With me on the blog today is the awe-inspiring Lyn Miller-Lachmann who is here to talk about two more books she has written. She’s already been on the blog in recent months to discuss two other books. Click here and here for those interviews. Today, we’re celebrating her nonfiction book, Film Makers: 15 Groundbreaking Women Directors, which was coauthored by Tanisa “Tee” Moore and published by Chicago Review Press on September 6.
Torch, her historical novel for young adults, will be published by Lerner/Carolrhoda on November 1. Click here to read the synopsis. Lyn is represented by Jacqui Lipton.
El Space: Lyn, you have been quite the workhorse this year with so many books debuting. Film Makers: 15 Groundbreaking Women Directors debuted last month. Torch debuts next month. There’s a connection between the two, besides you as their author. Please share that connection if you can, unless there is a huge spoiler you can’t reveal.
Lyn: No spoiler at all! I came up with the idea for Torch after watching the TV miniseries Burning Bush, which begins with the self-immolation of Charles University student Jan Palach in Prague in 1969 to protest the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia the previous year and his people’s passivity after losing their freedom and independence. The director of that miniseries is Agnieszka Holland, a Polish director who has made a number of significant historical films, including three that explore the Holocaust and the more recent, Mr. Jones, about the Soviet terror-famine known as the Holodomor in 1930s Ukraine. Holland is one of the groundbreaking women directors I included in Film Makers and one of my all-time favorite directors.
El Space: You have so many interests. I’m always curious as to how you choose a project to work on.
Lyn: While Burning Bush showed me the different ways the people of Czechoslovakia resisted the Soviet occupation, I never got a sense from the miniseries of the young people who bore the brunt of the repression, including Palach, who sacrificed his life. I asked myself, Who were his friends? How did his death change their lives? What consequences did they face as a result of their association with him? From there, my characters of Pavol, Štěpán, Tomáš, and Lída emerged.
In the case of Film Makers, my agent, Jacqui Lipton, represented other authors who were writing for Chicago Review’s Women of Power series, and she invited me to submit a proposal. I like films and use them heavily in researching my historical fiction, so I suggested women directors. And since one of the filmmakers I wanted to include was Ava DuVernay and Tanisia Tee Moore, who was one of Jacqui’s other clients at the time, is a huge fan of her work, I suggested Tee as a co-author.
El Space: I was only familiar with nine of the fifteen filmmakers featured in your book. How did you research it? Were you able to talk to the featured directors?
Lyn: The series features contemporary directors, ones still working in the industry, so Tee and I chose some of our current favorites. We wanted directors from diverse backgrounds, those who worked with both popular franchises and indie films, documentary filmmakers, and TV directors and showrunners. Most of the directors make both feature films and TV episodes. We weren’t able to talk to the directors personally—that’s show business—but we saw several in exclusive panels for festivals and premieres.
El Space: How did the characters of Torch come to you? Why was it important for you to tell their story?
Lyn: Pavol is based on Jan Palach and even more on a secondary student, Jan Zajíc, who followed in his footsteps a month later. The first one of his friends who came to me was his girlfriend Lída, who, unbeknown to him, is pregnant with his child. Tomáš is my most autobiographical character—an autistic child of privilege who cannot fulfill his father’s expectations because of his neurodivergence but has a keen eye for the hypocrisy of the communist elite. Pavol is a genuinely kind person, and Tomáš clings to him as his first and only friend. Štěpán, on the other hand, is the bully who has tormented Tomáš all the way through school. However, his friendship with Pavol—due in part because they share a desire for freedom, and in part because he has an unrequited crush on Pavol—motivates Štěpán to change, even though change is hard for him. I wanted to tell these stories because all four teenagers lose their dreams and their futures when the democracy and freedom of expression they’ve been promised is taken away. This freedom is precious to them, and they’re willing to give up everything—their families, their homes, even their lives—to keep it. This is a something I think many young people in our country are becoming aware of now, because we’re beginning to lose our freedom in so many areas.
El Space: Though Torch is historical fiction, it feels current thanks to recent events. How did you wrap your head around the past events? Did you have to turn off today’s news in order to stay immersed in the past?
Lyn: I’ve written about young activists and human rights, most notably my debut YA novel, Gringolandia, about a Chilean refugee teen during the Pinochet dictatorship whose father, an underground journalist, is released from a political prison and comes to live with his family in exile. I think that growing up in an oppressive social and political environment in the South and being bullied because of my differences has made me keenly aware of how societies bully and oppress. And no, I didn’t turn off today’s news. It’s in the background of everything I write.
El Space: What was your process for working on multiple projects with more than one co-author? Is there anything you would do differently? Why or why not? What advice do you have for an author who juggles multiple projects?
