Lawless Spaces is Corey Ann Haydu’s first novel in verse. It’s also one of the best (and one of my favorite) novels to come out in 2022. Haydu fires on all cylinders with this sophisticated, unflinching, and ultimately incredibly hopeful story. I have been gushing about this one since I read it last fall and now I’m so excited to have Corey here to answer a few questions about her latest gem.
Miss Print: What was the inspiration for Lawless Spaces?
Corey Ann Haydu: I had been wanting to write a story about mothers and daughters for a really long time, maybe partly because of my love of Gilmore Girls, and originally assumed I would just write one mother and her daughter, and walk with them through their teenage years in different time periods. But I had been challenged by an editor of a different book of mine to write something they hadn’t seen before (what a challenge to lay out!!) and because of that push, I started trying to imagine the story as bigger and bigger and bigger, and it evolved into this multi-generational tale, though there were MANY different versions with different types of plot points before this one. Including a whole murder and royalty plot at one time!
Miss Print: Lawless Spaces is your first (but hopefully not last) novel in verse. It also balances multiple characters in different time periods as you unpack both Mimi’s immediate story and the larger story of the Dovewick women. Did you always know that poetry was the best way to tell this story? Did writing in verse change your process?
Corey Ann Haydu: I was always using verse for this story. I don’t think I could cover this much territory in prose, and verse really let me focus in on singular moments and build story through that sort of intimacy rather than trying to write an explosive plot. Writing in verse changed my process a LOT. It was a much more… romantic sort of process than my usual one. I wrote in a variety of beautiful notebooks and really let the vibe be exploratory and flexible and ongoing. It wasn’t under contract for a very long time, so I just worked on it randomly, when the mood struck, and without any particular plan, just really trying to get to know the characters organically. When it was time to really pin down plot and focus, it was the beginning of the pandemic, and so the process was different because of that too. I wrote in the super early mornings before everyone woke up, and it was sort of my happy place during that really trying time. Verse was also perfect for that moment– I couldn’t hold much in my head at once, and verse let me zone in on one thing at a time, which was about all I could handle.
Miss Print: Lawless Spaces has a narrative that shifts in time as Mimi deals with her complicated relationship with her mother while also reading the diaries of her grandmother and great-grandmother, among others. How did you balance these different plot threads and voices?
Corey Ann Haydu: I think because of all the upfront, exploratory time I took– years really of just getting to know the characters and their stories and who I needed them to be– it came really naturally by the time the more intensive work came along. I knew them so well and knew which parts of their stories mattered most to me, and when I finally decided Mimi would be the sort of central figure, it became easy to tie their stories to hers. I hadn’t known there would be a central figure at first, and unlocking that made all the difference. It gave the other stories something to bounce off of, and helped clarify everyone’s role in the narrative.
Miss Print: A big moment in this story is Mimi’s sixteenth birthday when she gets her own notebook to start writing about her life–something the women in her family have done for generations. What was your sixteenth birthday like? What’s something you wish you could have been told by a family member (in a notebook or in person) when you were Mimi’s age?
Corey Ann Haydu: Oh what a great question! What a strange 16th birthday I had, honestly. I had a tough time in high school– I had a toxic boyfriend and was pretty isolated from friends and had a lot going on at home, so it was a lonely time. Somehow I had a joint 16th birthday with two other girls. I only remember one of them right now– they weren’t close friends or anything, it was more a birthday of convenience I guess. We all liked a local band, and the band came and played for our birthday. It so deeply did not match up with my actual experience of being 16– which was lonely and sad and hard. My birthday was so…. splashy and book-worthy, and would make it seem like I was a social butterfly, when really I was thrown out of my social circle when I was 14, never to be allowed to return. I wonder if there’s anything I could have been told that would help. Maybe it would have been nice to have had the experience validated– yep this sounds awful!- instead of people telling me it was fine. I would have liked to know other people going through something serious. And I wish someone could have gotten me out of that bad relationship, and let me know that there would be better relationships and friendships in the future. But mostly don’t we all just want someone to agree with how much something sucks? I needed to hear that what I was going through was real, and difficult, and that I was surviving it as best I could, and that that was enough.
Miss Print: In Lawless Spaces readers will see Mimi looking back on the pandemic and quarantine period in 2020 as she thinks about ways her life has changed since then and the ways it hasn’t. In the same vein, how did your routine as an author change because of the pandemic?
Corey Ann Haydu: Ah, I answered this a bit above but when the pandemic hit my daughter had just turned two. My husband was furloughed, so theoretically I could have gotten writing done at any time of day for the months he was home. But we live in an apartment where there isn’t anywhere to go, and my kid could not handle me being in a different room with her when she was awake. It became clear it just wasn’t possible for me to work during the day, not with the focus it required. Luckily at that time she wasn’t getting up too early, so I started waking up at 5am to write. I’d never done that before. And now it’s my absolute favorite thing, and my number one tip for most parents. I’ve found that I’m at my best before I’ve had to turn on my parenting brain. Once the adrenaline of navigating tantrums and fixing breakfast and arguing about how many times we are going to listen to Let It Go kicks in, I’m less clear and writing is more of a struggle. If I start writing after I get my daughter to school (since she’s back in school these days), I struggle all day long to get a thousand words, and often settle for a hard won 500. But today, for instance, I got up at 5 and wrote 3000 words before my kid woke up. It’s a HUGE thing I’ve learned about myself– especially myself as a parent-writer, and I do have the pandemic to thank for handing me that valuable information. That said, I was always a write-in-a-coffee-shop person, and I’ve had to shift into a write-at-home person, and I am less thrilled with that change in routine. I miss the energy and fun and purpose of being out at a café.
Miss Print: 2022 has been a big book year for you with two book releases so far. Can you tell me a little about your other recent titles or what else you have in the works?
Corey Ann Haydu: Ironically, my biggest two years of publishing have been these covid years. My entire chapter book series– HAND ME DOWN MAGIC— came out, all four books, as well as a middle grade title and two YAs. I hope more kids get to discover my chapter books– they feature two cousins who have differing views on their maybe-magical family life and maybe-magical family-run second hand shop, and they feature a character based on my own daughter, the girls’ young cousin, Evie, who demands attention and makes everything fun. My recent middle grade, ONE JAR OF MAGIC, is about a lot of things I spend time thinking about and trying to heal– jealousy, what it means to be told you’ll be special and feel you’re not living up to that, and family secrets. All with a twist of magic, of course. As for what’s next, I’ll be expanding into a new age category once again (!!!) with a book that hasn’t yet been announced. And I’m currently working on my next middle grade novel, which is Greek mythology inspired and focused on toxic friendship. I’m also leaving my heart and mind open for inspiration for what my next novel in verse might be, because I have fallen so so in love with the form, which honestly felt like returning to an old friend.
Thanks again to Corey for this great interview!
You can see more about Corey and her books on her website.
You can also check out my review of Lawless Spaces.