Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Meet Greg Lazarus. #interview

WHEN in Broad Daylight I Open My Eyes is a recent release by writing duo Greg Fried and Lisa Lazarus, who collaborate under the pen name Greg Lazarus. The novel, a psychological thriller set in Cape Town,  explores the emotional entanglements of its complex main characters in the context of the games they
play, often with tragic consequences.

Underpinning the story is the realisation that everyone has choices, and that real life is very much like a game of chess in which we choose to make particular moves.

When in Broad Daylight I Open My Eyes slowly ratchets up the tension to an ending with a surprise sting. The novel echoes real life; Fried is a philosopher and Lazarus a psychologist, which mirrors career choices held by the characters Kristof and Maria.

To this, Lazarus says: "We think that psychologists and philosophers belong in psychological thrillers. In a thriller, the characters - and the reader, if the book works - keep asking themselves, what's behind the mystery? And that, in different ways, is what philosophers and psychologists do: they try to find out what's really going on."

It follows that the sometimes subtle power games people play should flow naturally in this environment. To a degree, some are aware, others perhaps not so much, that they are being played, which can be highlighted in how Kristof toys with women, or perhaps how the somewhat ominous esoteric Circle of Mystics presents  itself to the public.

Lazarus adds: "Some of the characters do try to manipulate each other to achieve their own ends. As Tversky warns potential recruits to the Circle of Mystics, 'You might ask who it is that you ought to suspect. Beware of smiley faces and kind words. Watch out especially for those who go on about how they're concerned about you, how they want to help you, how they cherish you.' Of course, some figures, for example Kristof, are more purposefully manipulative than others. And certain characters, as a result of their own vulnerabilities, get taken for a ride."

Greg Fried and Lisa Lazarus.
Half the joys of a writing partnership is having someone to bounce ideas off. With regard to the process, Lazarus says: "When we wrote the first draft, we didn't talk enough about the book: one of us would write a
chapter, we'd speak briefly, and then the other one would get to work. The result was a disjointed mess! After that, we learnt to discuss everything - story, character, tone - before writing and while writing. It takes a lot of talking before two people are living in the same imaginary world. Once we both had a feel for the world of our story, we found our joint ideas were richer than whatever we managed to come up with alone."

During the writing process, Fried and Lazarus did find that there was a degree of overlapping, in which they began to understand and integrate the other's ideas. Lazarus elaborates: "For the first draft, we were each in
charge of one main character, but after that, both of us worked on everything. So we wouldn't say that either main character 'belongs' to one of us. Each of us learnt to write in the tone and style of all the figures in the novel.

"As we developed the characters, some of them changed a lot. For example, a meek mystic turned into a hardnosed businessman."

And characters are well-rounded, their redeeming qualities tempered by a healthy dose of casual cruelty toward others. Kristof, for instance, bears a lot of animosity toward women, perhaps even a mother/whore complex, whereas Maria's issues with men possibly relate to an absent father.

Lazarus says: "We were interested in the way that people pretend - to others, to themselves - that their motives and characteristics are much finer than they really are. For example, we have Kristof, who presents
himself as cultured and caring, but is also a predator; and Maria, who thinks of herself as sensitive and insightful, yet fails to understand why, in her relationships with men, she is the prey."

Those who are enchanted by When in Broad Daylight I First Open My Eyes, wherein some characters even possess the ability to dominate from beyond the grave, will be glad to know that the writing duo are working on another novel.

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