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Last Call


Last Call Cover



Author Q & A

A Conversation with Laura Pedersen

Julie Sciandra and Laura Pedersen have been friends and occasionally colleagues

for more than twenty years. They walk each other’s dogs and also bowl

together. Julie usually wins, but Laura insists that this is because Julie’s family

owned a bowling alley in Buffalo, and thus she has had an unfair advantage.

Julie Sciandra: Did you always want to be a writer?

Laura Pedersen: I was a slow starter, basically a turnip in a sleeper the first

few years of my life, and I didn’t come on strong academically until

much later. Just learning to read was a huge accomplishment for me. I

would say the prospect of telling stories first arose in seventh grade. An

only child and pathologically shy I realized I had to do something to facilitate

interaction. So I started telling a few jokes and funny stories,

and found a positive response that led to friendships. After getting

yelled at for talking during class, I was forced to start writing and passing


JS: When did you first receive recognition for your writing?

LP: In middle school I won an essay contest for writing about Teddy Roosevelt.

And then I won a prize in the declamation contest for a speech

about Carrie Nation. But it wasn’t until high school that I really hit it

big—I was sentenced to community service for a poem I’d written that

contained a hidden message.

JS: How do you set about writing a novel like Last Call?

LP: I hear a lot of writers say they start with the seed for an idea, such as a

character or one particular event, and they don’t know where it’s going

to lead them. That could never work for me. I don’t start a book unless

I have the beginning and the end. Only the middle is something I can

work out as I go.

JS: Do you write every day?

LP: I definitely write checks every day. But I probably work on what will

eventually become a book or short story about four days a week, usually

between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., with an hour break for lunch and a

few other breaks for running errands or playing with the dogs. I have a

very short attention span and work best in spurts, then I need to do

something else for a while, like go Rollerblading or play basketball with

the kids.

JS: How long does it take you to write a book?

LP: That’s a real time-motion study, like how long between when a traffic

light in Manhattan turns green and the cab driver behind you leans on

his horn. But I’d say a book takes me a year, while doing other things. I

suppose that if I sat down with a freezerful of burritos and a vat of

chocolate, I could write a novel in eight weeks.

JS: Where do your ideas come from?

LP: From daily life. I live “hard” in the sense that I enjoy being on the go

and having lots of experiences. For instance, I went to the floor of the

stock exchange shortly after I turned eighteen. That environment created

the foundation for my first book, Play Money. Journalism has taken

me to exotic places like Russia, Turkey, and Cuba. If you want to tell a

story but you don’t have an idea, I think it’s best to go out and do something

and then write about it. There are a lot of things I’d love to do

but haven’t had time yet, and so I’ll occasionally imagine a character

doing them and use that in a novel. But at the end of the day, my stories

are always about living, loving, and dying.

JS: Are the characters based on people you’ve known in real life?

LP: I borrow bits and pieces from different individuals and then create new

people, sort of like a medieval dwarf going from house to house in the

middle of the night and stealing the essences of the townsfolk. For instance,

my friend Peter Heffley’s ninety-year-old mother, Mildred, is

the patron saint of worriers and pessimists. We actually look forward to

her negative pronouncements and often attempt to evoke them just for

entertainment. (Hence the catchphrase, “Who put the dread in Mildred?”)

I know if I say, “My, that’s a lovely orchid, Mrs. Heffley,” she’ll

retort, “It’s just about dead.” Or if Pete says he has the Fourth of July

party all organized, she undoubtedly replies, “There’s a storm heading

this way.” So for the character of Diana in Last Call, who is unlike Mrs.

Heffley in every other way, I borrowed the fretfulness along with some

of her best lines. And many of my charaters are built on a small slice of

me that I then exaggerate. For example, in Beginner’s Luck Hallie plays

poker, goes to the racetrack, and trades in the stock market. Gil likes

plays by Tennessee Williams, Craig is an only child, Olivia is a vegetarian,

and Bernard is optimistic and enjoys humor. Those are all based

on my own experiences or personality. Plus, I’m a lazy researcher.

