Review & Interview: 'The Man I Love' by Suanne Laqueur (2014)
As a college freshman, Erik Fiskare is drawn to the world of theater but prefers backstage to center stage. The moment he lays eyes on a beautiful, accomplished dancer named Daisy Bianco, his atoms rearrange themselves and he is drawn into a romance both youthfully passionate and maturely soulful. Their love story thrives within a tight-knit circle of friends, all bound by creativity and artistry. A newcomer arrives--a brilliant but erratic dancer with an unquenchable thirst for connection. And when this disturbed friend brings a gun into the theater, the story is forever changed. Daisy is shot and left seriously injured. And Erik finds himself alone in the aisle, looking down the muzzle of a pistol and trying to stop the madness. He succeeds, but with tremendous repercussions to his well-being and that of his loved ones.
Traumatized by the experience, Erik and Daisy spiral into depression and drug use until a shocking act of betrayal destroys their relationship. To survive, Erik must leave school and disconnect from all he loves. He buries his heartbreak and puts the past behind. Or so he believes.
As he moves into adulthood, Erik comes to grips with his role in the shooting, and slowly heals the most wounded parts of his soul. But the unresolved grief for Daisy continues to shape his dreams at night. Once those dreams were haunted by blood and gunfire. Now they are haunted by the refrain of a Gershwin song and a single question: is leaving always the end of loving?
Another day, another new book to share with all of you! At the end of last year, I was contacted by author Suanne Laqueur with the question whether I'd be interested in reviewing her novel 'The Man I Love.' I can never say no to a promising love story and within a few weeks a copy of the book arrived on my doorstep. With its dark and artistic cover it immediately made me curious, but the total number of pages (over 500) convinced me to wait until I really had the time to sit down and dive into the story. Besides my review, I am also really excited to share an author interview with Suanne Laqueur with all of you in which she tells us more about 'The Man I Love', so be sure to scroll down!
College freshman Erik Fiskare decides to major in lightning design when he starts his time as a student at Lancaster University. His work in the school theatre takes up almost all of his free time, but Erik quickly becomes intrigued by the theatre world and specifically the people who star in it, such as fellow student and ballerina Daisy Bianco. Both Erik's and Daisy's lives are changed forever after their first meeting, and they can't seem to stop thinking about one another. As they get to know each other better, they slowly become incredibly close, and it's the start of a compelling love story. However, no one knows what might happen and Erik and Daisy's love is put to the ultimate test when they are both involved in a shooting incident at their school. This traumatising experience scars both of them for life, but, in the end, will their love be strong enough to survive the challenges that are being thrown at them...?
This book is quite a long read, but one that's definitely worthwhile. It encompasses a love story of 15 years that has definitely made an impression and will stay with me for quite some time to come. The two main characters, Erik and Daisy, seem to be made for each other from the start, and I quickly found myself rooting for them. There's a deep and special kind of love that binds them together, but all of this is challenged in multiple ways over the years. Suanne Laqueur has done a tremendous job showing we never know what could happen to us and how experiencing something devastating can traumatise people for life. She deals with the question whether something as strong as love can overcome these obstacles or not, and she does this in a compelling and convincing way.
Erik and Daisy's story is an incredibly raw one; a story that made me feel all kinds of emotions from happiness to anger to frustration to sadness. Another reviewer of this book described it as a book that 'puts the reader in a trance' and I have to agree with this completely. It's not just Daisy and Erik and their story, it's also the wonderful cast of intriguing secondary characters (such as Will, Daisy's dance partner, and David, Erik's friend) and how all of them, as a group, experience and deal with things. It's hard to believe this is Suanne Laqueur's debut novel; it's really well-written, captivating and she has managed to create a new gripping love story that will undoubtedly be read and loved by many, including myself. 'The Man I Love' is a compelling, heartfelt, intense read that will have you in its control until you've finished it; such a promising debut novel and I already look forward to seeing what else Suanne Laqueur will bring us in the future.
Thanks to the author for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Author interview with Suanne Laqueur!
I'm really excited to welcome author Suanne Laqueur to the blog today to tell us some more about her novel 'The Man I Love'!
Can you tell us something about your novel, ‘The Man I Love’?
'The Man I Love' follows the emotional journey of Erik Fiskare over a 15-year period. From his freshman year of college when he meets the love of his life, Daisy Bianco. To his junior year where he and Daisy are involved in a school shooting incident that tears apart their circle of friends. Into his adulthood where he finally battles his demons of PTSD. And finally the decision to turn around and face the truth of himself, face his love for Daisy which never died and face the emotions he never dealt with when he left her.
Where did you get the inspiration for your novel? Is it in any way based on your own personal experiences?
I was a dancer for many years and a theater major at college. So the backdrop of performing arts is entirely based in experience. The emotions of 'The Man I Love' are extremely auto-biographical: the trauma of unresolved emotional loss and how disconnecting from feelings doesn’t make them go away. Also dealing with depression and anxiety. And learning the power of forgiveness. I just layered different circumstances on top of all that.
