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Here are some fast facts on her:
- Lauretta Hannon has been dubbed the “funniest woman in Georgia” by Southern Living Magazine.
- She’s been a commentator on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.
- Has an advice column that’s syndicated in 23 newspapers, including the Marietta Daily Journal.
AMIE FLANAGAN: You have a background in advertising. What made you decide to write?
Lauretta Hannon: Advertising work will eventually drive you to hard drink—or to write something that might actually matter. I chose the latter.
AF: What made you want to write a memoir versus turning the Cracker Queen into a piece of fiction?
Lauretta Hannon: Because the truth was so rich I didn’t need to make anything up.
AF: You’ve often spoke about bringing the truth of oneself out. How terrifying was bringing the truth of the Cracker Queen out for you? (I hope I worded that right).
Lauretta Hannon: Scarier than being locked in a closet with a Kardashian.
AF: Your writing is quite lyrical with incredible vivid imagery. The pacing of it was also quite perfect. When you wrote the Cracker Queen did you do it with music playing in the background or music playing in your mind? If so what kind of music was it?
Lauretta Hannon: No, the music was already in the words. That said, I do listen to music to get myself primed for writing. Tonight I’m going to hear Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” in my writing shed. Music is the greatest inspiration for my writing, but I can’t listen while writing. I get dissonance when there’s background music because it’s competing with the sounds of the words.
AF: One of my favorite images of The Cracker Queen is when you and Momma tossed Cigarettes out to the chain gang. How did you choose which details to include in this moment?
Lauretta Hannon: I just went back to my four-year-old self in the Cadillac with Mama and wrote what I experienced there. I never sit down ahead of time and determine what to include or what to leave out; that would be too limiting. So much of storytelling is intuitive. You have to let it flow and go where it goes.
Henry Miller said to “work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.” He also advised that we “cement a little every day, rather than add new fertilizers.” I try to keep both of those directives in mind.
AF: You approached The Cracker Queen with such charm and humor. However, it’s a really dark book that has a lot of disturbing moments in it. Was it a personal decision to make this book humorous to ease the sting of the dark moments? Or did the humor come out naturally?
Lauretta Hannon: I knew that I had to write in my authentic voice, without compromise. Humor is a hallmark of that voice. Even as a kid I saw the comical absurdities of things. That’s probably why I adore black humor and satire.
AF: While you wrote your book, did you think about all the rules of writing at first, or did you get down what you needed to at that moment and later revised it?
Lauretta Hannon: The rules of writing never crossed my mind. Hopefully, I already knew them well enough to be able to break them with confidence–or obey them—whichever the story demanded. Everything must be in service to the story.
AF: You’re an avid reader. What books helped influence the decision and making of The Cracker Queen?
Lauretta Hannon: Rick Bragg’s “All Over But the Shoutin’” was a revelation to me long before I got serious about writing my book. He showed me that “my people” were worthy of a book.
AF: As a writer, what do you feel is your weakness and how have you overcome it?
Lauretta Hannon: Laziness and lack of discipline. I still fight them.
AF: Who were your mentors in writing?
Lauretta Hannon: I didn’t have any “live” mentors before The Cracker Queen, but I’d say my mentors were the authors of all the books that moved me up to that point.
AF: Is it important to find mentors?
Lauretta Hannon: Absolutely recommended but not mandatory.
AF: You have a weekly column that’s syndicated with the Marietta Daily Journal. How did that come about?
Lauretta Hannon: They invited me to do a weekly political column. I’d rather get kicked in the head by a mule than cover politics, so I asked if I could do an advice column instead. After some wrangling, they agreed. The column is a pleasure, and it gives me platform and creative latitude.
AF: Have you ever had a question asked that made you feel uncomfortable?
Lauretta Hannon: This one kind of does.
AF: Many of your workshops are geared to help promote a writer and their work. You often talk about a platform. Can you tell us what a platform is and why it’s important?
Lauretta Hannon: Platform describes all the ways you are visible and appealing to your future or actual readership. Platform is how you build a community of folks interested in your work.
It is second in importance only to the writing itself. Your platform can make or break a book deal. I heard a literary agent say that publishers are not looking to create a wave of publicity for you; they are looking to ride a wave that you’ve already started.
Have you ever wondered how crappy books end up fetching big book deals? Look no further than the writer’s platform. Getting a book deal isn’t about how talented you are; it’s about what you do with how talented you are.
AF: What is the biggest mistake you often see a writer make? How can they avoid this mistake?
Lauretta Hannon: I think the biggest mistake is in putting work out there that is not the very best it can be yet. We need to be patient and continue to lay track.
AF: Any other thoughts?
Lauretta Hannon: Be encouraged. What you yearn to write already wants to be written. You just have to get out of your own way.