Lauren Scharhag is the author of thirteen books, including Requiem for a Robot Dog (Cajun Mutt Press) and Languages, First and Last (Cyberwit Press). Her work has appeared in over 100 literary venues around the world. Recent honors include the Seamus Burns Creative Writing Prize and two Best of the Net nominations. She lives in Kansas City, MO. To learn more about her work, visit: www.laurenscharhag.blogspot.com
What book(s) are you reading right now?
I’m currently reading Serena, a novel by Ron Rash. It’s set in North Carolina in 1929. It’s about a pair of robber barons that happen to be husband and wife. It’s interesting to read about business in America during that time period, given our current concerns about income inequality and corporate abuse, both of their workers and of the world’s natural resources. It’s also incredibly well-written.
I’m also reading The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman. It’s about Hmong immigrants in California, escaping the war in Laos. I knew next to nothing about Laos or Hmong culture, but a month or two back, I happened to catch an exhibit of Hmong textile art, and one of the lecturers recommended this book. Their spiritual traditions are fascinating, and this book focuses on the clash between eastern and western medicine. Both my parents are first-generation Americans, so I am always interested to read immigrant stories.
A book you loved reading at a child.
There were so many. In grade school, I loved anything by Mary Downing Hahn. I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but her books, and she herself, sealed the deal. She was a guest speaker at my school when I was 11 and I remember how awed I was, meeting this living, breathing person who wrote stories for a living. Even then, I liked that she wrote in multiple genres—historical fiction, horror, thrillers, realism. My favourites by her were Wait Till Helen Comes, The Jellyfish Season, The Doll in the Garden and Daphne’s Book. She’s in her 80s now and still going strong. I’d love to see some of her work adapted into film.
A book you have read more than once.
I consider re-reading books a vice of mine. When I love a book, I will revisit it over and over. I have to force myself to stop, otherwise I would never read anything new. I think I’ve read Lolita and Watership Down the most, at least thirty times each, maybe more. Truly. I re-read them both for the same reason. They’re so beautifully written. I love to just savour the language of them. I’m a firm subscriber to the idea, “Always be a poet, even in prose.”
Your favourite anthology.
I love The Best Horror of the Year, compiled by Ellen Datlow. Anything Datlow compiles, really. She really knows the best genre works out there.
A book that you feel is underrated and deserves more attention.
One of my all-time favourite books is The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham. I know Maugham was very successful in his day, but I feel like he’s fading into obscurity, which is a shame. When I mention his works to people, most have never heard of him. The Moon in Sixpence is based on the life of the painter Paul Gaugin, and a statement on the transformative power of art.