Hey everyone! I am currently reading this interesting book called Nomansland by Lesley Hauge. Lesley, like her first novel, is a very interesting person — she was born in England, raised in Zimbabwe, and now lives in Brooklyn. I asked her a few questions, which she was kind enough to answer. Read on to learn more about Lesley Hauge and her first book…
IceyBooks: Where did you find the inspiration for Nomansland?
Lesley Hauge: The very first spark came from a paragraph in a John Wyndham’s dystopian novel called THE CHRYSALIDS and it is that paragraph I use for the epigraph in NOMANSLAND. John Wyndham, who died a few years ago, was a British writer and is little known in the US. It’s a pity because his dystopian/speculative science fiction books are beautifully written and perfect for readers of YA. I suppose the paragraph, which briefly describes an all-female society, resonated with me because I had gone to a very strict, somewhat strange, all-girls, all-female staff school in Zimbabwe, Africa, and I wanted to try to create a distorted world of women that was both gripping and strange.
IB: If you were a character in Nomansland, who would you be, and why?
LH: I am more like Keller than any other character in Nomansland, although she is more cautious and watchful than I am. She is also braver and more practical. Creating characters is a process of dis-assembling yourself or people you know or have observed and then re-assembling them in ways that make them into unique characters for your book. Sounds a bit gruesome, like dismembering people … (Haha, you know… it does :)
IB: Nomansland is your first novel–now that it’s out there do you have any regrets?
LH: I love this question. I have only been asked it once before, in another way: “Given the chance, is there anything you would change?” And the answer is no. NOMANSLAND is flawed, without a doubt but there is always something unachieved in every attempt to make something or write something, at least in the eyes of the person trying to create the work. I will tell you that reading negative reviews hurts, often because they have a point, or even many points (sharp ones!) but no one makes me write novels, so no whining.
IB: Are you currently working on another novel?
LH: Yes, I am writing a prequel to NOMANSLAND. Many readers want a sequel but I think I need to go backwards before I can go forward. (I will definitely be looking forward to it :)
IB: Is there a message you hope readers will take from Nomansland?
LH: I really want young women to think about feminism. The very word “feminism” makes people either bored or irritated, it seems to me, like we’re so way past all that ugly-sandals-humorless-women-from-the-1970s stuff–I read an article in the New York Times that said only the word “bedbugs” could clear a room faster that the word “feminism”!
We are indeed way past the 1970s but I’m not sure that things have changed as much as we imagine. Our very creation myths, the Pandora myths, the story of Eve in the garden of Eden are misogynistic and if, we fast-forward to today’s world, I feel that celebrity-consumer culture is full of images that convey the message that a young woman’s sole source of value is her sexuality. Her humor, her competency, her soul and her individuality are not celebrated. Worse, the advertisers have co-opted feminism into “girl power”, a sort of you-can-wear-your-heels-and-push-up bras and VANQUISH all — still be taken seriously. Well, I’m not so sure. I don’t like ugly sandals either but I just wish clothes, make-up and jewelry could be seen more as part of a celebratory display of life, not part of what has become a narcissistic, intensely fetishized display. In NOMANSLAND, I was hoping that by creating a world where the girls had never seen magazines or any of these things before, readers would also be given pause and might begin to re-assess the world of advertising and consumerism. There was another aspect of the society that I wanted to convey and that was how women internalize oppression and, in NOMANSLAND, this is has created a grim, cruel world. I read one review that emphasized how cruel the world of the book is and then I felt a bit sad, wondering why I had created such a heartless community. But I did. Sorry, very long answer to your question. (Its alright, sometimes quantity is quality!)
A very special thanks to Lesley Hauge
for taking the time to let me to interview her.