Leah Franqui on passion, typos and making worlds...

AN INTERVIEW WITH LEAH FRANQUI

 

Leah Franqui hails from Philadelphia and is currently living in Brooklyn, New York, where she has just graduated from Tisch School of the Arts with a Master's Degree in Dramatic Wrting. Among her many talents; actress, theatre critic, screenwriter, seamstress and cook, she writes not one, but three blogs.

Here she talks to Christina Cummings about passion, typos and making worlds...

 

As a writer, theatre critic and seamstress, your blogs weave stories laced with humour, (often self-deprecatory and always funny!) Do you find catharsis in writing and in what ways does your readership inspire you?

Oh, my, I find complete catharsis in writing, or why on earth would I do it! And thank you for saying I'm funny! The satisfaction of saying something exactly the way you meant to say it so rarely comes vocally, but with time and effort it can come out on paper or onscreen. When I'm writing something critical or from a place of frustration or concern, writing can help dispel some of that energy and anger and that horrible feeling of, "does no one else see this? Am I the only one?". Well, I still might be the only one, but at least I've expressed myself. And more often than not, people respond, depending on the subject, and I find fellow thinkers on the same lines. When I write theatrical criticism sometimes there is negative feedback, from someone who loved something I hated, or disagrees with me in a big way, but painful as that can be, I enjoy that too, because in those cases I try to keep talking to that person, contacting them through email or comment boards. Writing is an act of passion, and whether it's positive or negative, any kind of response that reflects equal passion from a reader is exciting to me and helps me keep writing.

What were your earliest literary influences and how have they shaped the way you write today?

Well when I was young I read a lot of books about young women being underestimated and then proving themselves. My mother read my brother and I The Hobbit, and Little Women, and Jules Verne's stories, and a lot of other books about people going out into the world and having themselves an adventure. And I always loved the book, The Ordinary Princess, when I was a kid, it was about a girl who was cursed to be ordinary, i.e. a brunette and freckled and short, but is a princess nonetheless, and everyone tries to change her but in the end she makes her own life. I loved that. And tons of folk tails and fairy tales from all over the world. As I got older, I began to read Salman Rushdie and Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Edward Albee's plays, obviously Shakespeare is a give in, and Anton Chekhov and then got really into the Russians, The Master and Margarita is a deeply treasured favorite. And also contemporary fiction, Lily Prior, Jhumpa Lahiri, the plays of Sarah Ruhl and Paula Vogal and Annie Baker, and all of these writers really taught me that there are no rules and writing is about making worlds. So I try to do that. And I keep reading.

You lead a busy life bursting with varied interests, yet find the time to keep a blog(s). How do you select a topic and how long does it take for you to write one?

It sort of depends on the subject. My sewing blog I write quickly, hence the typos! It sort of comes colloquially and I like some entries far more then others. It completely reflects my mood and how I feel about what I made and the photos I took of it. Chances are if I love the photos, I write a better entry. So sad and vain, but true. Writing about theater or an incident in my life takes longer, because I have to angle it correctly, and that takes time. Formulating my thoughts on a performance takes me hours, sometimes days, and then the writing probably takes two or three hours, but it depends. Once I wrote a really scathing post really quickly because I had been fuming about the production for two days. The more time to think, the faster I can go, generally.

What are the key components to writing an amusing tale? Would you say honesty is always the best policy?!

I would very much say that honesty and self-acknowledgement make for comedy. Framing yourself in the writing is important, revealing your own ironies and prejudices helps, I think. I admire authors who do that and I try to always do it myself. But the real world is hilarious, there is no reason not to be honest about it. Writing makes even my own pain funny.

How would you describe your natural writing style, and if you wrote a novel, in which genre would you write?

I really love magical realism, and I think I would try something with a little bit of magic or mystery in it. If I wrote a novel, I think it would have a lot of quirk and social critique, but also a mystery and a bit of wonder. I don't know what genre that is. I love Terry Prachett but I don't think I would write fantasy well, but if I could use some of his style, in a non-fantasy way, whatever that genre is, that would be perfect.

You also write screenplays (is there anything you can’t turn your pen to?!) ~ can you explain a little about how the process evolves for you ~ from an idea to fruition?

Ah, screenplays are their own animal. I love plays most, but screenwriting is fun, it's like a puzzle. It's pretty plot based, and so a lot of that is nailing down a plot, making a lot of choices, writing pages, realizing that the plot choices you made don't actually reflect the story or characters, changing, trying again, changing, trying again, turning pieces around until things start fitting together. It's like a puzzle, yes, and you can change the shape of the pieces to fit each other, but in the end it's got to be a rectangle and it's got to look like something real. Of course, I'm hardly an expert. But that's what it has been like for me.

Finally, what was the last book or play you read that made you think, “Why can’t I write like that?!” (It’s universally accepted that all writers have that moment, even though they have the same effect on other writers too!)

Oh, man. So many. I'm going to do a couple. In terms of plays, Annie Baker's The Aliens, this piece called Natasha and Pierre and the comet of 1812, Sam Hunter's The Whale, those are some excellent things that make me jealous and filled with admiration. In terms of books, Tea Obreht's The Tiger's Wife made me wish it went on forever. I just read Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus and stopped in the middle to make it go on longer. And The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton was just tremendous, it started slowly but really amazed me by the end.

 

Leah's blogs can be found here:

 

http://strugglesewsastraightseam.wordpress.com (sewing and other stuff)

http://stagedandreal.wordpress.com (theatre reviews)

http://embracethestruggle.blogspot.co.uk (struggle!)

 

Interview: June 2014

 

PHOTOS: © Leah Franqui