JS: How does being a minister influence your writing?

LP: I’m an ordained interfaith minister (we respect all paths), but I don’t

have a congregation, and I don’t give sermons, except to the teenaged

Michael. In the not-for-profit world it helps to accomplish things if

you’re a minister or a politician. As for organized religion, I’m a lifelong

Unitarian Universalist. Most Sundays you’ll find me sitting in a pew

on the far right over at All Souls in Manhattan, reflecting on the

UU Trinity—reduce, reuse, and recycle.

JS: But there’s a lot of religion in Last Call, especially Catholicism.

LP: I’ve always had an interest in religion, especially since it’s been the

cause of so many wars and so much strife. Also, my earliest childhood

memory is of my mother yelling, “Jesus Christ, is it ever going to stop


One of my favorite stories is how in the late 1300s there were two

dueling popes, Clement VII and Urban VI, both busily excommunicating

each other. Finally, a council was called to decide between

them. Pietro Pilarghi, who helped bring about the council, made himself

pope and told the others to take a hike. Neither did, and so then

there were three popes.

As for making Rosamond a Catholic, when I was growing up outside

of Buffalo in the 1970s, eighty percent of the population was Catholic.

As James Joyce famously said about his faith, Catholicism means “Here

comes everybody!” Catholics live out loud in a terrific way. So every-

where you turned there was a big church, battalions of habited nuns,

outdoor celebrations on feast days, and of course the Friday fish fry.

(Word of the Vatican II council that ended in 1965 apparently

hadn’t yet reached Buffalo. Cowboy comedian Will Rogers once explained

that he wanted to be in Buffalo when the world ended because

it would happen there five years later.) So my friends were constantly

dashing off to Mass, confession, religious instruction, and CYO (Catholic

Youth Organization). Having had so much exposure to that particular

faith, I thought it would be interesting to set up a sort of fictional showdown

between an atheist and a Roman Catholic. Also, if Rosie had

been a Theosophist, I don’t think the story would work as well because

there aren’t the lifestyle constraints and concept of an afterlife to work

with. And worse, I would have had to do research.

JS: I notice you have a pair of snazzy new red-and-blue bowling shoes. Is

there a big game tonight?

LP: Not tonight, but I haven’t given up on my idea of bringing about world

peace through bowling. It’s a sport that allows almost everyone to play,

regardless of race, religion, economic background, and body type. You

can wear a sombrero, burka, kilt, saffron robe, or whatever you like.

JS: So what’s next? I’ve seen you scribbling on your jeans, which usually

means a new book is in the works.

LP: After Beginner’s Luck came out people asked, “What happens to Hallie?”

It was open-ended, so I’ve written a sequel called Heart’s Desire.

Hallie has finished her first year away at college and returns to the

Stockton household for the summer, which is in a greater state of chaos

than usual, if that’s possible. Gil and Bernard have broken up, and Ottavio

is pressuring Olivia to marry him. Meanwhile, Hallie is contemplating

that age-old teenage dilemma: Should she or shouldn’t she?

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Romance - Contemporary
Pedersen, Laura
Laura Pedersen
Fiction-Romance - Contemporary
Fiction : Romance - Contemporary
Fiction : Humorous
Fiction : General
General Fiction
Literature-A to Z
Publication Date:

Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Humor » General
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Romance » Contemporary

Last Call
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Product details 320 pages Random House Publishing Group - English 9780345471956 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , Diagnosed with a terminal illness, Hayden MacBride, a middle-aged Scotsman, makes a trip to the local hospital to obtain some euthanasia pills, but his visit takes a different turn when he encounters Rosamund, a feisty, forty-year-old nun who is also dying but who is determined to fight back. Reader's Guide included. Original.
"Synopsis" by , The author of "Beginner's Luck" returns with a romantic comedy about an aging, terminally ill Scotsman and a feisty nun.
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