Las Vegas author Laura McBride stopped by Noir Nation recently to discuss her new novel, We Are Called to Rise (Simon & Schuster, June 3, 2014). A college instructor calling Las Vegas home, Laura’s new novel explores the collision of three disjoint lives in Sin City. But unlike the countless stories exploring the glamorous side of Las Vegas, We Are Called to Rise takes us to the real Las Vegas, the city, the community, the people who call this crazy place home.
NN: Why did you write We Are Called to Rise?
LM: I wrote a novel years ago, and it was a fabulously engaging, satisfying process. I was always on the lookout for the chance to do it again.
Hmm, that’s the answer to why I wrote a novel. Why did I write this novel?
I guess I thought the core incident had great dramatic potential; I wanted to write a story that captured the chaotic, hopeful, desperate, beautiful boomtown nature of Las Vegas; I wanted a novel that would entertain and satisfy a thoughtful reader.
NN: That’s an interesting title. Why did you choose it?
LM: My agent did not like my working title, and she asked me to come up with some options quickly. I offered three lines from poems, to get the conversation started, and she felt strongly about this one. It took a while for the title to grow on me, but now I think it perfectly expresses an important theme of the book. I didn’t have that theme consciously in mind while writing, but it is a central idea. I’m grateful to my agent for her strong sense that this title was right.
NN: Why did you decide to go with multiple points of view? What are the strengths and weaknesses you’ve experienced with this format?
LM: I wanted to write in the first person, but I needed more than one person’s awareness to tell the story I was thinking about. I think a strength of the format is that readers often feel a personal connection to the narrator who is speaking; a difficulty of the format (though not perhaps a weakness) is that it can be complicated to communicate critical information through a first person voice. I had to trust the reader’s ability to pick up nuance, irony, guile.
NN: Do you think people misunderstand Vegas as a community?
LM: I think billions of dollars are spent, by creative and sophisticated people, to disseminate particular ideas about Las Vegas. Those ideas often don’t represent my experience of living an ordinary life here. I feel confident in my understanding of Las Vegas, but I recognize that many other people have equally valid ideas about the place. And then some people have ideas that aren’t so valid!
NN: As a reader, what is your favorite book?
LM: An impossible question. I give.
I’m not just cheating here. I think the really good books one reads when one is young have terrific impact, because one has never before experienced reading in that way. But those books are not my favorite books anymore, though they might linger in my mind quite vividly. By the same token, books I really like now might be difficult to categorize as favorites. I like them, I appreciate them, I am grateful for them, but I am too tested a reader to think of any as a favorite.
NN: Where do you see Las Vegas in ten years?
LM: I have no special prognostic powers. I guess I think it will look a little bit more like a lot of American cities than it once did. Already, people are much more likely to live next to someone whose economic situation is similar to their own than was true two decades ago. I think we are generally sorting into more and more homogenous neighborhoods, which seems sad to me. So much of what I found amazing about living here came from the salmagundi of being a boomtown.
On the other hand, I think Las Vegas will remain socially, culturally, politically, and ethnically diverse, because people will continue to come here from all over the world. I hope our economy will be a little more broad-based, but that is not evident to me.
Laura McBride is a writer and community college teacher in Las Vegas, Nevada. She once thought of herself as an adventurer, having traveled far from home on little more than a whim and a grin, but now laughs at the conventional trappings of her ordinary suburban life. She’s been married for 25 years to an ex-pat she met in Paris, and has two lovely children. A long time ago, she went to Yale. We Are Called To Rise is her first novel. (from Amazon)