Life According to Lubka
Published by: Quercus
Release Date: April 21, 2012
Take one amphetamine–fuelled record executive and five weathered songbirds from deepest Bulgaria. Add an interpreter who graduated bottom of her class, a World Music hit record and several bottles of home-brewed rakia. Season with mid-life angst and post-Communism blues and leave to cook slowly in any budget hotel with bad carpet.
“Laurie Graham wraps serious questions in glorious comedy…”
— Sunday Times
“What a wonderful, life-enhancing, truly funny writer she is – but also one who cares deeply about human beings and their absurdities.”
“This book is the cure for Credit Crunch Gloom. It embraces you with warmth and humour and makes the world a better place.”
As any competent forensic investigator would tell you, this book reflects my usual modus operandi: see an interesting photograph, write a story about it, eventually.
A few years back a group of Bulgarian singing grannies, The Bistritsa Babushki (classified as Living Treasures by UNESCO) became the World Music dish du jour, for about five minutes.
They did a promotional tour and even appeared in my home town of Venice but, wouldn’t you know it, I had a prior engagement the other side of the Atlantic and didn’t get to see the show. But I did see the poster - a toothless, bra-less, smiling line-up - and it went straight to the nerve cells in my Potential Novels circuit, to the extent that I put down my shopping, found a pen and wrote the name of the group on my supermarket till receipt. As my literary executors know, the Laurie Graham Research Archive is located principally in the bottom of my handbag.
When I finally got round to writing the story I had a few false starts, the main challenge being how to deal with the language barrier without the tedium of Lubka translating everything the Bulgarian characters said. So was conceived Olga, the interpreter. For someone who goofs in a foreign language on a daily basis, writing Olga was a piece of cake.
Buzz, the fizzing, where-it’s-at narrator, was a harder voice to find, on account of this writer being so deeply un-hip, but the research was the greatest fun. I had truly not appreciated how richly America has manured the language of William Shakespeare. I also discovered that I could enjoyably waste a whole morning dreaming up dumb names for rock bands.
It is no great editorial secret that in the first draft I killed off Buzz. Well, where else can you go with a character who has replaced 75 percent of her body fluid with vodka? But my editor, my agents and Mrs Blodgett of 7 Acacia Crescent all felt I had fallen into Grave Authorial Error.
‘Are you out of your freaking mind!’ they cried, as one. ‘What about the sequel?’
So Buzz lives on, resurrected by the biggest and fastest re-write in the history of Laurie Graham. And I’m glad. I like her. Kind of.