London, where she focused on early 20th century women’s writing and was awarded the West Scholarship and the Rosa Morison Scholarship “for distinguished work in the study of English Language and Literature.” The Lodger was published in 2014, The Dragon Lady in 2019 and she is currently working on her third novel.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The Dragon Lady is a fictionalised life of Lady Virginia Courtauld, a woman who was as unconventional as she was pioneering, the tattoo of a snake running the length of one leg sealing her reputation as a boundary-breaker.

As soon as I found out that Virginia’s real-life nickname was The Dragon Lady – a reference to her tattoo and her feisty nature – I knew it had to be the title of my book. For a time, my publisher wanted to change it, because if you Google The Dragon Lady, a fearsome looking person who has cut off their ears and nose and tattooed themselves all over comes up as the first result. But none of the alternative titles we came up with were nearly as good. In the end, it had to be The Dragon Lady, because if you have an unforgettable boundary-breaking heroine at the centre of your story, how can you not name it after her?

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

My teenage self was shy, bookish and introspective; a late bloomer. She wouldn’t have been surprised by me writing books, but she might have been surprised that I chose such a spirited, flamboyant and unconventional heroine.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

I always knew that The Dragon Lady would start the way it did – with a shooting in her garden in Rhodesia. The garden was beautiful and eerie; wilderness with paths and deep shade, dense with trees, ferns and flowering creepers. The opening scene and its exotic, creepy, tense atmosphere were imprinted in my mind. But I found the ending a lot harder, because it had to bring all the threads of the novel together. Also, the ending is what lingers in a reader’s mind, long after they have closed the pages of a book, and I felt the pressure of that.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

Virginia Courtauld has a very different to personality to mine, but there’s a part of me that would love to be like her.

After I’d finished writing, I realized there was an autobiographical element to one of my characters, a thirteen-year-old called Catherine, who is an uncomprehending witness to racial segregation in Rhodesia. I spent part of my childhood with my grandparents in Durban during apartheid. Like Catherine, I saw things that I knew were unjust and wrong, but didn’t have the maturity to understand them. Catherine’s confusion, isolation, and sense of being up against powerful, unexplained taboos were also my feelings.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Music. The natural world. My children. My other half.
Visit Louisa Treger's website.

Coffee with a Canine: Louisa Treger & Monty.

The Page 69 Test: The Lodger.

My Book, The Movie: The Lodger.

My Book, The Movie: The Dragon Lady.

--Marshal Zeringue