Can you tell us a bit more about the two main characters, Erik and Daisy?
The opening line of 'The Man I Love' reads “Some seek the limelight and some hold the light in place.” And that line gives you the essence of Daisy and Erik. Daisy is an incredibly talented and passionate dancer pursuing her dream of being a ballerina. She’s at home in the spotlight. Erik is also drawn to the theater world, however he prefers being backstage. The behind-the-scenes man without whom the show cannot go on.
Erik was abandoned by his father at a young age. A cruel desertion which has shaped him through young adulthood. He’s cautious about sharing his heart and harbors a deep fear of being left. Daisy was raised in a loving, supportive house by progressive parents. Despite her love of theater and performance, she avoids drama in her personal life. She’s pragmatic to a fault, and keeps her struggles to herself. When she meets Erik, she is physically inexperienced but clear-minded about what her heart wants. He has physical experience but is an emotional virgin. Together, they meld into something greater. Not two halves making a whole, but two wholes building a great structure. A cathedral.
There’s a great cast of supporting characters in the novel as well. Which character did you most enjoy writing?
The title of the book could easily be 'The Men I Love' because of the men who influence and shape Erik’s life. Will Kaeger is Daisy’s exclusive dance partner and becomes Erik’s closest friend at school. He’s an emotionally fearless boy who is openly and unapologetically bisexual. At first this intimidates and confuses Erik. In time, it leads to a greater understanding within their friendship. I absolutely love writing scenes with Will. He has such funny dialogue and he’s so self-aware and self-actualized without being arrogant. He’s open to love in all its forms and will fight to the death for the ones he loves, male or female.
The character of David Alto was a challenge to write because he’s such a jerk. But why? It was difficult to make a character behave badly without making him a convenient villain. I spent a lot of time hashing out his backstory so I could understand him better. Same with the shooter, James Dow, who took weeks to create and shape into a unbelievably disturbed boy who did the unthinkable…yet could earn a little of the reader’s sympathy for what he’d suffered for all his life.
I also loved writing the character Kees Justi, the university dance teacher, who also becomes a friend and mentor to Erik. He’s a conglomerate of every dance teacher I loved and admired. By teaching Erik to appreciate dance, he’s also imparting a lot philosophy about life and love. Things Erik will remember and call on when he’s making one of the most important decisions of his adult life.
Did you do any particular research for parts of the book?
I consulted with both a doctor and a detective for the shooting scenes. I had an idea of how I wanted Daisy to be injured—something serious and scary but not debilitating enough to permanently end her career.
My friend from high school was an EMT for many years before becoming a surgeon, so he was able to help with both the paramedics and the hospital scenes. He was the one who came up with compartment syndrome—he was quite excited about it. He also made sure I called the ambulance “the bus.” Little, accurate details like that are so important in making a scene realistic.
My friend who’s a detective helped me secure the crime scene and taught me about police procedure after a shooting. It was challenging because the book takes place in 1992, before cell phones. Back when security on campus was minimal. I talked to my old college friends, asking if they even remembered where a payphone was in our theater. We couldn’t remember. We tried to imagine a shooting and deduced we’d just hit the deck or hit the doors and go running for the campus center…
Can you perhaps tell us something about your future plans? Are you perhaps already working on a next novel?
I am just about finished with the first draft of my next novel. I had been all set to write a sequel to The Man I Love, instead I found myself writing scene after scene from Daisy’s point of view, telling her side of the same story. I wasn’t sure this was something my readers would want but it seemed to be what was pouring out of my heart and my fingers. It wanted to be written. She deserved her chance to speak. So I leaned into it and went with it and it’s turning out to be every bit as complex and layered. Characters I thought I knew are peeling themselves open even more. Throwaway moments in The Man I Love are turning out to be incredibly significant from Daisy’s eyes. So while the reader already knows the end of the story, they still don’t know the entire story. And I’m hoping that will hook them in and keep them engaged.
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
Write. Write every day. Write something. Write drunk, edit sober. Write raw. Write what everyone thinks but nobody talks about. Write what you love to read. Write what gets you excited. Write for you. And don’t stop.
Oh, and read. Read everything. If your craft is words, you have to feed it.
What is the last book you read that you’d like to recommend to others?
I recently finished the three books of Catherynne M. Valente’s Fairyland series. I don’t know what made me pick up a young adult fantasy series but I cannot believe I lived this long without knowing about Valente’s work. It was magic. Not just the story but the language. The metaphor and imagery and observation woven with this incredible language. I kept underlying breathtaking passage after breathtaking passage and thinking, “This. I want to write like this.”
Which book could you not live without?
Hard to pick just one but the works I re-read every year are: Rumer Godden’s In This House of Brede; Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials; Laurie Colwin’s Family Happiness and Elizabeth Ehrlich’s Miriam’s Kitchen.
And last but not least, if you had to describe ‘The Man I Love’ in just three words, which words would you pick?