Writers on Writing: Sofie Laguna on writing One Foot Wrong and finding a voice

One Foot Wrong by Sofie LagunaI wrote One Foot Wrong over a period of seven years. In early drafts I interwove the voices of other characters around Hester’s – I didn’t trust that Hester’s voice alone could carry the story. That possibility felt too ‘easy’, too simple. I now know that it wasn’t because it was too easy, it was because writing the whole story in Hester’s voice was the natural and right way for the book to work, and at that point I didn’t trust it. The good thing about writing those other drafts was that I met some characters along the way that I love and I am sure they will eventually find their way into books of their own.

The character of Hester Wakefield spoke and thought in a way that was utterly her own. Her voice gave me freedom. I didn’t stop to consider the requirements of ‘perfect sentences’, I just inhabited the voice and the sentences took care of themselves. Maybe it was the actor in me. The process felt like it bypassed my own intellect – I just had to relax and let Hester push the pen across the page. Having said this I did find I could only work on the book for short periods. Very short. Sometimes fifteen minutes in a day felt like a lot.

Sophie LagunaGenerally I have pretty good stamina for sitting at the desk and writing, so it was different for me. Perhaps it was the distressing nature of the content in One Foot Wrong. Even though I was never blocked while writing the story, I had this feeling after a short time of working that I had to get away from the desk and clean the house at all costs. I remember wriggling in my chair a lot and feeling guilty for not being able to stick at it longer, but somehow, in fifteen minutes spurts (sometimes many in a day), the book got written.

While making this book I didn’t think about it being published too much. All of my energy went into making the right music with the words. It was a challenge to imagine that writing something so uncompromising, so uniquely mine could actually be allowed. Not all of my ideas ask to be completed but this one never let go. I had some negative criticism about it along the way but, in the end, it didn’t stop me. That’s because I wanted to write in Hester’s voice – it always felt like an act of rebellion and release. I had the desire. And now the book is here, published. It feels miraculous – wonderful beyond my wildest dreams.

The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie LagunaFor many years I worked as an actor. I was certain that acting was my path, no matter how much pain it caused me, so it is an ongoing surprise to me that I write books and that writing turned out to be what was best for me. An ongoing and very delightful surprise, I should say. Writing has put me where I belong – with the people who make books and the people who read them. I am really happy about it.

Sofie Laguna’s latest novel The Eye of the Sheep brings another voice to the fore, that of Jimmy, a six year old child with autism who is both too fast and too slow, sees too much, and too little. Through Jimmy’s eyes Sofie tells a heart-wrenching story of domestic violence and family breakdown, but ultimately that the the human spirit does ultimately triumph. 

Read an extract from The Eye of the Sheep below:

Sofie Laguna – The Eye of the Sheep (Extract) by Allen & Unwin

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