Lyn: For both Film Makers and Moonwalking, the verse novel I wrote with Zetta Elliott, my co-author and I were responsible for alternating chapters in the book. In the case of Moonwalking, I wrote the poems from the point of JJ, my white autistic character obsessed with The Clash, and Zetta wrote the ones for Pie, the Afro-Latinx honor student who wants to make it in the art world like Jean-Michel Basquiat. For Film Makers, we divvied up the 15 directors and drew from our backgrounds and experiences in writing their biographies. In both cases, the collaboration worked because each of us had our strengths that complemented each other. But it takes a lot of trust in each other to make that happen.
As far as juggling multiple projects, which I continue to do, what helps is scheduling blocks of time for each project. By now, I have a good idea of how much time each needs and the best environment—work space, time of day—to work on each.
El Space: What will you work on next?
Lyn: I’m working on four translations from Portuguese—two picture books and two YA graphic novels. I’m also in the middle of a YA verse novel that’s set in Portugal and inspired by several of my translation projects. There will be more exciting news to come!
Thank you as always, Lyn, for being my guest!
Searching for Lyn? You can find her at her website and Twitter. Film Makers: 15 Groundbreaking Women Directors and Torch can be found here:
One commenter will receive Film Makers: 15 Groundbreaking Women Directors. Another will receive Torch. Comment below to be entered in the drawing. Winners to be announced sometime next week.
Book covers and author photo courtesy of Lyn Miller-Lachmann. Ava DuVernay and Agnieszka Holland photos found somewhere on the internet.
What a year, Lyn! I loved reading this interview that highlights all the different aspects of your work. Thanks to you two, L. Marie and Lyn!
She has had quite a year, Sandra! And so have you with your books! 😊
Thank you for reading! I look forward to being interviewed on your blog as well!
Terrific interview, ladies! Wishing Lyn all the best with her future endeavors . Thanks for sharing, L. Marie!
Thank you, Jill. I’m glad to share Lyn’s latest works! 😊
Thank you for reading and entering the drawing, Jill!
Great interview, you two! I learned a lot! And congratulations, Lyn on a busy, book- filled writing life!
Thanks. Louise! 😊
Thank you, Louise! And thank you for coming to my reading earlier this week!
That was such a gut-wrenching, powerful reading, Lyn!
Great interview, Linda! And WOW, congrats, Lyn! Amazing accomplishments!
Thank you, Sharon! There turned out to be a lot of synergy between these two projects even though they are in different genres.
Great interview. Really interesting to hear how Lyn works in all of those different genres.
Thank you for reading, Andy! I’m thinking of teaching a class on working in multiple genres.
Thank you, Andy! Lyn’s interest level in so many subjects is inspiring.
Kudos to both L. Marie and Lyn. Great interview! Though I love film, I confess to not knowing much about women film-makers, which reading this book would remedy. Lyn, I’m impressed not only with your literary output, but with you facility in Portuguese, and publishing in a variety of genres. Wow!
Thank you, Marian! Fingers crossed that you win the copy of Film Makers from the drawing! There’s some impressive talent among the 15 directors in that book!
Thank you, Marian! 😊 As I mentioned to Laura, I recommend Little Women, directed by Greta Gerwig!
Lynn ~ You are one prolific writer! Your literary output is impressive.
LM ~ Based on your recent post, I watched A Knight’s Tale. Loved it! Especially the dance to “Golden Years” by Bowie. Thanks!
Thank you, Nancy! It’s actually much larger, as I have many projects sitting in the trunk. The important thing is to keep writing!
Wasn’t that good??? So glad you watched it, Nancy!
Lyn – Your books are always rich, deep and enjoyable (yep, ‘troubling’ can indeed be enjoyable!). Sometimes I think why aren’t more adult novels so well-packed with such content?
Anyway, two sentences stuck out for me in your interview: “This is a something I think many young people in our country are becoming aware of now, because we’re beginning to lose our freedom in so many areas.” Troubling and true 😦
and then: “I think that growing up in an oppressive social and political environment in the South and being bullied because of my differences has made me keenly aware of how societies bully and oppress.” Troubling and true – especially to this Coloradoan (and hubby) who moved to the South because of a job and sees first hand the backwards attitudes from pre-60s era still in play and running rampant in the 21st century…and now surfacing elsewhere in our country as being ‘normal’.
Your foray into Women Directors is a natural! All the best!
L.Marie – I’d say 9/15 film makers known by yourself is way more than most others of us! Just sayin’…Great interview as always.
Thank you for your thoughtful comments, and for reading my books, Laura! I hope readers of Torch make those connections between past and present before it’s too late and our ability to save our freedoms and our democracy is so restricted as to be impossible (as it was for my characters after August 21, 1968).
😊 Laura, the only reason why I know the directors is because I’m usually curious about how films or some TV shows are made and why choices were made. So I look to see who made them. A while ago, I watched with some friends Little Women, directed by Greta Gerwig, one of the featured directors in this book. It was so beautifully done. I recommend it. Many years ago, I saw The Piano, directed by Jane Campion in the theater. Very vivid and shocking, but well done. I remembered how the press kept talking about it as groundbreaking. The others I’ve known from TV or because of the projects attached to them, or because they happen to be the favorite director of a friend.